Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chronic Illnesses

You are kind to express such a sentiment. The curious thing for me, as I watch the progression of her incurable illnesses is that most people, quite naturally and through no fault of their own, have no conception of what chronic and incurable illness is. Naturally, most people think, "Oh, you are sick, so may you quickly recover."  For many illnesses there IS no recovery. Being "well" means getting yet another year of "quality life" which is lousy quality compared to normal health, but you can walk around, eat, see, use the bathroom. 

She has literally 15 doctor/specialists and she sees one or two each week. She literally takes 20 or 30 pills per day and is constantly setting a timer alarm to go off at different times for different procedures. She is meticulous by nature. Many people would not have the mind-set to be so strictly compliant. In fact, non-compliance is the biggest problem with the chronically ill.

Sometimes, when people ask me how she is I say "Imagine a tight rope walker on a rope stretched across the Grand Canyon with no net on a windy day. She is fine from moment to moment in the sense that she has not fallen, but she is in danger of falling at any minute; a fall from which there can be no recovery."  

Some people assume that an organ transplant makes you "all better."  Her kidney transplant works at only 20% which is borderline but sufficient to keep her off of dialysis. I have seen many heart/liver/lung transplants. A kidney may last an average of 10 years. Lung transplants may last only 2 years, but that is 2 years of better life than you might have on a respirator.  

I take the time to try and express these things so that some people will perhaps be better able to grasp the situation of chronic incurable illness should it strike someone in their life. One can only really understand such a life if you view it from the inside. Once you have that view then suddenly, alcohol, tobacco, carbs, unsafe behavior, take on a whole new meaning and a meaning which cannot be conveyed by words or literature but only by the pain of staying alive from day to day.

Friendships as a life-stage issue

I mentioned to her how teenage girls are concerned with finding their own identity, and relationships with guys, and are therefore less likely to expend energy on a friendship with another woman... and women with toddlers are befriending other young mothers.

Yes, one must work at a friendship/relationship, because it is all about shared experiences... even if only on-line. I guess one must make a conscious decision to be happy also, and then work at it. We can just sit around and wait for the butterfly of happiness to land on our heads.

Years ago someone asked me about happiness and I said that sometimes happiness simply means making peace with our sorrows and disappointments and saying "I am glad it happened" rather than "I am sorry it is over."

How Media portrays life

Alan: the point is that our media and entertainment CONDITION us as to what life is supposed to be like (good show/bad show not relevant) even NEWS coverage conditions us to look at life in certain way.  I used to hang out with her and didnt think about gender because I am old enough to be father, but she has raised the concern as to why most of her regular friends are guys. Good point about Elaine having mostly male friends. Someone in my friends thread also complained saying "where are MY four g/f s  like Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon) .... also, we are conditioned to think of romantic love in a certain way... consider Brideshead Revisited, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Brokeback Mountain...  such movies and TV series ROMANTICIZE what life and relationships should be like and often it is unrealistic. We were watching a police series where the cop is also an M.D. ... he has to fatally shoot the perp, and then looks forlorn and compassionate because he is an M.D. who has taken a life...   I pointed out to someone watching with me that in real life, people who have to use lethal force cannot be that sensitive or it would destroy them. Even medical shows.... all the drama of House or Bones or Gray's Anatomy .... I have spent hundreds of hours around such people and they cannot afford the drama or the feelings because it would devour them. They have to remain detached.  REALLY good point about Elaine.  IN FACT... I watch Desperate Housewives and marvel at how EVERYONE is drop-dead gorgeous... casting finds 1 person like that in 10,000 and the show depicts a life in which EVERYONE is drop-dead gorgeous... not realistic.

Whatever your job is, it is you job and you just get used to it and you do it, even if it involves lethal force... if you don't get used to it then it eats you alive.  OH, all those shows about high school teachers,.... Dead Poets Society,  ... from the 1960s, Mr. Novak,... in real life schools are not like that.  Basically real life is kind of boring which is why we watch a lot of movies and TV.

Should it bother me?

Obviously the mere fact that you pose the question "SHOULD it bother me" means that on some level it DOES bother you. We live in a society, a culture which constantly measures us. We spend years taking exams and earning grade point averages and percentiles. Taller is better than short, slender is better than stout, fairer is better than darker. We are constantly in competition. Sometimes we compete with ourself yet if we win in that competition we also lose but if we lose we never win.  That which the world sees as our persona has more to do with what we conceal and censor (hold back) rather than what we reveal.

To a woman with mostly male friends

Now that I think back to some years ago and our lunch times together, I remember how into games and internet and novels you were (and most likely still are.)  I never gave much thought to our gender difference since I am so much older, so I simple saw you as a person with certain interests. But now that I think about it, you impressed me as a very dynamic intellect, intellectually aggressive, so nothing stereotypically "feminine" not that it is fair for anyone to stereotype. So, in retrospect,  I realize that your persona would understandable fit better with males than females. All those movies like "Sex In The City" and "Friends" and "Seinfeld" condition us to assume that we should have a certain group of friends that are always there and interact with one another in a certain fashion.  Art imitates life but life is rarely considerate enough to reciprocate and imitate art.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How many real friends do we have

A woman on Facebook asks if she should worry that she does not have more female friends:

Consider the six season episodes of "Sex in the City" in which four women are portrayed as closer to one another than family members. It was my favorite show and yet it is unrealistic in its portrayal of such close friendship between four women. Many blood relatives hardly are capable of such loyalty. We are conditioned by media, television, cinema to expect that life and relationships should be a certain way and yet what is portrayed to us is romanticized. Studies of online social networks show a consistent number of true regular interactions to be around 20 even if the friends count is in the thousands. The others are lurkers. No one has the time or energy for more than a certain number of regular friends with shared interests.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is Scientific Faith?

I found an essay about "Scientific Faith" at the following link but the entire site looks useful:

Above my lodge on the home farm the vast layers of the gray, thin-sheeted Catskill rock crop out and look across the valley to their fellows two or more miles away where they crop out in a similar manner on the opposite slope of the mountain. With the eye of faith I see the great sheets restored, and follow them across on the line which they made aeons ago, till they are joined again to their fellows as they were before the agents of erosion had so widely severed them

Dhanlakshmi:  Isn't 'Scientific Faith' a contradiction in terms!

William: Actually, Dhanlakshmi, I posted this as my reaction to someone who is a man of the cloth (pastor) who seems to be arguing that faith pervades all of our knowledge. Notice how Burroughs in his passage above says "with the eye of faith" meaning that he cannot PROVE that the layers of an outcroping several miles distant are the same layers as the nearby outcroping (rock wall.)  

Our friend, Fenton, had posted in his status: For Christians, their faith stands as their testament to the "special" divinity of Jesus Christ. For Buddhists, mahayana school, their faith is testimony to the eightfold way. For Taoists of the Lao Tzu school, their belief points to the Tao. For Hindus to Advaita, for Jews to the Covenant and the Torah. OK, I get it. How about for atheists? Is their belief their testament, if not, why not?

William: A scientist who believes that every atom of copper conducts electricity is exercising faith since no one can test every atom of copper. An Atheist has faith in the notion that no God or afterlife exists since no one can prove the non-existence. Only the Agnostics require no faith since every takes their word for their uncertainty.

Reason leads to facts I would think, and faith is for that which lacks reasons. I do not have faith that matter is composed of atoms but rather I know it as a fact because there are electron microscope photos of very large atoms.

The Clergy replied: At this point one might want to consider the distinction between fides qua (the faith BY which we believe) and fides quae (the set of propositions which we affirm.)

@ Mr. Buell: Not to disparage, but first it seems to me that the faith which "leads to facts" is based on facts and on certain ways of reasoning with them. Second, it seems to me the proposition that matter comprises 'atoms' (which are actually cuttable -- and so not, strictly speaking, atoms), while totally cool and very useful in helping us be comfortable and do stuff, is what I call a "boring" proposition. 

I mean it doesn't help us figure out what to do, why to stay alive or not, whether man is free, and if so how, and why life is sorrowful.

I'm not even sure it can answer the questions, "What is a thing?" and "Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?"

William: So since all is by faith, in some fashion, then the unfaithful is non-existent, since even the Atheist is filled with a sort faith when he does his chemistry and algebra (and we are saved by faith): a reasonable doctrine for those who have made "faith" their life-time commercial enterprise. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The virtues of public schooling

I feel that the most salubrious thing about public school is the fact that you are forced to learn how to deal with unpleasant people which is a skill you will need for all of your adult life. So if you are home-schooled then you are too sheltered and you are deprived of that social interaction. And if you are home-schooled for RELIGIOUS reasons then in all likelihood your parents will arrange for church related group social interactions with people who are really fanatic or repressed and then when the child finally reaches adulthood and tastes freedom they may do some 180 degree about face out of shear rebellion.

Have you found peace?

In my twenties, I loved to engage in theological disputes regarding the correctness of this or that denomination but once, a Russian priest asked me: And have you found peace now? Are you at peace?  - Of course, I was not, but it was a good and insightful question.  Paul said something about avoiding vain disputations. People who urgently and relentlessly seek a rigorous exposition of "the truth" shall never be at peace.

What do we have of God apart from words about God?

‎"Center your life in God. Not in statements about God, or conventions about God, but in God."

God is like the Internet; all we have are words, sentences, statements.  It is my observation that many people simple live as they please and as it suits them to live and then make their concept of God and salvation and forgiveness conform to their lifestyle. If God were an infinite circle then its center would be everywhere and its circumference would be nowhere. In Euclidean geometry if point A is distance x from point B then point B is that same distance x from A, but in spiritual geometry though God is equally close to each person not every person is close to God. But still, it all boils down to words.  There is an old Zen saying: "Show me the person who has forgotten language; it is with such a person that I desire to converse."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Eternal torment

IF there is some sort of Abrahamic God, of whatever denomination then I fully expect to be damned for all eternity, and that God SHOULD exercise God's righteousness and do exactly that. I would expect nothing less than eternal damnation from such a God. If it turns out that Islam is right then I will expect damnation from Allah since I am an infidel and I do not regard Mohammad with respect any more than I regard Luther or Calvin. I perhaps have some regard for Wesley although I feel no desire to be a Methodist. I am age 62 and I often review my entire life in my mind and although I am not what anyone would consider a criminal, I feel that my shortcoming deserve damnation. I do not believe in religions which promise paradise for some emotional lip service. I DO make an effort each day to do what I consider right simply for its own sake and not to avoid some punishment in the afterlife. I have not touched a drop of alcohol or a flake of tobacco in 3 years but prior to that I drank and smoked too much. Each of us has "stewardship" of our own body and life even if there is NO God and this universe of ours is somehow random chance. I have never been an Atheist. I feel that there is something transcendent. As the years went by I became something of a self-identified Hindu/Buddhist, but I do not believe in trying to convert others to my views. It is my HOPE that existence and consciousness ends with death. I prefer not to exist. I asked one orthodox Jewish Rabbi what his views are and he said the wicked simply cease to exist while the righteous dwell with G-d in a new world forever. I choose nonexistence if I have a choice but I feel I am worthy of eternal damnation if that is the reality of things. I apologize that I have not opened your post to read it all, but I felt it important to express these views of mine without delay.

Not to gloat or goad, but you do NOT reconcile your Lutheran faith to that passage in Matthew for the simple reason that it is IMPOSSIBLE to reconcile sola fides with that passage. Now assuming that you WERE able to give an air-tight reconciliation of Lutheran teaching with that Matthew Ch. 19 passage, that does not mean that I would be persuaded to become a Lutheran, because as I explained earlier that is not what I seek. Obviously, life is pleasanter if we feel at peace even if our sense of peace is based upon a false notion. So if I were to dissuade you from Lutheran doctrines then you would be forced to choose some other denomination or religion so that you might again achieve a sense of hope. So in one way it is cruel for me to try and refute the foundations of your religion. But, on the other hand, IF you are lulled into a false sense of complacency by something which is logically inconsistent then perhaps it is better for you to realize your situation and take some positive action to find a more secure theological and philosophical foundation.

Lose the Profanity Habit

You will notice that I never use profanity because it makes me look low class and detracts from the logical thrust of my argument. Plus there are only so many profane words, so it becomes repetitive. I knew a high school student whose was very skilled in writing fictional dialogue.  When he was in college, however, he sent me some of his fiction and literally EVERY OTHER word in every sentence had the F* bomb. That gets old very quickly.  People on the Internet are not suddenly shocked when the see the F word or the S word or the C word or the D work. What shocks them is when they see some insightful paragraph that has no profanity and yet makes them think deeply in a new way. My humble suggestion is to do yourself a favor and lose the profanity. But of course, you have free speech so how you express yourself is your choice and I will always make an effort to read what you write.

Is Hannibal Lecter Saved by Faith through Grace apart from Law?

It is now the next morning (Saturday) and I have been thinking about this thread for several days.  Obviously I cannot see HOW one would be able to reconcile Luther's teachings to the above cited passage, Matthew 19, 16-23 and yet I feel it is ESSENTIAL to reconcile any theology to that passage since it is a prime example of someone confronting Jesus personally and asking a direct question regarding salvation.  Many New Testament passages suggest to us that Jesus was omniscient and new what Nathanial was doing under that tree, who know about the romantic history of that woman at the well who had 7 husbands and was simply living with someone out of wedlock, and furthermore KNEW that this man standing before him asking how to gain eternal life was extremely wealthy and furthermore KNEW THAT THE MANY WOULD WALK AWAY GRIEVED because he would not bring himself to renounce his worldly possession. Why would Jesus say what he said KNOWING that the man would leave grieving? Why wouldn't Jesus have given that many the joyous news which Luther claims that he IS SAVED already by FAITH through GRACE apart from the law or any deficiency or shortcoming in good works?

Now, let me give you an hypothetical example from our lives today. Assume there is a devout Lutheran who is in a life-time committed relationship with another Lutheran (and it could be a same-sex relationship for as you know I am sympathetic to LGBTQ).  But suddenly one spouse must go on a convention to another city and there meets the most sexy and irresistible person who is attracted to them and begs them to spend just one night (no strings attached and no one will ever know.) Furthermore let us say that during that one night the seducer offers intoxicants or recreational drugs which the seduced finds hard to resist and so indulges.)  What is there in Luther's teaching which would encourage our poor tempted victim to resist the temptation and do the right thing. Surely they would not fear loss of their eternal salvation because they feel comforted in the guarantee and promise that they are already saved by grace apart from the law so if they BREAK the law, this will in no way jeopardize their salvation.

Furthermore, what is the purpose of a final judgment after the resurrection. If everyone who has taken Jesus is saved by grace then they are already forgive, so the judgment must be for those who never believed on Christ and then I ask myself again WHERE is THEIR judgment since we read that there is no way to the Father except through the Son, so what is there to be judged or weighed or deliberated or argued since as unbelievers they must be damned.  And then of course our Universalist Unitarian friends will come and say that EVERYONE is saved by grace even if they never believed in anything, so Hitler, bin Laden, Jeffrey Dahmer, Hannibal Lecter and anyone you can imagine is saved by grace.

Now if you owned a company and you payed a high salary to an employee and left them alone with all of your assets would you want them to feel that their job is guaranteed no matter how poorly they perform and even if they embezzle all your money or alienate all your customers or set fire to your warehouse.  

Why do we read parables to the effect that one never knows the day and the hour when the thief comes or when death strikes and our soul will be required of us and so therefore we should be watchful?  Thank you for your patient indulgence as you entertain my questions.

People who dislike Ayn Rand

I shall most likely never personally embrace her philosophy. And indeed it is propaganda, but she enjoyed amazing success and her life, the role she played in American history, is interesting to study. The other observation I will make in general is about many people who repeatedly make negative comments about whatever they don't like, whether it is Obama or the issues of health care or global warming, etc and the list goes on and on is that it becomes pointless to simply rant about it (not that you, Lisa, are ranting) indeed, Rand's writings were propaganda designed to win lifelong "converts" to objectivism. But once I saw a student from India rant on and on day after day about how Shakespeare was overrated. And I suppose there are people somewhere who repeatedly state that the Vedas or the Tao or Josephus or Plutarch's lives are overrated.  But at some point we must simply move on in life (again I am addressing this to others and not to Lisa).  We all know how on the Internet many "discussions" end or begin with the statement SoAndSo is an @ssHat.  Much better to dig in if and research and argue in detail  exactly WHY something or someone is lacking or misleading or inferior. I am guilty this week of debating at great length with some Lutherans about the merits or demerits of the Reformation theology of Martin Luther. But I give specific quotations and arguments and they, in turn, do not simply call me names (because they are too dignified for that) but rather they counter with their quotes and arguments and we both learn something new and different.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I don't see Luther's Teachings in Jesus' Words!

I realize that you are patiently expound to me Martin Luther's teachings, but I cannot for the LIFE of me see Luther's teachings in the words of Jesus to that man who wanted to know how to gain eternal life! I cannot understand how you can reconcile Lutheran teachings to a statement of Jesus that does not show a single trace of the notion that "you shall be saved by faith through grace." 

I simply don't understand how you can deal with this conflict EXCEPT by ignoring what Jesus actually said. It just seems like you have hypnotized or mesmerized yourselves to see Luther's teaching in every verse even where they do not exist. WHY wouldn't Jesus have answered that man with an answer that sounds more Lutheran?
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
"Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,
honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Fellini on Faith

It is impossible for any artist not to believe, because he is blessed again and again with the experience of releasing his fantasies into creative form. This is an indescribable secret. Things happen to all of us that we are unable to describe. We don't know where we come from. We don't know where we go to. Everything around man is mysterious. How can anyone say they don't believe in anything? He can only admit "I know that I know nothing." I, however, prefer to say I believe in God.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

We become accustomed to our ways

I never realized about that aspect of digitized movies! Surely display quality must be clearer. But then, we become accustomed to certain things. If everyone switched to voice recognition, yet I have grown accustomed for YEARS to literally THINKING through my fingers at a keyboard. My one tutor of the 1960s told me that she became used to THINKING with a pen and paper (Gisela) and was not comfortable with a typewriter. It is understandable that we become accustomed to certain things over the years. I was the first of the TV generation in 1954, and small black and white is always satisfying, though I do not mind large color displays. And I remember the novelty of color in the 60s and 70s (also with Newspapers having color for the first time, was it US News and World).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gandhi's rejection of Christianity

Furthermore, how does one reconcile Luther's theology with the phenomenon of a Lutheran minister like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who writes "The Cost of Discipleship" and uses a term like "Cheap Grace."

Why would a Lutheran minister seem to stress an act of works (martyrdom) if we are "saved by faith through grace without works or law."  And regarding Lura's initial quote that "conscience is Pope" well, Paul in Romans acknowledged that when the nations do the works of the law then they are a law unto themselves.  

Hans Kung puts all of this in a nutshell on page one of "On Being Christian" when he asks "if we live a good life then why is Christ necessary?"  

Jesus says "you are my friends IF you do as I say." That sounds like works to me. Jesus speaks of those "who persevere until the end." Paul speaks of spiritual life as a race. 

When I was a teenage I found a pack of matches that was distrubed by Billy Graham where the matchbook cover was actually a FORM to fill out and mail in saying that you accept Jesus as your savior and this alone would make you "born again" and saved.

Joel Osteen at the end of each show invites the viewers to repeat a prayer with him and afterwards says "we believe that if you have repeated this prayer then you are born again and saved."   I do not believe that it was meant to be so easy as this.  

Gandhi was mentioned earlier in this thread. When Gandhi studied in England as a young man, he made a diligent study of Christianity with a pastor. Gandhi specifically explains in his autobiographical "Experiments in Truth" why he rejected Christianity as his personal religion. Gandhi observed the British Christians sin in the most casual fashion and when he questioned them they explained "oh, we are mystically washed in our baptism and constantly cleansed by the blood of Christ's crucifixion as substitutional atonement." Gandhi explains that he did not desire simply to escape THE CONSEQUENCES of his wrong-doing but if at all possible he wanted to extinguish wrong-doing at its very source. I realize this is Pelagian but I found Pelagius arguments more convincing than Augustine's, and yet of course the West was persuaded by Augustine.

Martin Luther's Agenda to Re-write the Rules

I just noticed that you posted for me the introduction- James Atkinson writes in his introduction to "Martin Luther's Judgment on Monastic Vows" - sometimes I don't always see all these posts unless I come back to a thread, but I will be re-reading this thread.  Now one point I often like to make is that in the first 2 centuries of Christianity MANY men (and some women) fled to the deserts and left the cities and took up monastic life as hermits, or in small groups. Now IF the essential message of Christianity were sola fides salvation by faith alone without works then WHY would those early Christians have become the so-called "Desert Fathers?" Why would one of the most powerful wonder-working figures of the Old Testament, prophet Elijah, been portrayed as an ascetic celibate, and one of the most powerful figures of the New Testament be John the Baptist, also portrayed as a celibate ascetic?  Now it is true that Augustine in a sense laid down the foundations for the Reformation in his writings, and no one really noticed until Luther came along. During the Roman Catholic counter reformation which was conducted I believe by the Jesuits, they began to take a closer look at Augustine. By the way, the Greeks have always considered Augustine to be heretical, whereas the Russian Orthodox who have always had leanings towards the West and Rome refer to Augustine with the lesser title of BLESSED but do not call Augustine SAINT.

As I quickly review the introduction to Luther on monastic vows it seems obvious to me that Luther is re-designing Christian theology and expressing things that were not expressed for the first 1500 years of Christianity.  Obviously Luther has a personal vested interest in re-writing the rules of the game because he was greatly plagued with lust. In fact, a few of his sermons which speak of the Virgin Mary dwell in an unhealthy fashion upon her suckling infant Jesus with her breasts. 

What did Jesus actually say?

But, when that man ASKED Jesus "what must I do to gain eternal life" Jesus told him two things, the first of which was "follow the laws of Moses," and the second was "if you would be PERFECT then sell all that you have, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow me" (paraphrasing from memory but I am sure it reads something like this.) I simply CANNOT understand why Jesus would not tell him something more Lutheran like "you are saved through faith without works" and FURTHERMORE if Lutheran theology is essential message of the Bible then why oh WHY would it take over 1000 years for someone like Martin Luther to come along and realize that essential message, and WHY does he look at Habbakuk FIRST ("the just man is saved by faith") ... I have been thinking about this thread all day. I had dinner with a 7th Day Adventist and asked her opinion on all this and she shares my views and disagrees with your views. I had no idea what an Adventist might say but I took the opportunity to discuss it tonight.

I am curious to look up Luther's tract on celibacy. Thanks all for being so open minded and tolerant to allow me to express these views since I realize they are contrary to your views, but this is honestly what I have been thinking and writing about for years now and I do not say it here simply to flame or troll.

Excerpt: James Atkinson writes in his introduction to "Martin Luther's Judgment on Monastic Vows" as follows:

>>In a very brief introduction, which followed this letter, Luther invokes divine blessing and states his position. He does not deny that there is scriptural warrant for the making and keeping of vows. Indeed, making and keeping vows is not the issue at stake. The issue is what vows are truly vows, and how may we distinguish between true and false vows?

Luther treats the problem under five major headings. First, monastic vows are not commanded by God’s word, but are contrary to it. To go beyond what Christ commands and enjoins is not faith, but sin. Those things a monk vows are not peculiar to the monastic life, but are required of all Christians. True Christian obedience is that which makes a man humble and unites him to his neighbor. True poverty is to seek not one’s own, but to employ what one has for the welfare of one’s neighbor. Monasticism’s understanding of these vows is superficial and external, and does not proceed from faith.

In the second section Luther develops the thesis that monastic vows conflict with faith. The very taking of perpetual vows as a necessity of salvation is a denial of Christ and is the embracing of work-righteousness. On this basis Luther does not hesitate to declare that monastic vows are null and void.

The third section stresses that the compulsory and perpetual nature of monastic vows is a violation of Christian freedom. He does not advocate the abolition of the monastic life, but says it must be a life led voluntarily and with a conscience freed from reliance upon and trust in works. The cloistered life and all that belongs to it must be chosen just as freely as other men choose to be farmers or mechanics, and it must be dearly recognized that the monastic life is in no way superior to a non-monastic way of life. Above all, the monastic life should be like other ways of life in that it is devoted to the welfare of neighbor and contemplation of the word of God. The only difference between the “religious” life and the “secular” life is the form, not the content.

In section four Luther argues that monastic vows violate the first commandment in a number of ways. They displace faith with works; they elevate the founders of religious orders above Christ himself; and they not only deny the Christian’s responsibility and obligation to his neighbor, they actually impede it. They prevent the son from caring for his parents and exonerate those who have taken vows from all those works of mercy and love which Christ has enjoined upon all.

Finally, Luther holds that monastic vows are contrary to common sense and reason. He demonstrates dearly and at length that where for some reason it is impossible to keep a vow (e.g., because of sickness, imprisonment, the lack of financial means), dispensations can be granted. But there is no dispensation in the matter of celibacy. This one monastic vow does more than anything else to torture body and soul.

In the final passages Luther expounds the nature of poverty, chastity, and obedience as faith understands them. The Appendix is an exposition of I Timothy 5, which Luther says is the last weapon his opponents might use against him on the matter of monastic vows. Here he advocates that no one should be permitted to enter the monastic life before the age of sixty.

Salvation by works

You cannot prove it is not the case that Satan has contrived this form of "saved by faith alone" religion to lull you into comforting complacency with the notion that you will not be saved. Now Hitler was baptized as a Roman Catholic, so do you imagine that Hitler will be in heaven. If not, why not?  Will there be ANYONE IN HELL? Just curious. In the book of Acts, when Simon tries to commit the first act of Simony and purchase a power from the Apostles, they told him it was a grave sin and when he asks if he will be forgiven, they respond that it is hard to say if he will be forgiven.  Will Judas Iscariot be in heaven? If you say yes then why did Jesus say it were better for a stone to be hung around his neck and cast into the sea.  With all due respect, I think that many people have hypnotized themselves into complacency by cherry-picking verses.  If EVERYONE gets saved including ME, no matter what we say or do, then what is the point of becoming Christian? What is the point of Christ's incarnation and crucifixion. Why didnt God simply will that all human souls will one day be in heaven?

And if God HAD to perform the work of incarnation and crucifixion and resurrection in order to make your salvation possible then your salvation is by WORKS and not by faith alone, as it seems to me.

What must I do to be saved

Every argument has some validity even spurious arguments. It is true that Paul said "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" but to me it is not obvious that ALL shall be saved and it is not obvious to me the salvation is by faith alone in the sense of simply once "saying the magic words" as Charles Stanley's ministry describes it of "inviting Jesus into your life as your savior" and now you have the ETERNAL SECURITY OF SALVATION and no matter what you do (even if you become a serial killer) nothing can rob you of that eternal security of salvation because you "said those magic words."  I don't believe in that sort of theology. Jesus said that the way is NARROW and there are FEW that find it. Jesus did not say that EVERYONE will be saved. When that man came to Jesus and said "Good Master what shall I do to gain eternal life?" do you not find it odd that Jesus does not say "Well, you must confess that I am God, take me as your personal savior and then you shall be saved."  Jesus does say that there is only ONE good and that is God, and then asks the man WHY he calls Jesus good (in other words Jesus does not forbid the man to call him good but intimates that the man is calling Jesus God) but in the very next breath Jesus says "keep the commandments" now... in my mind ... that is WORKS so there is Jesus telling someone that they may be saved by WORKS, now should we suppose that Jesus is LYING.  What is FOOLISH about the five FOOLISH virgins and why are they locked out of the wedding feast. I say that ALL TEN were virgins and possessed purity but the OIL in the Greek language sounds almost like the word for charity/mercy which implies WORKS, and the foolish virgins were foolish because they had not done sufficient good works. Now when God warns Moses that a plague of poisonous serpents is coming and tells Moses to erect the bronze serpent and INVITE everyone to gaze upon that serpent... not EVERYONE exercises their free will and ACTS to participate, and so those who choose NOT to avail themselves are bitten and die. I would suggest to anyone that the get the 5 volumes of Jaroslav Pelikan's History of Christian Doctrine. Pelikan was a Yale Sterling Professor of history and had no particular theological agenda or ax to grind. But if you read those five volumes you will see how Christianity evolved through the centuries. Pelikan himself was raised in some denomination like Congregational (I forget) but as he wrote his books he came to see things personally from the Eastern Orthodox perspective.

Martin Luther Broke His Solemn Vow

@R Don: I respect your feelings and perhaps I shall. You see, I was raised with NO religion and in my 20s became Greek Orthodox and entered a monastery for 13 months as a novice. I was present at a number of monastic tonsures with permanent lifetime vows. The gravity of the commitment is clearly spelled out during the service. Once someone takes those vows there are NO mitigating circumstances should they break their vows.  And Luther did seem to actually RE-WRITE Christianity to rule out celibacy, which makes no sense in the face of Jesus own words "some make eunuchs of themselves for the sake of the kingdom" and Paul's words "better to marry than to burn, but I would that all would be as I am "  .... Not to be insulting but I am sure Luther was a great guy and kind to animals and congenial, but then one might point out the many fine qualities of Hitler who was known by the Germans fondly as "Uncle Addie" ... But out of consideration for R Don I shall endeavor to read some positive portrayals of Martin Luther. I do greatly admire what he did for the German language in his masterful translation of the Bible. I just feel that the proper thing for him to have done would be to continue in his monastic vows somewhere in some fashion and not portray celibacy as something unnatural.

Look at it this way: suppose Don that I made a solemn promise to you and assured that I would honor that promise until my death bed. But then let us say that I broke that solemn promise and betrayed you. Now even if I go on to lead the most noble life, feeding the poor, educating the ignorant, clothing the naked, taking up arms to defend freedom and liberty: NOTHING NONE OF THE WILL EVER WASH AWAY THE FACT THAT I BETRAYED YOUR TRUST AND BROKE MY SOLEMN VOW.  And that is why scripture says "better NEVER TO VOW AT ALL than to vow and not pay." In Judges 11:39 we see the Jephthah swore to sacrifice the first living creature he saw upon return home and it was his daughter who FORCED HIM to keep that vow. Now I know that there are arguments which try to show that he did not take her life just as there are arguments to reconcile those conflicting passages about Satan tempting David to take a census of the people or conflicting passages about the manner of Judas Iscariot's death and I don't care to see those. I feel that certain passages are meant to teach us certain lessons and the story of Jephthah is an illustration of how serious it is to make a vow.

More on the religious/scientific debate

I am not certain what your personal view is from your above comment about "debating tricks." Are you agreeing with the Atheist that someone with religious practices is unsuited for science or math work, or do you agree with me that there is no connection between religious practice and math/science ability. During my searches I found one P.E.W. survey that showed religious scientists or scientists who believe in "a higher power" are a minority but still a sizable minority.  Anyway, a recent counter example I found is  

and then I chose Ramanujan

  ... I also pointed out that Kurt Godel was a brilliant mathematician who was quite eccentric (wrote an ontological proof for the existence of God) and died of starvation from his paranoia of being poisoned. An extreme example would be some idiot-savant or autistic person (like Rain Man the movie) who has an uncanny ability for figures. I suppose Tesla might be another example although the bio speaks of his superstitions rather than religion

I read articles to the effect that scientists today are prejudiced against anyone who openly practices some religion feeling that they are not scientific which I think is a form of illegal discrimination. 

Anyway I am very interested to hear the reactions of various people in the sciences to this entire issue.  It seems to me that only the Agnostic is in a sound logical position since the Agnostic admits that nothing can be known or proved about the existence or non-existence of a higher problem. The Atheist of conviction has a challenge in the sense that Carl Sagan pointed out that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 In The Fifty-Second Year Of My Age, After The Comp...

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Facebook and Free Speech

Seriously, here is what FB should do. They should never ban ANYONE for any reason but rather they should have a system of user flagging, such that any user can flag any post or pic under various criteria say: Sexually explicit, hate-rhetoric, political-partisan... academic... Now FB would monitor the activities of Flaggers and rate them as sincere and reliable (in which case their ratings would have weight) or else malicious and slanderous (in which case their ratings would be ignored)... now.. the valid credible ratings would characterize each user. Then other FB users could decide whether they want sexually explicit, or academic, or religious-antagonism, or atheist, or whatever the categories are. Several categories would perhaps be criminal, and then the FBI CIA could monitor that group.   This way Facebook is guaranteed to all and allows freedom of speech, and those who do not care for certain kinds of free speech can filter out unwanted categories.

Martin Luther of the Reformation

Luther was one of the first in history to successfully use printed pamplets with illustrations in his media campaign. Some of those pamphlets portray the Pope and Cardinals breaking wind and employ base language with scatalogical references.  I see Luther as a man who voluntarily took lifetime vows of celibacy as an Augustinian monk but then could not deal with his sexual urges. In fact Luther actually claimed that demons had appeared at times and tempted him to intercourse which was also what Islam's prophet claimed. Luther freely admitted that the Greek Orthodox had a valid church and no need of a Pope and yet it never occurred to Luther that it is "better never to vow than vow and not pay." Luther SHOULD have finished out his life among the Greeks but instead he rewrote religion to the point that celibacy is demonic and unnatural and then he married a nun and had a large number of children with her. Whenever Luther was plagued with indigestion he would do what he called "negative fasting" by eating and drinking all the more, CONVINCED that Satan was the cause of his gastric distress and Luther was determined to frustrate Satan. Luther once wrote "when God rides me I do good and when Satan rides me I do evil."  Luther also wrote a very anti-Semitic pamphlet available on-line entitled "The Jews and their Lies."  A book entitled "Hitler's Willing Executioners" states in its opening page that Krystalnacht, the first open violence against Jews in Germany, was stated to commence on the birthday of Martin Luther.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Only 500,000 years left

William: Alan, and for the sake of argument let us suppose that we DO get where we are going and have a theory of everything, and we can literally redesign life or even create other planets. Then we have the burden of putting into action things which we may find morally abhorrent because of that irrational spiritual side. SUPPOSE we make advances and realize that we must methodically reduce the world population from 10 billion down to 1 billion and we must genetically redesign future generations and adopt a form of world or universal government which is much more autocratic than our traditional ideas, and furthermore suppose we prove that if we do not act then the future of culture is doomed. Will we have the guts to lay aside our superstitions about right and wrong and do the Nazi scientist thing for the sake of future generations. Would we have the courage to reinvent ourselves?

Alan : I have no ideas what is meant by "Inherently flawed." Does that mean he can't imagine it working? So, therefore it is impossible, because after all, no one else could be smarter, and so we are back to positing an invisible all knowing magic man? I had no idea that math was "self-referential." I am not a mathematician, so maybe I just never got to "self-referential math."

William: Like Wittgenstein, "what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence"... and Wittgenstein's fiery outburst with Russell saying "I dont EXPECT you to understand" and Godel's indefiniteness that there may always be truths than cannot be proven, and Heisenberg's uncertainty, and quantum doing away with strict causality and all that sort of thing.  Alan you just seem to have some rosy picture of how logical scientific method is going to get better and better and better. Meanwhile, Earth has only about 500,000 years before our white dwarf sun expands enough to make it unlivable, which may seem like a long time, but we could be using that time to try to do something to make a future for human culture, and like Stephen Hawking says, the future is in space, so we should spend 100,000 years looking in ways to move the earth further out in orbit, and build arks piloted by cyborgs with all earths live and culture encoded genetically, waiting to find some new viable planet in some solar system, .... but all we are doing is pissing away our time with people who cut off their sister's nose and ears and live in the 7th century and worry about stepping into their place of worship with the right foot and not the left... while other people are concentrating on buying $50,000 watches ... so, sorry Alan if I see you as slightly naieve... a sort of Pollyanna... and suppose they figure out how to make wealthy republicans who can afford it live 200 years instead of 100 years, so Hugh Hefner gets to screw chicks when he is 200... and we cannot even find a way to meaningfully fill even 50 or 60 years of our lives and society has no use for us unless we are Mark Twain, or Michael Jackson, or Walter Kronkite or some similar persona....

The Courage to ReInvent Mankind

OK, Alan, and for the sake of argument let us suppose that we DO get where we are going and have a theory of everything, and we can literally redesign life or even create other planets. Then we have the burden of putting into action things which we may find morally abhorrent because of that irrational spiritual side. SUPPOSE we make advances and realize that we must methodically reduce the world population from 10 billion down to 1 billion and we must genetically redesign future generations and adopt a form of world or universal government which is much more autocratic than our traditional ideas, and furthermore suppose we prove that if we do not act then the future of culture is doomed. Will we have the guts to lay aside our superstitions about right and wrong and do the Nazi scientist thing for the sake of future generations. Would we have the courage to reinvent ourselves?

How real are scientific models

Alan, I respect and understand your use of the phrase "the illusion of religion" BUT from my perspective the disputes between Einstein who said "God does not play dice" (now I know Einstein was speaking figuratively and he leans towards Spinoza) but his objection to the statistical/quantum probability cloud of Bohr and others, and then someone like Freeman Dyson who says that reality would be too boring if there could be a G.U.T. grand unifying THEORY OF EVERYTHING... certainly you must concede that there is equally illusion or delusion in the mathematical models that mathematical physicists use to explain reality. I mean, in a way, when we study Ptolemy's epicycles, we are not actually DELUDED into believing such things exist but rather we are looking at one early stage of model theory which "sodzain ta phainomena" (saves the phenomena) and it is a tool with limits of accuracy, just as Newtonian mechanics is still useful for canon ball trajectories, but in sub-atomic quantum events or intergalactic events then euclidean models break down and one must have Reimannian space.  We certainly have more palpable repeatable certainty in our world of mathematical models, but there is just as much FAITH involved in the sense that Karl Popper talks about scientific faith, and we have, I would say, a more PRECISE form of illusion, or delusion, but it is still illusional. And people can do puja and chant mantras and do everyday science and math. This business that only "pure atheists" can do it is pure rubbish and prejudice.

My adventures with religions

I was raised with absolutely no religion, never brought to church even once. When I was 13 I went alone into a nearby forest and came to a beautiful little pond and I knelt and prayed "If there is actually a God then I want to become aware."  Well, nothing happened immediately. But I did wind up going to St. John's Annapolis.  In the Sophomore years, listening to hour upon hour of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion which I loved, I decided to build a simple floor to ceiling wooden crucifix (it was around Halloween) and I purchased a cardboard skeleton and mounted it on the cross.  People rather freaked out when the saw it, especially the more religious Protestants. Then my girl friend took me to my very first Church service (Roman Catholic). I carefully watched her every move and tried to follow along, standing, sitting, crossing. I noticed that at one point she make a fist and lightly pressed it to her solar plexus. Afterwards I asked her what that was and she said it was for the martyrs who beat their chests. At a certain point, I heard the tinkling of little bells and I actually thought I was having an otherworldy experience. She laughed at me and said the altar boy was ringing the bells. As I left the Church I thought "well, if any of this has any meaning then THIS mass is what we should be doing as more essential than reading Aquinas's Summa.  Forty years later I mentioned the chest beating thing to my ex girl friend and , swear to God, she has NO MEMORY of ever doing that.  Anyway, after college, I taught myself to get by speaking Modern Greek, and then I became Greek Orthodox and learned to get by in Church Slavonic, and I stayed with that for 20 years but became disillusioned with myself mostly that I could not really be what I was expected to be. So I spent some time as nothing, and then I spent several years with Korean Zen, and a year with Hare Krishna, and several years in a Guyanese Hindu Mandir. Then, suddenly I felt no need for organized religion. My mind seemed like my own church and each day I would write things that are like sermons. I came to see thought itself as non different from prayer. I totally accept evolution and big bang and quantum and relativity and genome and all such things.  I do not hate or mind the militant atheists. I think I understand how they feel. When I am with Muslims I put on my Muslim hat. When I am with Sikhs I put on my Sikh hat. When I am with Jews I put on my yarmulke. I actually went into a Lubavitcher Mitzvah Tank (truck) once. The Jew asked me if I were Jewish. I lied and said "I am not certain; I only know that my mother was Jewish and her mother was Jewish" His eyes lit up and he said "You are a Yid" so he brought me in and had me wrap the Tefellin and say the Shema (which is what I wanted to do and why I lied.)  

The debated thread in question

If you are not logged into Facebook I don't know how much of this you can see but I want to remember this link.

The Religious Prejudice in American Politics

I fail to see my questions as "bizarre non-sequitors." If you sincerely believe that religion is illogical and an impediment to science then surely religion must also be an impediment in politics. China certainly seems to hold and enforce that position and China seems to be gaining some kind of superiority over America. Is it "logical" for Americans to fear the election of a Jewish president or a Mormon (Latter Day Saint) president, and yet they do seem to fear that. Ever presidential candidate has to tour the Bible belt and do stump speeches about how he has taken Jesus as his personal savior.  I do not find the American practice rational.

I won my argument with Lair a long time ago because all I had to do was find ONE respected scientist who is practicing some religion and you yourself concede, Bryan, that the example I offer is a respected scientist and an exception to the rule ... but one exception to the rule was all I needed: Francis Collins.

I like to argue. I enjoy confrontation. If I cannot think of some different counter argument and run out of things to say then perhaps I have lost, but it is an exercise and exercise is healthy.

Bryan, you made assumptions about my genetic makeup, assuming that I do not know what it is like to "lack a God gene."  I do not mind that you make such assumptions, but you are no better than I am when it comes to arguing. 

Religious date conventions

Bryan, ok, I grant you that any job candidate who INSISTED THAT the Earth is only 6,000 years old then YES you would have grounds not to hire them NOT because they hold religious beliefs but because they refuse to accept the obvious evidence of science. BUT consider this, orthodox Jews and perhaps the nation of Israel have the practice of listing the Date NOT as 2011 but as the number of years since Genesis chapter 1. Now are you willing to say that NO Israeli scientist is credible if they use that date AND are you willing to say that no scientist is credible if they reckon the date as the number of years from the birth of Jesus Christ? If they were more rational then they should choose a year that is more in line with Hubble time.  I get the feeling Bryan that you don't like it when people disagree with you and furthermore that you want to wave your academic credentials in front of people and have them bow down to your infallible declarations.  And now I want to google and see what the state of Israel uses for dates in official documents.

Second rate narrow minded science technicians

Bryan, I believe with all my heart everything that Stephen Hawking and carbon dating and the big bang and Hubble-time and black holes.... and evolution.... I am Hindu/Buddhist, why would I not believe these things... to me it makes perfect sense that countless universes in many dimensions arise and collapse...

Bryan, you seem like something of a fat-head or a broken record. Not everyone who is religious worries about the earth being 6000 years old. And even if their are fundamentalist Christian scientists who DO believe that on some level, they probably do perfectly fine with their electron microscope work or lab titrations or atom smashers or whatever scientific thing it is that they do...  and let's be honest... even though it is a WONDERFUL achievement for someone to earn a PhD in science or math, not all of them are equal in their greatness and they are like plumbers and carpenters tinkering by comparison to the great minds which come once or twice a century like Einstein or Godel or Galileo or Newton...

So, Bryan although you are in some sense a "bone fide scientist" in a different sense you are a glorified technician and not at the ground breaking forefront of theoretical physics or genetic engineering. As one mathematician in India put it, people think they are "mathematicians" because they know how to solve differential equations or work with the binomial theorem but a REAL mathematician is a Gauss or Fermat or Lobachevski or Godel, etc, and not the sorry likes of you..

Even Godel in the end was stark raving mad and died from starvation because he was paranoid and needed his wife to taste his food, and it is not clear that Godel was much more normal when he did his groundbreaking work to refute Hilbert... but YOU BRYAN cannot PROVE that someone who is SCHIZOPHRENIC and delusional cannot do groundbreaking science or math NOW CAN YOU? Hmmm..

And Bryan, since you are so brilliant and logical, please answer my post regarding the incompatibility of religion and American politics because I would REALLY LOVE to see how you answer that one!

Bryan, just reading some of your posts here makes you look rather stupid and bigoted and slow-witted. And why do you find the need to question the science or degrees of Robin who I am certain is just as good a scientist as YOU are if not better and surely neither of you can match up, quite obviously, to Stephen Hawking or Einstein or Oppenheimer or Heisenberg... any more than a Family Physician can match up to a brain surgeon although both possess an M.D.

What is becoming clear to me Bryan is that you are slow-witted and bigoted and repetitive and narrow minded... but perhaps your next posts will dispel my negative impressions.

Jesus and the rich man

When Jesus prays in the garden of Gesthemene he says "Heavenly Father, all those whom you have give to me MAY THEY BE ONE even as YOU and I are ONE."

Here are some past blogs of mine to consider:

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

Luke 18: 18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
   19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 
20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

NOTICE JESUS DOES NOT FORBID THE MAN TO CALL HIM GOOD BUT ASKS A SUBTLE QUESTION "why do YOU call ME good if we know that there is NONE good save GOD"  (i.e. Jesus is asking the man if the man thinks Jesus is GOD)

 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 
24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 
25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Why repost Posterous, why blog AT ALL, why not!

Daphne, Giri Alam Wiggunara is the one I must thank for making me aware of but the way he did so was to simply give me a link to his test posterous site which was simply a hideous charicature of a white girl with ungly teeth and a psychotic grin and I had no idea why I should use .  But I signed up and played around with it and only THEN realized that I an post to it via Gmail (or any email) and it will REPOST to all sorts of blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter, Plurk, Blogspot, and so now my little used Twitter/ReadGreatBooks is now a true representation of my hourly thoughts because it contains tinyurl links to each blog post. I just gave someone my card which has my link but I explained that the real essence is in the posterous posts, but then I added my Twitter to my wordpress page quick as a wink, so if she goes to wordpress she will see my twitter links to posterous. I want to save Wordpress for more serious and thought-out blog essays.  I do repost to one blogspot and blogspot allows one to back up (posterous does not provide a backup feature) so as long as one feeds a blogspot or wordpress account then one may backup writings. I do feed but I think tumblr only has MAC backup right now and Windows or Linux backup is on the back burner.

I suppose the wisdom of all this is WRITE ONCE READ MANY. I mean, if we get in the habit of blogging as we thing and even thinking by means of blogging and google search and social network interaction then we should CAPTURE what we think and make it available in public domain and then the Internet can become one huge corporated endeavor or alembic where ideas are hashed about in kalaidoscopic fashion and embers are stoked in the furnace of our skulls and even folks in Indonesia or Iran can read these things and give US some ideas. and I shall end this with my new invention IYLMAM which if you google on it should lead to my Wordpress blog IF YOU LIKE ME ADD ME. pronounced I'll Ma'am which sounds SO sexy (but its NOT) - IYLMAM 

Constructing your own Humanist religion

Dawn, the bottom line regarding Christ's miracles is that if Christ cannot DO those miracles then there is little point in worshiping Christ as God, because Christ clearly states in one verse that FORGIVING sins is far more powerful than giving sight to one born blind. And there is an obvious Old Testament precedent of prophet Elisha (disciple of Elijah) multiplying loaves of barley. 

I really admire Universalist Unitarians and writings of Thoreau, but I think such people do themselves an injustice when they try to deconstruct the Bible to show that it supports their notion of "grace for all" and all are saved, which is a perfectly acceptable Hindu or Buddhist notion (souls just keep getting reborn until they work out all the karmic knots) but it is hard to find that message in the Bible unless you cherry pick your verses very carefully. 

As for those LGBTQ who desire a religion I think they should just establish their own Humanist religion and not worry about force fitting themselves or their churches into existing models (New wine in old skins). 

I mean if you cannot believe in the supernatural then why try to follow an obviously supernatural religion and then try to explain away the miracles. Since divine revelation would be something on the order of supernatural then reason should reject religions even on that ground and simply construct their own Humanist scriptures.

Is world harmony recent or an ancient concept?


One of my greatest moments of enlightenment came about 10 years ago when I was thinking about invading space aliens with powerful weapons of destruction and suddenly I realized that ANY SPECIES which develops such powers will destroy itself unless it learns gentleness and peacefulness and respect for all life forms.

Maimonides introduction to the Guide For The Perplexed makes it clear that he addresses only a small minority of Jews who are prepared to undertake his teachings, so Maimonides was not addressing ALL Jews and was CERTAINLY not addressing non-Jews or the entire world

I dont imagine people began to think about world unity or world peace until the 20th century and the World Wars. Obviously George Washington was an isolationist in his farewell address. In fact, listen to the French national anthem and you will hear a verse about "spilling the unclean blood of our enemy." 

People give all sorts of "new age" spins to ancient things. One very nice fellow I know says that Hasidic Jews do not wear a neck-tie because it would separate "the head from the heart" but that is rubbish. Everyone knows that in the time of Baal Shem Tov neck-ties were unknown and the Hasidics dress as in those times just like Muslims imitate manners and styles of 7th century Mecca. I doubt that anyone in the middle ages really thought about the head as the seat of the brains and thinking that it should not be separated from the heart. Pascal did say that "the heart has reasons of which reason knowns nothing." 

I may be wrong and someone may find some fairly ancient text which speaks of the unity of mankind or universal love and brotherhood. I do suppose there are passages in the Old Testament prophets that speak of some future time where all nations shall be at peace.

There is an ancient notion of Tikkun Olam which for the Greeks is Apokatastasis or a renewing of the world; a new world. I rather imagine most of the world through the ages ignored such passages, certainly during the Crusades and the Inquisition. I think they only thought of world unity in terms of world conquest by force.

We do find something like this

Rashi comforts us: “Just as these winds strengthen the grass[es] and make them grow, so, too, words of Torah strengthen those who learn them and make them grow.”

and he was 12th century

Funny, I was thinking about Bah'ai and Baha Ulla 19th century Iran as the earliest notions of world unity and peace, and that is what came up first in the search engine, though this may have no significance. One must first experience great oppression and division to yearn for unity.

Here is a timeline for notions of world peace which only goes back to 1890

Dawnwilliam, the Tao talks about the return of the great Integrity, which is basically the same thing the Jewish mystics talked about. I still cannot think of the word. 

I dont agree with you about a perfect world being a 20th century thing, IN fact Im positive of it, Jesus himself talks about the Sons of MAN and a time in the future when people will do unto others as they would have them do unto you in the gospels. 

A son is more knowledgeable and more evolved than the father, a father may be wise but the son has his own way of being on the earth and it is more evolved than the generation before it. Thats what" A new heaven and a New Earth "is refferring to. a time when people act right. a time of enlightenement, we are living in the time of confusion spoken of inb eastern philosophy without a doubt. an over reliance on the written word misinterpreted through asshat preachers and greedmongers and hypocrites has left us with messed up spiritual beliefs, they are all dependent upon natural law. Natural law is the creators Law no matter what the creator is, the misinterpretation isnt the one that makes sense now it is the one people have become attached to that is rediculous and false. these are spiritual texts, they are about the non physical aspect of being. the " perfect world" is a spiritual place NOT a place of physical abundance so much as it is a place of being in harmony with the world and existence in the now.

It would take me forever to find it but I will look later but Im sure the Upanishads does the same. I think the problem isnt the textx I think the problem is the small minded interpretations that became religions. look at what the catholic church did to Jesus' teachings.

William: Ah, but Jesus does ask the question "when I return to earth shall I even find faith?"  Here I went and googled on it
Luke 18:8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Now why would Jesus pose such a question? And why would the New Testament clearly state that until the end of the world there shall always be wars and rumors of war.

Now it is not really fair to point to The Book of Revelation and say that in that new world there will be the harmony of which we speak for those who are resurrected into that new world will have a totally different nature.... they will neither marry nor be given in marriage but shall be like the angels, they will be given "a new heart" which is what Saul received (though it did him no good) and it is what David prays for in Psalm 51... and furthermore Revelation says that "time shall be no more" (Kai xronai ouketi estai) and the heavens will be rolled up like a scroll (so the end of time-space as we know it) and God will be their raiment and space and light and sustenance (at least there is room for that sort of interpretation.)

But Dawn, you are a learned person and I admire your ideas, and I may be mistaken in my notions that some of these ideas about peace, harmony, love are 'new age' and of recent origin. And thank you for posting.

More dangerous by far than the unanswered question is the unquestioned answer.

Perhaps religion is America's downfall?

Now PERHAPS Bryan D. has unwittingly put his finger on the reason for America's doom and decline, namely, the irrationality of introducing God into politics. We saw the Atheist Communist regime as our great enemy and so we reasoned that Theism and Capitalism were the opposite of Atheism and Communism and so we ADDED "in God we Trust" to our dollar bills around 1957 AND we added prayer to public schools and congress and we swear in our Presidents on a copy of the Bible, and swearing itself is an irrational superstition because what does it mean to SWEAR that you will tell the TRUTH so help you GOD. Does that mean that the Holy Spirit is going to whisper in your ear while you are testifying on the witness stand?  And what does it really mean to swear "or even solemnly affirm" that we will testify the truth the WHOLE truth and nothing BUT the truth "so help me God."  If  you swear me in and ask me how much is 2 plus 2 and I answer four then am I testifying THE TRUTH? But I am told that the full proof that 2+2 = four would contain over 250 steps and only someone like Bertrand Russel or Alfred North Whitehead would be able to demonstrate that truth and so therefore when I answer FOUR then I am just repeating hearsay.  What would make logical sense is for each witness to say "I understand that I testify under penalty of perjury if the court deems that I have intentionally lied or committed a lie of omission." Now I am always aware when I lie but I can never know that I am telling the truth. And if the court should deem that I have perjured myself then I shall pay the penalty even if it should be the case that the court is mistaken.  

A college student in Beijing told me that Communist China's leaders are all scientists and mathematicians and therefore they are more RATIONAL than lawyers like Obama. Bryan, would you be willing to agree that scientists must be more rational and perhaps smarter than lawyers and judges?

I mean if reason is GOOD for scientists and having any religion means LESS REASON and less rationality then by the same token atheism must be better for government since any hint of religion must ipso facto mean some level of irrationality.  Hence, G.W. Bush was irrational to the degree that he portrayed himself as a Christian and implemented "faith based" policies.  I shall post this for now and read some more and perhaps post more later. Thanks all for your participation in this thread as I enjoy wrestling with such discussions.

Atheists win hands down!

Thanks Bryan for these well written posts. I want to read through a few times and comment on some excerpts - overall I think I understand what you are saying and it makes a lot of sense. I suspect that you unintentionally distort certain things which were never stated in any of these discussions. For example you suggest that a scientist might "introduce a belief in God" as part of a proof or paper or lecture or demonstration. I dont remember anyone asserting that. The question pure and simple is : if you have three candidates for a job that involves science, with three equal c.v., i.q. g.p.a. etc, but one of them is wearing a yarmulke (Jewish) and the second has a dot on his forehead (Hindu) or a turban (Sikh) while the third is known to be an outspoken Atheist, then from Bryan D.'s statements I would assume that Bryan would feel COMPELLED to hire the Atheist, all other things being equal BECAUSE as Bryan says: "The more one is willing to believe what one is told without evidence--and let's be honest, this is the essence of religion--the less well-suited one is for science."

Now if Bryan were in charge of Personnel at say Los Alamos and this practice could be demonstrated in a court of law then I think Bryan and Los Alamos would be found in violation of the law. That does not mean that laws are always right or just or make sense, but it is a point to be taken into consideration.

Bryan writes "the religious tendency in humans acts at cross-purposes to scientific inquiry." Now it is equally obvious to me that the sexual tendencies in humans are at cross-purposes to scientific inquiry for if someone spent ever waking moment thinking about sexual matters and flirting and pulling people into broom closets then little inquiry would be accomplished so THEREFORE I should falsely conclude as Bryan does that the ideal scientist would have ZERO sexual inclination and perhaps feel a tad of loathing towards any scientist who does have sexual feelings.  Obviously this is a foolish way to think. Obviously there are individuals who are more or less sexual and it is very rare that someone is asexual, but people who live in "meatspace" as Bryan says are able to compartmentalize and prioritize their agendas and instincts and emotions.

Now as to the Yarmulke wearer and the Turban wearing scientist, I think it is too simplistic to say that they LITERALLY believe everything in their religion with childlike simplicity.  Let us take Blaise Pascal's WAGER argument as an example. Suppose someone is convinced by Pascal's wager that they should get baptized and go to Mass once in a while because if it is all TRUE then they have much to gain but if it is all a story then they have lost little. Certainly there are people raised Jewish or Sikh or Hindu who were culturally conditioned by their upbringing and participate or observe their religious customs for many and various reasons OTHER than pure childlike conviction in the existence of these "invisible friends."  Think of all the famous people who play golf. Now golf is a totally irrational activity. One achieves nothing meaningful be earning a good golf score. There are famous successful people who spend more hours per year at golf than many religious devotees. So would an avid golf enthusiast be less suitable for science than someone who is logical enough to realize now irrational all sports activities are? 

It is totally coincidence that this morning I posted a link about the man who was head of the genome commission. He was raised by parents who were not really religious. He spent a number of years being atheist. Then he began to work with terminally ill patients. He read something by C.S. Lewis and then one day in the middle of a hike he decided to become an Evangelical. I posted that simply because I am a member of the microblog and my blog automatically feeds plurk and twitter and some other things. One of my Plurk friends saw a post about Science and Atheism and mentioned this Evangelical geneticist as a a good example.

Bryan, you did a great job expressing your views. Thank you. I like to read these sorts of things with my morning coffee and try to dash off some kind of meaningful response.  I think I see your points and they are good points for you since you are as you are because of the sum total of years of past experiences while I am as I am because of the sum total of my experiences.  I shall read some more of this thread and perhaps comment further.

Religious views

Collins has described his parents as "only nominally Christian" and by graduate school he considered himself an atheist. However, dealing with dying patients led him to question his religious views, and he investigated various faiths. He familiarized himself with the evidence for and against God in cosmology, and used Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis as a foundation to re-examine his religious view. He eventually came to a conclusion, and finally became an evangelical Christian during a hike on a fall afternoon.

In his 2006 book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins considers scientific discoveries an "opportunity to worship." In his book Collins examines and subsequently rejects creationism and intelligent design. His own belief system is theistic evolution or evolutionary creation which he prefers to term BioLogos. Collins appeared in December 2006 on The Colbert Report television show and in a March 2007 Fresh Air radio interview to discuss this book.

In an interview with National Geographic published in February 2007, interviewer John Horgan, an agnostic journalist, criticized Collins' description of agnosticism as "a cop-out". In response, Collins clarified his position on agnosticism so as not to include "earnest agnostics who have considered the evidence and still don't find an answer. I was reacting to the agnosticism I see in the scientific community, which has not been arrived at by a careful examination of the evidence. I went through a phase when I was a casual agnostic, and I am perhaps too quick to assume that others have no more depth than I did."

During a debate with the biologist Richard Dawkins, Collins stated that God is the explanation of those features of the universe that science finds difficult to explain (such as the values of certain physical constants favoring life), and that God himself does not need an explanation since he is beyond the universe. Dawkins called this "the mother and father of all cop-outs" and "an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain", to which Collins responded "I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That's an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as 'Why am I here?', 'What happens after we die?' If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn't convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion."

Collins remains firm in his rejection of intelligent design, and for this reason was not asked to participate in the 2008 documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which tries, among other things, to draw a direct link between evolution and atheism. Walt Ruloff, a producer for the film, claimed that Collins was "toeing the party line" by rejecting intelligent design, which Collins called "just ludicrous." 

In 2009, Collins founded the BioLogos Foundation to "contribute to the public voice that represents the harmony of science and faith." He served as the foundation's president until he was confirmed as director of the NIH.

In October 2009, an article about Collins in the New York Times alleged that many scientists regard outspoken religious commitment as a sign of mild dementia.The article prompted a defense from journalist/blogger Brad A. Greenberg, who called the accusation baseless and likely fabricated, as well as from James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, who wrote that "What the Times is really saying is that 'many scientists'--how many is not specified--are prejudiced against religious people."

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