Reply to "A Simple Letter Back from a Christian"
Posted: 26 September 2006 03:35 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Franklin:

I agree with much of what you say. I believe that ethical treatment of others is a good thing.  I believe that respect for others is a good thing.  I believe in tolerance for one another.

I believe that there is great beauty and great mystery in the mere fact of existence. It makes sense to me that if something exists, it must have been created.  Call it what you like.  In discourse, I am comfortable using the word God to describe that creator, or creative force, or ethical force or whatever it may be.

My basic problem, and really the problem of the future of human civilization that I think Mr. Harris is trying against all odds to desperately state, is that it is dangerous in the extreme to idealize a particular idea of God if that idea of God divides rather than unifies. And that is where we are.  People are polarizing more and more, at least as it appears to me.  Some Christians view our current man-made situation as a positive sign that the End Times are here. Perhaps the Islamic fundamentalists feel something similar. If that is a good ethical landscape, where we choose as humans to divide over religious worldviews, then there is really little hope for us.

And it all makes no sense to me, and it greatly saddens me. And the polarization is really all for nothing, because the only thing I know with certainty is what I don't know, and can't know.  And that gives me the capacity for doubt about any worldview that I might decide to adopt. And it also gives me the ability to know what is impossible for you to know with certainty. 

You may be right, and you may believe it, and you may feel that you are right. But you cannot know that you are right.  Given the number of belief organizations in the world, and though I suspect none of them probably have figured out the ultimate answer, I have to admit the possibility that one of them might have discerned everything correctly.  I tend to view the odds of that as something less than my chance of winning the SuperLotto, but it's a possibility that I have to admit exists. But it would be arrogant of me, as it unfortunately is of you, to believe to know the answer.

We humans are still limited creatures, and the product of how we were made and our environment.  Our thoughts are defined by what is originally included in the package and what we have absorbed in our experiences in life. 

If I thought I had a mystical experience that showed me a way to knowledge beyond that knowable by traditional sensory experience, I still would have the capacity to recognize that I am not perfect, and could be wrong.  The mystical experience could have been something going on entirely within me, and it would be the height of arrogance for me to say that I have had a revelation of some kind and now I know the truth, and everyone who does not believe my truth is wrong.

Because we are created and exist within what we know as the universe, we simply are incapable of knowing what is beyond it.  We can choose to believe we know what is beyond it, but we would be frankly kidding ourselves to imagine that we actually do know.

The reason for our lack of knowledge is not complicated. It has to do with the limits of proof within a self-referencing system.  The only referents that we have are what we know, and those referents developed within this universe, and are simply incapable of explaining of what is outside it. 

You might want to take a look at Godel's Theorem, and the philosophical implications of it.  A classic lay example of the limits of knowledge in a self referencing system like ours is an evaluation of the statement "Everything I say is false."  If the statement is true, then how can everything I say be false, given that every thing I say, and I said that, is false?  If it's false, then something I have said is true.  Quite a conundrum.  But something such as this shows the limits of our minds, and of our ability to know propositions beyond our experience with any certainty.

I am at peace with the limits of my ability to know the truth.  I am what I am. I am a mere imperfect human who is saddened by the fact that people use artificial boundaries of race, religion, and national borders to divide people against the fact that we have what could be a wonderful world for us all to mutually experience during our time here. I do not want to adopt an unprovable exclusionary philosophy that hopes for better times after my time here is finished.  I would rather enjoy the gift of life and consciousness that I have been given, regardless of my ability to know the specific identity of the grantor of that gift.

Mark Howard
134 N. LaSalle St. Ste. 1810
Chicago, IL 60602
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Posted: 28 September 2006 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Evening, Mark.
Very well said. You are a credit to reason.
One Point:

And it all makes no sense to me, and it greatly saddens me. And the polarization is really all for nothing, because the only thing I know with certainty is what I don’t know, and can’t know.

It is not all for nothing in the mind of believers. It is for control. Control of the loyalty of men and the sexuality of women, going all the way back to the hunter-gatherers, I would suspect. Combine that with the meme of everlasting life and the stakes are high. I think that makes quite a bit of sense to a believer.

Happy to have you with us,

Rod

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Posted: 28 September 2006 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Well spoken.

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Posted: 28 September 2006 07:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Hey Mark good to see you here, hope to hear more from you!  I can only speak for myself…so I will!  I have absolutely no desire to control anyone.  I will speak my mind, I will live my worldview, but I do not at all believe in forcing anyone to agree with me.  I only wish to humbly allow my say.  You make due with what I say, for better or for worse.  I am not insulted or hurt if you disagree with me, but as long as we can be honorable toward one another and hold unto integrity while disagreeing, I’m fairly easy to live with.  And about controlling women…ah…well since I dont really date, nor do I wish to, I really have very little desire to control any woman.  Though I have learned, if it is one thing that I have learned working with women at work, that by bringing a large bag of chocolate at least once a week, I’m given free reigns through the evening shift!  :D Not sure what Pavlov would say about that… and to be honest, I really dont have sex since I am not married.  :shock: And about hunting and gathering.  I myself tend to prefer going to a Steak House and having a steak and a beer than really going outside, in this or that weather, hunting, skinning, et cetera… :!:

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Posted: 28 September 2006 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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.

Thanks for what you took the time and care to write, Mark.


Franklin. . .  it’s terribly common for those of religious faith to say they do not wish to impose anything on others, but I invite you to look around. Our country and entire planet are in a tug of war between one form of blind faith or another. It’s worthy of note, however, that there are no atheists currently waging war on a country, nor blowing people up by the dozens and hundreds. In fact you’ll find that a great many atheists even oppose the death penalty.

The strife you see is all about faith and/or ideological control. And by being passive as those things threaten to destroy us, continuing to hold onto the myth that faith is some innocent and innocuous thing in a world where differing faiths are violently colliding on an hourly basis. . .  well, there is nothing honorable about that position. It is self-imposed blindness of a very dangerous sort. Perhaps you feel genuine shock that faith can result in so much death, but sadly, that has never stopped blind faith from being the primary reason those massacres happen. Each man who struck another down surely thought he was doing his god’s will, and each who fought back thought the same.

I hold no illusions that any individual here will cause your faith (or anyone else’s) to falter, but perhaps a few more years in similar conversations, and a few thousand more pointless and agonizing faith-based deaths will jar you enough to eventually concede that, very very soon, something’s gotta give.


.

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Posted: 29 September 2006 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Well done Mark and Mia…

When religious moderates sit around and say that they’re just living their lives according to their god and not harming anyone - they DO need to look around like Mia stated.

Religions are like languages. Both are trying to describe things in this world through words and ideas. But the great ideas like the origin of the cosmos and what happens when we die or enlightenment cannot be explained by language.

The very essence of those things transcends all categories of language and thought.

I am fully convinced the “god debate” is over. People just need to get with the times and do some research OUTSIDE of the religious Holy Books. Reality is waiting for them to come aboard.

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Posted: 29 September 2006 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Well Mia, I do not speak for the rest of the world, much less for my church.  I only speak for myself, existing in my relationship with the One that I worship.  Yes there are wars, rumors of wars, waged over ideologies, theologies, economics, and racism.  There are Christians persecuted in the Middle East for being Christians, there are Buddhists persecuted in Asia for being Buddhists.  The world is fallen and the world is broken.  But.  I don’t speak for the rest of the world.  I speak for myself.  And as I speak for myself I ask is it really too much to ask for respect and honor and integrity toward me when I strive to live that toward you—despite the fact we both have very different worldviews?  I am not forcing you, or anyone, nor am I out to control you, or anyone, I am only out to ask that two individuals…you and I…hold ground and respect each other as human beings.  I ask for tolerance just as I have tolerance for you, I only ask for the same toward me.  And the rest?  The rest will be what happens next.  I roll no dice and I draw no smoking gun. I ask for freedom to be whom I am as I practice what I believe in peaceful living.

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Posted: 29 September 2006 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“FranklinBR”]The world is fallen and the world is broken.  But.  I don’t speak for the rest of the world.  I speak for myself.

I know you don’t speak for the rest of the world when you say it is broken; I am sure someone else in particular informed you of that. But you cannot hold both that view, from that source, and say also that you speak for yourself. You are a either a hypocrite or so self-deluded that no one should pay attention to you.

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Posted: 29 September 2006 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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I disagree.  I do hold that in my worldview that the world is broken spiritually and that this manifests physically.  Do I speak for the Christian next to me?  No.  Obviously not.  What do I do about this?  I try to support organizations that are out there such as Gospel for Asia, Jews for Jesus, I’ve worked in homeless shelters and supported Christmas Boxes sent to foreign lands.  I do this because, as I see the world broken, I believe that as a Christian, I should try to make the world a better place in whatever small way I can.  I dont force my beliefs on anyone, but I stand tall and strive to have integrity in faith and in relations with others.

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