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PaulS
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I liked an interview that Bart Erhman participated in recently with a South Korean Buddhist Magazine.  In particular, I love how he understands and explains suffering in the world.  For copyright reasons I cannot post the entire article, but here's one of the more relevant questions and Bart's response:

Q. You’ve thoroughly revealed in your book, God’s Problem, that Christianity cannot save people from their sufferings. This is a great work. You are absolutely right. In Buddha’s Teachings, Buddha has clearly said that people can reduce their sufferings temporarily and partially by relying on Gods, but Gods cannot absolutely save people from their sufferings. Their sufferings are caused only by their own karma. If people want to be happy, they should not harm and hurt others. Even if they are very happy, they cannot avoid their death. Birth-aging-sickness-death, is the suffering that all sentient-beings must inevitably undergo. Whether they have money, power, knowledge or not, every one of them must suffer from it. Buddha said that reaching Nirvana by oneself is the only way to terminate all sufferings and finally achieve eternal happiness. You’ve concluded that Christianity cannot solve the problem of sufferings. After you made that conclusion, are you trying to find a right way to solve the problem of sufferings?

Bart:  Yes, I continue to wrestle with why there is so much suffering in the world.  I do not think it is caused by God or by evil spirits; I do not think that it is intended (by a divine being) to strengthen us or to urge us to do good to other (though it certainly should have that effect on us, even if these are not the reasons for it); and, contrary to the Buddhist teaching you’ve laid out, I do not think that it is because of our own karma.  Much suffering is completely innocent, and it is completely random.  In my view it is because we are material creatures in a material universe and there is no extrinsic super-natural force in the universe connected with us.  The universe can be a cruel and capricious place, and we are here by pure accident.  Life came into existence, and evolved, and we are the result.  But there is no ultimate meaning or destiny.  For that reason, we need to develop our own meaning.  It comes by enjoying life as we can, and working very hard to help others to do so as well, especially those experiencing senseless and horrible suffering.

Nice.

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Pain is inevitable for sentient beings with their sense perceptions working. Suffering is not a requirement for such pain. Suffering in my view becomes present only when one is in non-acceptance of the pain or circumstances of that which IS. Pain is usually physical whereas suffering is more a  mental disciple and caused by attachments to that which is non permanent. In essence things are as they are and we only suffer because we imagine it to be different. Of course that is my own experience and definition and you can quote me on that. 🙂 

The other end of the continuum of suffering is happiness which is a sense of well-being, joy or contentment which is available in spite  of circumstances that in most we attribute to our suffering. Happiness requires non-resistance to that which we have no control over and while often triggered by favorable circumstances does not need to rely on such .

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On 2/23/2020 at 2:40 AM, PaulS said:

(snip)

Bart:  Yes, I continue to wrestle with why there is so much suffering in the world.  I do not think it is caused by God or by evil spirits; I do not think that it is intended (by a divine being) to strengthen us or to urge us to do good to other (though it certainly should have that effect on us, even if these are not the reasons for it); and, contrary to the Buddhist teaching you’ve laid out, I do not think that it is because of our own karma.  Much suffering is completely innocent, and it is completely random.  In my view it is because we are material creatures in a material universe and there is no extrinsic super-natural force in the universe connected with us.  The universe can be a cruel and capricious place, and we are here by pure accident.  Life came into existence, and evolved, and we are the result.  But there is no ultimate meaning or destiny.  For that reason, we need to develop our own meaning.  It comes by enjoying life as we can, and working very hard to help others to do so as well, especially those experiencing senseless and horrible suffering.

Nice.

Not nice.

I would disagree with a number of Bart's points.

1. We are here by pure accident ....                                                     In my view, there are no accidents. They are only perceived in the mind as such. Life is an intelligent balance of the whole.

2. There is no ultimate meaning ....                                                    In my view, Life itself is its own ultimate meaning.

3. I do not think suffering is caused by Karma ...                            Karma is real,  If you want to test it out without waiting more than a lifetime for its effect just go out in public and tell everyone you meet you think they are stupid and ugly and see if your fate changes quickly.  If you rather a more subtle approach, start being impolite to all your friends and see how many friends you end up with next year. Karma doesn't have to take more than one lifetime to see. Karma is essentially the sum of a persons actions deciding their fate. If Bart believes this lifetime is all he will ever see then of course karma carry over to multiple lifetimes would not be a consideration. Yet, still one can see how one generations actions indeed effects the suffering of future generations.  (karma)

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2 hours ago, JosephM said:

Pain is inevitable for sentient beings with their sense perceptions working. Suffering is not a requirement for such pain. Suffering in my view becomes present only when one is in non-acceptance of the pain or circumstances of that which IS. Pain is usually physical whereas suffering is more a  mental disciple and caused by attachments to that which is non permanent. In essence things are as they are and we only suffer because we imagine it to be different. Of course that is my own experience and definition and you can quote me on that. 🙂 

The other end of the continuum of suffering is happiness which is a sense of well-being, joy or contentment which is available in spite  of circumstances that in most we attribute to our suffering. Happiness requires non-resistance to that which we have no control over and while often triggered by favorable circumstances does not need to rely on such .

Of course 'suffering' is not a requirement of pain, but the suffering experienced when say one's child starves to death painfully in front of your eyes, is probably suffering that is a little hard to easily accept.  Indeed, I guess one could train themselves to accept that death and misery, but it begs the question why any God would like such pain to exist, which is the point that I think Bart is making.

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4 hours ago, JosephM said:

Not nice.

I would disagree with a number of Bart's points.

1. We are here by pure accident ....                                                     In my view, there are no accidents. They are only perceived in the mind as such. Life is an intelligent balance of the whole.

2. There is no ultimate meaning ....                                                    In my view, Life itself is its own ultimate meaning.

3. I do not think suffering is caused by Karma ...                            Karma is real,  If you want to test it out without waiting more than a lifetime for its effect just go out in public and tell everyone you meet you think they are stupid and ugly and see if your fate changes quickly.  If you rather a more subtle approach, start being impolite to all your friends and see how many friends you end up with next year. Karma doesn't have to take more than one lifetime to see. Karma is essentially the sum of a persons actions deciding their fate. If Bart believes this lifetime is all he will ever see then of course karma carry over to multiple lifetimes would not be a consideration. Yet, still one can see how one generations actions indeed effects the suffering of future generations.  (karma)

As Bart was answering a Buddhist magazine, I suspect he was referring to Karma in the Buddhist concept of samsara.  That understanding advocates that we physically and spiritually go through successive cycles of actual life and death and that this cycle of rebirth is defined by karma.  We all know that behaviors and actions have consequences, but what I think Bart is saying is that you won't reincarnate as another human (or other animal) carrying the baggage of one or more of your previous lives.  I don't disagree about the results you say can occur, I just don't think that is Bart's intention when using the term 'karma'.

Why I think Bart's overall answer is nice is because, for me, he is reaffirming that life is what we make it.  We weren't 'put' here for an ulterior purpose.  We have evolved into what we are today and it is our choice to enjoy it or not.  And if sometimes we can't enjoy it, know that that is part of the experience also.  It just is what it is.  So to that end I think you and Bart would agree that Life itself does have its own meaning - it is what we make of it and nothing else.  I think Bart is just saying there is no meaning 'outside' of our existence (nobody watching on waiting for us to fall, or expecting us to glorify a deity, or invent a car, etc).

 

 

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I think if we had past lives or were recycled in order to learn lessons or some such thing we would vividly retain those memories.  Forgetting everything between lives makes no sense to me.  It defeats the purpose.

I think people are attracted to the idea of karma because it explains why good people suffer.
 

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1 hour ago, Burl said:

I think people are attracted to the idea of karma because it explains why good people suffer.

I agree, but would go further as to say that I think trying to understand why good people suffer is a kindred question for all religions.  All religions, past and present have tried to justify why there is suffering and they all have their particular answers.  The ancient Israelites used to think it was because they weren't obeying their God properly, Christians generally believe it is because Satan has interfered with God's best intentions and upset the apple cart (although he'll get his comeuppance!), Hindus/Buddhists/Janists all have their own understanding of Karma - the list could go on and on.

Bart's understanding, which is by no means original, makes the matter entirely simple - it's just what happens.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  That's life.

Interestingly, from what I can tell, one of the worlds oldest, most isolated civilizations - the Australian Aborigines, who were on their own on the Australian Continent for +50,000 recent years, laid no external blame for suffering, and just accepted that it was a fact of life also.

Life just happens.  Bad things happen too.  Life has no ultimate meaning or destiny which is why we develop our own meaning.  We can try and enjoy life as best we can, and we may or may not have what we consider an enjoyable life.  If we do, okay, if we don't, well that happens too.  There is no judge, jury or executioner waiting in the wings to avenge or reward.  We are our own rewarder and our own punisher.

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4 hours ago, PaulS said:

I agree, but would go further as to say that I think trying to understand why good people suffer is a kindred question for all religions.  All religions, past and present have tried to justify why there is suffering and they all have their particular answers.  The ancient Israelites used to think it was because they weren't obeying their God properly, Christians generally believe it is because Satan has interfered with God's best intentions and upset the apple cart (although he'll get his comeuppance!), Hindus/Buddhists/Janists all have their own understanding of Karma - the list could go on and on.

Bart's understanding, which is by no means original, makes the matter entirely simple - it's just what happens.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  That's life.

Interestingly, from what I can tell, one of the worlds oldest, most isolated civilizations - the Australian Aborigines, who were on their own on the Australian Continent for +50,000 recent years, laid no external blame for suffering, and just accepted that it was a fact of life also.

Life just happens.  Bad things happen too.  Life has no ultimate meaning or destiny which is why we develop our own meaning.  We can try and enjoy life as best we can, and we may or may not have what we consider an enjoyable life.  If we do, okay, if we don't, well that happens too.  There is no judge, jury or executioner waiting in the wings to avenge or reward.  We are our own rewarder and our own punisher.

It’s good to hear you confess you are not a Christian.   At least you are being honest.

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9 hours ago, Burl said:

I think if we had past lives or were recycled in order to learn lessons or some such thing we would vividly retain those memories.  Forgetting everything between lives makes no sense to me.  It defeats the purpose.

I think people are attracted to the idea of karma because it explains why good people suffer.
 

I don't think they would remain vividly in most as we begin again with a new evolving physical brain. It is what is beyond the physical where past memories are held along with tendencies that steer toward a particular genetic makeup for a new life in this or other realms. Of course, i cannot offer proof except to say i have some of these memories and other experiences of a concurrent  existence in other dimensions or realms  All that of course can be explained away if you are so inclined. Perhaps this may spark an interest.

https://www.npr.org/2014/01/05/259886077/searching-for-science-behind-reincarnation

 

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12 hours ago, PaulS said:

Of course 'suffering' is not a requirement of pain, but the suffering experienced when say one's child starves to death painfully in front of your eyes, is probably suffering that is a little hard to easily accept.  Indeed, I guess one could train themselves to accept that death and misery, but it begs the question why any God would like such pain to exist, which is the point that I think Bart is making.

Yes it begs the question why because of a particular understanding Bart may have of God or thinks religion has of God. Buddhism has no such concept of God. 

Karma is karma regardless how Bart tries to define it for Buddhists and you don't have to experience multiple lifetimes to see its effect. In Buddhism "Karma is a Sanskrit word from the root "Kri" to do or to make and simply means "action." It operates in the universe as the continuous chain reaction of cause and effect. It is not only confined to causation in the physical sense but also it has moral implications. "A good cause, a good effect; a bad cause a bad effect" is a common saying. In this sense karma is a moral law."

This is hard to accept but i can say with some degree of certainty that one chooses the life one is now living and the condition one is born into. One also is  judged  by the way one judges others. God is the potential but to think that God  likes or dislikes pain to exist is to error in ones thinking concerning God. Life can be compared to a movie,  a drama unfolding (an evolution of consciousness) and regardless of pain, suffering or perceived death, perceived winners or losers, there is only God and only Life.

 

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2 hours ago, JosephM said:

I don't think they would remain vividly in most as we begin again with a new evolving physical brain. It is what is beyond the physical where past memories are held along with tendencies that steer toward a particular genetic makeup for a new life in this or other realms. Of course, i cannot offer proof except to say i have some of these memories and other experiences of a concurrent  existence in other dimensions or realms  All that of course can be explained away if you are so inclined. Perhaps this may spark an interest.

https://www.npr.org/2014/01/05/259886077/searching-for-science-behind-reincarnation

 

I’ll have to read the link later.   Hope it is not about art, because then it would be an art link later 🙃

Appreciating, sharing and examining these spiritual experiences is a rare treasure.  It always reminds me of Scrooge trying to explain away Marley’s ghost as a bit of bad beef.

As an aside, what fiction are you reading these days?

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8 hours ago, Burl said:

(snip)

As an aside, what fiction are you reading these days?

Actually,  I haven't even averaged 1 book a year. for at least the last 30 years.  I am not very well read , fiction or otherwise but i do google the internet for news and curiosity items daily. I prefer to learn from my mistakes and real life experiences. Fiction books especially doesn't interest me,  though i have been known to binge watch a few fiction TV series on Netflix and Prime. The series  Nikita being the latest one.

Yes art link later is from my era. 🙂 

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13 minutes ago, JosephM said:

Actually,  I haven't even averaged 1 book a year. for at least the last 30 years.  I am not very well read , fiction or otherwise but i do google the internet for news and curiosity items daily. I prefer to learn from my mistakes and real life experiences. Fiction books especially doesn't interest me,  though i have been known to binge watch a few fiction TV series on Netflix and Prime. The series  Nikita being the latest one.

Yes art link later is from my era. 🙂 

Quality literature is the highest octane spiritual fuel I know of.  If you like westerns, try Pulitzer winner Lonesome Dove.

The shimmering screen is ok, but only literature will really put you inside a different personality.

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Paul,

On suffering, I agree in a sense that we are indeed our own rewarder and punisher yet see God as that potential that causes it to be so. I believe Jesus's teachings confirm that along with my own experience.

Burl,

Saw the series/movie Lonesome Dove, enjoyed it immensely and my wife did also. People say the book is always better but i am easy to please without the book.

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2 hours ago, JosephM said:

Paul,

On suffering, I agree in a sense that we are indeed our own rewarder and punisher yet see God as that potential that causes it to be so. I believe Jesus's teachings confirm that along with my own experience.

Burl,

Saw the series/movie Lonesome Dove, enjoyed it immensely and my wife did also. People say the book is always better but i am easy to please without the book.

I’m not talking about entertainment.  A well written book is a transformative spiritual experience.  Sometimes you get a glimmer of that on screen, but visuals force you into an abbreviated experience.

In books you can meld the author’s imagination with your own.  It’s a different thing entirely.

Watch an episode of Lonesome Dove then read just the first chapter.  It’s at used bookstores for 50¢.

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On 2/25/2020 at 1:02 AM, Burl said:

It’s good to hear you confess you are not a Christian.   At least you are being honest.

And the strange thing Burl is, Paul might be more Christian than you. Remember it is actions and not labels.

Edited by romansh
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On 2/25/2020 at 10:11 PM, Burl said:

A well written book is a transformative spiritual experience.  Sometimes you get a glimmer of that on screen, but visuals force you into an abbreviated experience.

In books you can meld the author’s imagination with your own.  It’s a different thing entirely.

I completely agree about the experience of reading. I do enjoy movies but there is nothing like a good book.

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On 2/23/2020 at 2:40 AM, PaulS said:

I liked an interview that Bart Erhman participated in recently with a South Korean Buddhist Magazine.  In particular, I love how he understands and explains suffering in the world.  For copyright reasons I cannot post the entire article, but here's one of the more relevant questions and Bart's response:

Q. You’ve thoroughly revealed in your book, God’s Problem, that Christianity cannot save people from their sufferings. This is a great work. You are absolutely right. In Buddha’s Teachings, Buddha has clearly said that people can reduce their sufferings temporarily and partially by relying on Gods, but Gods cannot absolutely save people from their sufferings. Their sufferings are caused only by their own karma. If people want to be happy, they should not harm and hurt others. Even if they are very happy, they cannot avoid their death. Birth-aging-sickness-death, is the suffering that all sentient-beings must inevitably undergo. Whether they have money, power, knowledge or not, every one of them must suffer from it. Buddha said that reaching Nirvana by oneself is the only way to terminate all sufferings and finally achieve eternal happiness. You’ve concluded that Christianity cannot solve the problem of sufferings. After you made that conclusion, are you trying to find a right way to solve the problem of sufferings?

Bart:  Yes, I continue to wrestle with why there is so much suffering in the world.  I do not think it is caused by God or by evil spirits; I do not think that it is intended (by a divine being) to strengthen us or to urge us to do good to other (though it certainly should have that effect on us, even if these are not the reasons for it); and, contrary to the Buddhist teaching you’ve laid out, I do not think that it is because of our own karma.  Much suffering is completely innocent, and it is completely random.  In my view it is because we are material creatures in a material universe and there is no extrinsic super-natural force in the universe connected with us.  The universe can be a cruel and capricious place, and we are here by pure accident.  Life came into existence, and evolved, and we are the result.  But there is no ultimate meaning or destiny.  For that reason, we need to develop our own meaning.  It comes by enjoying life as we can, and working very hard to help others to do so as well, especially those experiencing senseless and horrible suffering.

Nice.

God's Problem is my favorite Ehrman book. Amazing how many different explanations for evil and suffering there are throughout the Bible - not always obvious to the casual or even the devote, serious reader. I disagreed with all of them and I was intrigued why Bart, referencing such biblical views and experiencing suffering in the world concludes there is or can be no God - for the God he dismisses is simply the theistic God of the testaments. There are other non-theistic views of God that do a much better job of dealing with the problem of evil and suffering in creation. Of course, Ehrman's focus is early Christianity and the Bible, so that might be a more personal question. 

There is something to the idea of 'epistemological distance' that is intriguing as is the acknowledgment that God is responsible (not for every individual act of man or nature but for a creation in which such 'evil' is a possibility) but this is the only possible world that could have been. 

 

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On 2/24/2020 at 11:42 PM, PaulS said:

Life just happens.  Bad things happen too.  Life has no ultimate meaning or destiny which is why we develop our own meaning.  We can try and enjoy life as best we can, and we may or may not have what we consider an enjoyable life.  If we do, okay, if we don't, well that happens too.  There is no judge, jury or executioner waiting in the wings to avenge or reward.  We are our own rewarder and our own punisher.

The PC or at least some of them can also say that life just happens, including 'bad' things. I had friends who ran late to a meeting at the top of the world trade center on 9/11 and missed it. S_ _ t happens and in their case, the stuff that caused one to run late and the other to wait on the street was happenstance (as opposed to the man-made evil of the attacks).

However, even with this acceptance, one can say that life has ultimate meaning. So too, there are Christians who also believe there is no jury, judge or executioner and it is not about reward and punishment.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Getting back to the OP. I do think that God/The Higher Spirit is trying to get us away from or "rescue" us from suffering. Thing is, this requires our participation.

It requires our participation to all get along, so we don't cause each other pain and suffering.

I find that when I am more tuned in to God and JC that I have less pain and suffering, both emotionally /psychologically, as well as physically and in terms of my over all health and well being. This too requires my/a person's  participation. One needs to choose to be 'in tune' or in touch with God. God doesn't 'enter' us or 'get in touch' with us by force or intrusion. It's something we very much have to choose and be willing to do.

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4 hours ago, Elen1107 said:

I find that when I am more tuned in to God and JC that I have less pain and suffering, both emotionally /psychologically, as well as physically and in terms of my over all health and well being. This too requires my/a person's  participation. One needs to choose to be 'in tune' or in touch with God. God doesn't 'enter' us or 'get in touch' with us by force or intrusion. It's something we very much have to choose and be willing to do.

The problem with this belief, it seems, is the experience of the Jews and other 'religious' peoples during WWII and others throughout history who were or considered themselves also tuned into God or Jesus or however they understand Spirit. 

Edited by thormas
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4 hours ago, Elen1107 said:

Getting back to the OP. I do think that God/The Higher Spirit is trying to get us away from or "rescue" us from suffering. Thing is, this requires our participation.

It requires our participation to all get along, so we don't cause each other pain and suffering.

 

My take is that the only 'rescue' is what has traditionally been called salvation (and I don't consider even that a rescue operation). 

It seems, even in the experience of Jesus (and his followers) that all other suffering is part of the human drama. Who, more than Jesus, 'participated' with God, yet still...............

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4 hours ago, Elen1107 said:

Getting back to the OP. I do think that God/The Higher Spirit is trying to get us away from or "rescue" us from suffering. Thing is, this requires our participation.

It requires our participation to all get along, so we don't cause each other pain and suffering.


 

The traditional Christian practices of humility as well as avoiding sin and vices are very helpful in reducing suffering.

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3 hours ago, thormas said:

The problem with this belief, it seems, is the experience of the Jews and other 'religious' peoples during WWII and others throughout history who were or considered themselves also tuned into God or Jesus or however they understand Spirit. 

That was all so very horrid. Thing is, it was because the people who did those horrid things were totally out of touch with ant sense of a Higher Spirit or even a good sense of sanity and decency that those thing could occur.

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