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Looking for input
02-11-2010, 01:08 AM
Post: #1
Looking for input
I've been looking for a forum similar to this as i'm very interested in the subject of religion. I'll be up-front on this, i'm a life-long atheist and that is not something i can see changing BUT i am curious about the alternate viewpoint because i struggle to see how anyone can believe so completely as some seem to do.

So, where to start.... there was once a great man called jesus, theres no doubt about that but when did he cease to be a man and become the root of one of the biggest modern religions to date?

Also, how can so much trust be placed in a single book? A book with numerous authors written over an long period of time. Anyone who has ever played chinese whispers has found a single word cannot pass through 20 people and remain the same so how could an entire book?

I have read much of the bible and i'm not looking to offend but i simply fail to understand why any alleged sentient being could believe something so completely with not one shred of proof.

Even more baffling to me is the question of interpretation. The bible is taught as the one true religion, the true guide to how to live yet people seem to choose what they will take as literal and what they will take as allegory. I see news of wars happening, evil acts 'in the name of god', women treated as a lower order all for someones take on a book.

I'm mainly referring to christianity because i have always lived in a pre-dominantly christian country, no other reason. My questioning applies to all organised religion. I'm not asking anybody to justify there belief in anything, i guess its more a case of WHY do you believe? Do you gain anything from it?

The bulk of religion is extremely geographical. Why is it that religion is followed as a result of place before anything else? Is it the case that religious belief is only a simple function of where you are born? Could it really be so simple that everybody who follows a religion does so simply because of where they are from and the community they grew up in? If so, any religious person who argues, fights or preaches religion could have had a totally different outlook but for a quirk of geography.

Many religions of past times are no longer followed and in some cases demonised by the more prevailent religions. Why were they so wrong and will the same thing happen to current religions? By the same token how can it be that some stories get assigned as myth, such as the Yeti, and are accepted as such where religion doesnt?

On a final note, why is it that organisations dedicated to helping people can amass enormous wealth with no questions asked?

I appreciate any opinions anybody may have.
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02-11-2010, 02:57 AM
Post: #2
RE: Looking for input
Not a Christian, though I was born a cradle Catholic, but welcome, and I'll share some things from my perspective. I'm a Vodouisant, specifically Haitian.

Quote:BUT i am curious about the alternate viewpoint because i struggle to see how anyone can believe so completely as some seem to do.

I think the important thing to realise here is everyone has different threshholds of proof needed to believe in various things. For some, a text is enough, for others, it's not. For me, I had to be picked up by an elderly woman who weighed less than me, and see paralyzed people get up and start dancing. For me, that was proof enough.

For my fiance, who's an atheist, he needs incontrovertible proof of a concrete deity or deities. No theory, no ideas, actual concrete proof.

Quote:Also, how can so much trust be placed in a single book? A book with numerous authors written over an long period of time. Anyone who has ever played chinese whispers has found a single word cannot pass through 20 people and remain the same so how could an entire book?

Especially as a historian I see problems with this, which is why I don't like religions with books in general.

Quote:WHY do you believe? Do you gain anything from it?

I personally believe (and everyone else has heard this story) because when I was bleeding to death in my bathroom, a stranger broke in, told me my life story, and told me that Bon Dieu wasn't done with me yet. It took more than that to make me believe, but that was the catalyst.

Do I get anything out of it? Not really. I rather wish there weren't an afterlife. The parties are fun, but that's not a reason to believe in something. I believe in it, because for me it has proven itself over and over.

Quote:The bulk of religion is extremely geographical. Why is it that religion is followed as a result of place before anything else? Is it the case that religious belief is only a simple function of where you are born? Could it really be so simple that everybody who follows a religion does so simply because of where they are from and the community they grew up in? If so, any religious person who argues, fights or preaches religion could have had a totally different outlook but for a quirk of geography.

But conversions are incredibly common -- the majority of religion seekers seek out a religion that suits them, and most people rebel against what they are taught.

Quote:Many religions of past times are no longer followed and in some cases demonised by the more prevailent religions. Why were they so wrong and will the same thing happen to current religions? By the same token how can it be that some stories get assigned as myth, such as the Yeti, and are accepted as such where religion doesnt?

I know someone who believes in Yetis, and is an atheist, but...i get your point. I think it mainly has to do with popularity, my cousin who visits sometimes is a Celtic polytheist, old religion, accepted as myth, but it's her religion.

Quote:On a final note, why is it that organisations dedicated to helping people can amass enormous wealth with no questions asked?

Are you talking about religions or organisations here? Because not all religions do.

Because in my faith, which is a weird one with regards to money -- any money offerings made must go to purchasing sacrifice, and cannot be kept by the peristyle, and any religious costs you accrue are not allowed to go to clergy.

Pawol anpil pa leve le mo
Lavi m nan men Bondye o sen
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02-11-2010, 08:09 AM
Post: #3
RE: Looking for input
Mortia,

Welcome, welcome, welcome! Smile You have come to the right place. We have a tremendous range of viewpoints here and a fair number of very literate people. I am sure that there are plenty of members here who would like to address your questions - pro, con and in between.
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02-11-2010, 10:53 AM
Post: #4
RE: Looking for input
(02-11-2010 01:08 AM)Mortia Wrote:  ...its more a case of WHY do you believe? Do you gain anything from it?...

Everyone has to believe something. Probably the most basic questions are "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" The answers to these questions depend almost entirely upon whether or not there is a God who created us and cares about us. Theism offers the only possibility for a meaningful existence, and so I start with that position and begin to look for coherence in the predominant religion in my immediate culture (and this would be the Christian faith). Of course eventually one gets around to comparing the various major world faiths. My investigations lead me to believe that the Christian faith offers the most coherence of all of the major world faiths. And I also believe that God listens to my prayers. In sum, I believe that my faith gives me a greater understanding of myself and the world around me, as well as the comfort of believing that God listens to me and knows me intimately.

http://www.biblicaltraining.org/ --- http://www.ntwrightpage.com/
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02-11-2010, 11:16 AM (This post was last modified: 02-11-2010 11:17 AM by Ahmadi.)
Post: #5
RE: Looking for input
I Welcome you whole heartedly. Your post speaks of sincerity. I will be your Muslim priest on this forum, there is no coercion allowed in Islam, so nothing to fear, but fear itself or the hate mongers.

Please check out the threads started by me.

To answer one of your questions, why do people believe in God. One of the reasons is that they cannot fall asleep without their belief! Read Carl Jung, he was a contemporary of Freud and his adopted son for a period of time. He wrote, “Freud has unfor­tunately overlooked the fact that man has never yet been able single‑handed to hold his own against the powers of darkness — that is, of the unconscious. Man has always stood in need of the spiritual help which each individual's own religion held out to him."

Totally on the opposite pole of Freud in matter of religion, Carl Jung explained at length, in the chapter, 'Psychotherapists or clergy' of his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul:

"During the past thirty years, people from all the civilized countries of the earth have consulted me. I have treated many hundreds of patients. … Among all my patients in the second half of life -- to say, over thirty‑five -- there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook."

For details go to and read some of the links there:

http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/curing...umbuyp/44#

I am second coming of Thomas Paine. If you are a Christian, have you read Age of Reason?
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02-11-2010, 06:11 PM
Post: #6
RE: Looking for input
Wow, didnt expect so much so quick. Thanks all.

@Clementine,

Yes, people have different ideas of proof and what constitutes that proof. From a scientific view religion can never be proven as it cannot be recreated as an experiment. If this is the case surely all 'proof' any individuals may have is a result of a subjective decision to see the divine, rather than nature or simple good fortune. I think my way of thinking would probably be very close to your fiance's.

You're obviously a strong believer in your faith and have your reasons for believing such which i would never try to dissuade you from yet you say you get nothing out of it? Do you not even get emotional support through your faith or are you following as a result of what you feel to be your duty owing to events in your life, perhaps feeling you owe a debt to God?

Yes, i was referring to religious organisations, mainly referring to things like the Vatican or the wealth of Opus Dei. Also to the wealth of the.... stranger? religions such as Scientology. You describe your faith as weird in relation to money yet to me it sounds as though it is how i would believe a religion should be. Take enough to cover costs etc and disperse the rest to the needy. Why should an organisation supposedly there to help people amass wealth on a huge scale.

@Stereophonic,

You cite the age old questions which religion purports to answer or assist in answering, in my experience at least, i do not know if this is truly the case.
The question of 'Who am i?' i have rarely heard answered in terms of religion when i have asked people. I tend to get answers closer to psychological/sociological theories where people define themselves by profession, status, race and even gender. Essentially people project the identity they want people to accept and assume any identity they wish to have.
As for 'Why am i here?' i generally always answer with my own question, 'Does it matter why we are here?' The reason being that this is an un-answerable question in my eyes. Even if there is some great underlying reason for our lives you have moved on from it when you find out the answer. Why must this reason exist? Take a moment to consider the human being as an animal, we are after all. In the world of animals the reason for existence is generally for reproduction. Species exist the world over simply to reproduce and die. Just because we have the ability to think deeper or communicate in more detail why should we be any different?

You say you see coherence in christianity, where i do not i admit. I've always felt christianity has a kind of.. cobbled together feel. However, thats besides the point. You say you investigated the major religions to which i must ask, did you not notice the similarities? Why should so many groups claiming the truth be so similar?

@Ahmadi

You picked one of my least favourite people there. I have very limited time for Freud. However Jung does perhaps get fairly close to the mark. Is it only our insecurity that leads us to seek comfort in religion? Could that be the foundation of major religions and if so, is religion actually preying on the weak minded?
I have little knowledge of Islam, so far, so thats a subject i plan to read around. Maybe then i would have more questions which you could possibly help more directly with.


I am aware that religion can be a sensitive subject and i just want to add that anything i ask is curiosity and a desire to understand. Please don't ever feel i am poking fun or mocking anybodies beliefs and if i un-intentionally cause offence i apologise. I guess what i'm doing is closer to shaking a branch of the tree of knowledge and moving on from what falls out.

Thanks all
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02-11-2010, 06:58 PM
Post: #7
RE: Looking for input
Quote:Yes, people have different ideas of proof and what constitutes that proof. From a scientific view religion can never be proven as it cannot be recreated as an experiment. If this is the case surely all 'proof' any individuals may have is a result of a subjective decision to see the divine, rather than nature or simple good fortune. I think my way of thinking would probably be very close to your fiance's.

One thing that irritates me is people have a tendency to say this, and they look at it like that -- I know of at least two peristyles who are more than willing to participate in experiments, but the thing is, it's often to easily dismissed. It would be one thing if people had done experiments and dismissed it as unprovable, but another thing when they say "oh, it's impossible to prove" and no one tries.

Quote:You're obviously a strong believer in your faith and have your reasons for believing such which i would never try to dissuade you from yet you say you get nothing out of it? Do you not even get emotional support through your faith or are you following as a result of what you feel to be your duty owing to events in your life, perhaps feeling you owe a debt to God?

Emotional support? No, not really. No more than I get anywhere else, at least. Owe a debt to god? No, in Vodou Bondye is pandeistic, there is no idea of "owing" Bondye worship. Bondye doesn't actively get involved in our lives.

Pawol anpil pa leve le mo
Lavi m nan men Bondye o sen
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02-11-2010, 08:03 PM (This post was last modified: 02-11-2010 08:04 PM by Stereophonic.)
Post: #8
RE: Looking for input
(02-11-2010 06:11 PM)Mortia Wrote:  ...The question of 'Who am i?' i have rarely heard answered in terms of religion when i have asked people. I tend to get answers closer to psychological/sociological theories where people define themselves by profession, status, race and even gender...

Most people want to have a certain level of trust and rapport before they will feel comfortable talking about religion with another person; moreover, a large percentage of people, Christians included, have trouble articulating their religious or philosophical beliefs. At any rate, the people in my closest circle of acquaintances do feel that their faith helps them to better understand who they are.


(02-11-2010 06:11 PM)Mortia Wrote:  ...'Does it matter why we are here?' ... this is an un-answerable question in my eyes...

I think everyone has an intuitive sense that their lives are (or should be) meaningful. Most do not bother to think the issue through, but if they did I think they would agree that their intuition is wrong unless there is in fact a God who created them and cares for them.


(02-11-2010 06:11 PM)Mortia Wrote:  ...did you not notice the similarities? Why should so many groups claiming the truth be so similar? ...

Actually, our Ahmadi makes no end of pointing out why Christianity stands in a class by itself--or as he prefers to say, is the "odd one out" as far as religions go.

http://www.biblicaltraining.org/ --- http://www.ntwrightpage.com/
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02-11-2010, 09:07 PM (This post was last modified: 02-12-2010 11:10 AM by Ahmadi.)
Post: #9
RE: Looking for input
(02-11-2010 06:11 PM)Mortia Wrote:  Is it only our insecurity that leads us to seek comfort in religion? Could that be the foundation of major religions and if so, is religion actually preying on the weak minded?

My nemesis here pointed out two important questions, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" He does not often enough agree with reason or with me, so every opportunity that I find to develop common ground with him, I avail of it. I agree here with him that religions are trying to answer those questions and that is the good part in every religion. But religion is a human activity and like all human activities including science involves politics. As religion gets corrupted you are right in the sense that it begins to prey on the weak minded?

But the gullible let themselves be exploited, it is as much their own fault as of the clergy of different religions. You are right, very few convert and that exposes the claim of most that they are seeking the Truth. In my observation I have seen that most Westerners try to swing between Christianity and agnosticism or atheism only, which in my mind reflects their myopia. Some, rational and brave souls do give Islam a genuine chance and I hear that Islam is the most rapidly spreading religion in Europe and Americas. But, I think more people become agnostic each year than become Muslim. We should have some sort of baptism service for agnostics and atheists so we can keep counts. I am always interested in knowing reasons why Westerners do not generally evaluate more than one theistic options?

I am second coming of Thomas Paine. If you are a Christian, have you read Age of Reason?
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02-11-2010, 09:47 PM
Post: #10
RE: Looking for input
(02-11-2010 01:08 AM)Mortia Wrote:  So, where to start.... there was once a great man called jesus, theres no doubt about that but when did he cease to be a man and become the root of one of the biggest modern religions to date?

In my opinion the idea of Jesus as divine started when Paul started preaching to gentiles. The similarities to the Dionysian Mysteries of the rituals put forward by Paul are hard to ignore: symbolic re-enactments of the tribulation/death/resurrection of a human-like god, Sacramental sharing of bread and wine, ‘eating the god’. Although Paul mostly remained a Jew in his outlook, explaining the Jewish ritual sacrifice tie-in would have been easier to sell if it were couched in terms familiar to his audience. The kenosis hymn quoted by Paul clearly shows an early belief in Jesus as divine, although this idea would be ludicrous and blasphemous to a Jewish audience.

(02-11-2010 01:08 AM)Mortia Wrote:  Also, how can so much trust be placed in a single book? A book with numerous authors written over an long period of time. Anyone who has ever played chinese whispers has found a single word cannot pass through 20 people and remain the same so how could an entire book?

I have read much of the bible and i'm not looking to offend but i simply fail to understand why any alleged sentient being could believe something so completely with not one shred of proof.

Even more baffling to me is the question of interpretation. The bible is taught as the one true religion, the true guide to how to live yet people seem to choose what they will take as literal and what they will take as allegory. I see news of wars happening, evil acts 'in the name of god', women treated as a lower order all for someones take on a book.

The obsession with the Bible as sola scriptura is a Protestant thing and did not really exist before the16th century. The Catholic church considered the Bible as requiring interpretation by experts and to be supplemented by tradition. This allowed both more uniformity and more flexibility of belief.

(02-11-2010 01:08 AM)Mortia Wrote:  I'm mainly referring to christianity because i have always lived in a pre-dominantly christian country, no other reason. My questioning applies to all organised religion. I'm not asking anybody to justify there belief in anything, i guess its more a case of WHY do you believe? Do you gain anything from it?

I was raised a Catholic but belief went away close to fifty years ago. However I remain a student of all religions. My particular fascination is early Christianity, seeing the dynamics of how this religion that has had so much influence on the world came to be.

(02-11-2010 01:08 AM)Mortia Wrote:  The bulk of religion is extremely geographical. Why is it that religion is followed as a result of place before anything else? Is it the case that religious belief is only a simple function of where you are born? Could it really be so simple that everybody who follows a religion does so simply because of where they are from and the community they grew up in? If so, any religious person who argues, fights or preaches religion could have had a totally different outlook but for a quirk of geography.

In my opinion religion began as a means of uniting a community and identifying it as different from other communities. The benefits of religion would have been fostering the increased efficiency of group cooperation, specifying a common code of behavior thereby facilitating peaceful interaction, and giving a reason for putting the good of the community above individual good in the event of warfare with other communities. Religion would have had survival value for a community. As communities became nations, religions grew along with them.

Viewed in this light, the very common connection between religion and geography is no surprise. But of course it is a different story here in New York City. One might see Catholics with ash on their foreheads, Hindus with red dots on their foreheads, cap wearing Muslims, turban wearing Sikhs, Hasidic Jews, and bible thumping preachers – all on the same subway car! And nobody is killing anybody. Smile

(02-11-2010 01:08 AM)Mortia Wrote:  Many religions of past times are no longer followed and in some cases demonised by the more prevailent religions. Why were they so wrong and will the same thing happen to current religions? By the same token how can it be that some stories get assigned as myth, such as the Yeti, and are accepted as such where religion doesnt?

First of all there are a lot of people who (claim to) believe in Yeti. And UFOs, astrology, Atlantis and so forth. Tongue

It is doubtful that any of today’s religions will get replaced by others. And it does not look like they are going to fade away either. The organizational skills and publicizing resources available today are simply too good.

(02-11-2010 01:08 AM)Mortia Wrote:  On a final note, why is it that organisations dedicated to helping people can amass enormous wealth with no questions asked?

I assume you are talking about the Catholic Church. To be fair, they do operate the largest non-governmental charitable and social services in the world. The ostentatious wealth derives mainly from business interests and from historical donations of art etc. But don’t get me started on taxation of churches…Rolleyes
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