A Philosopher's Blog

Can God Be Perfect if We Exist?

Posted in Metaphysics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on February 3, 2009

As I do every Spring Semester, I am teaching my Modern Philosophy class. While the Modern era was marked by the rise of what is regarded as modern science, it was also a time of great faith. Philosophers such as Descartes and scientists such as Newton advanced arguments for God’s existence and considered the impact of science on religion.

Currently, we are discussing Spinoza in class. Spinoza presents a rather interesting view of God in that he, Spinoza, is a pantheist. On his view, everything is God. This view contrasts sharply with the usual monotheistic view in which God exists apart from His creation (and, of course, us). For Spinoza, there is no such distinction-there is but one substance and this is God.

Having thought about his view and his argument for years, I still find it interesting and fairly powerful. In fact, his arguments seem to indicate that if we exist independently of God, then God cannot be perfect. The argument, which is so easy that it must be suspected, is as follows:

God is supposed to infinitely perfect and lacking in nothing. But, suppose that I exist apart from God. If so, God is lacking all that I am. In other words, my existence apart from God diminishes what He has and thus entails He is less than infinitely perfect. However, if I am part of God, then this would lead to pantheism. But that seems like madness.

One might object and  say that God is perfect even if I exist apart from Him because all his qualities are so much greater than mine. While he does not have what I am, what He has is infinitely greater. To use an analogy, one might say that my wealthy makes Bill Gates less rich because he does not have my meager wealth. Obviously, Gates is still vastly wealthy.

In reply, while God would be vastly more than I, he would still lack all that I am, because I am not a part of Him. Going with the wealthy analogy, Gates is super wealthy, but as long as I have even one penny that he lacks, his wealth is still diminished (even if only by one cent).

Another obvious tactic would be to define “perfection” in such a way that God could still be perfect and yet I (and the rest of you) can exist apart from him. In this case, perfection would be having all qualities to perfection-excluding those qualities that God lacks because we are not part of Him.

Yet another tactic would be to use the idea of eminent containment (having a quality in what we would call a “virtual” manner today as opposed to having the quality “for real”). On this view, God would have all our qualities without being us. Naturally, this might then lead someone to wonder why we would exist apart from God if He has all our qualities as well.

In any case, this is just a bit of rambling inspired by Spinoza…and that half marathon I ran Sunday (and presumably God did too).

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55 Responses

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  1. kernunos said, on February 4, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Excellent rambling. God obviously can create less perfection than God. God>Created.

  2. magus71 said, on February 4, 2009 at 5:03 am

    One would have to define perfection–a seemingly impossible feat–before one could answer that question.

    To make the argument that God is not perfect in a pantheistic universe is incorrect thinking if we examine only small parts of that universe to come to our conclusion. For instance: If we look at dismembered arm, we would say it is imperfect in that it cannot serve its purpose as part of a human body. However, if we would look at a full human body with all its members, we would say it is a “perfect” human body, in that it serves all of the functions that we expect a body to be able. The same could be said if we examine only humans. There are many parts to the universe after all.

    So–God defines perfection–not us.

  3. biomass2 said, on February 4, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Perhaps a philosopher can answer a question I’ve asked of several ministers. If a perfect, omnipotent God created Eden and Adam and Eve, A&E should not have been susceptible to evil, even if they were blessed with free will. A perfect God, capable of creating a Heaven where His followers could exist blissfully for eternity could create an earthly being with free will who could face evil (if that same God chose, for some reason, to create such a force) yet not succumb. For example, a perfect God should be capable of creating a world, beyond any man’s capacity to imagine:A world without pain, suffused with beauty and love,a world of unceasing interest and endless youth. In other words, he “could” create us, plunk us down in Heaven and we could live on basking in eternal happiness.
    So the big question, the answer to which seems to relate somewhat to God’s perfectioni: Without resorting to the usual platitudes used to explain away death, destruction, evil, pain, sorrow ( God has his plan; we have to experience pain (evil, ugliness,hatred etc. to appreciate good health, good, beauty, love, etc.) why, exactly has a “perfect” God chosen to put all of us smack dab in the midst of this world– and all the ugliness (and yes, beauty) it contains—and to keep us out of that great gated community in the sky until we accept Him?

    kernunos:Why would he choose to do so? If perfect, should he not be able to create an infinite number of perfect beings (you, me?) who can live in perfect bliss?
    magus71:Unfortunately, I can only use the definition of perfection I have access to. That would seemingly put God’s perfection beyond my/our understanding, but would it not also undermine/weaken any judgment God may make of non-believers to whom he’s provided inadequate information? And I know, I know, He’s only asking for our faith in Him and that will answer the questions. But that desire on His part makes him seem awfully human to me.

  4. kernunos said, on February 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Maybe God to understand his perfection would create the less perfect. I do not assume to know the motives of God but I assume by logic that if he can create ‘less perfect’ beings. Perfect bliss would also give no motivation to our existence. Without mans’ struggles there is nothing to do. In a comical sense if God created perfection it would sure be dull to look upon. Why not create a bunch of asshats he could look upon and slap his forhead and exclaim-“DOH!” every time we pull off another dumbass act. I’ld pull up a chair and get the popcorn for sure.

  5. kernunos said, on February 4, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Woops, I totally changed my thought process halfway through one of those sentences. <——-guilty!-not perfect.

  6. biomass2 said, on February 4, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Why would God need to understand his perfection? He’s perfect. Presumably, He would know that and understand that in a way no imperfect being could.

    Does logic (and man’s (mis)understanding and (mis)representation of God as omnipotent and/or omnipresent)create any barrier to God’s creating beings equal in power to Himself?

    And I’m bit uneasy applying logic to anything related to religion when the believer so frequently retreats behind the “need for faith”:”Why didn’t God create us perfect and place us in a perfect world?” Well, you have to take it on faith that he needs to separate those who would come to him from those who would not so that Heaven is ultimately inhabited only by the best. And God’s ways are unknowable to us except through faith. But on the other hand ,it’s only logical that God . . . .etc.

    By this mode of thought, a worldwide religion could flourish around the worship of a perfect, all-powerful office stapler and there would be no way to dispute the stapler’s existence or its claims.

    If perfect bliss is so boring and meaningless, imagine what hell Heaven must be!

  7. dynamomelano said, on February 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    biomass2: God created that perfect world that you talk about and only perfect beings, but the beings he created were given the choice to love him or not, that “free will”, some choose to love God and others choose not to; why would God want to have beings that love Him because they are made to love Him (if they were created that way)?, forced love is not real love; and why would evil people (who do not love God) be allowed in heaven? would they be happy there?; Adam and Eve lost perfection when they decided to sin, same with Lucifer when he decided he wanted Jesus’ place; God created Lucifer, not Satan, He didn’t create sin

    kernunos: there’s nothing boring with the description the Bible gives of Heaven

  8. Alexander Acosta said, on February 4, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    In essence, this post brigs up the Omnipotent Paradox:

    Can God lift a stone that he can not lift?

    If yes, he is not omnipotent if he can not pick up the stone.
    If no, he is not omnipotent if he can not create the stone.

    There is a religion called The Nation of Gods and Earths (AKA Five Percenters) and they refer to each other as “God.” They believe collectively they are God. Some of the most perstigious rappers from the “Golden Age” of Hip hop were apart of this religion or majorly influenced by it. Some of the most notable members are Rakim and some members of the Wutang Clan.

  9. Michael LaBossiere said, on February 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    A standard philosophical reason as to why God has to create imperfect things is:

    God cannot create another perfect being, because this being would be identical to Him. Since, as thinkers like Leibniz argue, you cannot have two identical beings, this would be impossible. As such, all created being must be lacking and hence subject to error.

  10. biomass2 said, on February 4, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Michael: Thus, God is incapable of performing the impossible?Would that conclusion apply to this world only, or would it also apply to other worlds where different manifestations of reality and logic may apply? There’s always someone out there who can quote passages from the Holy Bible that define His limitations? Where are they when you need them?
    Certain understandings of the term “omniscient” conjure a Deity unfettered by logic. One who is , for example, capable of creating a rock he cannot lift and, at the same time remaining omnipotent in the face of His inability to lift said stone. You say,”all created beings must be lacking”. Lacking what? God is not a created being, so I know that in the logical minds of philosophers He could be lacking in the ability to create another perfect being. But in the realm of faith, where religion exists, logic spends most of the time riding in the back seat.

  11. biomass2 said, on February 4, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    dynamomelano: “forced love is not real love. . .” If I choose to live my life just as you do–that is I honor my father and mother, I do not kill, I do not steal, and I follow all of the other social directives of the ten, but, unlike you, I refuse to proclaim faith in a God whose ways are simply not believable to me– what happens to me when the role is called up yonder?And what happens to you? The clear message when I attended church as a child was that I would be one who goes to Hell while you would go to Heaven. And the reason: I refuse to pay fealty to the jealous God of “perfect” love. The brain I was given at birth does not allow me to believe for the sake of believing.

    Pascal’s Wager always interested me. He says basically, one’s faith is based on a bet. Wager that He exists and you can’t lose. If He does exist, you go to Heaven;if he doesn’t, there’s no Hell to worry about. But if you don’t believe, and He exists, you go to Hell. If he doesn’t exist, you’ve gained nothing. I like it because it reduces the whole concept of faith, particularly a faith based on extreme reward and punishment tp little more than a gamble. And that’s exactly what it is for some Christians.There’s no “real love” when the love is based on a wager. And I’d like to think that those types of Christians won’t get through the pearly gates when the time comes.

  12. magus71 said, on February 5, 2009 at 4:01 am

    Soren Kierkegaard has the only answers for me. I’ll leave it at that as anyone can argue their way into any line of thought when it comes to God. Most people don’t even know how their refrigerator or toilet works so proposing to judge God by the fact that evil exists is the epitome of arrogance. And as far as him lifting rocks that can’t be lifted, as Einstein stated, that question assumes that time exists. Time does not exist, so most questions concerning God’s exact nature are fruitless until we’ve come up with a unified-theorum–which doesn’t look too probable.

  13. biomass2 said, on February 5, 2009 at 8:58 am

    It may be more like “proposing to judge God by the fact that evil exists” as an attempt to counter man’s “wish to combat all that’s evil in this world by the proposition that a God exists.”

    Toward the furtherance of the latter proposition Christian religion has the home field advantage. Its Bible and its interpreters set the rules. In churches across the western world ministers weekly provide quite specific explanations of God’s nature. And when questions such as I’ve raised in previous posts are asked they retreat to general and circuitous explanations.

    As I wrote earlier, taking this approach an office stapler or a wastebasket could be successfully defended as the perfect omnipotent creator of the known universe. I don’t really care about the immovable rock or those other logical or metalogical games. I’m doomed to the many limitations of my human mind, and one such limitation is my inability to pledge a sabbath day to a wastebasket.

  14. magus71 said, on February 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Every man must come to his own conclusions concerning God. You’ve obviously made your decision, biomass.

    You’re attempting to blame members of the church it seems, for your lack of answers. This is wholly unfair. Do you really expect them to have many more answers than you do? Or are you just trying to trip them up to prove to yourself what you already believe. Being right at the expense of others is so comforting, after all.

    I made my statement about Kierkegaard above. He said that it impossible to have absolute proof that Good exists. Many would deny God’s existence even if they had a Damascus Road experience.

    No, each man must choose what he believes, without an absolute knowledge of what life is really about. He must come up with his own reasons for living. I’ve come up with mine: Man is made to suffer and to keep on going…so that’s what I do. And my instincts and basic logic tell me there is a God, and I believe that the Christian story is more likely true than not.

  15. biomass2 said, on February 5, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    “You’re attempting to blame members of the church it seems, for your lack of answers. This is wholly unfair. Do you really expect them to have many more answers than you do?”

    No. And No. I’m pointing out that too many of them don’t have the answers, but they “claim” they do and they “threaten” God’s punishment for those who don’t accept the answers they provide. Turn on your TV on Sunday mornings and listen to the absolutist ramblings of the myriad representatives of God as they prance across the screen. Those men, and a few women, claim the answers (while, of course blaming the viewer for lack of faith if the “answer” fails). I watched my mother give much of the little money she had left to these religious hookers. I excoriate them (and more than a handful of ministers in frame and brick churches around the world) for their self-righteous, self-serving, callous, and borderline criminal actions, but I’m certainly not going to blame them for my lack of answers.

    There’s no “tripping up” involved when one sincerely asks a legitimate pastor to explain why the God the pastor believes in and has dedicated his life to has chosen to watch his creations suffer through the ages. It’s reasonable, I believe,to expect a strong believer to be able to state his position forcefully, effectively, and convincingly. To ask why God didn’t just create Heaven and skip the on-earth experience entirely is not a trick question. And to have someone who says he’s applying logic to the question response that he’s certain God has his reasons simply isn’t enough for me. But again, I’m not blaming the minister. He’s just not bringing enough to the table for me.

    In sum, I don’t blame anyone for what I don’t believe—except maybe God if he would happen to exist :). I’m comfortable with where I’m at. But I am forcefully criticizing those who “claim to have absolute proof that God exists” and try to wrap their claims in twisted “hyperlogical” explanations. I’m sure they’re comfortable too– unfortunately. I would be much more open to a return to the church if its admitted premise would be that there is no absolute proof of God’s existence (I would buy into the idea of some unexplained, incomprehensible, unnamed force in the universe.), that heaven an hell are nothing but mere metaphysical carrot and stick, and that the ultimate truth can be found within. Some hybrid of an Eastern religion anyone?

  16. kernunos said, on February 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Oooo, Biomass2 suggests a religious buffet. I’ll take the god-teriyaki and throw in some spaghetti and faith-balls.

    Seriously though, if you didn’t have to believe it was true, or more to the point, as long as the preacher etc… admitted that what he believed was not or may not be true than you might consider going? Did I get that right? I’m not sure getting you to go to church would be a fair trade for them.

    Most seriously though, I am an agnostic and I have to thank you for opening my eyes. there obviously is no God. Thanks and phew! Now to go ‘bugger’ anything that moves!

  17. biomass2 said, on February 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    kernunos: As to para. 2,I don’t think you got it quite right. I’m not really about fair trade with the clergy. Belief or admission that “. . .there is no absolute proof of God’s existence” is not synonymous with belief that no God exists. If I can admit to the possibility that there may be a God (albeit one in whom–because of the relative flimsiness of the framework around which His existence has been wrapped and presented–I cannot profess faith in) surely the minister who claims that the answers to so many of the difficult and/or impossible questions of the Christian universe should be taken on “faith” can take a teensey step back and admit to the lack of absolute proof of His existence.

    Re: Para.3: you raise a different issue here. Can morality (You are implying that “. . .bugger(ing) anything that moves!” is immoral, right?) exist without religion? I believe it can.

    But watch out for that hummingbird. He’s a swift little bugger.

  18. kernunos said, on February 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    I am not so sure there can be morality without religion or spirituality of some sort. I mean by definition yes but in practice I am not so sure it would happen on its own. Even our society is influenced by its religious past. The farther we get from it the more immoral we seem to become. Without a set of static rules of which is right and wrong you could total redefine your moral framework on the run and just justify it as moral to yourself whenever it was convenient.

  19. kernunos said, on February 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I am not sure where your argument is going to get you. A man of the cloth has faith that his God does exist and you have faith that there is no proof of God’s existence. It would be like you saying there is other intelligent life in the universe because of the statistical probability and me saying there isn’t because of the lack of absolute proof. Neither side can possibly sway the other. I am also not sure why it is so important for you to get people to relinquish their faith as it really does not effect you directly. In the end you are playing a game of ‘mental peanuckles’ like Steven Hawking. He is a smart man but totally wasting his time mentally. Imagine if he tried to do something useful with his brain. You do not have to believe and that is what is so great about it.

  20. Michael LaBossiere said, on February 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    There are numerous ethical theories that ground ethics on non-religious foundations: see those of Confucius, Aristotle, Plato, Mill, Kant, and many more.

    Also, even many religious thinkers ground ethics on something other than religion. After all, in order for God to be good, there must be an ethical system apart from God. See, for example, Kant’s argument to this effect. Aquinas also sets ethics apart from God’s will. In contrast, some thinkers contend that morality must be based on God’s will-see Dun Scotus (yes, his followers were called “dunces” and this led to the insult).

  21. biomass2 said, on February 5, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    God may or may not exist. There may or may not be proof. I haven’t seen it. Have you? Does that mean I “have faith that there is no proof of (His) existence. . .” ?

    “I am also not sure why it is so important for you to get people to relinquish their faith as it really does not effect you directly.”
    Seriously? Have I urged anyone to become a non-believer, or have I merely posed some questions that may test faith? It’s a widely held opinion that a faith untested is not a faith worth having.

    Specifically, as I’ve explained in detail above, no one has explained satisfactorily to me why God could not have, from the beginning, placed us in Heaven on earth for all eternity. If He had, no such testing of faith would be needed—and I/we would have nothing to do but be blissful or whatever it is that one does in Heaven.

    I’m waiting for someone to deal with a few of these questions without burying his/her answers in copious amounts of philosophical and theological(the “science” of religion?) excrement.It is interesting to see people scramble for the ‘it’s a question of faith ” button when they find that nothing else works. In the end, maybe that is what faith is all about. . . ?

    I might add, that, unlike so/too many Christians I, by definition, do not proselytize. I’m not trying to convert anybody to any other religion or belief system.

    Michael below has an interesting response to your previous post.

    I know you have designs on that hummingbird. Have you caught the poor little bugger yet? 🙂

    Sidenote: On Stephen Hawking’s behalf—I would like to ask your definition of the word “useful”.

  22. kernunos said, on February 6, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Yes, it is a question of faith and as simple as that.

    You said there is no absolute proof of God’s existence. Does this mean he exists or not to you? What say you? Proper discussion of the content requires us to know your motive or motives. Otherwise you just dart around acting intellectually aloof. Faith is not based on something you can grab, measure or quantify.

    No the hummingbird is too quick and there are none where I am at anyway. I figured a frozen tree would be better in the face of ‘man made global warming’ which seems to be building a faith system of its own.

    I never thought you were trying to convert anybody, I just found it curious that you were so concerned by the proof of something that is based on an individuals belief more than your own.

    As for Steven Hawking, his ramblings are less useless than your own as you have not really taken a stance where he has. You are darting around but not really picking a position other than questions. You are only asking questions you don’t think can be answered and in actuality can only be answered through one’s personal experience. Also Steven is at least making money on his ramblings so a quantitative monetary value can at least be placed on what he is doing. His uselessness lies though, in the ability to assail ‘faith’. By definition he cannot overcome it and he must realize this. His view is that people of faith are idiots and dunces for believing so. I would not be surprised if you felt the same.

    I just come from the belief that religion has its place in society. It is the building block for a cultures’ beliefs in right and wrong and gives a core set of morals and ethical behavior to that end. Of course your problem seems to be with Christianity but you have not exactly come out and said that. Will you?

    I will tell you though as an agnostic you really aren’t helping your cause.

  23. magus71 said, on February 6, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Dr. LaBossiere,

    It is true that the people you named had ethical beliefs not based on religion. But, that still doesn’t give them a very solid base in my opinion. It ends up being one’s opinion as to what is right and wrong. Afterall–they didn’t all come to the same conclusions about morality. We need a “battlesight-zero” it seems to me. We must know where we are starting from to know where we will end up. To measure anything, you must a have a beginning point. Of course man could make up his own beginning point–even people of the same religion don’t believe the exact same things.

    As for things like Confucianism, many of its followers adhere to its rules and rituals but actually follow other religions such as Shinto or Taoism. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but Plato still believed in “otherworldy” things such as Plato’s Theory of Forms.

    biomass:
    “I might add, that, unlike so/too many Christians I, by definition, do not proselytize. I’m not trying to convert anybody to any other religion or belief system.”

    At least Christians aren’t cutting heads off on YouTube. Perhaps all religions aren’t exactly alike.

  24. biomass2 said, on February 6, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Simply put: My cause/issue–as an agnostic (or whatever label anyone would care to apply here) -is to question a religion that from my earliest understandings and memories of what was being said from the pulpit and what I was reading in the Bible rendered it impossible for me to enter a spiritual relationship with its God.

    I believe I’ve specifically mentioned the Christian religion often enough in this thread to indicate my feelings. And I referred earlier to the specific aspects that I find unacceptable.1) Heaven and Hell. If your religion is worth anything, reward shouldn’t be necessary to encourage belief. Should we not do good because good is the right thing to do? It seems more than a little perverse to do good for the promise of what is essentially an eternal lollipop. And the fires of Hell, while they may be appropriate for murderers and child abusers should not be applied to those who refuse to bow down to the jealous God of the faith. 2)I find troubling the concept of a loving God who/that receives endless kudos from the faithful for everything good that transpires but can simultaneously be the author of endless suffering for which He faces no criticism (He has His reasons-not for us to undertand.)3. The faith is primarily outward-facing. If anything, introspection is discouraged. This is true of Christian religion and any religion with similar characteristics. I present the same question as I stated earlier: Far Eastern religions anyone? Something more abstract. Give God human traits like wrath and jealousy and you’re in trouble. I hope I’ve said this often enough so you know where I stand.

    Again, whether religion is necessary for the development and furtherance of core values, etc. is debatable. You wrote earlier: “The farther we get from it (our religious past)the more immoral we seem to become.”I just thank God we don’t burn or boil heretics anymore. We don’t go on Crusades. That’s a moral code I can do without.The concept of morality varies from society to society, and within society from time to time. I cannot see how we can evolve–and I do accept the concept of evolution–if every aspect of our existence does not evolve as well. Also, we should not ignore the often disastrous effect of non-religious factors (political, socio-economic) when assessing our current “moral” climate.

    Years ago I came to the understanding that religion is a necessary social force that, along with our laws and our societal structure, keeps the forces of evil under control. But you know my objections to religion.So there you go. Earlier you said “I [referring to yourself] am an agnostic”. Now you say, “I will tell you though as an agnostic you really aren’t helping your cause.” I’m assuming you’re referring to my agnostic views and not to your views (as an agnostic) of my views. In either case, I could give a flying plop about the “agnostic” cause–whatever that is. Go that direction and you are stepping one, two, three toes into the realm of a kind of faith I find unacceptable.

    “His view is that people of faith are idiots and dunces for believing so. I would not be surprised if you felt the same.” I’ve been very happily married for years to a person of faith. She lives her faith, and that faith is not dogmatic or condescending or hateful. She has made her own faith within the framework of a formal church.She’s what a “person of faith” should be. A more direct response to your statement: Some–too many–are “idiots and dunces” because they accept unquestioningly and misuse, often to horrendous effect, the faith they claim.

    On a lighter note–:)You wrote earlier that you were going to”‘bugger’ anything that moved” The hummingbird was just a suggestion. A caterpillar perhaps?:)

  25. biomass2 said, on February 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    magus 71:”At least Christians aren’t cutting heads off on YouTube. Perhaps all religions aren’t exactly alike”
    Perhaps. Too bad camcorders and cell phones with video cameras weren’t invented before the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials. Everyone in the “in” crowd would have wanted his/her very own rack. And Giles Cory’s torture would most certainly have gone viral within hours. It’s heartening to see that some evolution has occurred in the Christian religion over the last 5-600 years.

    If anyone would, for some reason, wish to respond to my latest posts, don’t expect a prompt answer.
    I’ll be vacationing until Feb. 17. . .

  26. magus71 said, on February 7, 2009 at 4:33 am

    So you’re sying you fear Christian attrocities? LOL!! Riiiiight…

    Go to Bahgdad, or Kabul. Tell me what you see and why you’re seeing it.

    About 24 people died because of the Salem Witch Trials. We’re still tallying in regards to the Global Jihad.

    Chow.

    • biomass2 said, on February 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm

      “So you’re sying you fear Christian attrocities?”
      I said that??

      I believe I ‘implied’ that I detest Christian atrocities. The victims of the Crusades, the burnings of the 14th to 16th centuries, the Inquisition, and the witch trials numbered far more than 24. And those were victims of official church policy, not of the fanatic fringes of the belief in question.

      I’m ‘saying’ that I find a belief system that has at its core a wonderful text like the Sermon on the Mount–yet can ‘justify’ multiple thousands of killings by pointing to specific lines in the ‘Old’ Testament as interpreted by ‘wise’ men of God– is horrifically inconsistent.

  27. kernunos said, on February 7, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Happy vacation.

  28. magus71 said, on February 21, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Inconsistant and un-Christian.

    The actions of Muslim extremists are not inconsistant with the teachings of Mohammed. Well, most of them anyway. Depends what mood he was in when he was writing certain passesges.

    “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.”

    ”Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind”

    Both Mohammed. Now THATS inconsistant.

    • biomass2 said, on February 21, 2009 at 11:24 am

      Someone should tell the leaders of the church that their actions in the 14-18th centuries were un-Christian. They apparently found adequate Biblical justifications for their actions. . .

      “Well, most of them anyway.” So most of Mohammed’s teachings are rooted in violence? An interesting claim. And by most I assume you mean 50% or more?

      Here’s God speaking:”Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1st Sam 15:2-3) I’ll make a less precise claim: ‘Some’ of God’s teachings are rooted in violence. Does that make Christianity better than Islam?

      Seems that so many discussions of religion degenerate into a battle of selected quotations. Let’s not devalue the discussion one step further by introducing a spurious battle over quantity. It interests me not if the actions of a church are 30% inconsistent or 70% inconsistent with its writings.

      The inconsistencies speak for themselves.

      Note: It could be easily argued that Mohammed is not alone in his moodiness. God is sometimes loving, sometimes wrathful.

  29. kernunos said, on February 21, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Disbelievers seems more encompassing than Amalekites.

    • biomass2 said, on February 21, 2009 at 9:37 pm

      “Disbelievers seems more encompassing than Amalekites.”

      As I wrote—“It interests me not if the actions of a church are 30% inconsistent or 70% inconsistent with its writings.” It’s strange, don’t you think, to be contrasting religions on the basis of which one is the ‘least violent’ at its core or on the basis of which religion’s god is the ‘least vindictive’?

      I’ve heard (perhaps you have, too)some Christians speak of their efforts to be as much like God as they can be in their everyday lives. With the low bar He’s set, it’s no wonder some are so vindictive and violent (abortion clinic bombers, for example).

      It’s consistent with the position I’ve taken throughout this discussion that I would expect a god that/who is neither vindictive nor violent– a god who does not embody perfect good ‘and’ perfect evil–but a god that/who is perfectly good.

      Oh, by the way, I experienced back spasms two days into our vacation and was confined to bed for three days. Thanks for the vacation wishes. . .:)

  30. magus71 said, on February 22, 2009 at 4:49 am

    I’ve never said that the Bible (or God for that matter) promotes ONLY peace. Frauds say such things.

    Another thing. The Amalekites were the first tribe to confront the Israelites when they were freed from slavery. They first tried to exterminate the Israelites. Bad choice. The war continued through generations until finally they made the mistake of attacking a Hebrew settlement, burning the town and capturing the women and children. It was a bad day to be an Amalekite really, because they’d irritated the greatest of Israelite warriors–David–by taking two of his wives. He commenced the war of extermination and won. Sounds fair to me.

    Jesus speaking: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

    My point is that Islam is not the Religion of Peace. Neither is Christianity. But yes, Christianity is “better” as we can see by what’s happened to nearly all of the countries who have predominanty practices it as compared to those who are domintated by Islam. Also, the reactions to cartoons are a good measure of the value of certain religions…Need I post the cartoons the mock Jesus’ death all over the internet, and then compare the Christian reaction to Islam’s, when the Prophet was assailed?

    I’m distrustful of any Prophet where one dude writes all of its sacred texts, and where that dude ends up being able to have multiple wives as a result of his revelations.

    Joseph Smith
    Jim Jones
    David Koresh
    Mohammed

    As for more than 50% of the Prophet’s (Praise Be Upon His Name) statements promoting violence–I’ll just leave your own statement to do my work: “They apparently found adequate Biblical (read: Koranic) justifications for their actions. . .”

    Again, to compare Christianity to Islam NOW, your position is lost on me. You’re taking the classic Liberal’s stance of defending the greater of two evils by pointing out the deficiencies of the lesser. Just like on another post where someone defends legalizing drugs by pointing out all of the evils of legalized alcohol.

    Oh–and people don’t need religion as a reason to kill. They only need be sufficiantly powered by hate of any type.

    But I do agree with Major Payne: “Some people just need killin’.”

  31. biomass2 said, on February 22, 2009 at 11:09 am

    “My point is that Islam is not the Religion of Peace. Neither is Christianity.” Finally. Is Christianity a Religion of Love? Forgiveness? Intolerance?

    “Christianity is “better” . . .” My religion’s better than his. . . . My fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the holy text is better than your Methodist interpretation or his Catholic interpretation. . . Oy!

    “I’m distrustful of any Prophet where one dude writes all of its sacred texts. . .” I’m not too keen on a religion whose main text is penned by many men over centuries, edited by many over more centuries, then interpreted for the general public by a relative few who claim direct inspiration from their god. And I’m not certain why having multiple wives should be a disqualifying factor. For that matter, considering all that we cannot ‘know’ about God, He may have multiple wives as well.

    You seem to be misconstruing my comments here. You should know that I have ‘never’ defended Islam as better than Christianity. For certain, there’s a hair’s-breadth difference between Fundamentalist Christians who blow up abortion clinics and Muslim jihadists. They’re expecting either streets paved with gold or a crowd of(I’m thinking scabrous) virgins in return for violent actions against their fellow man—based on interpretations of a text that the best scholars in their respective religions don’t agree on.

    And even in this century and last both religions’ radical actions have been approved by some leaders in certain wings of their churches. “Both” religions suffer from the same problems I’ve described in many posts above. It just so happens that Christianity is further evolved than Islam. It may well be that Islam is incapable of evolving. On that point Christianity may be a ‘winner’, if you will. But it’s still a religion. With lots of inherent inconsistencies that it consistently glosses over or denies.

  32. magus71 said, on February 23, 2009 at 5:14 am

    But unlike the countries where Sharia is Law, you don’t have to worry very much about other’s interpretation of Christian scripture. Do you worry about bombs going off because of Christians? I mean really–if I find a story where a 12 year old killed his father, do I run for cover when I see a 12 year old? It’s obviously a mtter of proportion and rate of occurance. And in this country–it’s ILLEGAL to blow up abortion clinics. In Iran however, it’s completly within the law to stone 13 year old girls to death for kissing a boy. Did our founding fathers hold to the type of Christianity you seem to believe is the paradigm? They make it pretty clear, especially Jefferson, that individuals must come to their own conclusions. I believe the same, and have always been taught that–by Christian ministers.

    “For certain, there’s a hair’s-breadth difference between Fundamentalist Christians who blow up abortion clinics and Muslim jihadists.”~ You’re going to make me find the numbers again, aren’t you?

    And yes, your criticism of Christianity does appear a defense for Islam–if only to irritate a Christian.

    And yes–I do think Christianity won. It evolved–or it’s believer’s did. Idiots like John Locke helped it along. Oh yeah and that other Christian fool–Newton. Islam on the other hand, calcified an entire culture.

  33. biomass2 said, on February 23, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    magus71: You’ve offered a very effective argument for the separation of church and state. Thank you.

    Christian prayer in schools;ten commandment wall hangings in public places; the teaching of creationism (oops! pardon, Intelligent Design); implicit religious test for public office (say “God Bless America” at the end of every speech and be certain the public sees you in church; at every opportunity publicly proclaim your faith–even if you have none—, especially on the campaign trail.And did I mention Terry Schiavo? Now mix in the ever-increasing number of Bush-appointed highly conservative federal judges and the changing social complexion of the Supreme Court. Then consider the decisions they may hand down on the issues listed above. To this frothy brew add the increased political influence from the pulpit of the likes of Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell (oops!R.I.P.). And don’t forget James Dobson’s influence. Now you have a sense of where the country ‘could’ go if church-state separation is nullified by a politically effective minority. Scenario:If John McCain had won in November and died in March, Sarah Palin would have become the smiley-face standard-bearer for all of the above attacks on the 1st Amendment and personal freedom for another four years. What would keep us, then, from becoming a religious state?
    The CONSTITUTION. And there’s not one mention of God in it.

    “They make it pretty clear, especially Jefferson, that individuals must come to their own conclusions. I believe the same, and have always been taught that–by Christian ministers.” 1/And I believe the same. But that’s not the way I was taught–by a Christian minister– until I was 14 and walked away. And some 50 years later there are even more ‘Christian(Fundamentalist)churches’ here in my neck of the woods that preach an ever-more-limiting message than I was exposed to. 2/ In fact, ‘most’ of the FFs weren’t Christians. . .

    The mere fact that you experienced one type of Christian teaching and I was exposed to another, might tell us something about the differences within the Muslim world. The religion claims over a billion adherents,but our Western focus on the religion seems to be on the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and on Iran. All Muslims aren’t devils, and all interpretations of Sharia law are not the same. If you go to Morocco,you’ll find a peaceful country, with a monarch, and a ‘Constitution’ with religious elements. If that constitution fails its citizens, it will be because of the religion.

    If you buy into slippery slope thinking, religion (in the forms I’ve listed in my first paragraph)could plant the seeds of failure in our government. I personally think the ‘slippery slope’ is BS;the inevitability it assumes implies predictability,and there’s too much going on around us that proves the outcomes of complex, or even simple actions cannot be predicted. For example, I don’t accept the idea that a law requiring gun locks will lead to the confiscation of all of our arms. And neither, I believe, would the Founders.I do not see in the 2nd Amendment a restriction on all regulations of firearms. Government safety requirements do not necessarily ‘infringe’ on one’s rights—although, as a side note, I do believe that motorcyclists should be free to leave their helmets at home and splatter their brains over our highways and byways (just so my insurance rates don’t increase as a result 🙂 ) And I don’t believe that improving or increasing social programs will inevitably lead to socialism.
    So it is ‘possible’,that allowing the above mentioned invasions of the state by religion may do no harm. . .

    “And yes, your criticism of Christianity does appear a defense for Islam–if only to irritate a Christian.” I’m willing to bet it would only appear a defense of Islam to a specific Christian–one who hadn’t objectively read all that I’ve written above about “religion ‘in general'”. Surely an outsider would see that I’m criticizing all religions as they’ve represented themselves at one point or another in their evolution. (Fundamentalist Christianity is one growing branch of the Christian evolutionary tree. Do you think it could/should be lopped off? ). In any case, I’m willing to risk your misinterpretation just for the sake of furthering this discussion.

    “You’re going to make me find the numbers again, aren’t you?” No. God no. 🙂 As I wrote before in regard to other violent aspects of these two religions, the numbers cloud the issue. Whether it’s 20 or 400, 40,000 or 1,000,000, it’s violence in the name of beliefs that are subject to wildly divergent (mis)interpretation. Remember Pat Robertson’s statements about earthquakes, and Dover, Pa., and Hugo Chavez? His audience and others are a small but influential minority that wielded disproportionate political power over the past decade or so. The 700 Club in Asia and India. Oh, my.:( And James Dobson obliquely/politically implying that the WTC tragedy was the kind of punishment our country deserves for abortions, profanity, etc. . .

    Our difference here, overall, is that you’re religious and I’m agnostic (I’d be areligious, if I could avoid caring)—whatever label you wish to apply. I suspect our differences have many sources, and as such, like holy texts of ‘all’ religions, those sources could be analyzed to death to no real purpose.Condensing what I wrote in my earlier posts: Take out the mythological narrative and the hokum and the contradictions in the Bible (or other texts of other religions) and you’d have a wonderful document that prescribes socially acceptable conduct—about 2 pages long, double-spaced with a 1 1/2 inch margin on the left and 1″ margins top, right, and bottom.

  34. magus71 said, on February 24, 2009 at 5:10 am

    I advocate the separatipon of church and state. When have I ever not? I’d probably disagree with some as to what they means. It certainly doesn’t mean that the President can never mention God in a speech. We’re far from being a religious state. that’s just fine with me. And I’m all for allowing someone to misinterpret religious texts. That what we’re allowed to do here in America as long as your misinterpretation doesn’t result in my death or dismemberment. I’d also like to point out though, that uncomfortable interpretations of religious texts does not make them untrue.

    And I don’t believe that scripture holds the answer to all of men’s questions. It doesn’t show me how to fix my toilet for instance.

    God left some things up to us. Drano please…

    In the end, I guess I’m more an idealist than I care to admit. I think the world and the universe are moving toward something better. Lord knows what…

    That’s it–I’m now the Political Idealist. No government sponsored socialism though–or what Dostoyevsky called collective misery–only the socialism of groups like friends, family and US Army Brigades.

  35. biomass2 said, on February 24, 2009 at 11:43 am

    “. . .only the socialism of groups like friends, family and US Army Brigades.”
    Am I misreading, or does the phrase”We, the people. . .” represent, for you, such a relatively small group?Here’s why I ask that: “. . . as long as your misinterpretation doesn’t result in my death or dismemberment.” Perhaps your choice of wording here is simply a bit hasty, or perhaps it says more than you realize about your views. Simply put: Would you consider replacing the word “my” with “any person’s” before the words “death or dismemberment”? Remember, the Justice Holmes line about ‘falsely’ screaming “Fire” in a crowded theater” does not read “Free speech does not give one the right to falsely yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater. . .especially if I’m in it.”

    “And I’m all for allowing someone to misinterpret religious texts.” the real rub with (mis)interpretations of holy text, it seems to me, is that ministers (or terrorist leaders for that matter–see 2 paragraphs down), often claiming a personal line to God (perhaps they’re using the ‘internets’ now) :), make claims that DO harm people based on interpretations of cherry-picked verses from the holy text. Those interpretations may be right OR wrong. If wrong they’re false. In your words–“Lord knows.” If they’re false ‘and’ endanger or harm others (like yourself perhaps if ‘you’re’ on the wrong side of the misinterpretation). . .Well, you know the rest.

    Hiding behind the ambiguity of the scripture and the supposed connection to God mentioned above( which they often ground in a ‘calling’ that may have been little more than a temporal lobe seizure or the need for a steady job —sorry if I’ve had one too many Swaggarts and Haggards and Catholic child rapists) ministers like the ones I mentioned earlier can and have incited hatred and hateful acts against gays, abortion doctors, different races, etc.

    “I’d also like to point out though, that uncomfortable interpretations of religious texts does not make them untrue.” Psst! Don’t mention that to Al-Queda’ 🙂 But seriously—it all depends on which side of the discomfort one resides, right?

    “And I don’t believe that scripture holds the answer to all of men’s questions. It doesn’t show me how to fix my toilet for instance.” Thank God. What would Joe the Plumber do? Probably write a book about his area of expertise–politics. 🙂 And with all those complicated directions, the concise document I wistfully imagined in my last reply would be 3 pages long. 🙂 .

    Just another thought on the relentless march toward the joining of church and state: It seems to me a supreme irony that, in a country where a ‘moral majority’ complains incessantly of government attempts to eliminate God from our lives, the following three statements are true. 1/ As I earlier mentioned, the word “God” never appears in our Constitution. 2/ “In God We Trust ” appeared on our money for the first time during the Civil War—more than 70 years after the penning of the Constitution.3/ And the phrase ” under God” didn’t appear in the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 more than 60 years after the pledge itself was written. I, too, advocate church/state separation. I also feel we need to show constant, reasoned diligence to maintain it.

  36. magus71 said, on February 25, 2009 at 5:30 am

    “the real rub with (mis)interpretations of holy text, it seems to me, is that ministers (or terrorist leaders for that matter–see 2 paragraphs down), often claiming a personal line to God (perhaps they’re using the ‘internets’ now) , make claims that DO harm people based on interpretations of cherry-picked verses from the holy text. Those interpretations may be right OR wrong. If wrong they’re false. In your words–”Lord knows.” If they’re false ‘and’ endanger or harm others (like yourself perhaps if ‘you’re’ on the wrong side of the misinterpretation). . .Well, you know the rest.”

    This has always been my point about morality, ethics and the use of force. I fully admit that ethics are substantially subjective. The results of force are not. As Thomas Hobbes stated, there are arguments which will never be solved by words. We ourselves can remain peace-loving, but we can never gaurantee that others will see things the same. So have a bigger gun than everyone else, and know how to shoot it more skillfully. In the mean-time, smile and be generous to humanity.Drink beer. Kick ass when the time comes. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    As far as socialism, well that’s a matter of gradation, right? The argument is where the tipping point is. America has always had an anarchistic aspect to it. Much of what has been accomplished in our country is do to the fact that Americans help each other, much of the time, without the government mandating they do so. This is a much under-appreciated aspect of this country. It’s a high-trust society. You know of the old barn-raisings, where everyone would show up on a Sunday to help out? That’s an American style. Go to places that are really bad, like Afghanistan and every dude is walking around with an AK-47 starpped to his back waiting for his neighbor to attack. Not here. For the most part, not in the West.

    Religion: We’re far less religious today than in past generations. No reasonable person would deny this.

  37. biomass2 said, on February 25, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    There’s a gaping difference between force used to advance beliefs that are based on human interpretations of (often minor) portions of so-called holy texts and force used in self defense. One is an action, the other a reaction. X chooses to harm Y because of his race or his sexual orientation or his religion, or his views on abortion, etc. Y, is killed or,in self defense, kills X. If X is a religious person–and this includes church leaders—it should not be unreasonable, for example,to at least expect him/her to avoid initiating, perpetuating, condoning, or recommending (or even subtly ‘insinuating’ recommendation or approval of) violent actions that are not directly related to self-defense.

    Perhaps we should encourage Y to preemptively kill X because X represents a clear threat to Y. . . ? 🙂

    “So have a bigger gun. . .smile and be generous to humanity . . .Drink beer . . . “I agree. Esp. on the beer/generosity connection. 🙂 One small caveat to consider: The richest man can always purchase the most powerful weaponry and can always afford to hire the forces necessary to use it. I ‘hope’ the Founders, when they wrote the Second , weren’t trying to guarantee the survival of the richest businessmen, gang leaders, those who would benefit from stupendous gains realized as a result of a full repeal of the estate tax, etc.

    “As far as socialism, well that’s a matter of gradation, right?” Well. Yes. No. Maybe. . . In the convoluted minds of some (I won’t stoop to name-calling here, but they know who they are.) the subject is black-and-white. They automatically assume that any societal tweak aimed at improving the public welfare (in the “adjustment” sense, not in the “teasing” sense) is socialism. “My gracious!” they moan. “It’s a social program; it must be socialism.” And other such absurdities. Apparently, they would like us to believe that capitalism cannot withstand tweaking–it’s either pure or it’s corrupted. The current view looking down on Wall Street is that it’s pretty corrupted, and “socialism” had nothing to do with it.

    We left the early twentieth century behind about forty years ago. The concept of community disappeared into the fog of the “me-me-me” generation. Perhaps it all began even earlier with the invention of the automobile. Or with interstates. Or airplanes. They all undermined the nuclear family that was, after all, the core of your understanding of community. If generations of children move somewhere else, what is the community to consist of?

    These days, you’ll find the kind of”community” you’re referring to among the Mennonites and the Amish. They still have barn-raisings. Can you think of many of other situations like that? In the small town I live in, they’ll sometimes have cookie sales, or they’ll have collection cans next to the cash register at the grocery store, or they’ll have food drives for the poor, but the result is a pittance compared to what’s really needed.

    With the economic crisis hitting the “Me” generation smack between the eyes, the flow of money from non-governmental sources will slow even more as people choose their full-access cable and their bullet-speed internet, their cigarettes and their beer and their SUV’s, over contributing, without mandate, to the public good.

    The citizens of twenty-first century hamlets and cities are, more likely than not, incapable of providing the resources (financial and otherwise)that are necessary to deal with the problems that communities face. Sometimes they’re also hesitant or downright unwilling. Katrina? Sure there was help from around the country and around the world. But as inept as the government was in handling the situation, the government was still necessary to bring New Orleans back as far as it has come.

    On a closely related subject, I want to get into misunderstandings about Social Security and Medicare, and how ‘little’ individuals, without government, can actually accomplish when faced with the overwhelming needs of the millions upon millions of elderly poor, survivors, disabled and medically needy in this country—but we can deal with that at another time.

  38. biomass2 said, on February 26, 2009 at 12:04 am

    I forgot this part earlier: “Religion: We’re far less religious today than in past generations. No reasonable person would deny this.”

    A “reasonable” person would expect you to provide some evidence to back up your claim. In the last paragraph of my post previous to your last post I showed several concrete instances where religion has expanded its presence in the governmental sphere in the last 200 years. We also know that 80% of Americans believe in Heaven. Even if 100% believed in Heaven in 1800, a drop of 20% hardly qualifies us as being “FAR less religious”–unless of course you define “far less” as 20% or more. . .or you’ve got a specific definition of “religious” in mind.

    So, prove your claim. With a statement this broad and abstract you’ll only be able to claim success after you’ve 1/defined terms and 2/provided evidence that fits those terms and 3/ put it all together in an effective/ reasonable manner.

    1/ Define your terms. What exactly do you mean by “religious”. Are you referring to actions? Professions of belief? Is it evidenced by a drop in acts of benevolence and/ or a rise of acts of evil in our society? What qualifies as evil in this consideration? ? Foul words? Corruption in business? Lying on your tax form? Breaking one or all of the Ten Commandments? Adult tv comedies. Being a liberal? Being conservative? Wearing short skirts? As mentioned before: What, exactly, does “FAR LESS religious” mean? Are we talking a measly 20% drop? 40%. How is that percentage to be measured? Or is there, perhaps, another “reasonable” way to measure?

    2/Find an “reasonable” amount of TRUE (not manufactured) supporting evidence.

    3Present 1 and 2 above in a manner so logical (“reasonable”) that “no reasonable person [could] deny [it]”.

  39. magus71 said, on February 26, 2009 at 2:50 am

    All I can say is it always sucks to be on the losing side–whether you’re right or wrong in a metaphysical sense.

  40. biomass2 said, on February 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Yeah. I’ve been there a few times myself.

    But trust me–after time the wound will heal. Just follow you own wise advice: “In the mean-time, smile and be generous to humanity.Drink beer. Kick ass when the time comes. Wash, rinse, repeat.” 🙂
    The generosity is most important. Here’s some of the printed message that my wife brought home from last evening’s Ash Wednesday service.

    “-Have mercy on us Lord.-
    Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, we confess to you.
    -Have mercy on us Lord.-
    Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, we confess to you.
    -Have mercy on us Lord.-
    Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, we confess to you.
    -Have mercy on us Lord.-
    Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people.”

    It’s an open, church-wide, not-too-specific confessional. I know that at least one person, my wife, paid close attention to the meaning while reciting the text. Let’s hope the majority of the congregants weren’t merely mouthing the words.

    • magus71 said, on February 26, 2009 at 11:40 am

      “everyone wants to change the world. Nobody wants to change themselves.” ~Leo Tolstoy

      Yes, generosity is the most important–and the most obvious. I hate reciting the obvious too often; it bores me.

      • biomass2 said, on February 26, 2009 at 4:58 pm

        Is your underlying point here that “everyone” would like the world to be more generous, but that “nobody” wants to personally be more generous?

        Assuming you and I are already generous and understanding, must we change ourselves or want to change ourselves? Of course, a useful answer would depend heavily on (y)our definition(s) of “generous”, wouldn’t it?

        It’s interesting to note that a quick google of the Tolstoy quotation provides several variants– some of which replace one or both occurrences of “wants” with “thinks of”, or “wants to consider.” The quotations appear frequently, but I’ve found no specific textual reference, and my trusty old Oxford Dictionary of Quotations didn’t help me. So, I’m forced to ignore that whole problem at this point and move on to what is, after all, a more important issue.

        Even Leo Tolstoy,it would seem, if this snippet is truly representative of the context from which it came, is subject to rash generalizations: “everyone wants”. . . .”Nobody wants to change themselves.” Leo, are you serious?

        “Nobody wants to change themselves.” Would that mean born-again Christians were deceiving others and/or themselves when they presented themselves before God “seemingly” desirous of the change that they had heretofore been unable to achieve on their own.If they didn’t want to change, why did they make the positive move to come to God? Note that I’ll not be easily convinced that “every” person who eventually becomes a born- again Christian experienced some kind of spiritual epiphany that caused him/her to want and seek the change.

        “I hate reciting the obvious too often; it bores me.” ME, TOO. 🙂 But, in my judgment, I’ve had to do it too many times on this blog alone, and not just to clear up my personal failure to clearly communicate a point. Often enough I have to repeat something to clear up misunderstandings (often unintentional, but sometimes, I fear, ‘intentional’) on the part of my reader.

        Finally, to tie this all together, here’s one thing that bores me even more than continually restating the obvious–since not enough ideas are obvious in ‘this’ world: absolute words being used to explain the human condition. Everybody. Nobody. Never. Always. Etc. Such words are ‘sometimes’, ‘too frequently’, ‘often’ (take your pick)— anything but ‘always’ or ‘without fail’, or variants thereof :)— signs of soft thinking.

  41. magus71 said, on February 27, 2009 at 2:47 am

    Sigh…. Really, biomass, must I put a disclaimer behind my always’ and my nobodies?

    Any tactical victories you’re gaining from slicing up people’s paragraphs are failing to amount to any strategic victories.

    I simply don’t know what your thesis is.

  42. biomass2 said, on February 27, 2009 at 8:47 am

    “Really, biomass, must I put a disclaimer behind my always’ and my nobodies?” Nah. But you ‘could’ wear a lapel pin that states “I don’t “always” mean “everything” that I write.” That might work. 🙂

    “I simply don’t know what your thesis is.” If not by now,you never will, I guess. 🙂 But I suspect you do, and I’m no longer of a mind to explain it.

  43. biomass2 said, on February 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Did I say ‘never’ in that last post? Oh, I qualified it with an ‘I guess’. No problema. . .

  44. Nathan Creitz said, on May 8, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Yes.

  45. […] God Be Perfect if We Exist? July 16, 2009 An interesting post at A Philosopher’s Blog: Can God Be Perfect if We Exist? Currently, we are discussing Spinoza in class. Spinoza presents a rather interesting view of God in […]

  46. bwinwnbwi said, on June 6, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Hi Dr. Mike. After posting on your blog yesterday, I wondered if Dr. Mike has a blog on God (I’m strongly invested in that topic also), so today I wrote “philosophy of god” in wordpress search engine and up popped a lot of opportunities to post, but I didn’t find you; that is I didn’t find you until after I found an appropriate blog to post in (I guess that depends on how conservative the divinity student is,–it might not be acceptable). Anyway, I still clicked a few more numbers and found you around seven or eight; so here is today’s post on God (the title “God is…therefore I am” was the reason I chose the divinity students blog).

    God is….therefore I am! I couldn’t agree more. However, I, (like you), came to this realization by following my own individual path. My comment here comes from a partial rendering of my blog (bwinwnbwi) post–archived Nov. 2009. God is…therefore I am filled with God awaits for anybody who journeys to the end of the path.

    The Voice Of The We Of Divinity
    November 18, 2009

    In the “We Voice of Divinity,” I will talk about what I didn’t talk about in my last post; that is, I will describe that layer of “otherness” which is occasioned when the “ought” (as in non-relative ethics and morality) is applied to intersubjective positions concerning the values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. However, in order to talk about that, I must first talk about a new way of understanding the observer/ observed relationship…….

    In the following I will expand on what it means to have a “self,” as I continue to talk about the connecting bridges that define this “self.” I will also discuss the connecting bridge that is not in the diagram above, the bridge connecting Divinity to everything else…..

    Connecting understanding up with ethical behavior and existential meaning moves P-plane experience out of the blue quadrant—or the science of how our body works, and into the purple quadrant,–or why we make our body do the things that it does. Here, in the psychological mind quadrant, we are constantly being stimulated, inspired, (and disgusted) by the hermeneutic circle of communication that comprises this quadrant. The independence, integrity, and freedom of the individual,–the groups, organizations, and institutions that the individual participates in, all are encountered in this quadrant. Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here. “Approved life styles” are affirmed here. Hamlet gets read, discussed, and criticized here. When our yellow horizon expands, it moves us further into this quadrant, into that place where the scope of human discourse burgeons. In brief, to quote Lett, (speaking in a different context) this is the quadrant “where people will assign meanings to their activities and experiences and will invest considerable intellectual and emotional currency in the development, expression, and preservation of those meanings.” (James Lett, The Human Enterprise, p.97) But, even though our mind is, so to speak, set free in the purple quadrant (yellow self-horizon), our body remains in the blue quadrant. So, where do we go when our pink horizon (blue quadrant) expands?

    If we’re lucky, and say, for instance, that we’re in the middle of a Michigan winter, we pack our bags and go to Florida. For those of us who can’t quite swing a Florida vacation, however, we continue to punch the cloak, put in our 40 hours per week, and all for the purpose of keeping food on the table, rents and mortgages paid, and a little spending money in our pockets. The blue quadrant is the brick and mortar world we live in. It is also where scientific predictions are confirmed, and, on a more solemn note, where injustice is experienced.

    As was pointed out above, considerable emotional currency goes into preserving the meanings that give us comfort. In an odd sort of way then, you might say the more invested we are in production and consumption (blue quadrant) the more we expand our red emotional horizon. However, a passionate desire for wealth and power has little in common with the empowering emotion that calls us to love, beauty and truth. The gorgeous sunset that sometimes swells our eyes to tears is not just a product of the spinning earth; it is also part of the spontaneous, pulsating, emotion that flows from the whole of the aesthetic continuum. The material of the poet, painter, and musician is not the product of Locke’s mental substance; rather, it is the empowering emotion that inspires life, imagination, and awe. Emotions, therefore, are not, as Locke believed, and many of the religiously informed persons who followed him also believed, the product of bestial urges that must be subdued. It is also unfortunate that Plato, although recognizing emotions to be an inseparable part of the human psyche, identified them with evil. For Plato, reason was the great charioteer, forever reining in the unruly emotions. It is to the credit of Northrop’s two-term relationship of the aesthetic-theoretic experience that emotion gets valued on par with reason. Indeed, reason becomes sterile without emotion and emotion without reason becomes misery–more often than not. The poet William Blake said it best when he said: “It is good when you are in a passion, but not when a passion is in you.”

    Whatever is identified as X, be it space, mass, energy, plant, animal, language, mathematics, etc.,” this X remains embedded in the emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise. At this level of connectivity, the bridge that connects everything to everything else, i.e., Divinity—comes into view. The liberation process develops along evolutionary lines culminating in the two-term relationship of knowing that defines human consciousness. In fact, it is the primary relationship of “aesthetic continuum/liberation from continuum” that binds and separates–particle/wave, life/death, self/not self, reason/feeling, and observer/observed.

    In the above diagram, the bridges that bind and separate the blue (physical), purple (discourse), and green (life) quadrants are, in terms of complexity, more complex than the “source bridge” that preceded them (the source bridge in not in the diagram, but it is the bridge that binds and separates “aesthetic continuum/liberation from continuum” ). However, operationally speaking, all three bridges are permutations of one another. This “source bridge,” is the bridge that bridges the gap between the immanence and transcendence of Divinity. It is through this bridge that everything is both connected and separated from God (Brahman, sunyata, the unmoved mover, etc., etc.). If you don’t like the word God, even though what I am talking about includes all possible rational, psychological, emotional, and physical phenomena, then feel free to call this bridge by its other name, the class of all classes.

    We struggle to become educated and, in the process, obtain reasonable beliefs that endure. However, when faced with blatant evidence to the contrary our beliefs may change (ought/need to change). In the absence of contradictions, though, we choose to believe emotionally fulfilling beliefs. If you’ve read this far, you probably have found something I’ve said interesting. Thanks for that. In conclusion (and without embellishment), here is a list of reasons why I find my worldview emotionally satisfying. Oh, and by the way, this is also my reasoning for why some values are not culturally relative:

    1) Religion and science are brought into harmony; that is, they may be equally reverenced without conflict. 2) Because human self-awareness, life, and the physical-chemical processes that support life, are all embedded in divine extensive connection, humans are born with the potential to right the wrongs caused by “ignorance based injustices.” 3) The values used to judge right from wrong follow from the extensive connection process; that is, values used to judge right from wrong are life affirming and freedom affirming values. In other words, in terms of a minimum quality of life, within the prevailing economic realities, no person should be denied the basic necessities of life; and further, sufficient freedoms (within the limits of reasonable expectation) should be in place to allow for meaningful self-expression (the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution are a good place to start). As long as these two conditions are satisfied market competition, within prevailing economic realities, should be permitted. Anything less than this—the minimum standard of living for all human beings, — is an “ignorance based injustice.” 4) And finally, in regards to a religious afterlife: death is not the end, but things like virgins, talks with Jesus, and eternal bliss, are spurious and misplaced expectations.

  47. bwinwnbwi said, on June 8, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Hi again Dr. Mike

    Dr. Mike is a good guy (I like what I’ve read on his blog, but, he has a odd sense of humor; so be it, I have something important to say about his comment (and my response need not apply to Dr. Mike personally, but it is worth reading I think). Having janitor-ed for 35 years at the university where I earned a major in philosophy gives me a window on university philosophers that is different from most. Let me say, up front, that I expect no repercussions concerning this post as it relates to Dr. Mike or me. We are deep into the web and few, if any, will pay attention; that said, I have watched what it takes to progress from an instructor in philosophy to a full Professor. After attending one conference (gosh, I can’t remember the other word for conference, lets just call it a place where philosophers go to challenge each others points of view). At the conference I attended I witnessed the transformation of “the intelligentsia” into meat-eaters of the worst kind. After that I decided not to become a philosopher. To get to the point: it’s true, when challenged by a contrary opinions you have to respond, but you don’t respond by proclaiming your authority, you respond by pointing out the inconsistency in an argument. It’s okay to say “I don’t have time for this,” (again, this is not about Dr. Mike, this is about me–I’ve had a few beers and I’m not supposed to be at the computer–I’m bad). Anyway, what follows is what brought me to the computer in the first place. I hope sharing this journal experience better communicates what I want say!

    When They Started Berating My University I Lost Respect For These Academic Elites

    Beautiful Ottawa Park
    July 10, ‘77

    Yesterday, I spent five hours in the Museum of Science and Technology. The main attraction was the Soviet Union’s three man orbiting space capsule on loan to the museum. It was amazing. My five hours were well spent. It was different from the time I spent in the Art Museum, however. At the Art Museum I was awed, while in the Science Museum I spent most of my time considering and deliberating. The combined experience of the two museums was remarkable.

    There were plenty of bicycle trails in Ottawa, but today was the first time I hopped on my bike since I arrived. It felt good. Any biking before today would have been a chore. I had been told this city was an innovator in catering to the silent two-wheeled clan, and now I’m sure of it. I’m presently sitting on some rocks overlooking waterfalls on the Ottawa River.

    Right after I found this marvelous place, three young university Professors had found their way to the same panoramic view that I was enjoying. I was sitting just off the path, but I could hear their conversation reasonably well. I found it so intriguing that I had to stop writing. They had come to Ottawa for some kind of academic conference. What I found really interesting was the way they were self-promoting themselves. It was as if each thought the other was not in the same “ballpark,” academically speaking that is. In fact, they took turns defending their credentials. Much of the “persuasion” had to do with ranking the journals they had published in and how they rated, academically speaking, their employers. They all taught at universities with respectable academic reputations—wealthy universities. My ears really picked up when they turned to berating one of the convention presenters. Apparently, he was on a burgeoning career path when he taught at the University of Hawaii, but, according to them, when he jumped ship and went to Central Michigan University, a fourth rate institution, his chances of making it in the world of “academic excellence” had all but disappeared.

    Well, as might be expected, when they started berating my university I began to respect these academic elites a whole lot less. Before I left that beautiful spot, I managed to get some of my feelings down on paper. My poem, the Invisible Rebuttal was the result. I guess these other poems are finished also:

    The Invisible Rebuttal

    Knowing I have created
    my position,
    and admiring my present
    disposition,
    I am disturbed
    to think my thoughts
    would think themselves
    a lofty lot
    if perchance they bent themselves
    toward degrees of PhD’s;
    for knowledge is
    as knowledge does,
    and in the end
    all who only see
    the ‘lonely tree’
    will find themselves
    within the plot
    which reads aloud
    I knew a lot.

    • Kernunos said, on June 9, 2010 at 8:40 pm

      Well written and an enjoyable post.


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