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The Concept Of The Deity Or God Is A Choice


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#1 carlscheider

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 10:20 AM

OK, that was interesting. I just discovered that this Spong discussion forum is very nearly dead. Who knew. The most recent post about the concept of God is from January of this year. There are some good comments in there, but some "other" ones as well. The Spong 'group' seems to have a very wide umbrella, much wider than I would have thought. I will have to look at the rest of the forum.

 

So . . . to the point. The author of the last post in this forum raises a very good issue. What exactly are we talking about with this God or Deity thing?

 

I have some background in theology and scripture, but I am not sure that is at all relevant. Personally, I have found the deity or God or god to not be a very useful concept in today's world. I was an ardent believer at one point in my life, but I have matured, as it were.

 

I do not like the term "atheist" as it sounds like aggression against believers. "Non theist" sounds a bit better. I do not wish believers any harm at all. Almost ALL of my friends and family fall into that camp, and I would never want to upset them by attacking that belief. I have also discovered that it is a complete waste of time!

 

I really liked one of the comments in that prior discussion:

"When Marcus Borg visited our church several years ago, I recall him saying about someone who claims not to believe in God, "Describe for me the God that you think you don't believe in."  Then, a response. And then "Well, I don't believe in that God either." 

 

I like that - I will use it. I have yet to see the definition of the deity that I would agree with. 

 

And I remain an ardent Christian. I like what the man said, what I can discern from the stories and tradition. I think it is a tremendous insight into where humans should be going. There is an excellent book by a Dominican monk called Jesus Before Christianity that pretty much summarizes my assessment of the New Testament and this man called Jesus of Nazareth. It is excellent exegesis in the historical understanding of Judaism.

 

One comment from that book has stayed with me. Belief is a choice. It is not a feeling, not a gift. it's a choice. And I choose to believe that life has meaning and purpose. I choose to believe that this man Jesus had a great insight into that meaning and purpose. I am personally committed to carrying that forward. If that works as a definition of the deity, fine. If not, it is not that important to me. I find ALL of life utterly amazing. And human life is the most amazing of all. This thing we call a brain, this collection of hormones, and emotions and ideas and values and accomplishments is the most amazing thing in the known universe. I choose to move that forward, and I think the Christian message, without much of the historic baggage, is the best known way to accomplish that. It also happens to be the one I grew up in. I don't wish any of the others ill - and I would hope that they could adopt the best parts of this one, but  . . . 

 

So  . . . any life in this forum? What say you all?


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#2 romansh

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 12:07 PM

No belief is not a choice ... at least not in the usual sense of the word. That is the conclusion/opinion I have found myself at.

 

I can't help but believe the scientific method is a reasoned approach to life. I don't know how I could choose otherwise. While I am aware much of the time I actually am on some sort of autopilot. In the vernacular I might choose to put sugar in my tea. But is putting sugar in tea a belief in any meaningful sense of the phrase?

 

Regarding "Well I don't believe in that God either", I can juxtapose Campbell's "I don’t think you can call a person an atheist who believes in as many gods as I do.”

 

Me personally ... the only "god" that I so far don't disbelieve is a pantheistic one.


Edited by romansh, 23 March 2017 - 12:08 PM.

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#3 tariki

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 04:15 PM

Any life here? Well, I tend to post in fits and starts. Today I attended a funeral and once again found that my 15 1/2 inch ( well, surely inches not centimetres what with Brexit ) shirt collar was no longer adequate. Recently I have posted here about the growing trend of Humanist funerals. Today's was traditional, Christian, the cleric did his best by throwing in a few jokes to show us he was true man of the people. Perhaps he was.Who knows. Through the fog of the usual dirge of now meaningless words I did catch the reality of a human being who was now dead - that he had loved and had been loved. A few words from the OT I found still had relevance - "a time for everything under heaven".

I would still choose "Mr Tamborine Man" rather than any hymn, and have everyone walking out ( with heartfelt relief ) to Zappa playing "Watermelon in Easter Hay".

So I live the non-theist option, find that all "belief" stifles reality. What more is there to say?

Anyway, welcome to the Forum.
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#4 PaulS

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 07:03 PM

One comment from that book has stayed with me. Belief is a choice. It is not a feeling, not a gift. it's a choice. And I choose to believe that life has meaning and purpose. I choose to believe that this man Jesus had a great insight into that meaning and purpose. I am personally committed to carrying that forward. If that works as a definition of the deity, fine. If not, it is not that important to me. I find ALL of life utterly amazing. And human life is the most amazing of all. This thing we call a brain, this collection of hormones, and emotions and ideas and values and accomplishments is the most amazing thing in the known universe. I choose to move that forward, and I think the Christian message, without much of the historic baggage, is the best known way to accomplish that. It also happens to be the one I grew up in. I don't wish any of the others ill - and I would hope that they could adopt the best parts of this one, but  . . . 

 

I don't think belief is a choice.  Essentially, you can't make yourself believe in something or not, you simply either do believe or you don't.  You experience the case for and experience the case against (and all the other bits in between) and you come away with a certain belief.  I don't think that is a choice. 

 

My interpretation of what you are saying is that in your experience you feel that life has meaning and purpose, that this man Jesus had a great insight into that meaning and purpose, and that you are personally committed to carrying that forward. I don't think believing that is a choice but rather a conclusion you have come to and thus now your belief.  You couldn't have stopped it if you tried because that's not how our brain's work.

 

As for the Christian message being the best way to move humanity forward - well I think elements contribute but I don't think it is or has been a lone voice.  Humanity has known since we were monkeys in the trees that cooperation and working together works the best for our species.  That caring for others in our group is much better for the group than the alternative.  We have broadened outside of our tribes and groups as we have evolved and developed.  Buddhism was experiencing similar beliefs of empathy and consideration of others long before Christianity.

 

However if one's way of contributing to society is by practising a Christian message, and they cause no harm to others in doing so, then I see no problem with it.  Whatever works for you I say.


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#5 romansh

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 07:54 PM

As for the Christian message being the best way to move humanity forward - well I think elements contribute but I don't think it is or has been a lone voice.  Humanity has known since we were monkeys in the trees that cooperation and working together works the best for our species.  That caring for others in our group is much better for the group than the alternative.  We have broadened outside of our tribes and groups as we have evolved and developed.  Buddhism was experiencing similar beliefs of empathy and consideration of others long before Christianity.

 

I agree with you here Paul (more or less, you know me :) ).  The question, for me becomes, then how do we interpret the religious texts. How do we calibrate our interpretations? Do we calibrate between other so called Christian interpretations, do we look over the fence at the other tribes beliefs and interpretations?

 

Or do we do something courageous? Armed with some rudimentary guidelines, do we step out into this world, put reason to work and find our own way? Adjusting our guidelines as reason and experience might be want to  inform us?

 

Sure we will make mistakes ... but that is OK.


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#6 PaulS

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:17 PM

 

I agree with you here Paul (more or less, you know me :) ).  The question, for me becomes, then how do we interpret the religious texts. How do we calibrate our interpretations? Do we calibrate between other so called Christian interpretations, do we look over the fence at the other tribes beliefs and interpretations?

 

Or do we do something courageous? Armed with some rudimentary guidelines, do we step out into this world, put reason to work and find our own way? Adjusting our guidelines as reason and experience might be want to  inform us?

 

Sure we will make mistakes ... but that is OK.

 

I think we should interpret them how we want to, Rom.  I don't think there is any one right way and differences may apply in a multitude of situations.  Look over the fence by all means and take what works or note what doesn't work.

 

And by all means be courageous and step into the world putting your reason to work and finding your own way.  I don't think there is any one right answer and I'm confident there is nobody watching or judging you in how you act.  The ultimate judge is our species and if you contribute to it's well being then kudos.  If you contribute to making it harder for anyone then I'd suggest don't do it.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is no right or wrong answer other than whether we contribute well to our species and planet, or not.  Whether it is ultimately important or not who knows, but I just think in the interests of our species' and planet's self interest, it would pay to be mindful of our species and planet.

 

But I'm not sure I've answered your question.  Have I?


Edited by PaulS, 23 March 2017 - 08:18 PM.

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#7 tariki

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 03:49 AM

 

 

 

But I'm not sure I've answered your question.  Have I?

 

Oh dear, is that the idea? To keep on topic and answer the question? Now I see just where I have been going wrong. Anyway, my own reactive mind must be improving as I missed the bit about the Christian message being the best known way to accomplish "moving forward" (in a good way) "Best known"......"best" or just "known of".........or "best known"?  Not sure.Those who have known of it have certainly been active throughout history, with some awful results.

 

I still think that all thought of "moving forward" simply because of our own "choice for the good" (best known or not) is a non-starter. All that is truly valuable is a pure gift, to know it is more a case of stripping away than of choosing or building up. As Joseph said, of seeing the strings. ​Does that culminate in a true freedom? Lets not come to conclusions.


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#8 thormas

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 08:07 AM

 

I don't think belief is a choice.  Essentially, you can't make yourself believe in something or not, you simply either do believe or you don't.  You experience the case for and experience the case against (and all the other bits in between) and you come away with a certain belief.  I don't think that is a choice. 

 

My interpretation of what you are saying is that in your experience you feel that life has meaning and purpose, that this man Jesus had a great insight into that meaning and purpose, and that you are personally committed to carrying that forward. I don't think believing that is a choice but rather a conclusion you have come to and thus now your belief.  You couldn't have stopped it if you tried because that's not how our brain's work.

 

I think it is a bit of both: that belief or better, faith, is both choice and no choice. And your first sentence seems to speak to that when you mention the for and against and then come away with or without belief. However, I recognize that most/many of us are born into a belief system, so we are predisposed to some degree. However as we grow and our knowledge/experience expands, some of us find ourselves in a position where we look and 'choose' again, one way of the other. And as evident on this site, although predisposed, ultimately there are different choices that have been made: buddhism, science, Christianity - some more progressive, others more traditional, atheism and for some a combo of these. 

 

So, on one hand, with learning, experience and maturity, there does seem to be a weighing of 'things' and decision. However, within this, I also think that a particular faith or understanding of existence, 'speaks' to us or resonates with us and thus a connection is made. The living of it is a decision. I guess the same could be said of love, there is a 'falling in love' but there is also a choosing.


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#9 soma

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 12:15 PM

“Remain strong in your faith, as you were in former years. In this faith, in its close-knit unity of our people to-day goes straight forward on its way and no power on earth will avail to stop it.” (Adolf Hitler)

A weak person has indecision before the decision of faith while it takes a strong person to doubt after he has chosen a faith because doubt is not opposed to faith it is a building block that makes us stronger. I am a Christian and it is sad that many Christians would choose the statement by Hitler as strength and history has shown that Christians and Germans were manipulated to do horrible things with their superiority complex.


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#10 TomAllyn

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 11:54 AM

I'm not very good at remembering details - I often say of myself that "I miss the trees for the forest" instead of the more common way of saying that. Some of the preferences I have which I will mention are a knee-jerk reaction to the working definition of these words within the fundamentalist circles I came out of. For instance, I don't like to use the following words "God" I prefer Source/Other/Creator almost anything other than "God," I don't often refer to myself as a "Christian" I typically do not give my path a label.

I believe Other has revealed his/her/itself in many ways to different people, cultures, etc as he/she/it knew was needed which is one of the reasons why I love the Spong quote I have as part of my signature. The one significant failure I see among faith traditions is the belief that what has been revealed to them by Source is all there is to know and is, therefore, the definition of "God." I've come to believe if we combined what has been revealed to various faith traditions and people around the world we still will not have the definition of "God" as I believe Source still transcends all we combined together will ever know of him/her/it. So I don't believe there is the best anything with regard to "God" when it comes to human understanding. I believe all faith traditions and all people have some truth in this regard and a whole lot of misunderstanding.

When it comes to Yeshua Bar-Yosef and his being the Son of God. In that time and place, I believe he was the child of "God" with the greatest understanding of his "Father" and his "Father's" love for "his" children. I'm not convinced, that his paternal relation to Source was different than anyone else, but that his understanding of it was. I also do not know that he was Other from you or me.

When it comes to "sacred" texts I believe they contain more Bologna Sandwiches than the truth about the character and nature of Source or Jesus. For instance, I believe Moses was the ancient Hebrew version of Donald Trump. I do believe that "sacred" texts have some usefulness, but I do not believe useful translates to necessary. I believe they reveal more about character and nature of writers than Source or Jesus. I was recently asked how do you take a specific biblical verse (I don't remember which one) my reply was "With a grain of salt" which sums up my take on the entire Bible. 


Edited by TomAllyn, 28 April 2017 - 12:32 PM.

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~Tom

“God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don't think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.” ― John Shelby Spong


#11 JosephM

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 12:21 PM

Tom,

I really like the Spong quote in your signature. Joseph


"The only separation between you and me can only be in your mind." --Joseph Mattioli


#12 soma

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 02:23 PM

Tom, you expressed it well. The source includes all and the echos in the all is not complete so a lot of noise is made by richochette.  


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