ForumsWEPRThe Religion Debate Thread

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nichodemus
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nichodemus
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Viceroy

So yeah, our threads on religion have long since died out, so I figured it would be time to start afresh here!

Do you believe God exists (I know almost all of you don't)? Do you feel religion is important today? Is it a force for good? Discuss everything related to that here!

I'm going to start the ball rolling:

We all know about the rise of ISIS and the terrible acts it perpetuates. Does that show that Islam and religion in general is an awful concept? Is it the people who twist it? Or is it fundamentally an evil force?

Roping in the WERP frequenters
@MageGrayWolf @Kasic @Hahiha @FishPreferred @Doombreed @09philj

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HahiHa
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HahiHa
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Grand Duke

Maybe nicho would love God if He existed, have you thought of that?

Not sure I would. Certainly not the Old Testament version...

nichodemus
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nichodemus
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Viceroy

Lol no haha, I have studied history too much, and came to the conclusion that religion and worship of most kinds is just....nope, not needed. Not a good idea at all.

WolfGirl11
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WolfGirl11
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Peasant

Okay, im not, but .......sigh............... i dont feel like talking any more. It is actually 1:40 am and i havent even gone to sleep yet!!! anyway one time i never went to sleep!!!! Yawn....... goodnight/goodmorning!

WolfGirl11
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WolfGirl11
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Peasant

sorry......i did get a bit mad b4.

nichodemus
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nichodemus
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Viceroy

Lol it's alright.

Moegreche
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Moegreche
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Duke

Just a few points to add here. These are minor points, though. Ultimately, I'd like to talk about the problem of evil. But first...

1) On the notion of evolution/atheism as a religion.

Giving an analysis of the concept of religion is hard. Dictionary definitions aren't going to be super helpful here. But I would like to point out a major flaw in this argument, quoted below:

i said previously that evolution is basically a religion. everyone seems to have taken that the entirely wrong way.
when i mean religion, i dont mean worship.
here is the definition of religion:
re·li·gion
rəˈlijən/
noun: religion
1. the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
2. a particular system of faith and worship.
3. a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

I have italicised the problem areas here. Now, while I'll happily agree that this might not show much (this is, after all, a dictionary definition), I do think there's a lesson here. Sometimes these definitions can help shed some light on how we think about particular concepts. The fact that 2 of these definitions explicitly mention worship is telling.
But more to the point, the argument - at least as it's presented - won't work. In short, you can't suggest that religion doesn't involve worship and then cite a definition in which worship is mentioned more than it's not.

2) On the big bang.

I'm a little unclear these days on precisely what the big bang model says. It seems like this model is becoming less specific because we just don't understand the 'initial starting conditions' for our universe. So typically what we find is a statement about the conditions of the early universe (i.e. that is was really hot and really dense). This much is definitely true, but it's consistent with a number of starting conditions. What's more, it's consistent with a notion of a God.

3) On causation.

Just to be clear on the theistic move here regarding a first cause - God might not need to be caused. The story you hear a lot is that God has always existed and so He never was created. This was always a little (a lot?) strange to me. Here's the way I think about this question nowadays (though this might not be very satisfying, either).
We have a claim like determinism which is motivating this causal chain. But determinism is the claim that every event is caused. This is important, because God is not an event. God is an agent. This ends up being a really neat philosophical distinction in a number of areas, but especially in the arena of free will. We might be able to make a similar move for ourselves and preserve our notion of free will in a deterministic universe. The events we cause are agent-events (rather than purely deterministic ones) but our agency itself is not an event and so can remain uncaused. This ties in pretty neatly with the creation story too, but I'll leave this point.

On to my main point:

The problem of evil

There are a lot of unsatisfying answers out there to the problem of evil/suffering. Typically this argument can be viewed as a dilemma for the nature of God. Either:
(1) God could stop suffering, but He doesn't (this is a challenge to His all-loving nature), or
(2) God wants to stop suffering, but He can't (this challenges our idea of God as all-powerful).

Some bad responses here are that it's Satan doing the evil (this just falls onto the second horn of the dilemma) or that God is testing us (this falls onto the first horn). I'd like to consider 2 (hopefully!) plausible solutions to the problem of evil.

Answer 1: A question of value

Suppose that the world was such that everything came really easily for us. This would be the opposite of the problem of evil - there just is no suffering in the world. There are no obstacles to overcome and nothing seems to require very much skill. It turns out that such a world might not be a good as our present world, and the reason has to do with value.
Succeeding at something certainly has value. But achievements - successes that are, in some way, difficult - seem to be valuable for their own sake. In short, by introducing the notion of suffering, God has actually increased the all-things-considered value that our world has.

Answer 2: A separation from God

This story matches up well with the religious one. We are in a state of being separated from God (think of Adam and Eve getting cast out of Eden). Our world - which is presumably reached through our choices - is one that is not (and cannot) be reconciled with God's perfect nature. This is a deep and interesting metaphysical/theological claim. But it's one that can 'split the horns' of the dilemma. So our goal in this life is to do what we can to reconcile ourselves (read: our souls) with God so that, when we die, we can rejoin Him in a perfect state. This is a deeply complex story, and I don't fully understand it. But it seems (to me, at least) a very interesting story worth thinking about.

WolfGirl11
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WolfGirl11
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Peasant

yeah. sometimes i get really mad then i go okay again if u know what i mean.

WolfGirl11
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WolfGirl11
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Peasant

Hey, i got a question that everyone can maybe answer. What is God? Is he a man? Is he a Ghost? Is he a spirit?

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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Grand Duke

Sure, good night and see you around!

Succeeding at something certainly has value. But achievements - successes that are, in some way, difficult - seem to be valuable for their own sake. In short, by introducing the notion of suffering, God has actually increased the all-things-considered value that our world has.

This has the advantage of being congruent with the claim in psychology/neurology (I say claim because I am unsure how much of it is proven so far) that we need 'bad times' as calibration points to really feel good about the good things. If everything was fine, we would experience good things less strongly (I hope I am making any sense..).

The big flaw I see with this is when it comes to Heaven. Isn't Heaven supposed to be a perfect afterlife? I often think, for several reasons, that we cannot keep our human nature in Heaven. I mean sure, we'd be souls, but what difference does that make psychologically speaking? Anyway, it would be a perfect world that never ends, basically necessitating us to be lobotomized souls in order to not go crazy eventually.

Unless, like in certain religions, we are thought to lose our identity and "merge" with God?
nichodemus
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nichodemus
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Viceroy

That's a nice long post Moe. My friend also did offer me Answer 1, but I find it unsatisfactory because of its extremeness. I agree that the vicissitudes in life make the sweet things all the sweeter. But some of the suffering doesn't square up to it. I don't think some of the suffering in the world makes the good things all the more better because it is all cancelled out.I also find it unsatisfactory because….well suffering all seems very geographic, gender, racial, ethnic based? More often than not, we see certain groups suffering more than others, and I don’t think a benevolent god would so something terrible like that. But it does provide a more nuanced answer.

MageGrayWolf
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MageGrayWolf
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Blacksmith

A lot to go over here.

@popington

evolution seems way too far fetched to be anywhere near real...
so that means I'm left with religious ideas

I would be happy to explain the concept to you. In the mean time here is a collection of links that you can use to better educate yourself on the matter. Please take advantage of this as you clearly are ignorant of the subject.

so just as christians and jews ascribe supreme importance to God and/or Jesus, and Muslims to Allah, so evolutionists do to evolution.

I'm sorry if you did and i over looked it in these posts, but would you care to provide a definition of what you think evolution is?

@danwar123
[quote]Incorrect for both of those. The big bang was pretty much a massive explosion which created our universe.


evolutionists credit a lot of things to evolution. they make evolution an important thing. its like a god to them, but they dont worship it.they "believe" in it.[/quote]

It would be more accurately stated as an expansion of our universe rather than an explosion creating it.

Cool story bro, but not exactly. He'd probably be managing the universe and it's infinity with most of His omni-powers, and the rest of His attention would be on us. Also, maybe He doesn't want to interfere with us too much.

The way you put that makes it sound as if there is some limit to this power, which would negate it being omnipotence.

@WolfGirl11

okay! Hey, Got a question for u. EVERYONE should be able to say yes to it. Do u love God?

Which God are you talking about? Seeing as I don't believe any exist I will have to say no.

@Moegreche

I'm a little unclear these days on precisely what the big bang model says. It seems like this model is becoming less specific because we just don't understand the 'initial starting conditions' for our universe. So typically what we find is a statement about the conditions of the early universe (i.e. that is was really hot and really dense). This much is definitely true, but it's consistent with a number of starting conditions. What's more, it's consistent with a notion of a God.

It covers how the universe expanded from a very dense state. What the conditions of this dense state were has been in question however. Generally we have called it a singularity, which is basically a way of saying "we don't know" as our math at this point breaks down. However there have been some new models (which have been propped up inaccurate as suggesting the Big Bang never happened) that suggest the universe wasn't this singularity, but just a very dense state.

3) On causation.

I wish I could remember the examples given, but I was sitting in listening to a podcast where they two guys (one was a philosopher, not sure if the other was a physicist) and they pretty well destroyed this argument by pointing out that we do have examples in our universe of events without cause, or at least as far as we know.

Suppose that the world was such that everything came really easily for us. This would be the opposite of the problem of evil - there just is no suffering in the world. There are no obstacles to overcome and nothing seems to require very much skill. It turns out that such a world might not be a good as our present world, and the reason has to do with value.

There isn't just challenge to our world, but an overwhelming disparity going on. Also if we are speaking of how we are tot hat of having designed features, there is no reason we couldn't have been designed to function just fine in a world without obstacles.

This story matches up well with the religious one. We are in a state of being separated from God (think of Adam and Eve getting cast out of Eden). Our world - which is presumably reached through our choices - is one that is not (and cannot) be reconciled with God's perfect nature. This is a deep and interesting metaphysical/theological claim. But it's one that can 'split the horns' of the dilemma. So our goal in this life is to do what we can to reconcile ourselves (read: our souls) with God so that, when we die, we can rejoin Him in a perfect state. This is a deeply complex story, and I don't fully understand it. But it seems (to me, at least) a very interesting story worth thinking about.

Just how does one go about being separated from a being claimed to be omnipresent? One argument I've heard to explain this is that we actually aren't, that God is just making it seem to us as if we are. This however only speaks to a deceptive God.

For us to deal with the problem of evil I think we need to remove some quality often attributed to the Abrahamic God. Those being omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. If we remove one or more of these three qualities we could have a God and not have to worry about the problem of evil.

Thinking about it what would it even mean to be omnipotent and omnibenevolent? If we are speaking of God setting his own standards, omnibenevolence can mean whatever this God wants. Making the quality rather moot. If this state is being set by some other measure, wouldn't that go against the state of omnipotence? Since we are now speaking of a quality beyond this being and thus negating this being's omnipotence.

Moegreche
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Moegreche
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Duke

Just how does one go about being separated from a being claimed to be omnipresent?

This is a good objection to the separation view. I'm not sure about the actual theist story here, but I'd like to give a possible response. This is one, by the way, that I think the theist would (and probably should) adopt here.

In metaphysics, there's a question about what sort of things there are. Let's say you have a white piece of paper. That piece of paper is a particular - it's an individual object that can only be in one place at one time. But what about its properties, like whiteness, flatness, etc? One view is that things like whiteness are universals - they can be multiple places at the same time. Now, we don't need to come down on the question of whether whiteness is a universal. But we could say that God is like a universal. This would make sense, since He can be multiple places at the same time.

So how does this response work against the objection? The thought is that, while God is present in our world, He is never wholly present. That is, only some aspect of God is present. Whiteness, if it's a universal, exists outside of particular. It is just partly present in those things that are white. In a similar way, God exists in heaven, but we can partake in His nature.

As I'm writing this, I feel like it's just a lot of hand-waving. I don't really do metaphysics, so I'm definitely not explaining this as well as I could. But here's the basic line in a nutshell. God is everywhere. But wherever he is in our realm, He is never wholly present. And because of this, we are separated from God who is, in fact, wholly present in heaven. Or something like that...

Another story here might be that to say God is everywhere isn't really a claim about God's location. Maybe it's a way of saying that God's impact (or something like that) can be observed and/or felt anywhere in the world. But this sort of feels like dodging the question. I don't know what a religious person would say about this sort of move.

If we are speaking of God setting his own standards, omnibenevolence can mean whatever this God wants.

This is the classic problem known as the Euthyphro Dilemma. Put in modern terms, we might wonder what is a morally correct act. Is it something that's commanded by God? If so, then basically anything could be morally correct - morality seems arbitrary. So maybe God commands things because they're good. But now it looks like goodness is external to God. Since God is the fount of goodness, this line doesn't make much sense either.

I've always viewed this as an issue for grounding morality in Divine Command Theory. Though it does (as Leibniz pointed out) bring up an issue for why God is praiseworthy. If anything God does is good, then we would praise Him no matter what He did. But this hardly seems to be something that's praiseworthy. This is why Leibniz ends up bringing in the Principle of Sufficient Reason to bear on the issue. Though this move may not ultimately be very successful.

danwar123
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danwar123
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Ignoring @WolfGirl11...

Of course, that doesn't explain why he lets actual harm befall the faithful and the innocent, which is one of my doubts as well...

We don't know the full powers of Satan- For all we know they could be of similar strength. Scince God has to manage the infinitely expanding universe we live in, he could only direct so much strength to fighting Satan.Also, maybe it is to test whether you are actually faithful or just pretending.

Besides, I am probably getting this wrong, but then do those who go to Hell not have a soul at all? I mean, are they born soulless and thence evil, is this what you mean?

Spritually dead =/= not ever having a soul in the first place.

danwar123
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danwar123
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Jester

Sorry, didn't see that this page was a thing yet.

(2) God wants to stop suffering, but He can't (this challenges our idea of God as all-powerful).

As i said in my last post, we don't know the full power of Satan. Satan might even be similar in power to God, so the two have to spend some of their power fighting each other.

This is the classic problem known as the Euthyphro Dilemma. Put in modern terms, we might wonder what is a morally correct act. Is it something that's commanded by God? If so, then basically anything could be morally correct - morality seems arbitrary. So maybe God commands things because they're good. But now it looks like goodness is external to God. Since God is the fount of goodness, this line doesn't make much sense either.

Goodness is a standard set by god. What he says is good is good.

MageGrayWolf
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MageGrayWolf
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Blacksmith

@Moegreche

So how does this response work against the objection? The thought is that, while God is present in our world, He is never wholly present. That is, only some aspect of God is present. Whiteness, if it's a universal, exists outside of particular. It is just partly present in those things that are white. In a similar way, God exists in heaven, but we can partake in His nature.

If I'm understanding what you're trying to say here is that it's not a separation in an absolute sense. Rather it's a separation from certain aspect of God, which are localized in some sense. Would that be accurate?

@danwar123

We don't know the full powers of Satan- For all we know they could be of similar strength. Scince God has to manage the infinitely expanding universe we live in, he could only direct so much strength to fighting Satan.Also, maybe it is to test whether you are actually faithful or just pretending.

This is still speaking of this power as if it were finite. If we are speaking of a God that is all-powerful, that is without limits to it's power. This God could put power into one thing and still have unlimited power to do something else. Basically infinity minus whatever finite number you want to put, is still going to be infinity.

Goodness is a standard set by god. What he says is good is good.

This just leads us right back into the first issue at hand where anything could be morally correct.

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