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  1. #341
    Sniffles
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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    So there's my base from which I speculate, and yes, I fully admit it's mostly speculation.
    As I said before:
    [W]hen you look more closely at many of these arguments it often exposes the lack of ones real understanding of what they're talking about - not least of which because it involves selective readings of scriptures, nitpicking, hair-splitting, fact twisting, and most importantly random speculation. I have no time nor patience for such sophistry.

  2. #342
    Dreaming the life onemoretime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    As I said before:
    It's also a valid hypothesis. Why not debate its merits rather than dismiss it outright?

  3. #343
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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    It's also a valid hypothesis. Why not debate its merits rather than dismiss it outright?
    If somebody wants to debate your "hypothesis", they're more than free to do so. Me OTOH, I'd rather spend my time in more fruitful discussion on the actual history of Christianity, not random bullshit people make up.

    Concerning the historical record on Christianity, let's hear what an accredited historian has to say:
    "The great world religions are, as it were, great rivers of sacred tradition which flow down through the ages and through changing historical landscapes which they irrigate and fertilize. But as a rule we cannot trace them to their source, which is lost in unexplored tracks of the remote past. It is rare indeed to find a culture in which the whole course of this religious development can be traced from beginning to end in the full light of history. But the history of Christendom is an outstanding exception to this tendency. We know the historical enviroment in which Christianity first arose: we possess the letters of the founders of the Churches to the first Christian communities in Europe, and we can trace in detail the successive stages by which the new religion penetrated the West.

    Thenceforward, at least during the last sixteen centuries, the mass of material available for study is so huge that it exceeds the capacity of the individual mind to grasp it.

    Consequently the study of Western religion and Western culture is difficult from the opposite reason that which renders the study of prehistoric and ancient oriental religions difficult: because we know too much rather than too little
    - because the vast field of study has had to be divided among a number of different sciences, each of which is further subdivided into specialized branches of study which in turn become autonomous fields of study."
    --Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture pg.12

    When we take this and plenty of other factors into play here, your entire conspiracy theory collaspes under the weight of the vast amount of real scholarship out there concerning the history of Christianity.

    I sincerely doubt you've even scratched the surface of what's out there.

  4. #344
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    If somebody wants to debate your "hypothesis", they're more than free to do so. Me OTOH, I'd rather spend my time in more fruitful discussion on the actual history of Christianity, not random bullshit people make up.

    Concerning the historical record on Christianity, let's hear what an accredited historian has to say:

    --Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture pg.12

    When we take this and plenty of other factors into play here, your entire conspiracy theory collaspes under the weight of the vast amount of scholarship out there concerning the history of Christianity.

    I sincerely doubt you've even scratched the surface of what's out there.
    I hate to do this, but Dawson's Catholicism was intrinsic to his work. Forgive me if I assume some confirmation bias. Let's also not forget that most of his work was from 70+ years ago - academia has changed dramatically in that time period. Yes, his being a Catholic in English academia is notable, but irrelevant to the discussion. He used his admittedly impressive intellect to defend the contemporary social order, rather than ask any difficult questions. For that, of course we're opposed.

    You think I'm unaware of the long history of apologetics and theological scholarship? Come on, you'd have to be completely ignorant of Western history to not be familiar with these things. Of course there's a huge body of history - particularly because Christianity was the only thing you could explore in an academic context in Europe for a good 700 years! Even then, these early documents that Dawson promotes are of questionable veracity, particularly because of the historical and political context which surrounded them. This argument that Christian orthodoxy arose through divine will given the innumerable dogmas that competed from the mid-first century through Nicaea is specious at best, since it was the Church that controlled information for so long in the West, and so it was the Byzantine Empire in the East, as their legitimacy was so tied to the religious authority of the Orthodox Church.

    Please, give me hard, indisputable evidence (the kind of which the interpretation cannot be called in dispute) that Paul was exactly as described in the Acts and Epistles, as inconsistent as those descriptions may be, and I'll end all speculation. Until then, I'll continue hypothesizing. And don't worry, I don't have any anti-Semitic purpose, so save that criticism - I don't hate any ethnic group, I just have no use for religion, not to mention the rationalizations and convoluted logic that so many waste so much energy on creating to justify belief in something that they genuinely do not know about.

  5. #345
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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    I hate to do this, but Dawson's Catholicism was intrinsic to his work. Forgive me if I assume some confirmation bias.
    You could, and you would be falling into the genetic fallacy here.

    Let's also not forget that most of his work was from 70+ years ago - academia has changed dramatically in that time period.
    Yes, in fact alot of latest scholarship has backed up many of the arguments he and others have made concerning the role of Christianity in the development of Western civilization. In any case, historians whose work is far older is still referenced to in contemporary scholarship.

    You think I'm unaware of the long history of apologetics and theological scholarship?
    That certainly is the impression you're giving off.

    This argument that Christian orthodoxy arose through divine will given the innumerable dogmas that competed from the mid-first century through Nicaea is specious at best
    Even if one takes the religious element out(ie assuming that Christianity is one true faith), your arguments still fail according to the standards of historical study. This applies to whatever religion you're referencing to, whether it be Christianity, Islam, etc.

    Until then, I'll continue hypothesizing.
    Which means you're not engaging in history but at best pseudohistory.

    And don't worry, I don't have any anti-Semitic purpose, so save that criticism - I don't hate any ethnic group, I just have no use for religion, not to mention the rationalizations and convoluted logic that so many waste so much energy on creating to justify belief in something that they genuinely do not know about.
    So this is all because you have a stick up your ass about religion? And to think you have the gall to sit in judgement about Dawson's work.

  6. #346
    ⒺⓉⒷ Eric B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    You're wrong on all accounts. Catholicism has never upheld a literalist interpretation of scriptures, nor did it persecute astronomers for saying the world is round. That notion was invented out of thin air in the 1830s.
    That sounds a bit like revisionism. I read the post in the other thread with te quote that tried to partially blame Galileo, for not leaving the scriptural interpretation to the theologians. Still, the point is, they interpreted the relevant passages in a literal fashion and opposed anything else.

    And as the Catholic Church certainly did not take liberal nonliteral positions on the other core doctrines (Virgin Birth, death and resurrection of Christ, etc), that was what I was referring on by "literal" (with the geological debates only as the extreme examples).
    Now on the age of the earth, I'm not sure what their position was. That was one of the main issues of the later fundamentalist-modernist controversy. (From what I understand, the rigid 6000 year-"millennial week " interpretation was first mentioned by pseudo-Barnabas, and was later popularized by the Adventists, and then from there picked up by the fundamental Baptists).
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  7. #347
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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    I'm not so sure about that. I'd say you could claim an ethical truth by appealing to the nature of our evolutionary selection - that altruism is "good" because that's what humans were selected for and ensures reproductive success.
    That's so vague though, and doesn't carry quite as much sting as being in pain and torment forever based on your actions over a few decades, or the rewarding bliss of living forever in perfect happiness amongst the angels. Tee-hee!

  8. #348
    desert pelican Owl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Truly you have a dizzying intellect. *rofl*

    Well, okay, my thoughts here:

    I think what you're doing here is the "all or nothing" case... which is similar to the slippery slope fallacy in that it only posits two binary extreme outcomes.

    I think it's pretty clear that life is not like that. Our two options are not, "Either we know everything with certainty" or "We know nothing and cannot make any educated guesses."

    My quibble in religious conversation is that I see many people saying, "I know all this is true," when the fact is that (hopefully) it's an "educated guess" based on their best understanding on the data.

    With the former, there is no need to accept any more outside data; there is no need to listen to another human being's insights (except as a hollow gesture); there is no need to continue to learn or grow or keep searching. This sort of mentality also automatically drops into a "defend the borders" approach to outsiders and dissenters, where the "truth" must be defended, xenophobic fears have fertile soil to grow within, authoritarian government rules, and interactive community can't help but break down. These negatives are implicitly enabled and encouraged by holding a position of certainty in a world that is diverse and often ambiguous.

    With the latter, one can hold an opinion but is still able to engage others meaningfully and learn from them and not calcify one's position. Because the understanding is that we might hold a particular view currently, but that we accept that -- even if the general patterns might seem to be true -- there is much that we might not understand, and anyone is capable of providing us more insight that could lead to our understanding becoming more accurate and fruitful. This approach necessitates and fosters communication (it's the primary medium of information exchange and growth), inclusion, preservation of variety and imagination, and so forth.

    So I think it's possible to live life on the basis of "educated guesswork" that can constantly be updated upon need, rather than being forced to hold a very specific set of doctrinal beliefs that are by nature inflexible, certain, and immutable. I think fallible human beings trying to hold to infallible beliefs is a recipe for disaster, long-term; if we were perfect, then our understanding might be perfect, but we are not perfect, so our understanding is imperfect.

    So my quibble is not that religious make claims at all, that's fine, but it's with the basis for the claim(s) coupled with the degree of granularity that is even possible in an imperfectly understood world by intellectually limited human beings that bothers me. I mean, there are people's lives and happiness and expression of self being irrevocably impacted by people laying claim to religious values that really cannot be shown to be true but supposedly give permission for interference/intrusion by others, and that's where it this all hinges.... not in the theoretical but in the tangible impact of self-contained and imposed religious beliefs upon the welfare of other human beings.
    Neither do I believe that our options are: ""Either we know everything with certainty" or "We know nothing and cannot make any educated guesses.""

    At the same time, I don't believe that we are limited to making only educated guesses that are always open to revision. We can know some things in the strong sense of the term. And knowledge is binary: you either know, or you don't.

    You wrote that human beings are fallible, and that our understanding is imperfect, but how deep is your skepticism concerning the possibility of any certainty? Despite this sentence...

    So I think it's possible to live life on the basis of "educated guesswork" that can constantly be updated upon need, rather than being forced to hold a very specific set of doctrinal beliefs that are by nature inflexible, certain, and immutable.
    ... I think you too believe that some things are certain, because your post is also infused with the belief that human beings have access to insight and understanding--but this would not be possible if nothing were certain. If nothing were certain, there'd be no fixed point of reference to make even educated guesses; if nothing were certain, then a fortiori the degree of probability you assign to the likelihood of any educated guess is also uncertain. If nothing were certain, the only rational degree of belief one could have for any proposition would be zero. If nothing were certain, one could have no assurance that he had insight or understanding of anything.

    Are humans fallible because the tools of their intellect are fallible, or are humans fallible because they don't make good use of their intellectual tools?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    The problem really is what case can be proven.

    If it was clear that God existed but you couldn't perceive him,then that would mean you were really screwed up... and to the very same degree that, if God didn't exist but you DID claim to perceive him, you would be really screwed up.

    Which is it?
    We don't know.

    So why do some people insist they do know, and feel justified in imposing themselves on others... just because they "believe" something? This is how people are violated in the world: One person believes something that isn't true, and not only follows it themselves but feels compelled to somehow force another to comply with it as well.
    You might not know that God exists, and I don't know that God exists because I don't know anything. (I'm a computer program that's been designed to post on internet forums posing as a fundamentalist Christian.) But can you know that God exists?

    It is a case about what can be proven. Can anything be proven? If some things can be proven, why not the existence of God? If God's existence or non-existence cannot be proven, what does that entail about the possibility for knowledge of anything that exists? Either all is eternal or only some (i.e., God) is eternal; if you can't know which of these is true, then how could you know if any property of any being was essential to that being?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Yup. it's quite the conundrum.

    But it definitely impacts one's view of the universe and humanity. What does it mean to REALLY believe that every human being is essentially depraved at heart? Incapable of any good whatsoever? Always out to appease their own motives? (Which is what Romans Roads Christians claim to really believe. Our righteousness is filthy rags, our throats open graves, we're given over to sin and licentiousness on our own, we are murderers and liars and thieves and gluttons and whatever else you'd like to name... and yup, it's all in there in great detail in Romans and Psalms and wherever else.)

    I don't think anyone truly believes this, or the world would be far crazier than it actually is and we'd each be holed up in our own private bunkers and not coming out for anything. We might LIKE to think we believe this, and people in church constantly quote and read these verses... but isn't the truth really that we think other people are "okay" but just a bit misguided, or dumb, or selfish at times, etc? That's how we interact with them. Not as the former, but as generally reasonable but just imperfect people.

    And that's not the scriptural position, nor is it the position I see inherent in what you are arguing (with insisting that the world needs a savior). We claim to believe one thing, but if you watch how we behave, then our actual beliefs are obvious.

    And I think not taking one's beliefs to their logical conclusions is a cop-out, because it muddies down the intellectual conversation and lets us cobble together half-truths that obfuscate the natural ramifications of certain beliefs. Which leads back into the "hell" thing... Either we believe people need a savior and are going to be suffering eternal torment, so we're working endlessly and tirelessly to get other people to believe the way we do... OR we have to accept that maybe we really don't believe that (OR we're unloving OR uncommitted to the faith). To claim to believe in original sin, human depravity, the need for a savior, and whatever else, and then not be out there tirelessly confronting people and trying to win them out of damnation --as far as I can see -- is a moral/rational failing.

    Either change our doctrine or change our behavior.
    You're absolutely right. We ought to have integrity. It is a moral/rational failing to not work tirelessly to serve God and one another--just as Paul did, and Jesus before him.

    However...

    I don't think Paul means that all sinners actually commit murder, etc. In Romans, he first writes that men suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, and therefore they become futile in their thinking: their foolish hearts are darkened; and God gives them over to their foolishness to do what ought not to be done. I think Paul is pointing out the natural progression in sin. Remember, the original sin was expressed in eating a piece of fruit, but the root of this sin was not seeking to know God. It was not long after this sin that the first murder was committed. The outward expression was different, but the root was the same: neither Adam nor Cain sought to know God, and God gave them each over to do what ought not to be done. And so just after Paul writes, "They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness..." (Rom 1:29, ESV), and the whole list of sins that would have us holed up in bunkers, he writes: "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, everyone of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things" (Rom 2:1, ESV). Does Paul believe the Romans all had committed murder and every other sin on his list? Clearly not. But they all share the same root, and they all hang under the same sentence of being given over to futile thinking and a darkened heart.

  9. #349
    ⒺⓉⒷ Eric B's Avatar
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    I think what he's saying there is that those who judge are likely the ones who have a problem with the sin themselves, and try to repress it and hide behind righteous indignation at others' practice of the sin. We have seen this many times in religion (and Paul further details it in 2:21-23). Like they say, when someone is preaching loudly, they're likely preaching to themselves.
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    Thank you for the great comments, Owl. I am just looking at bits and pieces right now. Last point first, since Eric B also responded to it.

    I don't think Paul means that all sinners actually commit murder, etc.
    I don't think that Paul meant that either literally, either -- it seems an absurd claim if made literally.

    There are a few things in play here at once, though, and I will mention some of the questions that come to mind:
    1. Does Paul mean to associate a wide range of sin with the same core depravity that leaves men separated from God in Hell? (yes)
    2. Does Paul inadvertently describe a progression that explicitly lumps certain sins (such as homosexuality) with being hell-bound? (yes)
    3. Are Paul's intentions for his writing and/or his particular understanding properly conveyed to the audience? (Probably not, especially considering some of his readership was not born until 1900+ years after Paul's death! -- I doubt Paul was even THINKING that his words would remain for that length of time, let alone be scrutinzed and clung to so tenaciously by some sects of the Christian church).


    I think also I have to point out that a lot of my arguments in this thread (earlier) involve life experience. While I can argue what the theology is SUPPOSED to mean if interpreted in the best and most mature light, to me it is just as important as the communication that is actually prone to being conveyed. We can't really deny or water down the stuff that Paul said, and here is where it gets muddy.

    We see in philosophical thought that people like Schopenhauer (for example) had some of their core ideas built upon and fleshed out by unsavory political cronies decades later -- were these philosophers responsible in any way for how their words were taken? I don't know. The seeds of the ideas came from their writing, but they probably would not have supported the degree to which their words were taken.... The problem is that the particular words and ideas existed in a form that suggested a particular meaning to the later audience. They were an apt tool. I guess it's similar with the gun lobby situation nowadays, and other things.

    Here, rather than getting into more detached theological discussion, I will be more transparent so you can better understand the experiences I've had that have led me to where I am. (At least that way you will have a context for my comments.)

    You probably have never been to a gay pride parade where protesters literally stand around with their signs and bullhorns calling gay people "murderers, thieves, adulterers, fornicators, animal screwers," call the children of gay people and supportive family attending the event "lepers," and otherwise quote the Romans 1 passage in a way that equates homosexual orientation and/or behavior to the most vile sins our culture can imagine. (And it's rather surreal, to the angry bitter resentful folks being the religious ones, and the supposed vile scum of society being the happy, cheerful, "normal looking" demographic at such as event.) I happened to walk down to the local one in my city this weekend, and I am describing literally what I saw and heard there... and have seen at various times in the past. (These guys might be the true fundies in terms of their behavior... but they're still quoting the same Bible and holding similar interpretations that underlie evangelical theology and practice nowadays.) Meanwhile, they talk about how great their lives are, how much they love God, and how people who attend these events need to give up their depravity and rebellions against God so that they can become more like them. Yeah. Not exactly a selling point...

    You have also probably never had a religious parent who has experienced (and often referred to) your selfless character and lifelong pattern of loving behavior bombard you with Romans 1 and similar literature, equating you to the same vile things (I'm het by the way, it's something else that doesn't even appear in that passage), because they can't understand a life choice you feel you had to make and struggled with God over for years and years and finally came to peace over... and they continue to openly pray for your soul and whack you with Bible passages and basically in the process dismiss your entire spiritual walk with the divine since it doesn't match the interpretation of the one they found in The Book.

    While you can say that Paul didn't mean to equate gay people (or whomever else happens to get lumped in here) with murderers and the dregs of society, the text itself is not so clear-cut... and in many cases it's not how it gets read and applied in typical Bible inerrantist culture. The sad part is that I think many of these Christians are *good* people at core and mean well, it's the ideas and the way they read the passages that I think leads to the negative behavior and attitudes being expressed.

    In Romans, he first writes that men suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, and therefore they become futile in their thinking: their foolish hearts are darkened; and God gives them over to their foolishness to do what ought not to be done. I think Paul is pointing out the natural progression in sin. Remember, the original sin was expressed in eating a piece of fruit, but the root of this sin was not seeking to know God. It was not long after this sin that the first murder was committed. The outward expression was different, but the root was the same: neither Adam nor Cain sought to know God, and God gave them each over to do what ought not to be done. And so just after Paul writes, "They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness..." (Rom 1:29, ESV), and the whole list of sins that would have us holed up in bunkers, he writes: "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, everyone of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things" (Rom 2:1, ESV). Does Paul believe the Romans all had committed murder and every other sin on his list? Clearly not. But they all share the same root, and they all hang under the same sentence of being given over to futile thinking and a darkened heart.
    Again, he didn't say they DID.
    But he in essence said they were morally equivalent to those who did.
    Is there a real distinction there?

    And then even in this thread we get some people who insist that
    (1) they're part of the Elect "just because," so they're spared from that horrid cycle, while I guess the rest of us are damned regardless of our authenticity, our search for God, our integrity, or our behavior, and
    (2) people who typicall quote or refer to these passages tend to exhibit much more spiritual darkness (in terms of actual attitude, behavior, and treatment of others) than the people they're claiming to judge by using a passage like this.

    I gotta say, I think God -- in whatever form he, she, or it exists as, I can't prove anything -- is far bigger than that form of hypocrisy and pettiness. For years I did subject myself to it and tried to make allowance for it -- I wanted so BADLY to believe and agonized for years and years over questions like these, they were important to me -- but in the end I just couldn't do it anymore and finally maintained my integrity and feel much better about it.

    I consider that a positive spiritual awakening that the God I would believe in would respect, but instead it just seems to earn more judgment because I've apparently "fallen away" and must have people from the old pattern I found to be deficient to pray for my salvation all over again. It gets old... and honestly, it just really hurts and makes me even less likely to ever go back into that old subculture. It hurts to feel misjudged by people who you think are acting even less in accordance with their faith concepts than they're accusing you of... especially if they don't know you at all, or do know you and should know better.

    (Note: Just to be clear, you have always been someone of high character and consideration in any discussion we have had here on this forum; I always appreciate your tone and demeanor and attitude and how you work through things.)
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