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GeorgeW

Religion Vs. Magic

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Did Jesus "heal the sick"? A scientist, armed with sufficient information, would say "yes, it is possible". Sadly, the healing art is being lost to sham artists and overly simplified (concretized) explanations of cause and effect. Could Jesus have healed a blind person? The answer depends on the cause of the blindness. If, for example, the person suffered the blindness soon after being banished from society (and loved ones), it could be a case of hysterical blindness. It happens. The "cure" occurs when the wise "healer" devises a means of returning the person to society (feed the poor). Any means will do ... even a sugar pill.

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Sorry for the digression, but I would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter, whatever it may mean to you.

 

George

 

Thanks George. Happy Easter to you as well.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet

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Thank you for the Easter greeting and may we all find the Easter egg or Spirit that is present in everyone, a bridge between heaven and earth, between magic and religion.

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Did you want a prize for that?

 

I guess I'm not seeing the reason for the hostility toward my comments. I really do believe what I am saying. I really do think there is a difference between metaphor and magic. And, there was a time when I was searching (and hoping) someone could show me that magic and miracles DO happen.

 

When my mother was dying of cancer, I wanted desperately to believe in the "prayer warriors" who assured me that G-d would answer prayer. My mother was one of the most dedicated servants a god could want, and yet; she was not spared. In fact, she suffered quite miserably the last few days of her life. She had a DNR order, and because our society will not allow death with dignity, the "legal" amount of morphine was not enough to ease her pain.

 

I know the Christians who tried to comfort me meant well when they told me her death was for a "greater purpose," but it only made me think G-d was either distant from the creation, or one of the cruelest beings in the universe.

 

I've settled for distant.

 

So, please forgive me when I cannot find value in maintaining fantasies.

 

NORM

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I know the Christians who tried to comfort me meant well when they told me her death was for a "greater purpose," but it only made me think G-d was either distant from the creation, or one of the cruelest beings in the universe. My search for a new theodicy began here.

 

Norm

 

Your either/or possibilities are not the only answers, but you probably know that.

 

I think I have been there.

 


  •  
  • I have argued insistently and forcibly for a singular point of view with no fuzzy boundaries.
  • My search for an acceptable theodicy began in the aftermath of an accident, in one of many surgeries, that threatened the life of my daughter. Yes, there was a fundamentalist at my side (with whom I have always disagreed) talking greater purpose or God will not give more than I can handle. During a another hospitalization a fundamentalist prayed that the evil spirits leave the room.

 

I think that

  • God is ineffable; we are making it all up. We should not be absolute in claims about the nature or existence of supernatural events.
  • My ecstasies and vision can be explained as manifestations of my bipolar disorder. My wife's near death experience during a miraculously successful surgery could be magical thinking or the hallucinations of a brain starved for oxygen. The problem is that they were not experienced that way and, in fact, were experienced within the context of our beliefs. To say that they were the result of magical thinking or disordered firing of neurons is an insufficient explanation.
  • Since I believe that God is ineffable I think that evolution is sufficient to explain the rich depth and breadth of religious beliefs. Magic is not a sufficient argument against them. The axis of literalism is not a sufficient measure of the validity of religious beliefs.
  • Sometimes observers of suffering are on different spiritual journeys than those who are suffering. Two of my cousins died from a genetic deterioration of nerves. One brother saw his suffering as a witness to his faith, a healthy brother believes it to be proof of the non-existence of God who is worth belief, and their mother, my aunt, has experienced God often during this journey of suffering. It is of little value to hang these varieties of religious experiences on the axis of literalism/magic for evaluation.

Last night I heard Barbara J. King, as a primatologist, argue that belief in the supernatural, agnosticism, and atheism are equally evolved. The claim of magic against religious belief may be an observation of difference not immaturity.

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Norm

 

Your either/or possibilities are not the only answers, but you probably know that.

 

I think I have been there.

 

  • I have argued insistently and forcibly for a singular point of view with no fuzzy boundaries.
  • My search for an acceptable theodicy began in the aftermath of an accident, in one of many surgeries, that threatened the life of my daughter. Yes, there was a fundamentalist at my side (with whom I have always disagreed) talking greater purpose or God will not give more than I can handle. During a another hospitalization a fundamentalist prayed that the evil spirits leave the room.

 

I think that

  • God is ineffable; we are making it all up. We should not be absolute in claims about the nature or existence of supernatural events.
  • My ecstasies and vision can be explained as manifestations of my bipolar disorder. My wife's near death experience during a miraculously successful surgery could be magical thinking or the hallucinations of a brain starved for oxygen. The problem is that they were not experienced that way and, in fact, were experienced within the context of our beliefs. To say that they were the result of magical thinking or disordered firing of neurons is an insufficient explanation.
  • Since I believe that God is ineffable I think that evolution is sufficient to explain the rich depth and breadth of religious beliefs. Magic is not a sufficient argument against them. The axis of literalism is not a sufficient measure of the validity of religious beliefs.
  • Sometimes observers of suffering are on different spiritual journeys than those who are suffering. Two of my cousins died from a genetic deterioration of nerves. One brother saw his suffering as a witness to his faith, a healthy brother believes it to be proof of the non-existence of God who is worth belief, and their mother, my aunt, has experienced God often during this journey of suffering. It is of little value to hang these varieties of religious experiences on the axis of literalism/magic for evaluation.

Last night I heard Barbara J. King, as a primatologist, argue that belief in the supernatural, agnosticism, and atheism are equally evolved. The claim of magic against religious belief may be an observation of difference not immaturity.

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

 

I didn't say: "My search for a new theodicy began here."

 

You added that. Why?

 

NORM

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Hi,

I wanted to give my two cents. Norm, many of the acts of "magic" on your list are things I take in more of a methaphorical way in my personal faith. However, I do see real power in faith that creates a feeling of magic at times. This spring a group of young people at church and their adult sponsors created a "magical" dinner theater experience that exceeded all expectations because of their faith and hope and desire to have money to go on a mission trip and change the world.

 

When a baby develops and is born, it is a scientific process, but it still "magical" in its complexity and beauty.

 

The "magic" events on your list are mysteries - challenges to see how they are true in one's own life and relationship to God.

 

You don't have to throw out the baby (loving one another, loving one's enemies, helping those who have no other resources, treating others the way we want to be treated, reconciling with those who anger us, accepting that we are worthy of love even when we make mistakes or when the world beats us down) with the bathwater (difficulty in believing in a literal parting of the Red Sea, for example).

 

I have been in a similar place to you, Norm. At one time I was not sure what the purpose of religion was, since I didn't believe God would see it necessary for Jesus to die for me to be "saved." The incongruities of a system where pure evil + professed belief could be a ticket to heaven, while others with doubt were denied heaven were objections I also held. I now firmly believe that there are "truths" in the Jesus story and teachings that cause us to have life abundantly, even if I don't believe Mary was a virgin. Grappling with how to apply the stories to one's own life can result in huge interpersonal and spiritual growth.

 

Thanks everyone, for your thoughts! A good read this morning!

 

Janet

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I didn't say: "My search for a new theodicy began here." You added that. Why? NORM
I wasn't attributing to you.

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I wasn't attributing to you.

 

Um, look at post #30

 

NORM

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Hi,

I wanted to give my two cents. Norm, many of the acts of "magic" on your list are things I take in more of a methaphorical way in my personal faith. However, I do see real power in faith that creates a feeling of magic at times. This spring a group of young people at church and their adult sponsors created a "magical" dinner theater experience that exceeded all expectations because of their faith and hope and desire to have money to go on a mission trip and change the world.

 

But why refer to it as "magic" or "miraculous?" I think the creation is quite beautiful without attributing it to supernatural beings or forces. The "glory" of a sunrise still stirs awe within me even though I know the scientific reasons for its presence.

 

 

The "magic" events on your list are mysteries

 

I don't believe that they are mysteries at all. Each one can be thoroughly explained from an observational, scientific perspective.

 

You don't have to throw out the baby (loving one another, loving one's enemies, helping those who have no other resources, treating others the way we want to be treated, reconciling with those who anger us, accepting that we are worthy of love even when we make mistakes or when the world beats us down) with the bathwater (difficulty in believing in a literal parting of the Red Sea, for example).

 

Not suggesting we do. I am, however, suggesting that we throw out the dirty bath water.

 

I now firmly believe that there are "truths" in the Jesus story and teachings that cause us to have life abundantly, even if I don't believe Mary was a virgin.

 

In the sentence above, you've just denied one of the main tenets of the Christian doctrine. In some of the circles I've run within the Christian church you would be considered a heretic. What else of the Christian mystery do you not hold to? The trinity? The resurrection?

 

Why is it necessary to embrace mythology in order to follow Jesus?

 

NORM

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Um, look at post #30

 

NORM

from my post #30

 

I think I have been there.

 

* I have argued insistently and forcibly for a singular point of view with no fuzzy boundaries.

* My search for an acceptable theodicy began in the aftermath of an accident,

 

Seems egocentric to me; I was talking about myself.

 

dutch

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Why is it necessary to embrace mythology in order to follow Jesus?

I don't recall anyone insisting on this here.

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Not suggesting we do. I am, however, suggesting that we throw out the dirty bath water.

Heard the one about the difference between Martin Luther and John Calvin? :D

 

Martin pulled open the drawer holding all the pieces of church practice and doctrine. He threw out the pieces he didn't think belonged.

John pulled open the drawer, dumped it on the bed, picked up the pieces he thought essential and threw everything else out.

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But why refer to it as "magic" or "miraculous?" I think the creation is quite beautiful without attributing it to supernatural beings or forces. The "glory" of a sunrise still stirs awe within me even though I know the scientific reasons for its presence.

 

 

 

 

I don't believe that they are mysteries at all. Each one can be thoroughly explained from an observational, scientific perspective.

 

 

 

Not suggesting we do. I am, however, suggesting that we throw out the dirty bath water.

 

 

 

In the sentence above, you've just denied one of the main tenets of the Christian doctrine. In some of the circles I've run within the Christian church you would be considered a heretic. What else of the Christian mystery do you not hold to? The trinity? The resurrection?

 

Why is it necessary to embrace mythology in order to follow Jesus?

 

NORM

 

In my view, fact vs. myth is a false opposition. Mythology is grand narrative, bringing everything together in a dramatic whole and given meaning to things. Reason and Science (capitals intended) have a mythical component as well. Myth & fact are operating on different vectors. If one tries to force them to interact, Bad Things happen, like the Creationism museum or Durkheim's desire to scientifically engineer an ideal religion for society.

 

Leaving aside magic and the role of the supernatural for a moment, is this a statement you can agree with? If not, where do I go wrong?

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But why refer to it as "magic" or "miraculous?" I think the creation is quite beautiful without attributing it to supernatural beings or forces. The "glory" of a sunrise still stirs awe within me even though I know the scientific reasons for its presence.

I don't believe that they are mysteries at all. Each one can be thoroughly explained from an observational, scientific perspective.

 

 

Norm, Is not existence itself "miraculous" ? Can it all really be explained as scientific fact? or is many of our explanations just theory?

 

 

Not suggesting we do. I am, however, suggesting that we throw out the dirty bath water.

 

Which and in whose eyes is the dirty bath water separated from the clean?

 

 

In the sentence above, you've just denied one of the main tenets of the Christian doctrine. In some of the circles I've run within the Christian church

you would be considered a heretic. What else of the Christian mystery do you not hold to? The trinity? The resurrection?

 

 

Many of those tenets were set up by a church system that doesn't even record Jesus as requiring many of them to be called Christian or a follower of Christ.. Are they not?

 

 

Why is it necessary to embrace mythology in order to follow Jesus?

 

NORM

 

That is certainly not a requirement here and neither is it a requirement not to embrace it. I hear your opinion okay but perhaps i miss your real point of your pursuit?

 

Joseph

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Norm, thank you for challenging me. I know my post imperfectly expressed my thoughts.

 

I'd ask you to consider why the "glory" of a sunrise still stirs awe within you, even though you know the scientific reasons for its presence? I don't personally attribute each individual sunrise to a supernatural being manifesting it that way on a given day, but I do experience the complexity and beauty of natural world to be miraculous. The effect of beauty (or music) on the soul is (to me)also miraculous. In the same way I consider hope in desperate times to be miraculous. It is fine with me if you do not like the word I use. You have touched upon the same feeling (I think) when you say awe.

 

What things would you consider dirty bath water that you'd like to throw out? Is it possible for you to do that yourself with regard to your personal faith, rather than requiring it of others as well?

 

Norm, I have friends who consider me a heretic, and I no longer hold that against them :) I think they are more uncomfortable with that label than I am. I think of the trinity as one way of seeing God, but not THE ONLY way of seeing God. I think the resurrection is a mystery - something happened that profoundly impacted those scared disciples AND I can sense that Jesus is not dead, but I don't know exactly what happened on resurrection day.

 

I do not believe it is necessary to embrace mythology in order to follow Jesus. But, here I am on a progressive Christian website rather than on an evangelical one, so I may not be the person you need the answer from.

 

Janet

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When my mother was dying of cancer, I wanted desperately to believe in the "prayer warriors" who assured me that G-d would answer prayer. My mother was one of the most dedicated servants a god could want, and yet; she was not spared. In fact, she suffered quite miserably the last few days of her life. She had a DNR order, and because our society will not allow death with dignity, the "legal" amount of morphine was not enough to ease her pain.

 

I know the Christians who tried to comfort me meant well when they told me her death was for a "greater purpose," but it only made me think G-d was either distant from the creation, or one of the cruelest beings in the universe.

 

I've settled for distant.

 

So, please forgive me when I cannot find value in maintaining fantasies.

 

NORM

 

Norm,

 

I want to say how sorry I am to hear of your mother's suffering!! I agree that the Christians who held out hope your mother's life would be spared through answered prayer and assured you her death was for a "greater purpose" meant well, but I understand how that contributed to your belief that God was either cruel or distant.

 

Have you ever read the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner? The premise is that God does not suspend the laws of physics to keep someone from having a car wreck and does not intervene at the microbiological level to heal disease. The author concluded this because of the death of his son and many, many other instances where good people suffered, and if a loving God were indeed pulling the strings in our universe, He surely would have intervened.

 

BUT, I believe the way God is with us (and not distant) is in the spiritual realm. We can't control the things that happen to us, but we can control how we respond. And God is a great resource in helping us to respond in love, trying to better ourselves, help others, and make the world a better place.

 

Is this at ALL helpful, Norm? I don't know if someone else on this board may be more able to help. I haven't been through the death of a parent yet.

 

Janet

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Well obviously I've touched some sensibilities here!

 

Rather than respond individually to everyone (which would take all night), let me just say the following:

 

I really enjoy life. I get a kick out of watching a beautiful sunrise. Not because I think of the science, nor because I think of a creator. It's just enjoyable to feel the warmth on my face and see how the morning light slanting on the dew creates glimmers of light and enhances the colors.

 

I think music is a gas and I'm impressed by the creativity of my favorite artists. Sometimes on my way home from work I'll drive around the block a few times if there is a song still playing that I enjoy. I love going to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and Severance Hall in Cleveland, the Guggenheim Museum and the National Gallery. Works of art and human expression in music and poetry can bring tears to my eyes.

 

I celebrate the wonderfulness of humanity.

 

I don't need to believe that it has some higher purpose, or some deity should get the credit.

 

I never said that everyone should feel the same as I. I simply responded to the opening post in an honest way; i.e.; I don't believe in magic because in my more than half a century on this rock, I've never seen it - despite actually trying to find it. I am open to being proved wrong, but I'm not holding my breath.

 

So, when I say that I think we should only discard the dirty bath water, I mean that, within the Christian Church, the message of Jesus is diluted because the focus is on the miracle. Tell me I'm wrong about that! I've read many of your posts in here, and that is the impression I get.

 

I think this thread proves my point most profoundly. Even among skeptics, it's still a bit too much to totally abandon the supernatural when discussing religion.

 

I truly believe that when religion is about THE MESSAGE rather than the mystical, it will be a very powerful thing.

 

That's what I believe and I'm sticking to it.

 

I do appreciate your kind words concerning the passing of my mother. I am not bitter at G-d, so you need not be concerned. I've come to find comfort in the realization that it's not G-d's job to cure the sick or raise the dead. It is, however, our job as humans to be compassionate and understanding when human tragedy strikes. It's all a game of chance we play in a world full of danger. As the "good book" says; the sun shines and the rain falls on the wicked and the good in equal measure.

 

I apologize if anything I've said has left any of you with the impression that I am hostile toward your personal religious views. My entire family and most of my friends are devout Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists. Oh, and my aunt and uncle are devotees of Shintoism (which, I've discovered, is not too far off from my own views).

 

It's my own personal problem (if you insist on seeing it that way) that I don't find anything on this planet "miraculous" in the literal sense of that word. I think that the natural world is just alright with me. I am happy to embrace the consequences of quantum physics!

 

Thank you all for your concerns. I've enjoyed this little exercise in linguistic gymnastics - keeps the mind sharp.

 

NORM

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I never said that everyone should feel the same as I. I simply responded to the opening post in an honest way; i.e.; I don't believe in magic because in my more than half a century on this rock, I've never seen it - despite actually trying to find it. I am open to being proved wrong, but I'm not holding my breath.

 

NORM

 

Norm,

 

I don't think the problem is with you stating your beliefs, and disbeliefs. It is , I think, that in describing the sincere and equally valid beliefs of others as "magic," "mythology," "fantasies," "dirty bath water" and "superstition," you are denigrating them. These are not words of respect.

 

George

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Norm,

 

I don't think the problem is with you stating your beliefs, and disbeliefs. It is , I think, that in describing the sincere and equally valid beliefs of others as "magic," "mythology," "fantasies," "dirty bath water" and "superstition," you are denigrating them. These are not words of respect.

 

George

 

You've plucked five words from amongst several hundred and focused on them. I use those terms because I think they accurately describe my thoughts. I don't see anything wrong with myths and fantasies - some very constructive ideas are the fruit of such. However, a lot of harm has been caused because we refuse to let go of superstitious beliefs even when we see its destructive nature. The hatred focused toward homosexuals these days is born of a superstitious belief that the Bible is written by "the hand of G-d." I will not apologize for calling that dirty bath water no matter how many people take offense to it.

 

NORM

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Mythology touches upon typical situations in human life. It is our own manifold personality projected upon the cosmos. We cannot be evil so it must be the work of a devil For some, we cannot be good, so all that is right about us must come from somewhere else. The extravert cannot find G_d within and the introvert cannot find G_d without. We degrade humanity and G_d when we fail to accept life as it is, that which G_d created.

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You've plucked five words from amongst several hundred and focused on them. I use those terms because I think they accurately describe my thoughts. I don't see anything wrong with myths and fantasies - some very constructive ideas are the fruit of such. However, a lot of harm has been caused because we refuse to let go of superstitious beliefs even when we see its destructive nature. The hatred focused toward homosexuals these days is born of a superstitious belief that the Bible is written by "the hand of G-d." I will not apologize for calling that dirty bath water no matter how many people take offense to it.

 

NORM

 

I have not asked you to apologize for anything. I was simply suggesting why people might take offense at your choice of pejorative terms to describe their beliefs, or the sincere beliefs of others.

 

Further, I think you are simply wrong about the cause of homophobia. You seem to be very fond of empirically-supported knowledge, so I recommend you examine the evidence.

 

1. There are Christians who are homophobic and there are Christians that are not homophobic.

2. There are non-Christians (including atheists) who are homobobic. There are non-Christians who are not homophobic.

 

Therefore: The Bible causes people to be homophobic? Sorry, the evidence does not support your proposition.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW

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I have not asked you to apologize for anything. I was simply suggesting why people might take offense at your choice of pejorative terms to describe their beliefs, or the sincere beliefs of others.

 

Further, I think you are simply wrong about the cause of homophobia. You seem to be very fond of empirically-supported knowledge, so I recommend you examine the evidence.

 

1. There are Christians who are homophobic and there are Christians that are not homophobic.

2. There are non-Christians (including atheists) who are homobobic. There are non-Christians who are not homophobic.

 

Therefore: The Bible causes people to be homophobic? Sorry, the evidence does not support your proposition.

 

George

 

We're traveling down a familiar road. I think we ought best leave it be.

 

Cheers!

 

NORM

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"So, when I say that I think we should only discard the dirty bath water, I mean that, within the Christian Church, the message of Jesus is diluted because the focus is on the miracle. Tell me I'm wrong about that! I've read many of your posts in here, and that is the impression I get"

 

Thanks, Norm! I appreciate your thoughts. I don't think you have "a problem" that I'm trying to solve. I appreciate your honesty, and I want to assure you that my personal faith is not focused on the miracle, but rather the message I tried to state in my previous posts. It may be because I am part of a pretty "liberal" United Methodist congregation, but I think the majority of the old "Mainline" protestant denominations are moving in the same direction you are with their collective thinking.

 

Anytime any part of Christianity is used as a justification for hatred, it is VERY dirty bathwater!!

 

Janet

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"I celebrate the wonderfulness of humanity.

I don't need to believe that it has some higher purpose, or some deity should get the credit."

 

 

I just wanted to add that I DO believe humanity has some higher purpose. I think it is for each of us to try to help God's kingdom come on Earth. (make the world a better place for ALL).

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