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Is belief a choice? 
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Post Re: Is belief a choice?
Oh boy. At first I thought I was merely satisfying a point of curiosity, but this is beginning to look like an attempt to argue me out of theistic belief. Fine, I'll play along for the moment.

Now, when you say: A monotheist is anyone who believes in the existence of a single deity and I believe in God, what is it that the terms God and deity refer to?

I'll suggest three basic minimum requirements for a monotheistic deity and leave it at that. There's so much variability in terms of the conceptions of deity that anything beyond those suggestions would likely be falsified by the evidence. The first attribute would be holiness, a sense of being "wholly other", that is, distinct from what we recognize as merely natural or merely incarnate or simply "mere". The second attribute, and this is more to the point in monotheism, would be absolute, a sense of deity as exclusive or representing some form of limit that is not exceeded by anything else. And the third would be existence, which is to say that a monotheist does not believe in a strictly hypothetical God but asserts the reality of that god, even if its reality is distinct from that of the natural world.

Now, as regards my belief in God, I would say that it conforms to those three requirements, save in that it permits doubt on the matter -- that is to say, it is not a blindly confirmed belief. As I mentioned in my last post, it only goes beyond the minimmum requirements of deistic belief (which is not necessarily to say strictly monotheistic belief) with some lessening of confidence. Make of that what you will.




Tue Mar 01, 2005 2:28 pm
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Post Re: Is belief a choice?
Mad wrote: Oh boy. At first I thought I was merely satisfying a point of curiosity, but this is beginning to look like an attempt to argue me out of theistic belief.

Not really, Mad. I don't have a great passion to pick arguments. But I am curious about theists for a couple of reasons. One: maybe they have figured out something that I've gotten badly wrong. I truly believe that if I came to the conclusion that there really is a loving God looking after the world I would be very thrilled. Two: Maybe there is some way of looking at God language which enables it to be used to speak profoundly about spiritual issues. If that were true, I'd want to understand it.

Now, what I find interesting about your three characteristics is how little they tell me. Let me quote some things that have been said about God, and the conclusions that I draw (offset).

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
        So, God can create things.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
        God has a Spirit.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
        God says things. Also, it sounds like he can do magic.
And God called the light Day
        God can name things.
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply.
        God can bless things.
And God saw every thing that he had made
        God can see things.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day
        God can rest.
And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden
        God plants gardens.

Now surely you can see why, reading this, I would come to the conclusion that God is, in some ways at least, a person. The things that are said about him are all things that only make sense if you are talking about something which at least has most of the characteristics of persons.

But you don't say anything about the personhood of God. You say he is holy, absolute and existent. Is that because you are talking about a different God than the Jahwist is? If that's not it, why do you not mention what must surely be a central feature of the nature of God? Is it because you assume I know all this? But this is what I get so confused about. Innocent theists seem to have no problem with saying that God is kind of like a person. They say they believe in a personal God, and have utter disdain for people (often theologians) who reject the idea of a personal God. I think I know how to deal with this kind of theist. We just flat out disagree.

But more sophisticated (?) theists seem to distance themselves from the idea of a personal God. And I wonder if what they are saying is something I could believe and all we disagree about is whether the language being used is



Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:27 pm
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Post Re: Is belief a choice?
Ken Hemingway: Now, what I find interesting about your three characteristics is how little they tell me.

If you want a plethora of information, you're better off talking to a traditional theist.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.



Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:46 pm
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Post Re: Is belief a choice?
Well, Mad, thanks again for all your efforts. I think at this point I'm ready to give up. I'll continue to look for people who want to talk about what is sacred or spiritual in the world and in life, but I think I'm going to have to restrict myself to people who willing to do so without talking in terms of gods. To me the effort of trying to figure out what theists mean by the terms they use, and why they think they can make the claims they seem to make, distracts too much from the goal I want to see us tackle.




Wed Mar 02, 2005 6:46 pm
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Post Re: Is belief a choice?
I'm afraid that if you're looking for a more or less direct definition of a deity, you're going to have to look at the question both theologically and historically. A good starting point is the Greeks. Primitive Greek religion begins with the notion of deity as that which is greater than humanity. That's an ontological categorization -- greater in terms of power of being -- and a rather simple way of thinking about it is that anything immortal is greater than humanity because humans are mortal. For that reason, all sorts of things become gods in primitive thought, from natural objects like the elements to more abstract notions like justice. Monotheism is a bit like early natural science in its assertion of unity; just as the first philosophers sought the unity of the world in the concept of nature of physis, monotheists seek the unity of being in God.

I hope that helps. Good luck.




Wed Mar 02, 2005 10:56 pm
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Post Re: Is belief a choice?
I enjoy Karen's writing and thinking. Your comments, like Karen's comments are, are trying to find an answer without acknowledging the paradigm may be defective. I offer the following thoughts. If anyone would like to see the conclusion I will be happy to complete the publication. Thank you for letting me "blog."
        Dogma - Life or Death?
Dogma is to my spirit, as an egg shell to the chick. I was birthed within it and could not develop free from Dogma's relentless presence, but if I do not break free of it, Dogma will entomb my soul.
        My use of the word Dogma is limited to religious doctrine. Dogma is a theological term for doctrine, or a body of doctrines, relating to matters such as morality (what a god wants the believers to do or not do), and faith (what a believer develops as a result of trusting the god of that Dogma over time). Dogma is set forth in an authoritative manner by employee(s) of an organized religion. These principles, beliefs, or statements of ideas or opinion about their god, are usually required to be considered absolutely true in order to be a member of the organized religion stating the Dogma.
        Dogma, as thus defined, is humanity's attempt at a logical explanation of and a personal belief system about, life after death. Each moment of life in the body and mind, is an experience most people call an empirical fact. The death of the body is a fact most everyone acknowledges. Whether there is a spirit of the person, that does not die, is something to believe or not but it is not a fact.
Only the god of a personal belief system offers an explanation about life after death for that believer. Dogma, on the other hand, which is the logic of man about a god, offers much more than an explanation about life after death. Dogma directs the life choices of believers, and through civil government, non believers as well. It is the nature of those who publicly declare their Dogma to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, also declare their Dogma is a fact of life that is true, absolutely true, for all persons. The fact is, the answer to the question of life after death, is that there is no answer



Thu Apr 28, 2005 9:24 am
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Post Karen Armstrong
I recently attended Karen's lecture on this book. I heard her thesis statement to be, "It doesn't matter what you believe, atheist, buddist, christian, etc., we will not live in peace with each other until everyone learns to respect the 'holyness' of each individual."
There is a very rational basis why each of us should treat all others with respect. Our own knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in everything is incomplete, inaccurate, or in error and so is everyone elses. A little humility will carry us all a long way toward our goal to peace. Relationships will need to become more important than being right.




Wed Sep 21, 2005 1:28 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
Well...I can buy this. I do indeed feel this way, reading your words:

Quote:
Our own knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in everything is incomplete, inaccurate, or in error and so is everyone elses. A little humility will carry us all a long way


is a way I have looked at things. I will say that I have low tolerance for religion and belief in a god though...as that seems so improbable that I feel it should be left behind.

BUT...as I always have said, so long as that faith and belief are kept to the PERSONAL sphere...more power to ya! (Not you specifically). The plain fact is that a secular way of life is the most neutral for a mass populace.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

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Wed Sep 21, 2005 2:02 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
The plain fact is that a secular way of life is the most neutral for a mass populace.

What do you mean by "neutral"?




Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:53 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
I think that would be obvious. by it's nature, a secular society does not promote or inhibit any one religion. It would allow all to thrive on their own merits. As such, it is a neutral force. it takes no sides. A society based on one religion would discriminate based on it's dogma or cannon law.

Secular government was endorsed by minority religious groups way back when because of this neutrality...hmm...this should be in the Jacoby discussion...but I will leave it here.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Wed Sep 21, 2005 10:26 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
I agree Nick.




Wed Sep 21, 2005 10:29 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
Thank you Chris!

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Wed Sep 21, 2005 10:31 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
So do you mean a secular government, or a secular way of life? I assumed that you meant something particular by way of life, but if you mean a society that tolerates religious difference then it would seem that you're talking about the govenment and not the whole of culture.




Thu Sep 22, 2005 3:21 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
I meant as it applies to society as a whole..yes, government...the wayof life of the system.

Sorry for the confusion.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:19 pm
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Post Re: Karen Armstrong
Okay, just trying to get it straight in my head. To my mind, a secular government is worlds apart from a secular way of life. When I hear the latter, I infer an almost total absence of religion, whereas a secular government could be either tolerant or bordering on a fascist abolition of religion.




Fri Sep 23, 2005 1:25 pm
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