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PREFACE - The God Question... 
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Post PREFACE - The God Question...
Michael Shermer ends his preface and begins the book with the following statement, which I feel is an excellent suggestion to all of us as freethinkers:

Quote:
When we began the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine in 1992 we adopted a quote from the sevententh-century philosopher and religious thinker Baruch Spinoza: I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." When it comes to religion it is especially difficult for any of us to apply this principle consistently. But if we do, the moral dilemma of how to discuss the God Question without offense may be resolved. As my friend and colleague Stephen Jay Gould told me: "You cannot understand the human condition without understanding religion or religious arguments."

I hope that this book in some small way adds to our understanding of the human condition.

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Thu Mar 04, 2004 8:16 pm
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Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
As someone who has been Baptised into a Church, is a regular member, has graduated with an advanced degree from Seminary, and spends a great deal of his time reading and discussing Religious topics, issues and ideas- I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Gould's statement regarding the essential role of Religion in making sense of humanity.

The Seminary I attended, Graduate Theological Union www.gtu.edu in Berkeley, CA is a wondrous attempt to bring the best and brightest minds, and healing hearts, from multiple Religious traditions to one location to study, exchange and challenge each other.

I was also able to study Philosophy at UC Berkeley right next door, where I studied the History of Philosophy and Nietzsche in particular.

I studied Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism and the many diverse Christian traditions...as well as Religion and Art, and Science, and Education, and Ecology, and Social Justice movements.

What I soon discovered, is that folks deeply engaged in their Faith are too busy creating art, healing bodies and minds, finding ways to live in proper balance with the ecosystem, diving deeper and more profoundly in knowledge of their traditions and the traditions of others, and confronting the systems of oppression and domination across the planet...they were too busy learning to enjoy and revere life to carefully assemble arguments and entertain debates regarding the logic and rationale for their beliefs and attitudes.

Actually, they were more astute at finding ways to improve social services for homeless, runaway, and indigent folk; confronting political and economic injustice; visiting prisons and assisting incarcerated youth; as well as making sure local parks, shelters, and clinics were equipped, staffed, safe and kept clean.






Thu Mar 04, 2004 11:04 pm
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Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Are you aware we have chats every Thursday night at 9:00pm eastern? We all saw you online tonight and were hoping you would join us in the chat room. Come on in when you get a chance!

I'm not sure I agree with your post. More on this later. I've got to get to the gym before I wimp out.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Thu Mar 04, 2004 11:23 pm
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Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Having read on another site, recently
a Christian asking with obvious perplexity,
''If there is no God why would you not
be a Rapist or a Murderer?''
I must say I'm all in favour of Christianity,
for others. It keeps all those potential
Rapists etc. behaving themselves for
fear of the Flames of Hell.




Fri Mar 05, 2004 1:03 pm


Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Quote:
What I soon discovered, is that folks deeply engaged in their Faith are too busy creating art, healing bodies and minds, finding ways to live in proper balance with the ecosystem, diving deeper and more profoundly in knowledge of their traditions and the traditions of others, and confronting the systems of oppression and domination across the planet...they were too busy learning to enjoy and revere life to carefully assemble arguments and entertain debates regarding the logic and rationale for their beliefs and attitudes.


Dissident Heart

I applaud those individuals that you are referring to, if in fact they were doing such things. I find it interesting, however, that I have never had the opportunity to encounter such individuals of faith in action. My experiences have most often been of quite contrasting attitudes and actions.

Instead of living "in proper balance with the ecosystem", I have encountered the mindset of "taking dominion" and "being fruitful and multiplying" with no consideration of the cost to the ecosystem.

Instead of "diving deeper and more profoundly in knowledge of their traditions and the traditions of others", I have encountered the belittlement and chastisement of any belief that differed with the "orthodox" view of those individuals.

Instead of "confronting the systems of oppression and domination across the planet", I have encountered the pure desire to be the oppressors and controllers of the minds and freedoms of those who differed in opinion.

I could only wish that my experiences were more like yours. How wonderful it would be if we were all "busy learning to enjoy and revere life" together, both believers and non-believers.

Eric

PS - I too would love to see you in the weekly chats.

Edited by: ecstian at: 3/7/04 2:10 pm



Fri Mar 05, 2004 3:54 pm


Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Quote:
I must say I'm all in favour of Christianity, for others. It keeps all those potential Rapists etc. behaving themselves for fear of the Flames of Hell.


bijnke,

Interestingly enough, many well known people of antiquity held similar views. Here are some quotes of interest:

Quote:
Since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear and terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into the popular belief these notions of the gods, and of the infernal regions.

Polybius



Quote:
The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds...For it is impossible to govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue - but this must be done by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (of the Furies), the dragons, &c., are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology. These things the legislators used as scarecrows to terrify the childish multitude.

Strabo



Quote:
It has been handed down in mythical form from earliest times to posterity, that there are gods, and that the divine (Deity) compasses all nature. All beside this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, and for the interests of the laws, and the advantage of the state.

Aristotle



Quote:
For as we sometimes cure the body with unwholesome remedies, when such as are most wholesome produce no effect, so we restrain those minds with false relations, which will not be persuaded by the truth. There is a necessity, therefore, of instilling the dread of those foreign torments...

Timaeus Locrus



Eric




Fri Mar 05, 2004 4:35 pm


Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Ecstian,
Good stuff , friend.
Puts me in good company.




Sun Mar 07, 2004 6:43 am
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Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Dissident

Sometimes I struggle to find words to effectively communicate my thoughts, which is why it has taken me some time to get back with your post where you share your views on the nature of deeply spiritual people. As I had stated in my brief response I just don't agree with your assertions about how these people live their lives. It appears you see things I don't.

Eric then comes along and does what I couldn't. I don't like to tag-team anyone, as we all should be able to stand alone and defend our positions individually. But his words are my thoughts...in pixels.

Quote:
I applaud those individuals that you are referring to, if in fact they were doing such things. I find it interesting, however, that I have never had the opportunity to encounter such individuals of faith in action. My experiences have most often been of quite contrasting attitudes and actions.

Instead of living "in proper balance with the ecosystem", I have encountered the mindset of "taking dominion" and "being fruitful and multiplying" with no consideration of the cost to the ecosystem.

Instead of "diving deeper and more profoundly in knowledge of their traditions and the traditions of others", I have encountered the belittlement and chastisement of any belief that differed with the "orthodox" view of those individuals.

Instead of "confronting the systems of oppression and domination across the planet", I have encountered the pure desire to be the oppressors and controllers of the minds and freedoms of those who differed in opinion.

I could only wish that my experiences were more like yours. How wonderful it would be if we were all "busy learning to enjoy and revere life" together, both believers and non-believers.


Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Sun Mar 07, 2004 11:19 am
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Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Chris and Eric,

I am not interested in defending the ignorance or brutality of any religious tradition, nor am I commited to apologizing for the abuses of Christianity or any of its many offshoots.

Where the Church has been wrong, abusive, ignorant and criminal, I am the first to call out its crimes and misdemeanors, and work to hold it accountable. The folk I mention above, the GTU, is just one location where a community of folk devoted to spiritual disciplines gather to hold themselves and their traditions accountable. They also work tirelessly to identify where any abuse and ignorance is at work in the world, and they actively join forces with like-minded folk in solidarity towards liberation.

I have brought scores of examples of such spiritual discipline to Book Talk since I was introduced by Michaelangeloglossolalia. I refer you to the Liberation Theology thread for starters.

I would also like to introduce you to the work being done at the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union. Here is a gathering of scientists, religious scholars, philosophers, teachers, etc. from around the world, representing multiple religious and secular traditions, seeking common ground between science and religion.

Now, I am saddened such work has not been brought to your attention, and see it as a mighty task for those Christians like myself to bridge this chasm.

I understand the dominant and prevailing model of Religion in this country is thoughtless, mindless, uncritical totalitarian fundamentalists preaching fire and brimstone.

What I don't understand is how folks like yourself would rest assured that this is the only story on the matter.

It seems clear to me, the genuine radical and revolutionary elements of Spirituality will be downplayed by the dominant media and educational settings. Why would the elite power structures encourage the kind of revolutionary spirituality I am referring to? Better keep the masses ignorant, afraid and focused on another world.

It doesn't seem clear to me how you would allow yourselves to follow suit.

Cheers,

Shannon






Sun Mar 07, 2004 1:49 pm
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Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Shannon,

Thank you for your response. I have a few things that I would like to say as a way of clarification and further discussion.

Quote:
Where the Church has been wrong, abusive, ignorant and criminal, I am the first to call out its crimes and misdemeanors, and work to hold it accountable.


I want to make it clear that I in no way wish to imply that you support the "wrongs" of the church. I will admit that I have not read a majority of your posts on the subject, so I cannot presently determine to what extent you have actually called out the crimes of the church on the forums at Book Talk, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt, based on your word.

Quote:
I have brought scores of examples of such spiritual discipline to Book Talk since I was introduced by Michaelangeloglossolalia. I refer you to the Liberation Theology thread for starters.


I want to say that I appreciate your desire to get this message of positive religion to the members of Book Talk. I will admit that I have not read a majority of the Liberation Theology thread. In a sense of constructive suggestion and explanation as to why I have not read the thread, I will have to say it is a lack of interest in reading long posts that have been copied and pasted from other sources. I, and probably many others, would prefer to read the personal thoughts of the other members on this forum. Although pasted articles may often be of much value, when not done in moderation, they can become tedious. Unfortunately, at least in my case, I fear that your message may have been lost in an overabundance of information.

Quote:
I would also like to introduce you to the work being done at the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union. Here is a gathering of scientists, religious scholars, philosophers, teachers, etc. from around the world, representing multiple religious and secular traditions, seeking common ground between science and religion.


I will be sure to check out this web site. Thank You!

Quote:
I understand the dominant and prevailing model of Religion in this country is thoughtless, mindless, uncritical totalitarian fundamentalists preaching fire and brimstone.

What I don't understand is how folks like yourself would rest assured that this is the only story on the matter.


I am not sure where it was indicated that this is the "only story". The intention of my previous post was to indicate that based on my experiences, the negative attitudes and actions of religions are as you have indicated, "dominant and prevailing". The whole reason I am here in this discussion is because I do not believe that it is in fact the "only story on the matter" and I am willing and wanting to hear about other more positive perspective. That is why I openly applauded the individuals you referred to in your earlier post.

Quote:
It seems clear to me, the genuine radical and revolutionary elements of Spirituality will be downplayed by the dominant media and educational settings. Why would the elite power structures encourage the kind of revolutionary spirituality I am referring to? Better keep the masses ignorant, afraid and focused on another world.

It doesn't seem clear to me how you would allow yourselves to follow suit.


You may be correct that there are some dominant forces out there that would prefer to downplay positive religions and progressive social organizations. Throughout history and even in our modern society, there have been those who have wanted to "keep the masses ignorant, afraid and focused on another world." I find it rather far fetched, however, to say that I, Chris, or Book Talk are following suit. If anything should be clear from our posts, it should be our desire that people become educated instead of remaining "ignorant", hopeful in the progress and future of man and this planet instead of being "afraid", and focused on the here and now instead of "another world". What we are not willing to do is give blanket acceptance to a religion that says it is bettering the world without seeing the corresponding fruit produced by such a religion.

These things being said, I hope that your message will be more fully understood and that the fruits of such a religions as you are espousing will become manifest.

Eric




Sun Mar 07, 2004 5:02 pm


Post Re: PREFACE - The God Question...
Shannon,

I took some time this evening and perused the web page of The Center For Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS). I must admit that it is interesting to behold a group of religious individuals, including "religious traditions such as Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and indigenous spiritualities" coming together for the purpose of beginning "a new and creative interaction between theology and science



Mon Mar 08, 2004 1:44 am
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