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Christian freedom - an oxymoron?
Posted: 05 May 2007 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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Pat,
I look forward to hearing your thoughts & ideas.
‘Namaste’ to you too!

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Posted: 05 May 2007 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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[quote author=“Namaste”]

Bruce wrote: That is my experience, and I don’t have to or intend to force it on anyone else. You are in the best position to judge your own experience.

This statement you make may or may not be true.

Well, that’s a truism.  Why would you suggest that I was not being truthful in that statement (if I am reading you correctly)?  In fact, you ARE in the best position to judge your own experience.  I certainly can’t judge it.

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Posted: 05 May 2007 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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Hey Bruce—
    I think you pretty much answered your own question when you said “for me, personally, Christianity is freedom.”  Therefore, for you, Christian freedom is not an oxymoron.  Your question is vast, but I can answer a piece of it.  Or I can give you my point of view regarding a piece of it. 
  One way I might define freedom is the ability to live my life and act according to my conscience.  I found that after studying the Bible for many years and trying to be a good Christian, I could not, in good conscience, accept the Bible as God’s word, could not accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, and could not actually be a Christian.  So for me, ‘Christian freedom’ is an oxymoron.  But if you can live a life of love and respect for yourself and for humanity, and for the earth; and you can do so according to your belief in Christianity, then you are free.  And as long as I do not impose my way on you, and you do not impose your way on me… we can both be free.

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Posted: 05 May 2007 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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You’re right.  I’m not in a position to judge the truthfulness of your statement. I guess what I’m objecting to is what I would anticipate your reponse to be if I said, “Well, Bruce, what’s true for me is that Christianity just doesn’t have what I’m looking for.  Doesn’t describe reality in a way that makes any sense to me and is not clear enough on the difference between right and wrong. Nor does if offer me much in the way of “tools” to help bridge the gap between the teaching to “love my enemy” and my actual ability to do that. In fact, compared to other spiritual traditions, for me, it comes of quite short with regard to teachings on ethical conduct.”

My anticipated response from you would be that no matter what my rationale, you would find something profoundly wrong with my rejection of your faith - that I couldn’t possibly have found an alternate path that isn’t somehow inferior to yours.  An attitude that stems from the Christian emphasis on “belief” over “action”.

Please correct me if I’m wrong. I hope that I am!

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Posted: 05 May 2007 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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[quote author=“woofy”]Hey Bruce—
    I think you pretty much answered your own question when you said “for me, personally, Christianity is freedom.”  Therefore, for you, Christian freedom is not an oxymoron.  Your question is vast, but I can answer a piece of it.  Or I can give you my point of view regarding a piece of it. 
  One way I might define freedom is the ability to live my life and act according to my conscience.  I found that after studying the Bible for many years and trying to be a good Christian, I could not, in good conscience, accept the Bible as God’s word, could not accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, and could not actually be a Christian.  So for me, ‘Christian freedom’ is an oxymoron.  But if you can live a life of love and respect for yourself and for humanity, and for the earth; and you can do so according to your belief in Christianity, then you are free.  And as long as I do not impose my way on you, and you do not impose your way on me… we can both be free.

I propose a mediation conference between Christians and atheists, so that we can resolve our issues.  Mediation is practiced on a regular basis in the legal field, with excellent results in getting people to settle their legal disputes.  There is often an “all or nothing” attitude on both sides - Christians demanding that atheists conform to their values and atheists demanding that all religion be exterminated. Neither side is likely to get everything that it wants, and both sides run the risk of losing more than they bargained for, much as in civil litigation. So let’s meet and settle.  All we need is an impartial mediator or team of mediators, and the proper forum. 

This is probably a very impractical idea, but dreams can become realities.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.”

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Posted: 05 May 2007 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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CanZen wrote:
You know, as I was writing this I came to realize that Bruce is perfectly correct, in a sense.  If your goal is absolute truth, then you must in fact surrender to the expert.  In the real world truth is always relative because the context of the searcher plays a constitutive role in determining what is true.  When the “expert” says that flying fish are really birds that live underwater, the student looks at the known facts and concludes that this “expert” is wrong.  She concludes that whatever truth is, its foundational limits stand beyond the capacity of this “expert.”  But in the christian theology, if the expert says that the one god is a trinity (and thay all say that), the student must surrender to the “expert” and accept this logical oxymoron as an absolute truth.  But now we get back to Pat’s original statement, about the whims and desires of the searcher forming the foundation of his truth, because in this case the student’s NEED or DESIRE for absolute truth will trigger a surrender to the expert (Jesus) and all of the many sub-experts as well (christian theologians).  So they actually get their absolute truth, because that is what they want. It’s a self-fulfilling fantasy, enabled by the teachers but especially enabled by the expert above all (Jesus).  There is no such thing as absolute truth, but if you cannot accept that as a fact . . . guess what!  You actually find absolute truth (even if you have to believe that three is really one!).

Bob

End of Quote

I hope you’re not too disappointed by my Unbuddhist developments of faith! Let’s call me a theist at this point.  I’m far from being a Christian, but reading the long article posted by Mahahaha (in ‘philosophy’ on the trinity) I’ve discovered that Advaita is not quite my deal, either. Anyway, what’s developing with me is an appreciation for the actual relationship of spirit. The desire is not for absolute truth, but for the aliveness of that relationship, and how it changes your relationship to everything else. 
When Bruce wrote about the ‘invitation to the table’ which is always accepted, that matches my experience exactly. So it’s not like an expert showing up who can somehow provide you with absolute truth.
You mentioned the trinity as being absurd, but I don’t think so (and not because Jesus told me what to think.) Back in my Buddhist studies I heard this very confusing description of Dharmakaya, Samboghakaya and Nirmanakaya….which was something to do with three aspects of awakened mind. Now that I’m a theist this is confusing no more. I thought ‘awakened mind’ was an attribute of a human person - my mistake. It’s very much like ‘God’ but of course not like our primitive understanding of a Santa Claus (he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when your awake) type of God.
I do take seriously your assumption that anything like a relationship with ‘spirit’ must be a fantasy projection of some desire.
It’s just that when it comes to you,  and it has no similarity to any dream-like state, it’s not so easy to explain. And yet, exactly then, the common heart of every different spiritual tradition rings true.

[ Edited: 06 May 2007 07:21 AM by ]
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Posted: 05 May 2007 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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Hey Bruce—
    I don’t know about mediation… but dialogue is a start; and it’s going on right here and right now in this very forum.

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Posted: 06 May 2007 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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It is interesting that you remian a theist Pat after having gone through all the various forays into different religions and philosophies in your life, but then you also have some intriguing things to say about christianity, both in its biblical sense and in the ways people seem to remold it to fit themselves better.

I guess you really didn’t say exactly what I took you to be meaning, but that’s how it came out to me and it seems fitting.  The point I’m referring to here is truth is found at the limits of something outside of yourself, when you see those limits and you accept (surrender to) the reality formed by that boundary, you have found your basic truth.

Most rational people operate in this way (generally speaking), but then fantasies and desires come in to erase the reasonable boundaries and suddenly truth is no longer reality.
Here’s what you said originally Pat

    “Ok, back to the ‘surrender’ thing. I don’t know much about Christianity, but I strongly relate to the quotes which Bruce brought to the beginning of this thread. ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’ must be one of the most famous statements in the history of humanity. It is also a statement I think everyone who posts on this forum would agree with - we just have different understandings of it.

    My understanding is that knowing the truth is not an intellectual state, but a way of being. It requires conscious surrender into truth which begins with an admission that there is something which tends to take me away from truth. It is a tendency to construct my own story, my own version of the world and other people, the tendency to serve my own desires and identify with my own confusion.

    I can’t be free from that tendency on my own - I need something from outside, otherwise I’m just going around in circles. So I surrender, I admit that although I can only be in truth as myself and by myself, I need both inspiration and practice.”

You mention that “truth is . . . a way of being” and I do agree wholeheartedly with that notion.  Even people who believe in complete nonsense have a “way of being” and that is their existential truth.  But what I liked was your idea of surrendering to “something outside of yourself” because in essence truth must be “the state of things outside of yourself” at least optimally speaking, that is the whole aim of truth. As soon as this becomes an intellectual exercise, then naturally the self (your own language, meaning, understanding) filters into the “what is truth” equation.  I thought that what you were getting at (in complete opposition to Bruce’s account) was that in surrendering to another person (whether real or imaginary) your truth becomes overladen with that person’s (god’s) own prejudices and desires, so when you surrender to an expert you no longer are getting the truth from the true existential reality outside of yourself, but you are getting a “second hand” already filtered idea of the context of truth.

That being said however, I was wondering how you remain a theist (do you believe in the existence of a deity)?  How does your deity get reconciled with your need to find truth?

As to how “the truth can set you free” plays in the above?  I would say that knowing there is a truth - a true version of reality (relative to cetain observational biases)  - and knowing the particular limits that make that truth possible (i.e., empiricism, mathematics, logic, experience) will “set one free” from the ravages of intellectual delusion.  In life, there are billions of possible things that one could believe in (the moon is made of cheese, earth is at the center of the universe, the biblical god exists, Paris Hilton is a virgin, etc.), but by finding the rational limits of what constitutes truth you are set free from these nebulous fantasies.  You can still enjoy the impact of a fantasy, but you are free from believing it.

Bob

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Posted: 06 May 2007 06:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
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CanZen, Pat, it strikes me that the last couple of posts can be summarized in a saying of Mohammed (peace be with him): “Who knows himself, knows his God.”

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Posted: 06 May 2007 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”][quote author=“woofy”]Hey Bruce—
    I think you pretty much answered your own question when you said “for me, personally, Christianity is freedom.”  Therefore, for you, Christian freedom is not an oxymoron.  Your question is vast, but I can answer a piece of it.  Or I can give you my point of view regarding a piece of it. 
  One way I might define freedom is the ability to live my life and act according to my conscience.  I found that after studying the Bible for many years and trying to be a good Christian, I could not, in good conscience, accept the Bible as God’s word, could not accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, and could not actually be a Christian.  So for me, ‘Christian freedom’ is an oxymoron.  But if you can live a life of love and respect for yourself and for humanity, and for the earth; and you can do so according to your belief in Christianity, then you are free.  And as long as I do not impose my way on you, and you do not impose your way on me… we can both be free.

I propose a mediation conference between Christians and atheists, so that we can resolve our issues.  Mediation is practiced on a regular basis in the legal field, with excellent results in getting people to settle their legal disputes.  There is often an “all or nothing” attitude on both sides - Christians demanding that atheists conform to their values and atheists demanding that all religion be exterminated. Neither side is likely to get everything that it wants, and both sides run the risk of losing more than they bargained for, much as in civil litigation. So let’s meet and settle.  All we need is an impartial mediator or team of mediators, and the proper forum. 

This is probably a very impractical idea, but dreams can become realities.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.”

I would be glad to mediate.  I don’t have a dog in the fight.

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Posted: 06 May 2007 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
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CanZen wrote:
You mention that “truth is . . . a way of being” and I do agree wholeheartedly with that notion.  Even people who believe in complete nonsense have a “way of being” and that is their existential truth.  But what I liked was your idea of surrendering to “something outside of yourself” because in essence truth must be “the state of things outside of yourself” at least optimally speaking, that is the whole aim of truth. As soon as this becomes an intellectual exercise, then naturally the self (your own language, meaning, understanding) filters into the “what is truth” equation.  I thought that what you were getting at (in complete opposition to Bruce’s account) was that in surrendering to another person (whether real or imaginary) your truth becomes overladen with that person’s (god’s) own prejudices and desires, so when you surrender to an expert you no longer are getting the truth from the true existential reality outside of yourself, but you are getting a “second hand” already filtered idea of the context of truth.

That being said however, I was wondering how you remain a theist (do you believe in the existence of a deity)?  How does your deity get reconciled with your need to find truth?

As to how “the truth can set you free” plays in the above?  I would say that knowing there is a truth - a true version of reality (relative to cetain observational biases)  - and knowing the particular limits that make that truth possible (i.e., empiricism, mathematics, logic, experience) will “set one free” from the ravages of intellectual delusion.  In life, there are billions of possible things that one could believe in (the moon is made of cheese, earth is at the center of the universe, the biblical god exists, Paris Hilton is a virgin, etc.), but by finding the rational limits of what constitutes truth you are set free from these nebulous fantasies.  You can still enjoy the impact of a fantasy, but you are free from believing it.

Bob

End of quote

What you wrote is so clear! This is really great. There may be hope for me to get beyond fuzzy thinking. We’ll see.
In other discussions our friend CanZen has written something like ‘theism equals me-ism’. Guess what - I totally agree.
No ‘meism’, no ‘theism’. God as I understand it is purely projection and conjecture. My thought ‘God’ seems to me to correspond to something true, something really ‘out there’ but honestly, it’s quite dim.
What has developed recently is an acknowledgement of how firmly entrenched I am in ‘meism’. Because I’ve had a taste, a whiff, of Oneness, I tended to discount the power of the me. With Oneness, there is no ‘out there’ so theism doesn’t make any sense. But being able to say that doesn’t make it true for me - as said in the quote, what’s true has to be true on the level of how we EXIST in this moment, and how I exist is very bound up in identification with form - me - not totally, but very much.
OK, but that doesn’t mean that meism automatically extends into theism. It does NOT for most people here.
Well, you know, being a theist is a lot like marriage - you shouldn’t do it unless you absolutely can’t help it!
So take this morning when my friend (she also used to be Buddhist and is reading ‘The God Delusion’) and I were sitting outside eating breakfast, with the sun streaming through the Ponderosa pines, those pines were suffused with spirit, lightness, holiness….I just can’t help those words arising to describe the feelings I can’t describe any other way.
Later I was thinking of the trinity, and this is how I see it….you know that statement in the Bible that pisses off so many people here…the one that goes something like ‘you cannot approach the Father except through me’?
Well, this morning the ‘through me’ was the Ponderosa pines with the sun streaming through - in other words, form suffused with spirit.
God the father, the creator, is too abstract for any emotional response. The creator, the basic ground which divided into existence, is totally intangible. The Ponderosa pines were about as tangible as anything can get.
And the ‘emptiness’ or the ‘spirit’ is semi-tangible, because it is also in me, plain old unenlightened me.
So - allow me to assume for a moment that Jesus was a real human being who said those words - he had the confidence to say that because he was so in touch with his own spirit - and he could share that sense of spirit to help people approach the more intangible ‘father’ - the basic ground of being, their own ground of being shared by all. 
The Ponderosa pines could not consciously ‘teach’ me, but spirit for many, many modern people reveals itself much more through the forms of mountains, rivers, the smell of the ocean, the sky, etc.  than through any particular human…although babies do a good job of it.

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Posted: 06 May 2007 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”] The Ponderosa pines could not consciously ‘teach’ me, but spirit for many, many modern people reveals itself much more through the forms of mountains, rivers, the smell of the ocean, the sky, etc.  than through any particular human…although babies do a good job of it.

What makes you so resistant to taking a simple and direct responsibility for your own emotions/delusions/spiritual experiences?

What is it that makes people reject the pure and simple “meism” that puts the responsibility for your feelings squarely within your endocrine system? Or that sometimes you can apply your intellect to controlling your emotions?

Whatever you have “learned” was the result of your own willingness to learn it. Most people willingly accept the law of gravity and do not attempt to fly from surfaces higher above the ground than the roof of a garden shed.

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Posted: 06 May 2007 06:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]  
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Nice way of putting it Pat.  I too am many times “transported” by certain visuals, audios, smells, or tastes, that get me to that place where I think “words are not possible to describe this.”  And yes, it’s a feeling, so of course this emotional burst-out comes from somewhere quite subjective (this sensual and intelligent body being the “subject-ive” here) but it can only come if something external triggers it.  Like your feeling of connection to the ponderosa pines, of course it’s partly a joy of a fantasy (as if the pine-spirit entered into your being), but also partly an experience of fulfilled oneness.  It’s an active event; an exchange of universal motions.  But I would not call your own contribution a case of a meism, and neither would you I suspect.  Meism is basically a belief that you yourself (on your own) are a spirit (much like a deity), and that’s why I said that meism leads directly to theism.  Your ponderosa pine interconnection is a real event that happens when the real, living, sensing, intelligent body called Pat becomes motively/emotively interconnected with some event outside of that body-subject . . . maybe we could call it “one-ism.”  I think this is where Salt Creek wanted to go, but I don’t think he got there, perhaps because he has a deep aversion to the idea of oneness?  Anyway, he will surely correct me if I am wrong.

Bob

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Posted: 07 May 2007 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”][quote author=“mentor”]It is the religious who first pushed their views on others. For millenia the religious have oppressed the rights of thinking people. Now that the secular want to push back you call “no fair!” The Religious Right have been trying to force their unsubstantiated beliefs on America through every legal and political means possible. Unfortunately for them, their beliefs have no rational basis in fact. So you can expect reasonable people to push back. Hard.

So you think that atheists, because of past actions of Christians, now have a right to force their values on Christians? Isn’t the right thing to do to simply assure that neither side forces their values on the other side?

It would be great if people didn’t force their values on others, but that has never been reality. Also, your argument assumes that both sides are equally valid. They are not. The Agnostic’s argument is based on reason, while the Christian’s argument is based on myth. If we follow your suggestion and assure that neither side forces their values on the other, that would be a most reasonable approach, and the agnostics would win the day by default.

I cannot foresee the Christians becoming reasonable and allowing that to happen. Rationality almost did win out in the recent past, largely due to the Cold War, where by necessity great emphasis was put on science in education. But the religious right has been pushing hard to end this dangerous left turn into rational reality by substituting a reality of their own.

But the religious right seems to be faultering at this point, due to the disasters created by their irrational policies. The religous moderates are beginning to doubt the regressive interpretations of faith from the extremists, and are rethinking things more reasonably. I have hope that they will make informed rational decisions. It is truly the only hope for our nation’s future.

[ Edited: 07 May 2007 06:08 AM by ]
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Posted: 07 May 2007 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]  
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mentor—
    If neither side forced its values on the other, I think both sides would win.

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