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Ultimate Religious Debate; Sam Harris And Andrew Sullivan


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#51 sparhawk

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 08:37 AM

Good point - but, the ant analogy is bad. We co-exist with the ants, we didn't create them, and we aren't responsible for their development.


Replace "ants" with "computers".

remember the Matrix? How they created a perfect utopia and the humans didn't accept it, they had to create a city like from today, where people could express themselves in the varying degrees of good and bad...


This was a movie. ;)
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#52 Domarius

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 08:52 AM

Replace "ants" with "computers".

When computers start having sex, and killing each other, then that'll be a good analogy.

This was a movie. ;)

Good boy! :)

#53 oDDity

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 09:28 AM

@OrbWeaver

Good point - but, the ant analogy is bad. We co-exist with the ants, we didn't create them, and we aren't responsible for their development. I think people would say that the relationship between god and his followers would be more like parents and children. Parents want their children to love them and respect them, and will dicipline them when they do something wrong, because ultimately they want the best for them and they want them to turn out good and well behaved people.


There is no analogy to be drawn between parent/child relationships and god/human relationships. It wasn't even worth mentioning it. All analogies fail at some point, but this one fails right at the start.
Parents are not morally perfect, and therefore are allowed any mistakes they make, but god must be perfect in order to deserve his status. Parents did not 'create' their children, not in anywhere approaching the same sense as god apparently created humans, and most importantly, children can see that their parents definitely exist, it's a fact.
It doesn't even begin to address the paradox I stated earlier.
No, what religious people would say to my argument is that it's not god who's getting the benefit of the love/worship relationship between himself and humans, it's we who get the benefit, and therefore god is benevolent in giving us the opportunity to do so.
And I say 'fine' to that, if it makes you feel better spending your life worshipping imaginary things, good luck to you.
However, I'm content in my assertion that the only logical course of action to take is to do nothing. Not worship. If there is no god, I was right, if there is a god who's morally perfect and therefore doesn't want worship, I was right, and if there is a god who does demand you worship, it doesn't deserve such worship, and I was right again.


Also maybe its a bit pessimistic to say there's enough evidence for their to be an evil god, and maybe even an indifferent one - maybe this is the way things are supposed to be and its going great in god's opinion? Always a balance between good and evil... remember the Matrix? How they created a perfect utopia and the humans didn't accept it, they had to create a city like from today, where people could express themselves in the varying degrees of good and bad... like what I was saying before... I'm sure this concept isn't new, I bet its in some philosophy or other and the Watchowski brothers were all into that stuff when they were writing the movie.


No, the argument to justify human evils is that we were not created as automatons who could only do good, that would be pointless, we were given free will so we could freely choose to be good, and in order for that to be the case, we must have the free chocie to do evil, and also must actually make that choice sometimes, it's no good if it's just a possiblity that we can't actually realise.
However, it's just as likely that the god is evil, becasue that argument works both ways.
In order for us to truly be able to do evil, we have to have free will, not just be automatons, and therefore the possibility and reality of being able to do good must exist.
Can you say that more evil or good happens in the world, or vice versa?
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#54 sparhawk

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 09:35 AM

When computers start having sex, and killing each other, then that'll be a good analogy.


Why would they need to have sex? That's obviously a pretty stupid requirement, because for worshipping somebody you don't need to be capable of sex, you simply have to be able to think. Our relationship to computers is pretty much the same as god to humans is supposed to be. We created them, and they are totally under our control in theory. Soon they will start to think for themselve as well.

I'd say that human/computer analogy is much closer to god/humans then your parents/children analogy.
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#55 Springheel

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 11:56 AM

If there is no god, I was right, if there is a god who's morally perfect and therefore doesn't want worship, I was right, and if there is a god who does demand you worship, it doesn't deserve such worship, and I was right again.



The flaw in your argument is the definition of the term "morally perfect". Morals are entirely subjective, so that term has no meaning to someone who isn't religious. Someone who IS religious believes in a set of "moral laws" handed down by an authority figure (ie, God). God is morally perfect, because he was the one who established what "morally pefect" means in the first place.

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#56 oDDity

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 01:32 PM

Bit that's the problem. God's got nothing to do with god's laws or what god set out as the moral framework, it's what people have arbitrarily decided is moral, and it constantly changes from culture to culture and over time.
God cannot change one iota, since being already perfect, any change is a change to imperfection, so it's us who are constantly changing and doing what we want.
Unless God has been coming down and telling different tales to different prophets from all the hundreds of different religions over the millennia, then they've obviously just been making it all up as they go along.
Given this state of affairs, as I said, the only logical course of action is to take no action on the issue.
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#57 Nyarlathotep

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 06:58 PM

I just thought of what seems to me to be a perfect argument against any form of god worship.
It's commonly accepted that god must be morally perfect to be worthy of worship in the first place, but a paradox I thought of, is if god expects us to worship him/it, then he cannot be morally perfect and cannot be worthy of worship.
Any powerful entity that would create lesser mortal beings and then expect or demand that they grovel at his feet and worship his every whim cannot possibly be the morally perfect deity that is needed to justify worship.
Therefore, by not worshipping god, you win both ways, because if god expects you to worship him, he is not worthy of it, so you're doing the right thing, and if god is morally perfect, then he doesn't want your worship, and so you're still ding the right thing.
And of course, by worshipping god, your lose both ways - either you're worshipping something that doesn't deserve worship, or something that doesn't want your worship, and therefore disobeying it's wishes.

This is a really great argument; I love it. However, a Christian friend of mine points out that there is a teleological explanation for worship. The purpose of worship is to reach a higher state of being, i.e., enlightenment or "grace," rather than god wishing for us to worship him. I still feel that that is an insufficient argument for worship; I see no reason why worship should be the only way (or necessarily even one way) to achieve enlightenment. It even seems at cross odds the same teleological purpose of reaching enlightenment. If there is one sole path, then it quickly removes the ambiguity of finding the way, leading to a world with a handy "follow these ten steps for enlightenment" manual. :wacko:

@OrbWeaver

Good point - but, the ant analogy is bad. We co-exist with the ants, we didn't create them, and we aren't responsible for their development. I think people would say that the relationship between god and his followers would be more like parents and children. Parents want their children to love them and respect them, and will dicipline them when they do something wrong, because ultimately they want the best for them and they want them to turn out good and well behaved people.

oDDity already mentioned that it's a false analogy, but he missed another flaw in your argument. The supreme being created everything (I know of no religion that does not claim a creator of the mankind), therefore, it created you and me. As humans, we both have parents, but if "god" created us, then our parents are not our creators. Therefore, the analogy of the parent/child is no better or accurate than that of human/ant.

Also maybe its a bit pessimistic to say there's enough evidence for their to be an evil god, and maybe even an indifferent one - maybe this is the way things are supposed to be and its going great in god's opinion? Always a balance between good and evil... remember the Matrix? How they created a perfect utopia and the humans didn't accept it, they had to create a city like from today, where people could express themselves in the varying degrees of good and bad... like what I was saying before... I'm sure this concept isn't new, I bet its in some philosophy or other and the Watchowski brothers were all into that stuff when they were writing the movie.

The machines created the Matrix for beings (humans) that existed independently of said Matrix. Humans, however, exist solely in our environment. If the universe were a utopia, it would be perceived as the norm; there wouldn't be any problems of acceptance. Only if our "immortal souls" were independent of the creation of the universe and the supreme being itself, could our acceptance of the world presented be biased. More simply, our souls would have been created to fit with the universe at hand, thus the disassociation present with the first Matrix would be incongruous--no concept of evil to rip them from utopia. It'd be supposing that because we are square, that is the reason the universe is not a round hole--it simply doesn't follow.

#58 Domarius

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 09:36 PM

If the universe were a utopia, it would be perceived as the norm; there wouldn't be any problems of acceptance.

Ah I see - you mean that the humans the robots took were already used to a certain way of life. That's not what I was getting at, so I have to admit the Matrix was a bad example

What I meant was what I was saying earlier. I just thought the Matrix example was similar, but its not.

So back to Orb's statement - I think its a bit pessemistic to say the god would be evil or indifferent, because - what if things the way they are now are just the way they're supposed to be?

(Because of what I was saying about "perfectness" not being engaging enough - here;
http://forums.thedar...m...ost&p=99787
and here, in my reply to Splatzz
http://forums.thedar...m...st&p=100309
they are anchored links, they jump directly to the post I'm referring to)

#59 Maximius

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 10:03 PM

http://www.abc.net.a...ilosopherszone/
:)



Nice!

#60 oDDity

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 07:17 AM

This is a really great argument; I love it. However, a Christian friend of mine points out that there is a teleological explanation for worship. The purpose of worship is to reach a higher state of being, i.e., enlightenment or "grace," rather than god wishing for us to worship him. I still feel that that is an insufficient argument for worship; I see no reason why worship should be the only way (or necessarily even one way) to achieve enlightenment. It even seems at cross odds the same teleological purpose of reaching enlightenment. If there is one sole path, then it quickly removes the ambiguity of finding the way, leading to a world with a handy "follow these ten steps for enlightenment" manual. :wacko:


Yes, and as I said, if you want to make the remarkable series of assumptions and explanatory leaps that are required to get to the position of worshipping an apparently supreme deity in order to achieve 'enlightenment', then good luck to you, but, it always seems to be tied up with some sort of posthumous reward and punishment system.
All christians believe in some form of afterlife or continued spiritual existence, and the implication always is that those who were 'enlightened' in this life get the benefit in the 'next' one.
I'd like to see examples of what benefit this form of enlightenment has had for people who have thought they'd achieved it.
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#61 Nyarlathotep

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 04:29 PM

Not to mention it seems kind of pointless if enlightenment is only worthwhile or useful in a supposed afterlife.

#62 OrbWeaver

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 04:42 PM

Yeah, the whole idea of an afterlife nullifies their whole "meaning of life" argument, since clearly there is no meaning to life if the most important stuff happens after you die anyway. Why even have a life at all, God might as well just create people in heaven directly and skip the whole mortal existence thing altogether.

#63 Nyarlathotep

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Posted 16 February 2007 - 04:57 PM

And that would be a utopia. Is it just our limited understanding of the world's religions, or do religions really beg the question that much?

#64 Domarius

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 07:56 PM

I wish some actual religious people joined in :/ This is like shooting AFK people in CS.

#65 Gildoran

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 10:12 PM

Last time that happened, we trampled all over UnskilledLaborer's arguments and scared him away.

#66 oDDity

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 05:12 AM

I wish some actual religious people joined in :/ This is like shooting AFK people in CS.


Well, as a hippy throwback, you're at least a Deist aren't you? You must believe there is some sort of unexplained 'power' or 'force' or 'spirit'at work in the universe, even if it's not actually a conscious being with a personality and motives
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#67 Domarius

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 10:22 PM

Yeah kinda :) But as a vague, impression with nothing else to prove it other than some personal experiences, it's not going to stand up to any scrutiny.

It's just one of those "personal beliefs" that I was talking about earlier, where its fine if it makes you feel good, but there's no reason to force it on anyone else. And I don't intend to.

The whole fun (I reckon) lays in disproving someone who's trying to tell you to think a certain way. That's not me.

#68 oDDity

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 05:46 AM

The whole fun (I reckon) lays in disproving someone who's trying to tell you to think a certain way.


...or just ridiculing them out of sheer cruelty, that can also be fun - at least for the sort of people who don't believe in 'the force'.
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#69 OrbWeaver

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 05:57 AM

I wish some actual religious people joined in :/ This is like shooting AFK people in CS.


That's true whether they join in or not -- examining religion with reason is like shooting fish in a barrel, which means that the only intelligent counter-argument tends to be "It is just my personal belief, I cannot prove it either way". Unfortunately the sort of religionists who do tend to join in are the logically-illiterate bleevers who don't last five minutes (as Gildoran correctly observed).

#70 Ishtvan

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 07:49 PM

The "evolution" of worship in Christianity has always struck me as pretty weird. As I understand it, Christianity sprang up as an offshoot of Judiasm in the Greco-Roman world. In the earlier Greco-Roman religions, there was a clear patronage relationship. You leave out snacks for god A, god A will do you a favor next week. The gods were not seen as morally superior (which is obvious from most of the myths associated with them). They were just superior beings to humans, and we could give physical items or mental oaths in return for help with our day to day problems. There was an afterlife (the details of which are open to interpretation), but no sure way to get in via mental devotion to a particular god.

Then in Judaism you have Old Testament God. We've switched from many gods to one, but Old Testament God was still essentially a more powerful being who got angry and kicked over your sand castle if you didn't please him. He didn't help you much in mortal life, but if you made a covenant with him and followed his rules, he'd help you out in the afterlife. He made mistakes, he wasn't morally perfect, but he was someone you didn't want to piss off.

In Christianity, New Testament God is supposedly morally perfect, and you don't have to leave food out for him or explicitly enter into a covenant with him. You just have to have faith in him (or his son or the triforce or whatever) and you'll be saved in the afterlife, right? If that's the case, then why are there all these pagan patronage throwbacks like praying for favors, sacrificing candles in return for helping people, and praying to entities that are even called "patron" saints for fuck's sake. Also, why do we still have to follow some of the rules handed down from crazy old "I smite 'choo" Old Testament God?

As we've said, the prayer/worship/counting beads as a path to enlightenment thing falls down when you ask why is that the only path to enlightenment? And what about those Serengeti bushmen who've never heard of Jesus but still live by the same ideals that Jesus exemplified? If they acknowledge that there are many paths to enlightenment, if god is morally perfect and Serengeti bushmen aren't going to hell just because they've never heard of Jesus, then why the hell are people sitting for hours in a church and sacrificing their time and money to support some guys who do nothing but sit around and talk about Jesus?

[EDIT: If you make the argument that the priesthood is just there to discuss "faith" with people and help them live a better life, then you've pretty much admitted that Christianity has no tangible benefit over any other religion, and we might as well just sit at home on Sunday and think about what our own personal interpretation of "faith" and "morality."]

I guess it's true, this is just shooting the AFK, but there's so much to rant about it's hard to resist. It's hard to argue with actual Christians though, because there are so many different versions of it, their particular version may have thought of a way of surmounting the particular logical fallacy you're arguing while introducing 5 other ones you have to think about for a while to see.

#71 Domarius

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 10:06 PM

Well while we're ranting...

I went to a Catholic school when I was young, and it was run by nuns. By and by, it was alright, nothing bad happened really - it was just the stupid traditions that fuck with your head.

Like, we were introduced to the rosemary beads, and you had to say one prayer for each of this bead, and on this day you say 2 for this other colour... etc. somthing really arbitraty and stupid. So of course, being a kid, you don't remember to do things consistently, so I was worrying about what effect that would have.

And then, one day, some guy came in and talked to the class, and introduced us to this thing (that I can't remember what it's called) basically looked like 2 tags that you hung around your neck, so one tag is at the front and one tag is at the back. And the idea is, that if you happen to die while wearing it - you get straight to heaven, no matter what you did. So we all wore it for a while, and it was really uncomfortable cause it would slip backwards and strangle you all the time, and I couldn't shake the feeling of confusion, that if I could have put into words, would have sounded like "okay, the right way to do things was already decreed by god like, ages and ages ago in the bible - so how come we didn't know about this before? Why is it new? How can you have "new technological developments" in religion?"

And then, I had to move to another state, so I just missed out on receiving my um... reconciliation I think its called - something you have to do when you're a teenager, involves talking to a priest or something. We were told that we had to have this done, because, when you're a kid, you commit all sorts of sins that you don't know you did, so you need to do this, or else, well we told "You don't have to have your reconciliation, but if you don't, you'll have all these sins there, soo..." we probably wouldn't go to heaven.

So I spent a while worrying about that for a year or so untill I just found all the different ways to do the same thing really stupid and confusing and just naturally started to question the entire point of religion. And thus, without any discussion between us, me and my brothers eventually ditched the whole catholic thing, much to the initial shock of our parents when they found out. They thought they failed, etc. I can't imagine why anyone would stay so attached to religion after rubbish like that. This is just the natural conclusion.

#72 OrbWeaver

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:35 PM

And then, one day, some guy came in and talked to the class, and introduced us to this thing (that I can't remember what it's called) basically looked like 2 tags that you hung around your neck, so one tag is at the front and one tag is at the back. And the idea is, that if you happen to die while wearing it - you get straight to heaven, no matter what you did.


I know what that thing is called - a "scam", or more precisely a "device for the purpose of obtaining money from an idiot".

#73 sparhawk

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:44 PM

Dom, did you buy such a thing? Maybe you can take a photo of it?
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#74 Springheel

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:53 PM

You just have to have faith in him (or his son or the triforce or whatever) and you'll be saved in the afterlife, right? If that's the case, then why are there all these pagan patronage throwbacks like praying for favors, sacrificing candles in return for helping people, and praying to entities that are even called "patron" saints for fuck's sake.


Part of the way Christianity spread was by co-opting pagan rituals. This allowed people to continue doing what they had always done, but they could still go to Church and pay tithes as good Christians.
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#75 oDDity

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 05:46 PM

Even if you forget organised religion and go with the idea of a 'personal god', it's still ridiculous.
What people mean by 'personal god' is some pure fantasy they've created in their own head, akin to an imaginary friend, or a comfort blanket.
I call it a mental disorder. It may be a common one, but it's obviously something that not all of us suffer from.
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