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    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    Default Agnostic Devout (Christian)

    I've started conversations about this topic all over the internets, so some of you may not be interested in it, having already weighed in, but it continues to be something I think a great deal about. (Originally, I wrote a promise to keep this short. Sorry, couldn't.)



    Backstory: I grew up conservatively religious, but my parents have never been overbearing about it, so both my sister and I were able to grow into our own spiritual persons without fear and worry. Our father, in particular, is someone who has been pretty candid about his own struggles--so struggle was clearly something allowed, and I continue to happily struggle through my process.


    Where I would locate myself today: I call myself "agnostic devout." I do not know whether there is a god, but I have religious faith. In fact, I have religious faith to the extent that I have plans to go to seminary and be ordained as a priest.


    The question of God's existence: At some point in college, I stopped having conversations about whether God exists because I found it to be an unanswerable inquiry that tended to be the place where good conversation about faith, religion, etc stopped. It didn't seem that this had to be the case, as seemed to be indicated by my experiences in Religious Studies.


    The problem of "belief": For awhile, I stopped using the word "belief" without disclaimer. This has changed only very recently, as I've started teaching this confirmation class. The author of this wonderful book for teenagers (My Faith, My Life - Jennifer Gamber) discusses the word "belief," not as an intellectual action but as an action of the heart. Professing belief, in this author's opinion, is not professing knowledge but instead professing trust--giving over with one's heart to God. I (personally) do not need to "know" that there is a literal God in order to believe in this manner.


    Stories: Over the years, I've come to have a very profound respect for our stories. I hear a lot of disparaging of these stories as lies, manipulations, or (at best, maybe) mere fairy tales, particularly in rationalist (i'm not using the typological meaning here) circles. In religious circles, I hear a lot of denial that these narratives that are so important in our culture are stories at all. We have come to demand that everything be factual, verifiable, falsifiable, "true" in one particular sense, and so Christians are forced to believe that Jonah was literally swallowed by a whale and literally spit out onto the shores near Nineveh, and rationalists are forced to deny that this story has any value whatsoever in our modern, scientific times. I have problems with both of these reductions of our stories (our... myths!).

    We don't call nonfiction books "true" so that we can call fiction books "lies." That's not what we do. There are things that really happen, and then there are these other stories. The best works of fiction draw us into the world and have themes that apply to us. They have metaphors that "ring true" to us. Our myths are important because of their themes, not because they actually happened. Even if they did actually happen, they are still important because of their themes. Expecting a myth to be factual is expecting the wrong thing, in my opinion.

    Myths are important. They're a work of human imagination, and they've guided (and continued to guide) our search(es) for meaning and purpose. That they are works of the human imagination, that they most likely emerged for evolutionary reasons, that they are not literally true--these shouldn't diminish them, in my opinion. It seems rash to sweep them off the table and replace them... It's like exiling the masterful works of fiction (which we love for a reason - they often speak to us on a level that other texts don't) and filling the library with only books that contain facts.

    I think a lot of people struggle with what is authoritative, and I guess I just don't have that problem. Science is authoritative where we need it to be, history where we need it to be, the themes of myths where we need them to be. I just don't think we have to dismiss anything if we're willing to consider that there are different kinds of truths to reckon with.


    Why I am a Christian: Given all of this, I obviously could be an agnostic devout anything. I'm Christian because it's my context. It's as simple as that. I could be a Buddhist, but what I love about Tibetan Buddhism is what it has in common with Christianity. It is my reference point, and I claim it as my own. So I'm a relativist/pluralist when it comes to faith, but I've taken my own stance and located myself in tradition--largely because I find rituals and community to be really valuable in my own life.

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    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    I've started conversations about this topic all over the internets, so some of you may not be interested in it, having already weighed in, but it continues to be something I think a great deal about. (Originally, I wrote a promise to keep this short. Sorry, couldn't.)



    Backstory: I grew up conservatively religious, but my parents have never been overbearing about it, so both my sister and I were able to grow into our own spiritual persons without fear and worry. Our father, in particular, is someone who has been pretty candid about his own struggles--so struggle was clearly something allowed, and I continue to happily struggle through my process.


    Where I would locate myself today: I call myself "agnostic devout." I do not know whether there is a god, but I have religious faith. In fact, I have religious faith to the extent that I have plans to go to seminary and be ordained as a priest.


    The question of God's existence: At some point in college, I stopped having conversations about whether God exists because I found it to be an unanswerable inquiry that tended to be the place where good conversation about faith, religion, etc stopped. It didn't seem that this had to be the case, as seemed to be indicated by my experiences in Religious Studies.


    The problem of "belief": For awhile, I stopped using the word "belief" without disclaimer. This has changed only very recently, as I've started teaching this confirmation class. The author of this wonderful book for teenagers (My Faith, My Life - Jennifer Gamber) discusses the word "belief," not as an intellectual action but as an action of the heart. Professing belief, in this author's opinion, is not professing knowledge but instead professing trust--giving over with one's heart to God. I (personally) do not need to "know" that there is a literal God in order to believe in this manner.


    Stories: Over the years, I've come to have a very profound respect for our stories. I hear a lot of disparaging of these stories as lies, manipulations, or (at best, maybe) mere fairy tales, particularly in rationalist (i'm not using the typological meaning here) circles. In religious circles, I hear a lot of denial that these narratives that are so important in our culture are stories at all. We have come to demand that everything be factual, verifiable, falsifiable, "true" in one particular sense, and so Christians are forced to believe that Jonah was literally swallowed by a whale and literally spit out onto the shores near Nineveh, and rationalists are forced to deny that this story has any value whatsoever in our modern, scientific times. I have problems with both of these reductions of our stories (our... myths!).

    We don't call nonfiction books "true" so that we can call fiction books "lies." That's not what we do. There are things that really happen, and then there are these other stories. The best works of fiction draw us into the world and have themes that apply to us. They have metaphors that "ring true" to us. Our myths are important because of their themes, not because they actually happened. Even if they did actually happen, they are still important because of their themes. Expecting a myth to be factual is expecting the wrong thing, in my opinion.

    Myths are important. They're a work of human imagination, and they've guided (and continued to guide) our search(es) for meaning and purpose. That they are works of the human imagination, that they most likely emerged for evolutionary reasons, that they are not literally true--these shouldn't diminish them, in my opinion. It seems rash to sweep them off the table and replace them... It's like exiling the masterful works of fiction (which we love for a reason - they often speak to us on a level that other texts don't) and filling the library with only books that contain facts.

    I think a lot of people struggle with what is authoritative, and I guess I just don't have that problem. Science is authoritative where we need it to be, history where we need it to be, the themes of myths where we need them to be. I just don't think we have to dismiss anything if we're willing to consider that there are different kinds of truths to reckon with.


    Why I am a Christian: Given all of this, I obviously could be an agnostic devout anything. I'm Christian because it's my context. It's as simple as that. I could be a Buddhist, but what I love about Tibetan Buddhism is what it has in common with Christianity. It is my reference point, and I claim it as my own. So I'm a relativist/pluralist when it comes to faith, but I've taken my own stance and located myself in tradition--largely because I find rituals and community to be really valuable in my own life.

    On philosophical grounds, I've consider Christianity to be off epistemic limits. Kant proved this in the Critique of Pure Reason and Religion within Limits of Reason alone. God is an infinite being if exists at all, and our minds can only grasp what is finite, in short God is in the noumenal world, yet with Kant's philosophy we can only grasp the phenomenal. (Noumenal--world as it is, phenomenal--world as we experience it)

    Hence we can not prove his existence because He is outside of our understanding and therefore only through fideism could faith be justified.

    This is my argument(initially written in an essay) for the impossibility of direct knowledge of God and how from this the impossibility of divinely inspired ethics follows and why Christianity should be placed outside of the province of epistemology. From this it follows that nothing that we understand for morality to be could be a reflection of what God wants. So for example, as in this essay I've stated: the feminist complaint about the alleged Biblical male chauvinism is meritless because this could not be what true Christian ethics are about, as that in itself is inscrutable. We need to use reason to figure out how close we can get to what God really wants, New Testament gives good advice, yet it is not set in stone.

    As far as the feminist assertion that the Bible fails to honor egalitarianism is concerned, a meta-ethical approach can be taken to give this phenomenon a fair treatment. In the body of this essay, I have shown that anthropomorphism is a common theological error. As we know that religions require dogma because they tell us about ideas that could not be visualized in our world of sense perception. Hence, everything that we have come across in this world, we have taken in through one of our five senses. Therefore when someone told us about God, we have taken in that information either through our sense of sight (we read about Him), or through our sense of hearing (someone told us about him). God must also have been described as something that we could perceive through our senses, hence it is no surprise that he is thought of as a being who has many human qualities. Both physical and that of character. Some theologians regard him as compassionate and powerful in the same manner as they would regard noble human individuals as having those qualities of character. They would even go so far as to say that God has a face, or that God laughs, or smiles when we please Him. In other words, they claim that we can see God engage in similar behaviors that we can see human beings engage in. And that he has many human qualities, so in short, as far as ethics is concerned, they maintain that God , for some strange reason shares our tastes and prejudices.


    It can very easily be shown that it is a mistake to think that God?s ethical preferences are exactly like ours(that is, our human nature tends to value compassion for example, and therefore God values it also, hence God shares our tastes and prejudices, as Literalist Theologians would have us believe.), or that he has any human qualities at all. Once again this is the error of anthropomorphism, the act of not trying to take in God?s qualities for what they are (or rather admitting that whatever they may be, we can not fathom them), but imposing our prejudices onto God. The reason why anthropomorphism can not work is because, we have acknowledged for God to be infinite, yet our minds are necessarily finite. Hence, this is the reason we see the World as having time, space and matter. As we can not grasp infinite, we break the world down into fragments of time (this clause was initially stated by the Great German Philosopher Immanuel Kant, taken further by Schopenhauer, and finally reaffirmed by the 20th century physics.), space is rendered possible by the substances that we project onto the world, hence it is also subjectively conditioned. And in order for one to be in time, one must both have mass and be subjected to light, and space is rendered possible only be the existence of light, so this furthermore reaffirms the clause that space is subjectively conditioned. Hence space, time and matter derive from a source that is inaccessible to us, which for Kant, is the noumenal world. So, we look at this noumenal world, and get the phenomenal, a world that is broken down into fragments of space, time and matter. This is a double aspect theory, the noumenal world is all that exists, yet because we can not see it for its face value, we translate it into what we can fathom, namely the phenomenal world. In order to do these ideas justice, another inquiry into the synthesis of early modern metaphysics (Kant/Schopenhauer) and modern Physics (Einstein) is necessary. That is not the focus of this essay.


    According to Kant God is the noumenal world, or at least the personhood of God resides in the world that we can not fathom. Hence, if we were to go to heaven and observe God with our minds that are divorced from the body, we would run into something that we have never seen before. Because there we would be working with our infinite minds which do not rely on subjectively conditioned space, time or matter and would be seeing reality for its face value. And this furthermore reinforces the clause that God does not inhere in matter (as Einstein has shown that matter as a thing in itself, is comprised of a constantly changing set of atoms. So this is a theory of metaphysical flux, it was first propounded by the Pre-Socratic Heraclitus and then reaffirmed by Schopenhauer, to whom this flux was the Will. I have addressed this subject in greater depth in Module 4.)


    Because God does not inhere in matter, he can not be grasped with our senses, and everything that we have knowledge of in this world could not have come from anywhere else but our senses, and this evinces that anthropomorphism can never work. By these merits I have shown that there is NO reason to regard God as a HE. That is not only can we not understand God?s physical attire, but we can never understand anything about any quality that he may have. Therefore as Theologians would tell us that the Bible is a translation of what can not be understood (noumenal world, outside of the reach of sense-perception and outside of human understanding) translated into what can be understood, the phenomenal world. David Hume, in the History of Natural religion gave a very comprehensive account of how religions evolved from harmless polytheism into dogmatic monotheism, and that the reason why people were able to justify a myriad of moral obliquities is because they have been presenting their prejudices onto God?s qualities and preferences. (Anthropomorphism). Accordingly as we began to see eyes on the God of Sun and swords in the arms of Mars, the God of War. Essentially, many of the Biblical stories should be interpreted allegorically not literally. As they were told by common man who supposedly had been influenced by God. Essentially, even if they were influenced by God, the shortcomings of human nature would be unavoidable. And it is clear that the writers of the Bible would be unable to extricate themselves from their personal and cultural prejudices. Though, there is one claim that we can make safely on behalf of Jesus and one that we could extrapolate to have something to do with God?s personal preferences: Surrender of the self to a higher purpose (as closely linked to the Buddhistic notion of how altruism is the chief source of all good, and egoism the chief source of all evil, thus surrendering to God can help us accomplish altruism without having to go through the self-abnegation as many Eastern sages had to), and what follows as an entailment of that is universal love. Love thy neighbor and Love thy God should be merged into just one command. The Second command is superfluous. The love of the neighbor should follow as an entailment of one?s love of God. This is the only Christian truth that there could be, love thy God. The rest is bound to commit the egregious error of anthropomorphism. We certainly can not go as far as to say that we know that this is what God wants, or that we have any knowledge of God (as he is in the noumenal world), as again we would be treading a dangerous line on anthropomorphism. But we should accept just this one claim because it is the one that provides the most objective overture of Christian ethics and is nonetheless the safest one. If we say that the Bible tells us HOW the neighbor is to be loved in the name of God, than we necessarily will be imposing our prejudices onto the divine character. This opens the door for Phariseenism. The purpose of Christian regulations and practical politics of the Church should be no other than making it possible for people to worship God. This is the heart of Christianity, this is the only thing that it must accomplish, without it, all its other achievements would certainly be worthless. The task of practical politics is not to tell us what God is like, but to make it possible for us to practice spirituality. Spirituality is necessarily a private affair, politics are not. Accordingly, the feminist complaint about how Christianity (according to God?s likings) does not honor egalitarianism is meritless. They can argue about how the Christian culture does not honor egalitarianism because of the way it has been influenced by the writings in the Bible, but they are not in the position to maintain that true Christian faith insists on men being regarded as superior to women. This notion runs into the incommensurability problem, and can not be addressed at all without having made the error of anthropomorphism. Accordingly, God and true morality are outside of sense-perception (noumenal world) and as Kant has shown, noumenal world can not be grasped, therefore it necessarily follows that God can not have any human qualities or be as anything that we could imagine for him to be. Hence, it is not possible for God to be a male chauvinist, or that to be a Christian one must entertain some measurement of male chauvinism. This may be true about what one must do to be part of the Christian community, or what beliefs one must hold to avoid heresy, but true Christianity(honest spirituality that is, not shallow politics that strives to do nothing other than debauch it for selfish human ends) shall have nothing to do with it. Christianity is about God and accordingly shall have nothing to do with the petty logistics of man-made practical politics.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    Can we do more conversation and less essay? Let's try discussion questions:

    Here are discussion questions for my thoughts:

    What are the qualities of myths?
    What can we gain from myths?
    What can we not gain from myths?
    From where do myths emerge? Why do myths emerge? Is there an evolutionary reason?
    Can some things be true outside of the realm of "fact"?
    Are there different "categories" of truth? If so, what are they? If not, why?
    What makes something "false"?
    What is belief?
    Is belief a problem--for individuals, for society? Why/why not?


    The objective here (for me) is to talk about stuff. People are less likely to talk about gigantic, behemoth posts without at least a little direction (not because they're stupid or can't, but because, hey, this is everybody's leisure time!).

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    Senior Member Langrenus's Avatar
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    Thanks for proving all of that for us SW, the world can sleep easy tonight.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    According to Kant God is the noumenal world, or at least the personhood of God resides in the world that we can not fathom. [...]By these merits I have shown that there is NO reason to regard God as a HE.
    So you've shown that? Sorry, individual intellectual creativity has obviously become conflated with paraphrasing other authors...damn, I wish someone had told me that at university. All of those hours wasted. As a bonus question, didn't you post elsewhere on this forum that you haven't actually read his Critique of Pure Reason? Neatly name-dropped either way.

    Your posts are beginning to read like rambling Amazon book reviews.

    Anyway...

    Eileen, interesting post. I must admit I find the thought of a priest who doesn't 'know' that there's a god slightly strange (on the surface) but you've obviously thought about this a great deal.

    Some questions (forgive me interrogative style):
    1) Do you believe all of Christianity's stories to be myths? To move beyond biblical tales, do you believe in miracles, for instance?
    2) I wouldn't disagree with the idea that our choice of faith/belief is a matter that exists outside of intellectual action - but in that case doesn't the 'question' of a god's existence become meaningless? If it is a question, what other grounds do we have to turn to with which to answer it?
    3) I'm a little unclear on whether you actually follow the creed of Christianity - where does your belief begin and end? If the community existed outside of religion (this might be a little difficult to imagine I suppose) then would you simply become agnostic?

    I've been up for about 30 hours, so apologies if this post isn't as clear as it should be.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langrenus View Post
    Eileen, interesting post. I must admit I find the thought of a priest who doesn't 'know' that there's a god slightly strange (on the surface) but you've obviously thought about this a great deal.
    Well, I'd say that no priest knows that there's a God, but yes, priests who hold this particular epistemological stance may be rare (at the same time, I know through conversations with both lay and clergy that I am not alone on this matter).

    Some questions (forgive me interrogative style):
    1) Do you believe all of Christianity's stories to be myths? To move beyond biblical tales, do you believe in miracles, for instance?
    Hmmmm, I haven't really thought about that. I've stayed with the old narratives, generally (maybe they're a safer place for this kind of conversation?). However, I'll give it a shot: If I allow myself to "read" the world, then I can believe in the story of a miracle (I'll give an example in a moment) while also being skeptical as to whether anything more than a statistical anomaly or a mistaken perception occurred.

    A few years ago, the ivory-billed woodpecker was "rediscovered" after being labeled extinct for (I think) sixty years. I was really taken with this story and moved by how meaningful it was to those who witnessed it. In that story, there's a lot of potential for themes about resilience and resurrection, and so I honor those little "truths" that I read in the story of the woodpecker.

    However, it's totally possible that it's a mistaken perception. And that's where it gets tricky; if the ivory-billed woodpecker is still extinct, there's no miracle, no resurrection, etc. It's much harder to suspend disbelief when we're dealing with narratives that change as the facts are revealed.

    I do think, though, in stories of amazing healing and things like that, that even if it's a statistical anomaly, I can be in wonder and appreciate those "themes" that I'm always trying to find in stories and in life. So even if I don't accept something as more than a coincidence, there's still possibility for it to be useful to me in the same way that a biblical narrative might be.

    These are all newish thoughts, though, so I do not claim airtight thinking (not that I ever feel comfortable claiming that).

    2) I wouldn't disagree with the idea that our choice of faith/belief is a matter that exists outside of intellectual action - but in that case doesn't the 'question' of a god's existence become meaningless? If it is a question, what other grounds do we have to turn to with which to answer it?
    Yeah, I think that the question of a god's existence is meaningless in a sense--because it's not an answerable question, and really, most arguments for or against are really tired and worn; not a lot of new thought seems to be happening there, so not a lot of new meaning is being formed at this point, if ever. I don't think there are other grounds to turn to; it's one of those things I have happily placed in the "unanswerable" bin. I leave the top off the bin, though, and hope that we can talk about all the strands of possibilities that exist in that unanswered question (because you know, it's not a "yes" or a "no." It's a "no" and then a finite but huge number of "yeses").

    3) I'm a little unclear on whether you actually follow the creed of Christianity - where does your belief begin and end?
    I'd say yes, I believe in the Creed in that I have a certain faith/trust in the ideas of the God who (as my favorite priest says) "made us and saves us and will not leave us alone." I give my heart over to truths that are utterly unprovable. I have irrational/arational reasons for this trust; my belief is a matter of the heart, while my agnosticism is a matter of the mind. I talk and do recreational theology with friends, and I engage the ideas thoughtfully/mindfully, but the faith I hold is outside of the realm of reason.

    If the community existed outside of religion (this might be a little difficult to imagine I suppose) then would you simply become agnostic?
    I'm not sure what you mean here, so I'll await clarification.

  6. #6
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langrenus View Post
    Thanks for proving all of that for us SW, the world can sleep easy tonight.



    So you've shown that? Sorry, individual intellectual creativity has obviously become conflated with paraphrasing other authors...damn, I wish someone had told me that at university. All of those hours wasted. As a bonus question, didn't you post elsewhere on this forum that you haven't actually read his Critique of Pure Reason? Neatly name-dropped either way.

    Your posts are beginning to read like rambling Amazon book reviews.

    Anyway...

    Eileen, interesting post. I must admit I find the thought of a priest who doesn't 'know' that there's a god slightly strange (on the surface) but you've obviously thought about this a great deal.

    Some questions (forgive me interrogative style):
    1) Do you believe all of Christianity's stories to be myths? To move beyond biblical tales, do you believe in miracles, for instance?
    2) I wouldn't disagree with the idea that our choice of faith/belief is a matter that exists outside of intellectual action - but in that case doesn't the 'question' of a god's existence become meaningless? If it is a question, what other grounds do we have to turn to with which to answer it?
    3) I'm a little unclear on whether you actually follow the creed of Christianity - where does your belief begin and end? If the community existed outside of religion (this might be a little difficult to imagine I suppose) then would you simply become agnostic?

    I've been up for about 30 hours, so apologies if this post isn't as clear as it should be.


    It is true that I have not read the Critique of Pure Reason, yet I have read about it. And I've studied Schopenhauer thoroughly who himself was a dedicated Kantian. It is well known in philosophy that Kant began his attacks on theistic rationalism in the Critique of Pure Reason and finished them in Religion within Limits of Reason alone, that book I have read!

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    shoshaku jushaku rivercrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    What are the qualities of myths?
    What can we gain from myths?
    What can we not gain from myths?
    Myths give us a way to describe and discuss the mysteries of the world within. They provide meaning and context. It is our choice to use myth in this way.

    Myth is poetic.

    It is not technical writing.

    This is an important distinction.

    What myths don't provide is an instruction manual. This is the failing of fundamentalism the world over, to my mind. As soon as myth is used as an absolute description of the external world, it's depreciated.
    From where do myths emerge? Why do myths emerge? Is there an evolutionary reason?
    I'm content to believe that myths emerge from the minds of the poets and shamans of a culture.
    Can some things be true outside of the realm of "fact"?
    Are there different "categories" of truth? If so, what are they? If not, why?
    What makes something "false"?
    I'm very uncomfortable with the concept of "facts" at the moment. I'd like to tie it down to empiricism and pragmatism. As in, it is a fact that there once existed a giant fish to which this 6-inch tooth I'm holding belonged; the theory of evolution is sufficiently supported by discrete facts for the theory itself to be accepted as fact.

    Truth can exist outside of fact. I think truth can be subjective. There are things I hold as truths that my father (who is very conservative) dismisses as idiocies. Truths, to me, are working hypotheses I use to navigate my life. Truths are hinges.

    Truth can also be an agreed understanding. We agree that the theory of relativity is truth, whereas the theory of spontaneous generation is not.
    What is belief?
    Is belief a problem--for individuals, for society? Why/why not?
    Belief is when a truth (as I define it!) becomes integrated into the mind as an constant hinge. Can a belief be shaken? Sure. But most of the time belief is solid.

    To some extent, I think you could call "belief" a "value." For example, I believe that we should treat each other with respect and humility. To a lesser extent, I believe the categorical imperative informs our society and social interactions. There you see the basis of my value system.

    Belief is personal and subjective and therefore threatens the cohesion of society. Society requires uniformity and negotiated truths (for example, Nicaean Creed).

    The importance of ethics
    All truths and facts can be rendered useless if whoever is presenting them distorts the information or misleads the audience. Transmission of information depends on language.
    The objective here (for me) is to talk about stuff. People are less likely to talk about gigantic, behemoth posts without at least a little direction (not because they're stupid or can't, but because, hey, this is everybody's leisure time!).
    Lead on!
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    If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. -- Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Whaling is illegal in Oklahoma.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    (Originally, I wrote a promise to keep this short. Sorry, couldn't.)
    Considering you're summing up your entire spiritual history here, I thought it was quite brief.

    Backstory: I grew up conservatively religious, but my parents have never been overbearing about it, so both my sister and I were able to grow into our own spiritual persons without fear and worry. Our father, in particular, is someone who has been pretty candid about his own struggles--so struggle was clearly something allowed, and I continue to happily struggle through my process.
    That is pretty neat, that you had a parental figure who could model that for you. I sort of felt thrown to the wolves myself -- my mother was very devout (conservative) but very kind and undiscerning as well, my father was entirely non-committal and refused to talk about God. They did take me to church every week, so other people had the opportunity to interact with me and I could learn.

    Where I would locate myself today: I call myself "agnostic devout." I do not know whether there is a god, but I have religious faith. In fact, I have religious faith to the extent that I have plans to go to seminary and be ordained as a priest.
    So how does that work? In a Christian context? Since God is supposedly personal, not impersonal... what does your "relationship" with Him look like exactly?

    I guess I would be something similar. I originally was "conservative Christian" in my general beliefs but with a very open and intellectual mindset about the details, so I never quite felt like I fit in.

    Last fall, I had a real crash where I intellectually stepped outside everything (is that an Ni moment?) and saw that I had chosen an interpretation/story of my life that perhaps could read in different ways, not just the one I had chosen. So now everything is rather up in the air. But I have reached a point in my life where I realize I do have beliefs, and that I can be capable of "believing in God" (or whatever) even if the Bible or whatever else is shown to be false. It's like my spiritual intuition in certain truths has been freed from the imperfect "signs" that could point to them (sort of like Wittgenstein's ladder -- once you climb up it, you can throw the ladder away).

    The question of God's existence:At some point in college, I stopped having conversations about whether God exists because I found it to be an unanswerable inquiry that tended to be the place where good conversation about faith, religion, etc stopped. It didn't seem that this had to be the case, as seemed to be indicated by my experiences in Religious Studies.
    I'm thinking that same thing -- that I can't answer the "Does God exist?" question, so I need to decide what I believe and go with it.

    The problem of "belief": The author of this wonderful book for teenagers (My Faith, My Life - Jennifer Gamber) discusses the word "belief," not as an intellectual action but as an action of the heart. Professing belief, in this author's opinion, is not professing knowledge but instead professing trust--giving over with one's heart to God. I (personally) do not need to "know" that there is a literal God in order to believe in this manner.
    Yes. Totally. It's a commitment, rather than an intellectual assessment.

    Stories: Over the years, I've come to have a very profound respect for our stories. I hear a lot of disparaging of these stories as lies, manipulations, or (at best, maybe) mere fairy tales, particularly in rationalist (i'm not using the typological meaning here) circles. In religious circles, I hear a lot of denial that these narratives that are so important in our culture are stories at all. We have come to demand that everything be factual, verifiable, falsifiable, "true" in one particular sense,
    Yes, it seems to be a holdover from the modernist mindset of last century. The last twenty years have seen a definite improvement due to people who think outside that box and are getting back to the idea that not all "truth" is necessarily scientific/literal in nature, but that there are deep truths that can be realized through metaphor and life experience, even if they can't easily be articulated.

    We don't call nonfiction books "true" so that we can call fiction books "lies." That's not what we do. There are things that really happen, and then there are these other stories. The best works of fiction draw us into the world and have themes that apply to us. They have metaphors that "ring true" to us. Our myths are important because of their themes, not because they actually happened. Even if they did actually happen, they are still important because of their themes. Expecting a myth to be factual is expecting the wrong thing, in my opinion.
    Exactly. I don't need to believe that Adam & Eve or the Biblical Creation stories are "literal" or happened exactly as written, in order to "believe that they are true." The essence of creation is that God created everything, that there is an order and place for everything, that God was intimately involved, that he not only created but rested as part of his "cycle," and so forth. And I see deep truth in the Garden of Eden story as well... even if it did or did not happen historically. And this does not lessen the impact of the story, and might even deepen it.

    I think a lot of people struggle with what is authoritative, and I guess I just don't have that problem.
    I think many people have trouble with actual faith, so they create concrete dependable things that they can then justify to themselves and others believing in.

    My wife and I just talked about our faiths yesterday -- she still remains devoutly "conservative" and believes in the traditional "authority of the Bible," whereas I see it as a collection of literature compiled over centuries that not necessarily all of it is accurate. It is useful and good, with wonderful advice, and many of the stories contain the "truth essence" even if the details are irrelevant.

    Her point was that, if you decide that some of the Bible is not literally/factually true, where do you stop? How do you know what is true? (So it can lead to "relative morality" and anything could be ignored, if someone wanted to.)

    My point was that you're already making a judgment that the Bible is correct on everything. Having an authority is great if you are sure it's entirely accurate, but the flaw is in believing something that could be wrong to begin with... leading to promoting beliefs that might not be right.

    Have to run... but please continue this conversation with anything you'd like, I like hearing where you're at. (And whomever else.) This is a big issue in my life right now, so I also find it very relevant.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  9. #9
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    SW, please -- less essay, more easily personable prose. (Well, you can feel free to do what you want, but I don't have the time nor energy to comb through all this, hoping to find some gems in the rough.)

    Just using more paragraph breaks and simpler prose would really help. One small example:
    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    As far as the feminist assertion that the Bible fails to honor egalitarianism is concerned, a meta-ethical approach can be taken to give this phenomenon a fair treatment.
    You could rewrite the first part as "While feminists claim the Bible does not support gender equality" ... and I have no clue what the hell you mean by the second part. Anyway... Just advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by rivercrow View Post
    o a lesser extent, I believe the categorical imperative informs our society and social interactions. There you see the basis of my value system.
    RC, I agree with much of what you have said here. Sorry for my ignorance, but what exactly is a "categorical imperative"? (I don't know the lingo yet, sorry). Thanks.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  10. #10
    shoshaku jushaku rivercrow's Avatar
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    My mother is a religious conservative Protestant. She doesn't have a grounding in Church history before the Protestant Reformation.

    She just discovered the Gnostic Gospels and was startled when confronted with the historical fact that the Bible has been edited and canonized by humans. From that, she realized that the texts themselves were written by humans--perhaps divinely inspired humans, but still human.

    Humans are fallible. We are lenses that the Divine works through. Any glass distorts light.

    She had a lot to think about.
    Who rises in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, "I think I will do something stupid today?" -- James Hollis
    If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. -- Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Whaling is illegal in Oklahoma.

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