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27 December 2014

Comments

Paul Emery

I seem to be drifting towards Deism based on the simple observation that we cannot know what we cannot perceive but we can feel what we cannot know.
I do not believe in religions especially guy in the sky types such as Christianity or Islam, both of which are very similar. here's some simple looks at Deism.

The core of deism believes in:

Rejection of religions based on books that claim to contain the revealed word of God.
Rejection of religious dogma and demagogy.
Skepticism of reports of miracles, prophecies and religious "mysteries."

George Rebane

PaulE 535pm - The 'looks at Deism' you provided are all in negation. In your personal acceptance of Deism, what do you embrace in affirmation?

Bonnie McGuire

Interesting thoughts George. I always get a kick out of those who say there is no God. What they're really saying is that they know it all. I look at the NASA space photos of endless galaxies in awe. Our planet earth is minute in comparison to the planets closest to us. We're constantly discovering other worlds and creatures in our world altogether demonstrating how little we really know about anything. Yet some are so smart they confidently assert there is no God. Aside from the physical seen worlds there is evidence of unseen worlds described by inventors, musicians, poets, writers and prophets who have told us that all those wonderful things they created were copied from another dimension they were able to see, or hear. Mozart listened and wrote his music with a pen. He stayed with it until it was finished lest he lose it. Exhausting. The many stories are available for those who are interested....altogether proving how little we really know.

Russell Steele

We could be living in a Holographic Universe? An experiment on going at the University of Chicago Fermilab Particle Astrophysics Center will attempt to measure the intimate connections among information, matter and spacetime. If it works, it could rewrite the rules for 21st-century physics. I just hope the power source for the Holographic projector is infinite!

Paul Emery

Well expressed Bonnie. Yes indeed we can feel what we cannot know.

Paul Emery

George

If you allow me to compile from published sources Deism combines a rejection of religious knowledge as a source of authority with the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe.

George Rebane

PaulE 830pm - Your summary definition of Deism is a sufficient pointer for us to assume that you are a classical Deist. Since you are also a part of the 'natural world', what observations can you draw from yourself were you to consider the synthesis of a universe as its god/designer who can control the Big Four - time, space, mass, energy? In short, what possibilities would you design into your universe so that it would become a source of abiding interest, stimulation, and even joy?

Paul Emery

Gosh George I've never asked to be a God before. Let me give this some thought.

Barry Pruett

What about faith?

Dave Smith

Let's approach this is a reasonable manner....

1. God has never left any physical evidence of his existence on earth.

2. None of Jesus' "miracles" left any physical evidence either.

3. God has never spoken to modern man, for example by taking over all the television stations and broadcasting a rational message to everyone.

4. The resurrected Jesus has never appeared to anyone.

5. The Bible we have is provably incorrect and is obviously the work of primitive men rather than God.

6. When we analyze prayer with statistics, we find no evidence that God is "answering prayers."

7. Huge, amazing atrocities like the Holocaust and AIDS occur without any response from God.

Why is that? Maybe because there are 1000's of "Gods" made up by a variety of folks and this has been true in every case!

Russ Steele

Joel Kotkin has written an interesting article on God and Technology for Forbes Magazine OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN THE APPLE STORE: THE DECLINE OF CHRISTMAS AND THE LOOMING TECH NIGHTMARE

In the past, this season was marked by a greater interest in divinity, the family hearth and the joy of children. Increasingly our society has been turning away from such simple human pleasures, replacing them with those of technology.

Despite the annual holiday pageantry, in the West religion is on the decline, along with our society’s emphasis on human relationships. Atheism seems to be getting stronger, estimated at around 13 percent worldwide but much higher in such countries as Japan, Germany and China. “The world is going secular,” claims author Nigel Barber. “Nothing short of an ice age can stop it.”

In contrast, the religion of technology is gaining adherents. In a poll in the U.K., about as many said they believe Google to have their best interests at heart as God. Religious disbelief has been rising particularly among U.S. millennials, a group that, according to Pew, largely eschews traditional religion and embraces technology as a primary value. Some 26 percent profess no religious affiliation, twice the level of their boomer parents; they are twice as irreligious at their age as any previous generation

The whole article can be found HERE, which discussed a technological future described by Ray Kurzweil with cautions by Bill Joy.

Kotkin concludes:

Whatever the advantages that we can derive from technology, this vision of the future violates the basic moral principles of both civil society and religious faith. Before we plug ourselves in for eternity, we might consider, this holiday season, to take a non-digital path to reviving our soils, whether by reading your bible, enjoying Shakespeare, tossing a football with your kids, or simply taking a walk in the woods. Technology might help shape what humanity can do, but it cannot make us any more human. That’s up to us.

Bill Tozer

There is an old saying "God gave us brains to use". Talk off the record to the greatest mathematicians, micro biologists, cosmetologists, and they all will confide that the chances of something arising from nothing is nil. Many of history's greatest theorists have recanted their former beliefs in their old age, such as Darwin. But their words of wisdom at old age fall on deaf ears. Besides, Darwin's theory (as well as countless other theories) rely on a closed system, which as Dr Rebane pointed out, our universe is open and expanding.

But, I wish to address the real issue. Seems to me that science and the human imagination is searching for life out there in the Universe. Not some algae, but intelligent beings that can answer our questions. Like, "What's it all about, Alphie?" Suppose we contact and meet with superior people/beings well past Mars. Don't you think they would be searching for someone like us to explain to them the meaning of life, why existence?, where did we come from, how did it all come into being?, lol.
The more that is revealed, the more questions arise. The more that is revealed, the more there is yet to be revealed. It just gets bigger the more than is unearthed. Something out of nothing? No edges on the Universe? Order out of chaos? The ETs have the answers? How can the finite comprehend the infinite, no less apprehend the Infinite.

As far as holograms go, perhaps all the UFOs are just holograms from a distant galaxy, far, far, far away. Why would their advanced society bother to expend the energy and time to send a fleet of old spacecraft if they sit at home and send holograms.

For now, we are left with the inner small still voice that tells us the God theory makes sense and backed up by science and readoning.

George Rebane

PaulE 1220am – Please do give it some thought. We have no hope in dealing with even a concept of God if we believe him to be pernicious toward the sentient and sapient creatures in his creation. Most religions and deist philosophies subscribe to our being ‘in his image’ with respect to some subset of God’s attributes – the minimal four we share in some diminished sense is our ability to reason, have a sense of justice (fairness), experience joy, experience sorrow. In the Christian tradition, God also promised that his creation would be an ordered one such that it could be discovered (controlled and ‘subdued’) by reasonable critters; and that he has most certainly done – we do not live in a ‘Harry Potter World’ controlled by a jumble of arbitrary rules.

So start with those as you play the creator god, and see what you would come up with. Some more thoughts on this can be found here –
http://rebaneruminations.typepad.com/rebanes_ruminations/2012/07/does-god-watch-paint-dry.html

BarryP 536am – I take your use of ‘faith’ to be an expression of unshakeable belief that ascribes the probability 1.0 to a proposition (e.g. There is a God). Such unshakeable beliefs take leave of reason since they banish falsifiability – i.e. a fortiori they do not admit any evidence that may counter their faith. (In the formal Bayesian sense propositions with probability one or zero denote certainty, and such beliefs cannot be changed, no matter the strength of subsequently presented evidence.) Embracing such unassailable faith is the main discriminant separating science (reason) and calcified religion. It is interesting that the Judeo-Christian God did not demand such absolute faith from his people. In both the Old and New Testaments we read how God continually demonstrated his power and glory to establish his bona fides and to recall his flock after the numerous times they defected from him.

DaveS 549am – Your ‘reasonable approach’ launches with the strong implication that the legion of scientists, those who ascribe the universe as deriving from a purposive and intelligent God (designer), are not reasonable, at least in the sense that you claim to be. Consequently, in your bullet points, you seem to go off the rails from the gitgo – it is the design of the entire universe, and most certainly the design of life on earth, that has convinced many intelligent and reasoning people to see in that as the greatest evidence possible that God exists, that what we have continued to unfold and observe is not a random event in some cosmic lottery. And all of such claims adhere to the demands of both Occam and falsifiability.

Your strongest point may be #5. Christian scripture exploded in the first century AD, and was finally corralled into a shaky canon at the Council of Carthage (circa 393AD). From there the canon was further dissected, translated, revised, into the tens of versions, not all coherent, that have come down to us. No one can reasonably contend that all of those versions are the inspired work of a beneficent God; the contributions of men are undeniable. But then, God did not fall silent after Carthage, and many of us today, including those alluded to in my post, believe that God has revealed much more of his glory (power, intelligence, reason, …, even humor) since then than he did to the primitives of biblical times.

RussS 608am – The thoughts of Ray Kurzweil, Bill Joy, and others re the Singularity have been extensively covered in these pages (cf ‘Singularity Signposts’ category). Yes, in the west Christianity is in precipitous decline, due IMHO to how it is malpracticed by the religion industry. Its trifecta of errors of 1) insisting on biblical infallibility, and 2) incoherent interpretations of the various versions of scripture, and 3) inability to integrate the totality of human knowledge (e.g. science) into its cosmic ontology make it an unacceptable belief system to people who are today deluged with data and information for which they have no cognitive structure (taxonomy) for retention let alone reasoning. Were we to survive the Singularity, the only hope humans have is some form of transhumanism, which BTW is totally consistent with science’s understanding of God.

Kotkin’s conclusion – “Technology might help shape what humanity can do, but it cannot make us any more human. That’s up to us.” – is hard to swallow. He assumes that there is a standard or a template of what attributes constitute a proper human. Unfortunately, our history on this planet demonstrates a wide spectrum of humanity’s mores, values, behaviors, … , most of which were carried out in the name of some version of ‘proper humanity’ that often cited legitimacy of divine origin. Given that technology can deliver and bestow super-intelligence on what used to H. Sapiens, we may then, as an evolved/upgraded species, be able to behave in ways more salubrious than as humans we could have ever dreamt.

BillT 743am – Mr Tozer, given the 13.7B year age of our universe, the probability is almost certainty that earth is already in the ‘primitive civilizations under observation’ catalog of a society advanced beyond our wildest imaginings. One wonders what their utility is for allowing us our continued existence in, perhaps, the hope that we may eventually qualify for our next stage of evolution.

Ben Emery

The word "God" is a feeble attempt to describe the transcendent. The problem most people have with "God" is the religious "God". This specific "God" is the real "God" and if you don't believe in it, you must not believe in "God".

There is only one source and no word can ever describe it sufficiently.

George Rebane

BenE 1146am - As called out in my post, the word 'God' is NOT a descriptor, but merely a label of convenience. However, as Feynman points out, there is nothing inconsistent in translating the label 'God' to also be the religious God.

fish

Evidence not only that there is a god....but that he has a sense of humor!


http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/28/politics/bush-leads-gop-field-poll/index.html

Account Deleted

I remember Ben claiming he was quite the Christian and of course, we conservatives were not. Now Ben says his problem with God is Christ himself!
I would say that the problem most folks have with Christianity is folks that are not Christian who claim to be Christian that go about causing trouble. There's that saying about not wanting 'to have religion shoved down my throat'. I'd love to see the left stop pushing their religion in schools and other public venues.
Science should be about freedom to follow evidence and advocate and publish ideas whether they are popular or not. Christianity has never been about getting in the way of that. It's a shame that so many feel a need to choose between 'science and...' or 'religion and ...'.
God (happen stance for some) equipped us with a pretty good noggin. I love to learn about the latest discoveries in all fields of scientific and technical endeavor. None of it threatens to upset my faith in God as all of it is simply learning more about what God has done and is doing.

George Rebane

Drivebyposter misposted this under 'The Season of Joy' - "I'm going to have to vote for God as being a form of anthropomorphism. Having said that, religion is a useful, and likely biological, solution to the problem of altruism towards unrelated humans."

Would your 'vote' survive the news that another civilization of totally different lifeforms also believe in God? Or that perhaps another sapient lifeform living in complete isolation harbored such a belief?

Joe Koyote

"Science should be about freedom to follow evidence and advocate and publish ideas whether they are popular or not. Christianity has never been about getting in the way of that."

I think the words "has never" are slightly misleading. Wasn't daVinci put on house arrest (rather than burned at the stake due to his popularity) for claiming the Earth was round in direct conflict with the church's flat Earth? Were not a lot of science types the subject of the Inquisition? Many people would also argue that the "creationism vs. evolution" dispute is an example of church doctrine attempting to supplant science.

I think faith-spirituality are different than organized religion. It seems as if historically many organized religions function more as political units than spiritual ones. Islam for example..perhaps not to dissimilar to Inquisition era Chrisianity.

Account Deleted

Christians had nothing to do with the mistreatment of humans. People claiming to be Christians did a lot of bad things. There are currently 'men of science' that have called for the jailing of anyone who denies AGW.
Shall we then say that all scientists are the current witch hunters? There are politicians that are evil and power hungry. Do we say all politicians are bad? The Bible never advocates punishment for new or unpopular scientific ideas. Darwin's theories have had their run and are now kept propped up by the same dogmatic powers that imprisoned scientists of old.
"It seems as if historically many organized religions function more as political units than spiritual ones."
Well - duh! Folks that want power will use whatever cover they can find to advance their ends. The Bible warns specifically against this.

drivebyposter

"Would your 'vote' survive the news that another civilization of totally different lifeforms also believe in God?"

The tricky thing here is that the words 'believe in' probably don't stand the transition to another lifeform.

George Rebane

drivebyposter 429pm - to the extent that they structure their knowledge of the universe in terms of propositions that they hold to be true, 'believe' has no problem transiting from our usage to theirs without much damage. The existence of God is just another such proposition.

Barry Pruett

That is very scientific explanation of Christianity. You point is well taken and enlightening. That said, faith is good enough for me.

drivebyposter

Lacking any experimental subjects, I'd say that's too long a jump to make. I'm not intending any sophistry here, just the observation that too much of this revolves around linguistics to be comfortable for me.

As a general observation, my general inclination is to think that

. religion is essentially indistinguishable from political (or any other sort of mass) thinking
. any sort of Prime Mover (whether it's an alien running a simulation, the universe-as-state-machine, or a cosmic super-Dad) would be so alien in construction that describing it in terms of human notions is a fool's errand.

That isn't to say that religion is a useless thing. Getting everyone to pull on the same rope is a sketchy business.

Walt

The belief in a "higher power" is world wide. Christians don't hold the "licence" to GOD.
Most if not all of the civilizations on this globe have a belief in "something" greater than man. (yes, a higher power) And that happened LONG before people started migrating from contentment to contentment. And most religion "stories" around the globe are vary similar in "what they say". They all pray to "the heavens". ( the sky, and stars) That's where GOD is, and "evil" comes from the depths of the earth.

So.. Just how did all that transpire? No GOD some say? I beg to differ.

drivebyposter

"Most if not all of the civilizations on this globe have a belief in "something" greater than man."

Taoism? Confucianism? Kind of a stretch there.

The various sorts of ancestor worship and semi-deities don't really fall into the model of an overarching Personality in Charge of Things either.

If you extend the idea of religion to include shared mass attitudes, you can certainly argue that it's worldwide though. There's a pretty fine gradiation leading from the first hunter-gatherer belief systems, though the early cities with their more formalized ritual (and increasingly secretive priesthoods), into long term formal religions. Frankly, I can't see any kind of real difference between that and human institutions generally. Virtus, pietas, fides, and all that.

To me, the more interesting question is whether religion originates from physical reality, cultural evolution, or innate biological construction of humans. or to what extent each of the three is responsible.

Bonnie McGuire

Dave Smith claims "5. The Bible we have is provably incorrect and is obviously the work of primitive men rather than God." Whenever I hear or read such comments I realize the person probably never bothered to go to the source. Not even open the cover. My extensive study convinced me its the greatest book ever written....a living book, because the more you experience the more you understand. It is both history and prophecy. I discovered the old King James Version with both Greek and Hebrew translation cross references to be the best for concentrated study. http://www.mcguiresplace.net/Stories/The%20King%20James%20Bible/
http://www.mcguiresplace.net/Stories-Random%20Thoughts-Inspiration

Dave Smith

Thank you Bonnie, but what makes the Bible more valid that the Torah, or the Quran, or the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur, or the Standard Works and Biblical canon § Latter Day Saint canons from the Mormon faith?

Who said that one of these books, all written by men are more valid than any other?

Joe Smith

It easy to bolster an argument by cherry picking experts to support your view. Conveniently forgotten is the recently released The Meaning of Human Existence by two time Pulitzer winner E.O. Wilson. It is a ground breaking treatise by one of the world's most gifted and respected biologists and philosophers.

Bill Tozer

Barry asks "what about faith?" Faith is the bridge that takes us to the other shore. Dr. Rebane exhibits faith when hinting that there are other civilizations out yonder beyond our wildest imaginings. Proof? No, faith yes. Paul has faith. He believes what he feels, with or without proof. Someday science will solve a myriad of deep unanswered questions. Proof? No! Faith? yes! We all have faith and are worshipers whether you like it or not. Some worship human intelligence, some nature, some the work ethic, some science, some mathematics, some themselves. All guided by faith in the unproven and unseen.

Human reasoning has always left us short of the other shore. Human reasoning is wonderful, but it can only go so far. In the Christian belief system, faith is essential, nay, necessary. If we relied solely upon human intelligence, then only the intelligent smart ones would be "saved". That thought process is contrary to Christ's teachings and all his disciples.
One of Christ's follows (Saul of Tarsus before he was renamed Paul) wrote that the handiwork of nature alone cries out that there is a Creator, so no man is without excuse (my paraphrase from memory), No man is without excuse. Faith as small as a grain of salt takes you along way. That's how I see things, what I believe, and I am sticking to it.

Ben Emery

George,
Nothing wrong with religious "God" the problem comes when people get stuck on the label or the story of that specific religion "God". We have to go past the religion to be touched by "God", we have to go inward. "God" is within us all and our moments where we feel the energy of something much larger than ourselves comes in the form of a feeling, not from a book or words. Sometimes a book, words, or atmosphere can put us in the mindset (letting go) to be open enough that "God" overtakes our consciousness. These moments are precious and should be received with great gratitude.

I experience this in the natural world and explains my fierce defense of the environment, destroying my place of spirituality for excess or profit is the biggest insult.

Barry Pruett

I am rather enjoying reading about everyone's personal belief systems. Fascinating. One of the best conversations. As Bill alluded to and George details in a theoretical manner, I believe that faith gets us to the end (passed the 0.999 probability). In the end and as demonstrated in these writings, we are all searching for the Truth either through religion, inner reflection, or a combination. Commenters here (as thinking beings) are all actively contributing to life and trying to determine its meaning and its consequences. It is important to remember this conversation later; we are all searching for what is right, but we may have different ways of getting to the Truth. It has been quite pleasant to read. Let 2015 continue in this tone as we seek what is right together.

George Rebane

JoeS 1221am - By "cherry picking" it seems you are implying that the number of the recognized learned opting for God's existence is a precious few who must be carefully sampled and presented. That is neither the case, nor the real substantiation for the arguments presented in this post. The arguments stand on their own, no matter if they are made by one or all. (I also refer you to Einstein's response to being told that a covey of then respected scientists were collecting to refute relativity.)

BillT 647am - Not sure how you are defining 'faith' Mr Tozer. For this discussion I defined it in my 1107am. I would more correctly ascribe my believing (probability approaching one) that there are myriads of other sapient civilizations in this universe, instead of being certain or having an unshakeable faith in their existence (probability equal to one).

BenE 803am - Many would agree with your characterization of the God experience. However, I have a problem in following your fears about spirituality being sacrificed for "excess profit"? since I cannot reliably judge when another's profits become excessive.

BarryP 855am - Amen Barry.

Todd Juvinall

Without GOD's grace we are all lost. Hopefully that will be what saves my sorry arse.

Bonnie McGuire

I studied many religions, but noticed that Christ's teachings provided a simple way to a better life....here and hereafter. The choice is ours. Do into others as you would have them do unto you. Even a child can understand this. And I've noticed that some very naughty people who repented and changed their ways make the best Evangelists because those who are struggling can identify with them so might just listen and change also. The view is magnificent and proof that without spiritual guidance and personal discipline civilization cannot thrive. Even Sigmund Freud said that about the spiritually disciplined who develope and improve themselves create a better community (civilization), while the undisciplined do the opposite. Even medical doctors admit that those with faith have a better chance of being healed. Look into your eyes and see the light of the spirit that gives you life. When you die the light leaves it's earthly home.

Ben Emery

Bonnie,
Every major religion has a version Do onto others .....

The Golden Rule or Ethic of Reciprocity has been around far longer than Christianity. Much like most of the teachings of Christ, although very true, there is nothing new in them except presenting them for a different era and culture.

Until we view the Earth and all on it as codependent and "One" we will continue to fail to live to our full potential.

Golden Rule
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ci613QcC5E

Bonnie McGuire

Yes Ben. God is all. But we see according to us, our experience. Christianity has many doctrines of men providing ritual, or whatever to get attention and members who focus on what appeals to them. Most require some kind of personal commitment and discipline. Whatever the focus, or appeal usually determines the denomination. Christ wisely said they all represented a particular part of the entire body. When I was a young I noticed all the divorces and unhappy people with all their problems, so like Jesus suggested...I privately and sincerely prayed "God help me, there has to be more to life than this!" The door opened and all sorts of marvelous people, studies and experiences began. Indeed, we are made in the image of God to be creative, or destructive. The choice is ours along with the consequences. We can be petty over the spelling of a word and miss the story. Years ago a lady stated that because I typed Sierras, no one should bother reading the rest of the story. It didn't matter how much damage a lie did to hundreds of hard working men and their families. I don't expect you to read it, but this was another one of my wonderful personal experiences. http://www.mcguiresplace.net/Blind%20Man's%20Bluff

George Rebane

I draw your kind attention to the 29dec14 update to 'Islamophobia 2.0'.
http://rebaneruminations.typepad.com/rebanes_ruminations/2014/12/islamophobia-20.html

drivebyposter

"Every major religion has a version (of) Do onto others ..... "

Quetzalcoatl would certainly have to agree with this.

George Rebane

BenE 152pm - Am not sure about your claim of such universality, since it takes only the omission of one major religion to falsify it. Specifically, I'm having a hard time finding Islam's credentials in joining this wonderful group.

Christ's teaching, albeit not always followed by Christians, was 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' Islam, among some other faiths, at best puts strong conditionals on who such loved neighbors might be. And it has no problems in detailed scriptural prescriptions on how to deal with infidels. Hard to put my finger on their equivalents in the New Testament. Please help.

Bonnie McGuire

I forgot to mention that Do unto others as you would have them do unto you replaced the Old Testaments Do unto others as they do unto you...eye for an eye retaliations...never ending story.

Ben Emery

Barry,
The mass deforestation, mass over decline of our oceans, mass destruction of of natural environment to extract fossil fuels, and the causation of the 6th mass extinction that is being propelled by the human race.

6th Mass Extinction
http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/july/sixth-mass-extinction-072414.html

Deforestation
http://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html

Oceans in decline
http://www.stateoftheocean.org/

Fossil Fuel Destruction
http://www.eesi.org/topics/fossil-fuels/description

Ben Emery

Geroge,
If we want to focus on the negatives I can pull example after example out of Christian writings or deeds to prove what ever I wanted. I choose to focus on the positives and the commonalities of religions because I believe people believing in something larger than themselves is a net positive over all. I only focus on the negative when I hear or see people of one faith trashing an entire belief system that is not their own. Are there nasty people and groups out there performing horrendous deeds in the name of Islam, you bet. I would argue as do most Muslims that these groups do not represent Islam and in fact are the antithesis of the religion.


World News \ Asia
World's top Muslim leaders condemn attacks on Iraqi Christians
http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/07/25/worlds_muslim_leaders_condemn_attacks_on_iraqi_christians/1103410

excerpts

"The most explicit condemnation came from Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the group representing 57 countries, and 1.4 billion Muslims."

"The Secretary General also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they "have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”

drivebyposter

"World's top Muslim leaders condemn attacks on Iraqi Christians"

It's kind of too late for them. I wouldn't give 100 more years to the Christians and Jews in Middle Eastern countries (Israel and Eastern Empire heartlands like Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt excepted). It's an underreported story as a sort of defacto Alhambra Decree has been at work for quite some time.

At this point in time I'd say that Islam is, simply put, a more muscular religion than Christianity both in demographics and in the power of it's memes. Nothing to be done about it, it happens every now and then.

My own opinion on Christianity as a movement (this is impossible to prove of course) is that with it's increasing decoupling from national politics and mass thinking, it has become a prime mover in the ongoing decline of Western European and satellite cultures. That 'love your neighbor as yourself' business is pretty dangerous when it extends to the whole world.

Bill Tozer

Muslim preaches freedom of faith and coexistence? Freedom of faith means convert or kiss your behind goodbye. Coexistence means pay the Muslim tax for not converting, or does it means freely taking children and women as slaves? Sure, not all are ragheads. Some of the Westerners that went to Arabia to join up with the Islam ISIS army have become discouraged after executing 2,000 people of the wrong faith and want to come home. They came to fight, not behead children and rape women. Problem is they can't leave and are now tied to the front of tanks, surprise, surprise! Welcome to the Roach Motel and you can never leave alive. Enjoy your visit to the House of Horrors and Whores.

Freedom of faith? You be kidding me, right. Just trying to get a rise and a chuckle out of the readers, right? The UN says it so you believe it, right? By golly, the UN says it and it is the gospel of truth. Manna from heaven. It's a bloodily miracle I tell ya. The same organization that votes for Libya and Iran to be seated on the UN Human Rights Commission. Bow to the mighty UN, lol, lol, lol, roflmao. You funny man, Ben Emery.

The peaceful moderate ones are in reality secularists and have turned their backs on Islam and live among infidels. They too will have their day of reckoning.

Islam is uniquely qualified as a bloodthirsty religion of conquest. Do not pooh-pooh away what is happening to the birthplace of Islam across the entire region. Too many countries to list and they are Muslim countries. Consider the problems Muslim cause in small enclaves in Europe. How can such a small minority be such a big headache wherever they go. America moderate Muslims are not true followers of Islam, just backsliders away from their roots.

Islam is unique in its intolerance, trampling of human rights, treatment of women. Indeed, it is a snake in the grass, a gutter false religion of peace.

George Rebane

Dear people, the discussion on Islam more properly belongs under 'Islamophobia 2.0' which gave rise to BenE's expected 914pm.

Ben Emery

George,
I was making a more positive point not trying to get a discussion on Islam, which we all know your opinions on.

If we want to find faults it is easy since the media sells advertising by getting more eyeballs directed to their daily coverage of brutality and carnage. What isn't reported on are the millions and millions of good acts performed everyday of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists.....

My guesstimate is around 98% of the people in the world want to get along, there are a few people in powerful positions who will benefit from warfare and resource theft that divide the people in all societies and cultures against each other. It is evil.

Open our hearts and we will find "God" and if those who have evil in their heart take over just understand that we lived the correct way and ultimately will end up in the presence of god for eternity.

Bill Tozer

Hear, hear Dr. Rebane. The Muslim flag has a crescent moon on it, thus they be scientists. Although I must admit that the Islam world's contributions to science strangely disappear and become nil whenever a jihad is going down.

Me bad. Ok, back on topic.

When did the first molecule replicate itself. Apparently the first tree came with the ability to drop seeds and reproduce. When did the first DNA strand morf into a creature like a horse and where did the horse find a mate? Did two horsies arise out of the primordial soup at exactly the same time each bearing the same DNA or where they separate? Where the first two DNA molecules exactly alike in size, shape, and dimension?. Why does carbon destroy the DNA molecule, exactly the same carbon that is a by-product of replicating the DNA molecule in elaborate lab experiments.

What is the probably of throwing a stick of dynamite into a type setter's shop and coming up with an errorless Webster's dictionary? How many times would it take to come up with the Webster's? How many centuries, eons, ages according to the theory of randomness. Why did man make musical instruments, build cities, farm land, when thousands upon thousands of species did not? If we came from out there in space hitchhiking on a comet, what was out there before there was a out there? Was there a DNA molecule out there that escaped and somehow made it to Earth and simultaneously divided and replicated itself? Just questions for science.

Ben Emery

Well Bill,
I had a different comment prepared and being posted when the power went out, it got lost on the internets.

You are talking about Evolution, which "God" is responsible for. We, Human Beings, share the same matter as the rest of the universe as does everything animal, plant, and tangible material object on earth. Chimps have 99% of the same DNA as Human Beings and we share somewhere between 5-10% DNA with basic bacteria. The less we have in common on our behaviors or actions the less we have in common in DNA, it makes evolutionary sense.

An interesting talk given by that movie star, Stephen Hawking. We all know if it isn't on some sort of screen it isn't important in the modern era.

Life in the Universe
http://www.hawking.org.uk/life-in-the-universe.html

George Rebane

BenE 821am - Again, it would be nice for some comprehending soul like you to point us to the "millions and millions of good acts performed everyday of Muslims". What programs, projects, developments, ... are funded and operated by Muslims (when they are not killing each other) that benefit the global societies of non-Muslims?

BillT 840am - Mr Tozer, have you now declared your creationist credentials? Aside from that, it should be noted that many serious researchers on the question of intelligent design have noted that earth does not have the "probabilistic resources" to allow the formation of certain biological structures through the blind search of fortuitous random events, many of which would have had to be co-located and occur concurrently. More on that has been covered by Stephen Meyer in his 'Signature in the Cell' and 'Darwin's Doubt'.

Patricia Smith

When I was a wee lassie of 18, I remember a newspaper article about the Golden Rule that showed the same concept coming from every major religion including Islam. I just did a Google search and found this:

The Golden Rule is implicitly expressed in some verses of the Qur'an, but is explicitly declared in the sayings of Muhammad. A common transliteration is: ِAheb li akheek ma tuhibu li nafsik. This can be translated as "Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself" or "Love your brother as you love yourself".

After a great deal of study, I came away with the conclusion that ALL religions are good, but the Church leaders (and many followers) usually aren't. A lot of horrible acts have been committed in the name of God that have been perpetrated by people from many different religions - including Christianity (and I'm not just talking about the Inquisition). It's a shame that our search for higher meaning has been twisted into an instrument to justify hating others whether it is based on their religion, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation.

I like the bible verse (Luke 6:41) , Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye."

And to George's comment on not being able to ascertain when someone has made"excessive" profits: Matthew 19:21, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. So I guess you don't have to worry yourself about it, because if you are right, God will have the last word!

I wish peace, happiness, and health to each and every one of you! May 2015 be your best year yet,

Bill

Dr.Rebane @ 10:32am. Yep, so declared. I also believe the laws of physics were radially altered the day Adam and Eve munched on the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That brought decay, death, limits, and other corruption/changes of physics roughly known to young scholars as the Laws of Thermodynamics. Ole Adam and Eve should gave chosen the Tree of Life, the river of life, the bread of life. My aging joints remind me of decay everyday, but I digress. Digression is a constant with me.
As far as science in God in science goes, it ain't that complicated. Suppose you want to find out why humans behave the way they do. You can study their anatomy for decades, getting smaller and smaller in detail, well past the atoms and protons, and neutrons. Or you can spend your life studying phycology, the brain, emotions, the will, the chemistry of the the libretto, frontal lobes, or the cranium. Or you can study your whole life anthropology, history, social science, civilizations both modern and ancient as well as their relationship to each other. But the farther and farther you search into the most minute whiff of detail, the farther you have moved from the original question why do people behave the way they do. Thus, that is my take on someone like Dr. Hawkins life. He was made it his life's passion to prove there is and never was any Intelligent Design, no God, no Creator beyond time and space. A brilliant man on a fool's errand, IMHO, He is unsatisfied, empty, bitter and distraught that intelligent design lingo is no longer scoffed at and laughed out of the classroom. All is not lost for Dr. Hawkins. He is worshiped, esteemed, and held n awe by his brilliant peers and underlings. Sadly, his whole life has yielded weak to nil answers of the question of when, where, why, and to what extent did it all start and how we came into being. He is just as far away from those answers today than when he first started. He should have started with Intelligent Design or the Creator beyond time and space and watched scientists from all fields add credence to his theory that intelligent design was the start of it all. He would not be so bitter and so hostile to the ID theory if he had. He chose the Tree of Knowledge.
Ain't complicated at all. Sure, most make it very complicated and trip over their own two feet in the process. I wear the label Creationist with honor, thank you.

drivebyposter

"My guesstimate is around 98% of the people in the world want to get along"

As individuals, I'd say that this is absolutely true.

OTOH, I certainly wouldn't view group dynamics as the summation of individual needs and wants.

Stevo

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. (26) Yes Father , for this way was well pleasing in Your sight.

Stevo

Wayne Hullett

In the recent movie "The Theory of Everything" a young Stephen Hawking, when asked what he believed about some particular aspect of the universe, said "What I believe is irrelevant". In other words, to employ an overused phrase, the universe is what it is, regardless of what you think or believe it is. Gravity does not care whether you believe in it.

How do you determine what is true? What method do you use to distinguish what is true from what is not true? Many people accept as truth what an authority figure, such as a parent tells them. Others have other methods; it "seems" right, they "want" it to be true.
Science determines what is true by observation and experiment -- by testing a proposition against reality. Belief is to accept a statement as true. Faith is belief without evidence.

The study of the universe, its properties and how it came to be lies within the realm of science -- astronomy, biology, chemistry and ultimately physics. Science is trying to understand how the universe came to exist; why there is something rather than nothing. We may or may not be able to answer that question using observation and experiment. The statement that "God created the universe" is an attempt to answer that question. It may be the way things really happened. It may not. We do not yet know. It is an hypothesis that has not been tested.

Humans need authority figures (hence the universality of kings and presidents) and they seem to need certainty. They also have difficulty imagining non-existence -- they fear death (especially when young). They seek answers, and when an authority figure offers a simple answer that also promises life after death it can be irresistable to many, even if it is not known whether it is true. It is the sad lot of mankind that the need for certainty and the fear of death overwhelm our need for truth.

Religions spring up satisfy our need for answers. Many religions. Some contradict others, and hence they cannot all be true. But since they have not been tested (and perhaps cannot be tested) against reality it is not known which, if any, are true. Some religions have found that the question is easily decided by the sword, the rack and the stake.

I think that the world would be a happier place if instead of saying "I believe in God" we say the "My hypothesis gives me comfort". But it is in our nature that we would soon begin to say that "my hypothesis is better than your hypothesis" and there we go again.

Bonnie McGuire

A friend in Texas wrote this to letter to the editor that pretty much sums it up. "
Clayton M. Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School; and is regarded as one of the world's top experts on innovation and growth. Following is his thoughts on how religion has helped shape American culture and democracy.
Since the nation’s founding, Christianity and Judaism has been the dominating religions in America. These thoughts are presented as historical significance and not an attack on non believers or other religions.
Professor Christensen said he learned the importance of religion for the strength of democracy and capitalism in conversations with a Marxist economist from China 12 years ago. It was at a Fulbright Fellowship in Boston that was about to end. He asked his Chinese friend if he has learned anything that would surprise him or unexpected? Without hesitation he said; “yes, I had no idea how critical religion was to the functioning of democracy”
Professor Christensen said in his mind he had never made this association between religion, democracy and capitalism, but it was like this scholar parachuted in from Mars – and this is what he saw.
The reason why democracy works is not because the government is designed to oversee what everybody does, the reason why every democracy works is because most people voluntary choose to obey the law.
He continued, “In your past, most Americans attended a church or synagogue every week. These were institutions that people respected. From their youngest years, Americans were taught to voluntarily obey the law; to respect other people’s property, and not steal it. Americans were taught never to lie. Americans followed these rules because they had come to believe that even if the police or court systems didn’t catch them when they broke a law, God would hold them accountable. Democracy works here because most people most of the time voluntarily obey the laws.
Christensen states; “If you take religion out of our lives, what will happen to our democracy”? “Where are the institutions that will teach these next generations that they too need to voluntary obeying the law”? If you take away religion, you could never hire enough police.
Today there are many Americans who are not religious, who still voluntarily obey the law, comply with contracts, value honesty and integrity and respect other people’s rights and property. This is because certain religious teachings have become embedded in our culture.
When the instinct of even less than majority of people in a society is to steal what belongs to others, like when it suits their selfish purposes, evade taxes, demand bribes and disregard the rights of others, then capitalism won’t work, either.
Those who assume that the atheistic religions of secularism are a better backbone for freedom and prosperity than the religious conviction they are trying to push under the back seat, have a huge burden of proof, let alone propose as viable solutions. What institutions are they proposing to establish that have enduring power to teach the next generation of Americans to enthusiastically obey unenforceable laws?"

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