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the power of weakness?
Posted: 25 January 2007 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Salt Creek,

Among credible, main stream bible scholars in institutions of good repute, there are standard principles of hermenuetics, which is recognized as a legitimate academic discipline, one in which the bible is viewed as objectively as possible as a subject for analysis and study, informed by other disciplines such as history, anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy, etc.

For what its worth, I believe denominations are for currency, not churches.  But that’s another story.

P.S. What purpose is served by your comment “It’s what you do best”?  Do you feel you can judge me accurately on the basis of a few posts on an anonymous forum?

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Posted: 25 January 2007 05:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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camanintx and made_maka,

You ask good questions.  I hope my answer will at least indicate my interest in responding in a meaningful way.  I don’t purport to have all the answers, as some may suggest, but I simply offer my understanding to see how it measures up against the considerable challenges presented in this forum.  Its an exercise that I would hope will bring us together in friendship, as we learn to overcome differences and accept each other as we are.

So,

If we are really talking about the code of conduct for the supreme being, its hard to know if applying the human sense of morality to an omniscient, omnipotent eternal agent is valid. 

One thing is clear, Jesus always distinguishes mankind from God, and we must not think that what God may or may not do with the incorrigible wicked, for example, is what WE should necessarily do with them, for He is reported to claim vengeance as his own and not for us to deliver.  The authority of the state is reported to be established for the practical needs of humanity when it comes to justice, rather than individuals acting on their own as vigilanties.

If the supreme being is truly the sovereign of history, then it falls to him to be the arbiter of justice for those who reject the offer of mercy and grace, as it is understood by Christianity.

For your reference, I define:

justice as getting what you deserve, i.e. fairness,

mercy as not getting what you deserve, i.e. restraint, and

grace as getting what you don’t deserve, i.e. unmerited favor.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]If we are really talking about the code of conduct for the supreme being, its hard to know if applying the human sense of morality to an omniscient, omnipotent eternal agent is valid. 

What is the point then?  We are humans and can only act from that stance.  It hardly seems fair to expect us to be judged by a sense of validity beyond our understanding.  But then I gather from y’all here that Jesus isn’t supposed to be fair.

If the supreme being is truly the sovereign of history, then it falls to him to be the arbiter of justice for those who reject the offer of mercy and grace, as it is understood by Christianity.

For your reference, I define:

justice as getting what you deserve, i.e. fairness,

mercy as not getting what you deserve, i.e. restraint, and

grace as getting what you don’t deserve, i.e. unmerited favor.

This is all gibberish to me, sorry.  It’s probably hard for you to believe but it means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to me.  And I do come from a Catholic background so was exposed to all of it in childhood and teen age.  It stopped making sense early on and things never got any better.

I am pleased to be an unrepentant apostate and don’t fear any supernatural hell or other punishment beyond this life.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]Hampsteadpete and SkepticX, you have indicated that the principle in question, the power of weakness, is not unique to Christianity, but rather is also found in Zen and/or Taoism.  However, you have not explained the rational basis for this principle in the context of those systems of thought.  I look forward to anything you might offer along these lines.


I think you just did that yourself, actually:
“I don’t think surrendering our right to be right is the same thing as accepting uncertainty. It is possible to be right about something, yet yield to another, not because we have doubt, but rather because being right is not always most important.”

At the risk of seeming a bit enigmatic, surrendering your right to be right as you describe it is a simple matter of focus—an active awareness of priorities and motives. Taoism and Buddhism are big on accepting reality, and as you just pointed out if you’re conscientious about accepting reality and focussed on appropriate priorities and motives, it simply follows naturally that sometimes you relenquish your right of way, so to speak.

Byron

[ Edited: 25 January 2007 07:46 AM by ]
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Posted: 25 January 2007 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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What is the point then?  We are humans and can only act from that stance.  It hardly seems fair to expect us to be judged by a sense of validity beyond our understanding.

The point is the power of weakness. 

As for being judged, its not based on what we don’t understand, but rather on what we do understand, and how we measure up to that.  I note the potentially merciful, and yet also potentially harsh, biblical teaching that we will be judged by the standards we use to judge others. 

But then I gather from y’all here that Jesus isn’t supposed to be fair.

Sort of.  He’ll be fair if that’s what we want, but he prefers to be merciful and gracious.

I am pleased to be an unrepentant apostate and don’t fear any supernatural hell or other punishment beyond this life.

It is not good to live in fear.  While I look forward to a heavenly afterlife, and would prefer not to burn in hell, my faith is not really about those things.  Its about here and now, about how I can grow into the person I was created to become.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]It is not good to live in fear.  While I look forward to a heavenly afterlife, and would prefer not to burn in hell, my faith is not really about those things.  Its about here and now, about how I can grow into the person I was created to become.

Well, growth is what it’s about for any autonomous human being. One gets the feeling that you have a more specific idea of what was intended by your creation, and just what your creation entailed. Thus the directions in which you can grow are strictly limited. You asked me pointedly how I come to my judgements about you. You are purely and simply indistinguishable from a host of other apologists I have met here who have given me much by which to judge them. In reference to your notions of the afterlife, you are simply talking out of both sides of your face. All in the interests of getting along, I am sure.

But get this straight: Your world view is utterly, incomprehensibly incompatible with that of an atheist. At least this one.

[quote author=“Parable”]

But then I gather from y’all here that Jesus isn’t supposed to be fair.

Sort of.  He’ll be fair if that’s what we want, but he prefers to be merciful and gracious.

Sorry, you’re beginning to use these words in a context that is specific to you. So your use of the word “we” is already pretty arrogant, especially insofar as you have any pretense of seeking to resolve our differences. Especially if the only way to resolve our differences is for us to join the fold. Is this new, or just more of what you do best?

[quote author=“Parable”]As for being judged, its not based on what we don’t understand, but rather on what we do understand, and how we measure up to that.  I note the potentially merciful, and yet also potentially harsh, biblical teaching that we will be judged by the standards we use to judge others.

More mealy-mouthed moronic machinations from your Book, which is the foundation stone for all the speaking you do out of both sides of your face. And another little dollop of that arrogant “we” again. For example, if you acted for a single moment like you weren’t quite as sure as you seem to be as to what your God intends for you, we might actually be having a conversation.

[quote author=“Parable”]If we are really talking about the code of conduct for the supreme being, its hard to know if applying the human sense of morality to an omniscient, omnipotent eternal agent is valid. 

If the supreme being is truly the sovereign of history, then it falls to him to be the arbiter of justice for those who reject the offer of mercy and grace, as it is understood by Christianity.

For your reference, I define:

justice as getting what you deserve, i.e. fairness,

mercy as not getting what you deserve, i.e. restraint, and

grace as getting what you don’t deserve, i.e. unmerited favor.

Sorry, again, my pusillanimous little Parable. Do you claim that we have anything but our human sense of morality with which to interpret the instructions of our omnipotent eternal agent / sovereign of history? The one who has filled your book full of carrot-and-stick gibberish that indicates both mercy for some and justice for all? The code for how you arrive at this equation is well-known to us, and your cagily expressing it hypothetically is already obviously not something you apply to yourself.

As for grace, unmerited favor has always seemed like a bad deal to me - something enabling me to be accepted in polite company even though I smell pretty bad. Imagine a bunch of people standing around at a cocktail party in boots they’ve worn coming straight in from the barnyard, pretending outwardly they have no sense of smell, but refusing to speak of it. Life at a church social. Ridiculous.

Once again, with feeling:

[quote author=“Parable”]If the supreme being is truly the sovereign of history, then it falls to him to be the arbiter of justice for those who reject the offer of mercy and grace, as it is understood by Christianity.

According to this iron-clad hermeneutics, responsibility is all on my shoulders, even though there are abundant essential clauses that sometimes dress up as conditionals, as outlined above. Want me to believe in a God who takes no responsibility for his own creation? The very idea is hilarious.

[quote author=“Parable”]Its an exercise that I would hope will bring us together in friendship, as we learn to overcome differences and accept each other as we are.

You cannot possibly be serious about accepting us the way we are as atheists. There is no intersection between what you believe about God and what we don’t believe.

There ya have it folks. I could say the same thing to Parable that I say to sparrows2. To wit:

So really, you’re only here for more of that “exhilerating” buzz you Christians get from your own bullcrap, and for being smacked down by the “stones” cast, not at you, but at your “rediculous” apologetics. I’m starting to think of you people not as annoying proselytizers but as a bunch of sado-maso-scato junkies who need ever-greater quantities of scorn heaped on you in order to keep feeling that God-buzz. Just wow.

[quote author=“Parable”]Among credible, main stream bible scholars in institutions of good repute, there are standard principles of hermenuetics, which is recognized as a legitimate academic discipline, one in which the bible is viewed as objectively as possible as a subject for analysis and study, informed by other disciplines such as history, anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy, etc.

Oxymorons galore: “credible bible scholars”, “(theological) institutions of good repute”, “legitimate academic hermeneutics”, “objective reading of the bible”. Thanks for a good belly laugh, Parable. I’lll give you an objective reading of the bible: It’s an enormous pile of excrement, the distillation of every human fear and prejudice present among the prescientific mouseshit sheepherders of the bronze age.

I have no doubt now that apologetics is what you do best, Parable. All your eggs are in that one basket. But don’t quit your day job - you could learn something useful and still get to heaven.

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Posted: 25 January 2007 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Wow. I can only hope your students appreciate your life insight, Salt Creek, though Parable seems unlikely to. Really nicely put.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 25 January 2007 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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You are purely and simply indistinguishable from a host of other apologists I have met here who have given me much by which to judge them.

Guilty, by association I guess. 

Einstein said “it is the theory which determines what can be observed”.  You say I’m indistinguishable from others; your theory doesn’t seem to allow you to distinguish similar objects. 

As for judging me, a standard principle of literary criticism is to judge the work, not the author.  But not everyone subscribes to such restraint, and their critiques are weighted accordingly.

So your use of the word “we” is already pretty arrogant, especially insofar as you have any pretense of seeking to resolve our differences. Especially if the only way to resolve our differences is for us to join the fold

Fair enough.  I meant no offense.  I just think using the word “one” is awkward and in my mind, all of us are together on this rock. 

BTW, I never said that you have to “join the fold” in order to resolve our differences.  We may never be able to do that, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying a relationship, even if all we do is engage in lively debate.  One would hope that such fun would not include invective, though.

...if you acted for a single moment like you weren’t quite as sure as you seem to be as to what your God intends for you, we might actually be having a conversation.

Perhaps it would be simpler to just take my words at face value. I don’t have a hidden agenda.  For me, this is just an intellectual exercise.  Yet, isn’t it interesting how one’s character is revealed as much by what you don’t say as what you do?  Reminds me of what Jesus said “for out of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

The code for how you arrive at this equation is well-known to us, and your cagily expressing it hypothetically is already obviously not something you apply to yourself.

You lost me here.

Imagine a bunch of people standing around at a cocktail party in boots they’ve worn coming straight in from the barnyard, pretending outwardly they have no sense of smell, but refusing to speak of it. Life at a church social. Ridiculous

I don’t much care for church socials either.  Too much pretending.  That’s not at all what I was talking about.

You cannot possibly be serious about accepting us the way we are as atheists. There is no intersection between what you believe about God and what we don’t believe.

I rather like atheists, at least the ones who have arrived at their positions rationally.  There are some who seem to be atheists because they reject everthing else, sort of a default defacto fall back position, but not something they arrived at through deduction, induction or even revelation.  That’s why I say, if an intersection of beliefs is necessary for any of us to accept one another, we’re all doomed.

So really, you’re only here for more of that “exhilerating” buzz you Christians get from your own bullcrap, and for being smacked down by the “stones” cast, not at you, but at your “rediculous” apologetics.

Sorry if I offended you by sharing my opinion.

I have no doubt now that apologetics is what you do best, Parable

Sam argues that the problem with religion is it results in absolute certainty based on insufficient evidence.  Do you think atheists are immune to this type of fallacy?

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Posted: 25 January 2007 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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Adapted from Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“It is, first of all, the freedom of other people that is our burden. Their freedom collides with our autonomy. We could get rid of this burden by refusing them their freedom, by constraining them and thus doing violence to their personality, by stamping our own image upon them. Their freedom includes all that we mean by a person’s nature, individuality, endowment. It also includes their weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. To bear the burden of others means involvement with the reality of who they are, to accept and to affirm them, and in bearing with them, to break through to the point where we take joy in them.”

[ Edited: 25 January 2007 05:33 PM by ]
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Posted: 25 January 2007 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]Wow. I can only hope your students appreciate your life insight, Salt Creek, though Parable seems unlikely to. Really nicely put.

I always appreciate a valid point, regardless the source or the manner in which is expressed.

If using the term “we” in casual syntax is arrogance on my part, what is implied by such constructions as below, by Salt Creek? 

Sorry, again, my pusillanimous little Parable

.

BTW, I had to check my dictionary for “pusillanimous”, which means “lacking courage and resolution”, “marked by contemptable timidity” and “cowardly”. 

Learning a new vocabulary word, its not much, but its a start.  I can see this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

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Posted: 26 January 2007 12:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]If using the term “we” in casual syntax is arrogance on my part, what is implied by such constructions as below, by Salt Creek?


It’s the affirmation of the standard issue religious arrogance that it reflects, actually, not the semantics. The formula of that arrogance is the intellectually and ethically offensive combination of the presumption of authority, credibility, and usually a high degree of certainty, all based upon precisely zero valid epistemology, and the alleged accompanying belief that there are ultimate and eternal consequences for what one believes regarding the alleged conclusions believers have come to based upon such highly irresponsible thinking.

Byron

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Posted: 26 January 2007 01:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]Learning a new vocabulary word, its not much, but its a start.  I can see this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Let’s cut to the chase, as they say, shall we?

I think you’re absolutely wrong, but if you leave me alone, turnabout is then and only then fair play. Problem is, your pastor, while he dithers about absolute convictions and the strength of weakness, doesn’t strongly condemn the efforts of some fundies, who do have a conviction that they are right and I am wrong, to turn the US into a theocracy. At least, you don’t mention that he does.

The problem then is that by surrendering your ‘right to be right’, you also surrender your power to call other people on the same bullshit. It’s the very apotheosis of religious moderation, and pusillanimous as hell. That isn’t strength-in-weakness, it’s total abdication from the real implications of your faith - your faith in absolutes. Your implicit appeal is for me to be tolerant of your faith, placing one big condition on it: You will outwardly surrender your right to be right if I will do the same. But this live and let live world is not what most of those fundies out there want.

The point is made over and over again, that if you don’t approve of abortion, nobody says you have to have one. If you don’t want to become the marriage partner of someone of the same gender as you, nobody says you have to. You might not like the theory of evolution by natural selection because it utterly destroys the foundations of your faith, but you must not replace science with confusion in the classroom. You might be one of what Sam calls “religious moderates”. You might not be. You might spout tolerance, and ‘vote your conscience’ in ways that are intolerant of diversity. Nobody knows so far, and perhaps you would beg that it’s nobody’s business.

Nobody can really stop you if that’s the way you want to go, but you haven’t said word one about that kind of tolerance here. The intolerance you get from me is in large part due to that omission. You’re just timid. Pusillanimous. I learned that word from Spiro Agnew, who was as untimid as he could be while he had a piece of the reins of power.

Sorry, Parable. I almost wish I could offer you more. Sorry for my own arrogance; it’s just that when you’re an atheist, it’s not always easy to be humble. Then again, it’s not easy for anybody, is it? A lily of the field you are not, nor a shrinking ecclesiastical violet. You’re here, aren’t you?

My main impression of you is that you clearly believe in some sort of universal standard by which human conduct can be measured in some sort of “spiritual” terms. My impression of your timidity stems from the fact that you seem to believe that this standard imposes the direst of consequences for its total rejection, which this atheist has long since done. We are not talking about my rejection of it, but rather your total failure to reject it. This is obsequious at best, on your part. You choose to de-emphasize this, but it’s still an elephant in the room.

Sure, you can put it in terms of how good it feels to “live your life in Christ” or whatever other platitude is convenient for your particular sect, denomination, or chicken coop. But then you’re just falling back on the “Christian Buzz” effect I offered to sparrows2 and repeated for you.

Let me say again, it’s the universal and (for you) objective standard that I find so distasteful, and it is what makes you so indistinguishable from that host of other Christian apologists with which I am already familiar. You know what familiarity breeds.

Thanks for backing away from the “we” business. You have to be very careful with your language around me, because I will pick it apart for you if you give me the slightest chance. Since this particular world view of yours is entirely dependent on a Word (and all the words that follow after) you are already under house arrest from my perspective.

[quote author=“Parable”]If there is anything this forum is about, its what should be and why.

True dat. I am a pariah here, as a scientist, because I like to focus on what is. In this case it is the inconsistencies in your discourse. I don’t dislike you, exactly, Parable, but I find your system of Truths woefully inadequate to deal with what is.

Das ich erkenne was die Welt
im innersten Zusammenhält
schau alle Wirkenskraft und Samen
und tu nicht mehr im Worten kramen
(Goethe, Faust)

If you think the foundations of the universe find much of explanation in a bronze-age myth, you’re done before you start. You have merely found a way of sneaking human beings back to the center of the cosmos after all the good work done to remove us from that privileged (but incorrect) position, by such figures as Copernicus, Newton, Einstein and Heisenberg. It turns out that the rest of the universe is not about us.

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Posted: 26 January 2007 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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I think you’re absolutely wrong, but if you leave me alone, turnabout is then and only then fair play.

What specifically, am I wrong about?

My approach to understanding Christianity, and the gospel in particular, is not apologetics, i.e. defending the articles of faith, but rather exploring the implications of those articles.  Sam has articulated what he believes are the negative consequences of religious faith.  I do not dispute the facts he cites, although I don’t always agree with how he interprets those facts.  Yet for both of us, it is upon the fruit of that inquiry that the articles are to be judged.  I submit that the negative consequences Sam describes are a result of flawed understandings, misguided applications or outright abuse of those ideas for selfish agendas.  In order to explore that position, it is necessary to examine what other kinds of consequences are possible, and to see if those consequences are available by other means, as Sam contends.  For myself, I am most interested in this latter question.

The problem then is that by surrendering your ‘right to be right’, you also surrender your power to call other people on the same bullshit.

Nothing in the power of weakness precludes dissent.  Rather, it means that at some point, you love someone by accepting them as they choose to be.

But this live and let live world is not what most of those fundies out there want.

No doubt about it, there are lots of people who want their views validated by seeing them adopted by others.

...if you don’t approve of abortion, nobody says you have to have one.

The issue with abortion centers on what constitutes personhood.  Any dividing line between non-person and person is arbitrary.  If we disagree on where that line is, what one person sees as a routine medical procedure another persons sees as murder.  Worldwide, there are 50 million abortions a year.  If Sam’s neuroscience research somehow leads to the determination that fetuses are persons, what then?  Isn’t that a fair question?

If you don’t want to become the marriage partner of someone of the same gender as you, nobody says you have to.

Gender identity and expression, as well as sexual orientation, are now understood by experts in those fields as a broad spectrum of possibilities, no longer the simple male/female dichotomy.  This should have profound implications for public policy.  My suggestion is to preclude government recognition of any kind for any interpersonal relationships.  If you want to establish legal rights, tax rates, insurance coverage, guardianship, etc, there are instruments to do that.  For example, if you want benefits for group coverage, pay for it according to how many people are involved, pets included for that matter.  If you want to buy health insurance for the homeless person down the street, you should be able to without establishing any interpersonal legal relationship whatsoever. 

You might not like the theory of evolution by natural selection because it utterly destroys the foundations of your faith, but you must not replace science with confusion in the classroom.

Creationism is not the foundation of my faith, so evolution is not a threat.  For an interesting take on evolution/creation, check out Ken Miller’s book “Finding Darwin’s God”.  He suggests evolution is what you might expect to find as the operative principle of a fallen world.  And evolution explains changes over time, but does not account for creation, biblical or otherwise.  As a scientist myself, I agree that creationism and intelligent design are not science and should not be presented as such.  However, this does not imply they are not worthy of academic examination.

Nobody can really stop you if that’s the way you want to go, but you haven’t said word one about that kind of tolerance here. The intolerance you get from me is in large part due to that omission

.

Tolerance used to mean allowing what you disagree with for the sake of something more important.  Now it means you must agree that all viewpoints are equally valid and nothing is more important than that.  Where I disagree with others, I practice the former.  Where I agree, there is no need for tolerance.  Our society no longer seems to understand the difference.

You’re just timid. Pusillanimous. I learned that word from Spiro Agnew, who was as untimid as he could be while he had a piece of the reins of power.

If I’m pusillanimous, you’re a “nattering nabob of negativism” smile

My main impression of you is that you clearly believe in some sort of universal standard by which human conduct can be measured in some sort of “spiritual” terms.

If anything, that standard is love.

My impression of your timidity stems from the fact that you seem to believe that this standard imposes the direst of consequences for its total rejection, which this atheist has long since done.

Atheists do not lack love.  However, from a Christian perspective, they lack a perfect example. 

In this case it is the inconsistencies in your discourse. I don’t dislike you, exactly, Parable, but I find your system of Truths woefully inadequate to deal with what is.

Reality….what a concept!—Robin Williams

You have merely found a way of sneaking human beings back to the center of the cosmos after all the good work done to remove us from that privileged (but incorrect) position, by such figures as Copernicus, Newton, Einstein and Heisenberg. It turns out that the rest of the universe is not about us.

You will be pleased to know that the first line in Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life is:

“It’s not about you.”

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Posted: 26 January 2007 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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speaking of “what is” and love….

“Mental health is the relentless dedication to reality at all costs, while people who are mentally ill are those unable or unwilling to see life as it actually is”. —M. Scott Peck

“The widespread problem of mental illness in our society gives us yet another perspective on love.  One way of looking at mental disorders is that they are all ways of compensating for lack of unconditional love.  If we could peel away all of the psychological diagnoses down to the heart and core, we would find that many emotional problems stem from lack of loving and being loved…...This is where spiritual faith can become very important.  Belief in a Supreme Being who offers the unconditional love that you have difficulty giving yourself can bring you one of the greatest benefits of spiritual life.  The person who has developed a spiritual relationship with a God who loves us for what we are—not for what we do to or for somebody—can in turn feel loved unconditionally.  He or she will also have the potential to love others in the same way.”

—Dr. Bruce Fisher and Dr. Robert Alberti in Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends

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Posted: 26 January 2007 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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Belief in a Supreme Being requires a belief in an inferior being.

The greater the supreme being, the more worthless the inferior being.

The greatness of the Christian god makes mankind the most worthless beings imaginable.

How could we love such detestable beings? It would take a God to love us.

The love of god becomes meaningless since it cannot be deserved.

It is impossible to believe in god and still love humans.

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