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 bearleyport  asked me, a while ago, "What faith is not blind?"  

And in a world where so many people think their faith, their religion, is a valid reason to ask--nay, to demand--that everyone else should live the way the faithful person believes is The One Right Way, that's a very valid question.  Historically, religion and other unprovable beliefs have inspired people to do a lot of good in the world--and a lot of evil.  So this isn't just a question of what's real, it also touches on right and wrong, on making moral choices.  

My anthropological studies showed that people in all cultures believe in things that fall into the category of what we westerners call, variously, "religion", "superstition", "God (or Gods)", and so on, though their stories and verbal depictions vary from culture to culture and person to person.  Now, I should be clear here--all cultures seem to have beliefs that fall into this category, but the people in the culture do not have the same level of experiences of and belief in those things.

And not so long ago I read that some scientists have been studying mystical experiences, and have come to the conclusion that (whether genetically or for some other reason) some people have them and some people don't.  So, experiencing the holy, the , like seeing the difference between red and green, requires having the physical faculties to do so.  Or, perhaps a better analogy would be the ability to think the person you fell in love with is great, despite their flaws.

We have machines now, after all, that can distinguish between red and green--there's more than the agreement of some people who can perceive them available to convince red-green colorblind people that what they're missing out on is a real phenomenon.  For the mystical, the magical, the deific, we don't have that.

In the meantime, however, I am not willing to discount the evidence of my own senses just because not everyone senses the same things I do.   


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Dec. 1st, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
As you note, people have (or can learn) some ability to control how much of that wonder or terror they carry forward into their waking consciousness.
Dec. 1st, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
Of course, the unreal can be experienced; it is equally true that the real can go un-experienced.

I'm interested to hear what "mystical" experiences you have had in the context of religion, and why you decided they were unreal.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 1st, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
I don't think faith is synonymous with trust, though certainly people use it that way some of the time.

You can deny the reality of any deity, calling all mystical experiences "illusion", because these experiences are dreamlike. The existence of a deity hasn't yet been proved on the gross physical level of ordinary reality. At one time, people denied the reality of bacteria, but in time, we found ways to see and study them.

I think your "simple" position that there is no God is just as much a matter of dogmatic faith as my position that Deity/ies (in one form or another) exists.

think that the only assertion regarding God that is fully supported by logic is "we don't know".
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
"so long as we can't distinguish an existing god from an imaginary one, his existence is irrelevant."

I can agree that his/her/its/their existence is irrelevant to many questions. Not all.

"We're better off not believing in him."

Some people are, some people are definitely better believing in Deity.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, I agree about the language that basically means that God owns you; that was one of the things that had me reevaluating my birth religion. People are not property!

But this is not an argument about the existence of God, merely an argument about the functionality—or dysfunctionality—of many forms of Christianity, and any other religion that teaches that particular form of hierarchy.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
Have you heard (or read) Cat Faber’s song, Word of God? I think you would like it.

As to mythology—I know that you are aware that monotheism is not the only form of religion practiced today. Dismissing all other views of God besides the one foisted most insistently on people in today’s USA as “ancient mythology” may be an effective rhetorical tactic when arguing with fundamentalist Christians, but as an attempted critique of what I’m saying, it misses the point.
Dec. 2nd, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
The biggest problem I have with the fanatically religious is their tendency to believe that everyone must believe and live the way they do. I call it the “One True Way” hypothesis.

You saying “We’re better off not believing” sounds to me like another version of this—you want all people to abandon all beliefs in Deity, and believe the way you have chosen to believe.

I don’t think that we need to abandon belief, I think we need to abandon the idea that one religion is better than others. Just as any one particular, dogmatic, and detailed description of how a marriage should work will actively help some people, be ok for some people, and actively harm others, insisting that people follow any one religious belief (including atheism, which is an active belief about the existence and nature of God—atheists express a firm faith in the unprovable assumption that there is no God) will cause benefit for some and harm for some.

Mind you, I support your right to believe there is no God, I just think that it is logically as unprovable as my belief in Deity, given the evidence we have available today.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
I have had enough experiences, experiences that were clearer to me than, for instance, whether a musical note that’s almost true is slightly sharp or slightly flat, that I am convinced I’ve seen evidence of Deity. I feel it would be intellectually dishonest for me to claim a lack of belief when I have always believed, though logical evidence caused me to discard the particular description of Deity that was taught to me in childhood.

I went through a period of time when I wondered how I could believe in this “God”, when so many of the things I’d been taught were clearly not accurate. But that inner sense said that Someone was there, even if my elders were completely wrong about who that Someone is.

Also, it is my personal opinion that an essential part of Deity is Mystery. I don’t think Deity is like gravity, easy to prove and applying in the same way equally to everyone. (Deity might be more like an operating system—the same operating system, when interacted with through different programs, can behave very differently, sometimes not working at all.)

But even if the existence of Deity can someday be proved to the scientists and entrenched atheists, so long as the only tools we have to perceive Deity are the human mind/body/spirit system, and so long as people remain as different as they are today, there will be disagreement about who or what Deity is. (But then, even with all the evidence we have, there is disagreement about something as simple as the character of our current President, so that’s no surprise.)

I also think Deity is multiple—though either “multiple in actuality (for instance separate Gods and Goddesses)” or “a single being or force that manifests in multiple aspects/roles” would fit my experiences.

I don’t have scientific evidence; that’s why I say I “believe” in Deity, rather than “I know God exists, and God is (insert particular description)”.

I’m certainly not going to insist that anyone else should believe just on my say-so (not even my own daughter). But I’m also not willing to discount the evidence of my own senses and experiences, whether or not they can be repeated in a laboratory.
Dec. 1st, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
How do you distinguish dream from reality?

That question assumes that dreams aren't real. Dreams are real, and, in fact, some cultures give them equal stature with waking experiences.

Dreaming consciousness and waking consciousness are both important to being a healthy, sane human. As is the ability to tell them apart--a faculty that the crazy guy you describe above apparently lacked.
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(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
I can't prove I'm not making it up.

Nor can I prove that one of us is not being deluded by the imperfections and limitations of this physical existence--or, for that matter, which one.

Just as the majority of humans can tell the difference between red and green, the majority of humans think that some kind of deity exists. Of course, there's at least one chemical that definitely exists, but only minority of humans can taste it. In this life, we can only experience the things that our body/mind/spirit are equipped to experience.

So, when any of us has an experience that is "out of the box", that is unexpected or subtle or hard to put into words, or even just from a different state of consciousness than the ordinary waking consciousness (like a dream), we each have to interpret that experience as best we can.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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