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Belief vs. Faith, Religion vs. Sex
Posted: 16 February 2007 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I just read Letter to a Christian Nation. Enjoyed it. Had a good chuckle about the discourse on evolution and God's apparent fondness for beetles and viruses.

Sam's motives are unmistakably admirable, but it seems to me a book written similarly about a rose bush would go into great detail about the thorns, how many people they had hurt and how dangerous they could be; then grudgingly and in passing admit that the thorn bush occasionally has a rose; then declare that all thorn bushes should be eliminated because we could still have flowers without them.

Regarding God's omniscience and omnipotence, please consider that if one does not limit oneself to thinking things must be fair within each short human life, the holistic potentialities of eternal life begin to make sense. It is in our spiritual nature to seek challenges if they don't already exist. Courage comes only as a result of hardship; altruism comes only as a result of social inequality; loyalty is only possible in the face of betrayal.

In his quest to free humanity from spiritual bondage, Sam does not distinguish between beliefs and faith. I understand them to be different. Belief (doctrine) is a form of spiritual bondage, while faith is expanding and releasing. Belief fixates, faith liberates. Beliefs separate us, faith unites us. Doctrine is man made, faith is Godly. I agree that too many religionists and non-religionists equate unquestioned, unreasonable doctrine with faith. Real religion—true faith—exists on a much higher level; it is much more than a series of beliefs, it is a manner of being, a way of living, independent of doctrine. And it welcomes being challenged, knowing that challenge is simply a method of determining what is true.

It is, after all, not what one knows which determines one's actions, it is one's faith. "Human things must be known in order to be loved; divine things must be loved in order to be known." There are some things which can only be known through faith—real faith, not just beliefs. I detect from Sam's earnest desire to help humanity that he senses some of that.

I think we can agree all things are evolutionary; so is religion. Because traditional organized religion has not kept pace with the rest of society and has become untenable is no reason to reject religion in its entirety. The real challenge should be to recognize divisive doctrine as the evolutionary stage it represents and celebrate the commonality of spirituality shared by all people.

Sam states on page 90 that there is "nothing more natural than rape", claiming that it, like religion, was at one time necessary and now is not needed. Please consider that religion compares more completely to sex in general; it has always been with us, it will always be with us; to some it is a casual social thing; to some it is a means to an end; to others it is a completing part of a deeply committed relationship; some choose not to participate. Rape compares only to the fear-based pseudo "religion" of fundamentalist extremism.

Sam argues prudently on page 27 that abstinence cannot be the complete solution in regards to sex, why then would he think abstinence from faith would work?

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Posted: 16 February 2007 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“andonstop”]Sam argues prudently on page 27 that abstinence cannot be the complete solution in regards to sex, why then would he think abstinence from faith would work?

Because abstinence from faith in gods obviously does  work just fine, for millions, if not billions of people who feel no need to worship some supernatural teddy bear/slavemaster.

Most are only indoctrinated to believe, which is just like anything else we get hammered into us from birth. We think we believe it, simply because mom and dad taught/groomed us to believe, or else. Or maybe the ‘or else’  comes later in life for some people, due to some emotional emptiness that a fantasy father figure seems to fill nicely. But there are many ways to fill those holes, and constructing a fantasy with the help of an ancient, brutal tome is only one of them.


You say:

Real religion—true faith—exists on a much higher level; it is much more than a series of beliefs, it is a manner of being, a way of living, independent of doctrine. And it welcomes being challenged, knowing that challenge is simply a method of determining what is true.

Strap a suicide bomb onto that statement, and tell me how useful a “way of living” it really is. Is that your true faith, the idea that martyring yourself equals ultimate service to God, and is the best way to earn your final reward? Probably not, but we do not have the luxury of defining truth for any other myth-believer. He can claim the absolute correctness of his  doctrine as fervently as you can, and there is nothing in the holy books—Bible or Koran—to indicate that service to God must be blood and brutality-free. God is most certainly not concerned with collateral damage.

Have you even read those  books, all the way through?

This is the issue, andonstop. If most myth-believers used their beliefs only in warm and fuzzy ways (which is rather impossible if you go by the letter of biblical law), there would’ve been no need for Sam’s book, or any of the others that challenge our enslavement to myth.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 12:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“Mia”][quote author=“andonstop”]Sam argues prudently on page 27 that abstinence cannot be the complete solution in regards to sex, why then would he think abstinence from faith would work?

Because abstinence from faith in gods obviously does  work just fine, for millions, if not billions of people who feel no need to worship some supernatural teddy bear/slavemaster.

Most are only indoctrinated to believe, which is just like anything else we get hammered into us from birth. We think we believe it, simply because mom and dad taught/groomed us to believe, or else. Or maybe the ‘or else’  comes later in life for some people, due to some emotional emptiness that a fantasy father figure seems to fill nicely. But there are many ways to fill those holes, and constructing a fantasy with the help of an ancient, brutal tome is only one of them.


You say:

Real religion—true faith—exists on a much higher level; it is much more than a series of beliefs, it is a manner of being, a way of living, independent of doctrine. And it welcomes being challenged, knowing that challenge is simply a method of determining what is true.

Strap a suicide bomb onto that statement, and tell me how useful a “way of living” it really is. Is that your  true faith, the idea that martyring yourself equals ultimate service to God, and is the best way to earn your final reward? Probably not, but we do not have the luxury of defining truth for any other myth-believer. He can claim the absoluteness correctness of his  doctrine as fervently as you can, and there is nothing in the holy books—Bible or Koran—to indicate that service to God must be blood and brutality-free. God is most certainly not concerned with collateral damage.

Have you even read those  books, all the way through?

This is the issue, andonstop. If most myth-believers used their beliefs only in warm and fuzzy ways (which is rather impossible if you go by the letter of biblical law), there would’ve been no need for Sam’s book, or any of the others what challenge our enslavement to myth.

Mia, you are attacking fixated belief and not responding to the distinction made between religion and faith.  For you, these may be no different, but in reality there is, as was indicated in the original posting, a tremendous difference.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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By all means, please explain the exact distinction, using a suicidally faithful Muslim as a case in point. How do you separate his faith from his religion?

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Posted: 16 February 2007 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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All these words mean what we agree they mean, right?
We can’t just look them up in a dictionary because the meanings are too broad and complex, too loaded with baggage. With each newcomer to this forum, we have new shadings of meanings. 
When I first came here I had the idea that ‘spirituality’ is good and ‘religion’ is bad…after getting a good dose of the arguments in this forum, I decided, wait a minute, I’m just trying to weasle out of something. 
Now we have the words ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ - faith in WHAT? Belief in WHAT?
Where is the spirit in spirituality? Where is the mystery in mysticism? Will we ever agree on any of this?
Of course, the people who want to throw the whole kit and kaboodle into the trash bin of history don’t care about the shades of meaning. Just get rid of it.  That’s simple enough.
But for those of us who do see the spiritual roses bloom, it’s not so simple. We first have to agree that some-no-thing is there (consciousness without an object? God? spirit? enlightenment?) and find a way to talk about it.  No easy task, and yet people have done it and will continue to do it.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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If you have ‘God” then you cannot have spiritualism or mysticism or any other sense of awe, wonder, and fascination about the universe.

You simply have ‘God did it’.

A rose is no longer a beautiful, sweet smelling flower. It is just something God manufactured. We no longer feel love, we just respond to some mechanism God installed in us.

The first step on the path to spirituality is the elimination of God.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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“The first step on the path of spirituality is the elimination of God”....Yes!
Because if it’s the first step it means that ‘God’ was just some deadening idea that allowed me to continue in my ignorance.
However…..let’s keep going and see where all this leads. I like the way you point to experiences of the physical world, and to feelings of awe and wonder.
God is not the problem. Identification with concepts is the problem.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]If you have ‘God” then you cannot have spiritualism or mysticism or any other sense of awe, wonder, and fascination about the universe.

You simply have ‘God did it’.

A rose is no longer a beautiful, sweet smelling flower. It is just something God manufactured. We no longer feel love, we just respond to some mechanism God installed in us.

The first step on the path to spirituality is the elimination of God.

I hadn’t really thought of this, Joad. The invention of deities and their many minions closeted up in some magical dimension certainly answered all kinds of nagging questions, which certainly must have removed much of the wonder from the ancient world. If I’d been born a few thousand years ago, I’d probably have worked to single out the importance to civilization of spiritual invention just as now I enjoy speaking out against theistic need in today’s much more knowledgeable (and heavily-armed) humanity.

By the way, andonstop, Sam Harris, in The End of Faith, seems to go to great lengths to point to some of the roses among the thorns, so I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Do you object to his preference for such benefits by way of traditional Eastern practices rather than the Western mixed-bag, Christian tradition of polytheism-disguised-as-monotheism with a good dose of ancient paganism?

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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: 16 February 2007 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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I think what I am trying to get at is:

The actual is far more awesome than it’s mystical interpretation.

If we were to examine a rose in a clinical, detached, scientific way…We would have an achievent that far surpasses any ‘magical’ interpretation.

The struggle of a seed to become germinated and grow into a flower makes a diety creating a universive seem trivial.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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I know what you’re saying, Joad. And it makes sense. I guess I was trying to imagine a pre-scientific time when physical processes were so mysterious that it came natural to people to be awed to the point of paralysis—unless they could at least hang their hats on supernatural “theories.” (Not theories at all as we know them.) I feel strongly that the more we can dwell on ancient motives for their weird inventions, the closer we’ll move toward being able to deprogram ourselves.

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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: 16 February 2007 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“Mia”]By all means, please explain the exact distinction, using a suicidally faithful Muslim as a case in point. How do you separate his faith from his religion?

My point is that a suicidal Muslim does not have FAITH.  He or she has DOGMATIC BELIEF.  People will do almost anything to protect that sort of belief, if they had faith they would not have to find any external validation.  In Socrates apology, as written by Plato, Socrates says that he has no problem drinking the hemlock, he believes that he will go to the elusian fields where he will meet many of the greats of the past and he looks forward to conversing with them.  But, he also says that he knows that this belief is just a “noble story” which he chooses to believe.  All that he really knows is that nothing bad can happen to a person who is good.  That last is faith, the rest is a choosen belief.  When the element of choice goes away because the belief is being used to hide fear then it becomes fixated and has to be defended.  That defense can go to the point of being a suicidal fanatic.  As a scientist, I have faith that nature is rationally understandable.  I feel no need to defend this, or try and convince others that it is true, I just do my job.  A person who has religious faith can choose the religion they will follow and do so with no need to push it on others at all (of course, they may talk about it if asked, and a person who has certain insecurities may feel that they are being prosylitized, but that is their problem).

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Posted: 16 February 2007 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]I think what I am trying to get at is:

The actual is far more awesome than it’s mystical interpretation.

If we were to examine a rose in a clinical, detached, scientific way…We would have an achievent that far surpasses any ‘magical’ interpretation.

The struggle of a seed to become germinated and grow into a flower makes a diety creating a universive seem trivial.

 

I think that we are still not using a precise language in this discussion.  For me, the mystical has two parts.  One is wonder and awe; but the other is the training that needs to be undergone to be able to really perceive the actual rather than a culturally programmed illusion, whether it be religious belief or skeptical disbelief.  Simply trying to be rational/empirical about things doesn’t do it—it is very easy to rationally fool oneself.  “The first rule is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”  (Richard Feynmann)  It may seem strange to equate mysticism with a structured program of trainings, but if we are talking about clarifying consciousness that is what is required.  “New organs of perception arise as a result of needs.  Therefore, increase your need.”  (Rumi)

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Posted: 16 February 2007 04:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”][quote author=“Mia”]By all means, please explain the exact distinction, using a suicidally faithful Muslim as a case in point. How do you separate his faith from his religion?

My point is that a suicidal Muslim does not have FAITH.  He or she has DOGMATIC BELIEF.  People will do almost anything to protect that sort of belief, if they had faith they would not have to find any external validation.

This is merely your perspective. The soon-to-be-martyred Muslim, however, would call it FAITH, and entirely reject your notions about dogma. Who are you to conclude otherwise? He could not care less what you think; you are nothing but a pathetically doomed infidel. He answers to God alone, no one else. Call it what you want, but he will call it faith.

This is what we are all at the mercy of—surrounded by supernatural belief structures that are by no means rooted in 100% benevolent scriptures. Neither Christianity nor Islam is divisible from its bloody, violent, unalterable verses, and that indivisibility will always make faith a ticking time bomb.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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We are at the mercy of human credulity and idiocy.
By both of the soon-to-be-martyred Muslim and of the preemptive-baboon-warrior-of-dominance-and-“security”-over-Terrorized American.

The real problem is not the so called “terrorists” but the infinite credulity and idiocy of the American electorate. 8)

When the modus vivendi of a nation (for both internal and external affairs) runs under the motto “We don’t talk politics” you end up with a nation of idiots, ruled by dangerous idiots.

http://img259.imageshack.us/img259/8213/idiotfy5.jpg

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Posted: 17 February 2007 03:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Mia”][quote author=“burt”][quote author=“Mia”]By all means, please explain the exact distinction, using a suicidally faithful Muslim as a case in point. How do you separate his faith from his religion?

My point is that a suicidal Muslim does not have FAITH.  He or she has DOGMATIC BELIEF.  People will do almost anything to protect that sort of belief, if they had faith they would not have to find any external validation.

This is merely your perspective. The soon-to-be-martyred Muslim, however, would call it FAITH, and entirely reject your notions about dogma. Who are you to conclude otherwise? He could not care less what you think; you are nothing but a pathetically doomed infidel. He answers to God alone, no one else. Call it what you want, but he will call it faith.

This is what we are all at the mercy of—surrounded by supernatural belief structures that are by no means rooted in 100% benevolent scriptures. Neither Christianity nor Islam is divisible from its bloody, violent, unalterable verses, and that indivisibility will always make faith a ticking time bomb.

Whatever the fanatics call their beliefs, that does not make them faith (I had this argument years ago with fundamentalist christians posting in a chat group on evolution).  If you want to buy into their abuse of language that’s fine, but any real attempt at rational discussion has to start off with an accurate definition of terms.  Otherwise, no real understanding can result.  Identifying faith with belief is like identifying patriotism with jingoistic militarism, or love with self-gratifying desire.  Not making important distinctions in language also cripples your own thinking capacity.  Why would you want to do that?

On your second claim, if it were true that “Neither Christianity nor Islam is divisible from its bloody, violent, unalterable verses, and that indivisibility will always make faith a ticking time bomb” then every Christian or Moslem is a ticking time bomb and ought to be shunned—you never know when that mild mannered elderly lady in the back pew is going to explode—or perhaps put into concentration camps and forcibly re-educated.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“Mia”]Who are you to conclude otherwise?

To paraphrase the Crest toothpaste commercials of the seventies:

In clinical trials, Christ™ has been shown to be 97.5% effective in the prevention of sanities, when used in a conscientiously applied program of personal mental hygeine and regular confessional prayer.  :D

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