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John Shelby Spong - RIP


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He was an awesome progressive christian and an amazing and prolific writer that helped so many break the shackles of traditional Christianity.  I sometimes wonder who is going to carry the mantle after the likes of Spong, Borg and others.  I'm sure there will be others, but in the meantime, I hope many will read Spong's works to gain a better understanding of Jesus and Christianity.

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Funnily enough I came to this forum because of Spong ... interestingly in my tenure here, Spong has not been a major feature on the fora here.

90? A good innings!

His twelve points from Wiki

A New Christianity for a New World:

  1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
  2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
  3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
  4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
  5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
  6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
  7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
  8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
  9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
  10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
  11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
  12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

 

Edited by romansh
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I have some quibbles with Spong's points, though nit picking in some sense. A critique of Spong's 12 points, though overall I am sympathetic to the direction he is taking:

  • Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

Fairly obviously I would have some sympathy for Spong's first two sentences.  The third sentence: "must", really? Perhaps a need for some leaving a traditional viewpoint. This is completely in accord with my take on ignosticism or theological noncognitivism

  • Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

Amen!

  • The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

Again I agree whole heartedly. In fact the original sin taken on by Christians, could be seen as thinking in terms of sin  and not sin. There is a certain amount of irony there.

  • The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.

I think I agree with the intent here, but the actual point does not make sense to me.

  • The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.

Again I agree,  but I wonder which of (any) the theistic traditions could have been interpreted literally since the enlightenment?

  • The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

Yes, the Christian concept of salvation does not make sense if we believe in cause and effect.  If we dismiss cause and effect then salvation does not make sense either.

  • Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.

I am not sure I understand this one.

  • The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.

Yeah ,,, this one is fairly straight forward.

  • There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.

This I will render unto Caesar. But as a free will skeptic, I am dubious about the whole concept of ethics and morality.

  • Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.

Again a little out of my bailiwick, but to me it seems fairly obvious.

  • The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.

I suppose technically I am agnostic about life after death. Personally, based on my experience, I am not expecting any, and based on my understanding of science I will be extremely surprised if there is any.

  • All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

This is Spong's point I most disagree with. He needs to reconcile this with his first point ... defining god before we can have any meaningful conversation about what this image thing is, and any consequences we might draw from this.

Edited by romansh
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My two bob's worth:

On 9/16/2021 at 12:19 PM, romansh said:
  • Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

Fairly obviously I would have some sympathy for Spong's first two sentences.  The third sentence: "must", really? Perhaps a need for some leaving a traditional viewpoint. This is completely in accord with my take on ignosticism or theological noncognitivism

It could in part be a need to hold on, but I think Spong had a heartfelt belief concerning the existence of a 'ground of being' that plays a part in our self consciousness and in which everything that exists, is rooted.  So maybe/maybe not for me.

On 9/16/2021 at 12:19 PM, romansh said:
  • The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.

I think I agree with the intent here, but the actual point does not make sense to me.

Agreed.  I'm not sure why he wants to stake the claim that a biologically born child can't be divine.  It would seem that it the specvific claim that Christianity is making - humanly born but 'conceived' by God.  I don't believe Mary was a virgin, but his claim does seem nonsensical.

On 9/16/2021 at 12:19 PM, romansh said:
  • The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.

Again I agree,  but I wonder which of (any) the theistic traditions could have been interpreted literally since the enlightenment?

I guess traditions such as communion (remembering Jesus in the act and not actually having bread turn to flesh and wine turn to blood in one's mouth).  Other traditions such as reaching out to the poor, the imprisoned, the widows etc could still be interpreted literally.

On 9/16/2021 at 12:19 PM, romansh said:
  • Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.

I am not sure I understand this one.

I can only imagine that Spong meant Jesus lives on 'in' God, whatever that meant to Spong.  Perhaps the disciples 'felt' that Jesus' crucifiction wasn't 'the end' of Jesus in some way.

On 9/16/2021 at 12:19 PM, romansh said:
  • The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.

I suppose technically I am agnostic about life after death. Personally, based on my experience, I am not expecting any, and based on my understanding of science I will be extremely surprised if there is any.

I wouldn't mind a pleasant suprise, but like you, I suspect not.

On 9/16/2021 at 12:19 PM, romansh said:
  • All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

This is Spong's point I most disagree with. He needs to reconcile this with his first point ... defining god before we can have any meaningful conversation about what this image thing is, and any consequences we might draw from this.

I think that is a good point - Spong needs to define that God or at the very least lay out the elements where he sees people bearing God's image, and in what ways.

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4 hours ago, PaulS said:

My two bob's worth:

It could in part be a need to hold on, but I think Spong had a heartfelt belief concerning the existence of a 'ground of being' that plays a part in our self consciousness and in which everything that exists, is rooted.  So maybe/maybe not for me.

Two bob? ...  That's inflation for you. A little know consideration, the two bob piece was the first decimal coin so to speak in the old money.

I never got a good sense of the ground of being. It is translates for me into existence or the universe. 

4 hours ago, PaulS said:

Agreed.  I'm not sure why he wants to stake the claim that a biologically born child can't be divine.  It would seem that it the specific claim that Christianity is making - humanly born but 'conceived' by God.  I don't believe Mary was a virgin, but his claim does seem nonsensical.

 

Yeah ... agreed ... I understand where he's going and agree with the direction. But the word divine is part of the semantic whack-a-mole game we play. According to my dictionary (and therefor it is right)  Divine, pertaining to god or godly. Divine needs some definition I think.

4 hours ago, PaulS said:

I guess traditions such as communion (remembering Jesus in the act and not actually having bread turn to flesh and wine turn to blood in one's mouth).  Other traditions such as reaching out to the poor, the imprisoned, the widows etc could still be interpreted literally.

The real Jesus is lost to Christ the Myth. Remembering what some scribe recalled what someone said of Jesus? There is so much more of existence around us now, that we don't have to interpret some two thousand year old remembrance. If you see what I mean.

 

Gotta run ... some more thoughts later. Back from the far North?

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19 hours ago, romansh said:

I never got a good sense of the ground of being. It is translates for me into existence or the universe. 

I liked the analysis Spong used once about things desiring to live.  What makes a weed try to grow in a crack in a path for instance.  No matter what, it tries as hard as it can to grow and live.  Now, I think that is overlaying a bit of human emotion on the weed, but I thought it was a fair comment by Spong trying to explain there is something that exists that drives things to live.  Maybe there is, maybe there isn't.

19 hours ago, romansh said:

The real Jesus is lost to Christ the Myth. Remembering what some scribe recalled what someone said of Jesus? There is so much more of existence around us now, that we don't have to interpret some two thousand year old remembrance. If you see what I mean.

Absolutely.  I think one can take some inspiration from some things, but it certainly has to be a personal view and not one that is in any way provable or historically established, much less promoted as the only way to understand things.

19 hours ago, romansh said:

Gotta run ... some more thoughts later. Back from the far North?

Not quite, still bobbing about on the ocean for another week!

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10 hours ago, PaulS said:

Spong used once about things desiring to live.  What makes a weed try to grow in a crack in a path for instance. 

How is this different from the universe unfolding? And I think we need to be careful not to anthropomorphize other life forms, including weeds. It's bad enough when we anthropomorphize our brains.

Everything being divine and nothing being divine (whatever we might mean by divine) boils down to the same thing. Things just are. 

And from your previous post.

10 hours ago, PaulS said:

I think one can take some inspiration from some things, but it certainly has to be a personal view and not one that is in any way provable or historically established, much less promoted as the only way to understand things.

Yes we can take inspirations from a myth or allegedly true stories (to varying degrees). We can get inspiration from cathedrals or stories about saints. For me looking down a microscope or at the night skies through a telescope is far more inspiring. Getting a tiny glimpse of how the biochemistry of how life works, how environments are on the edge of competition and cooperation. How the universe might tick and where mankind and life fit into it, that's where inspiration lies for me.

I hope it's the sea that bobs up and down and not the rig.

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6 hours ago, romansh said:

How is this different from the universe unfolding? And I think we need to be careful not to anthropomorphize other life forms, including weeds. It's bad enough when we anthropomorphize our brains.

I don't want to put words in Spong's mouth - we've all seen what that can lead to thousands of years down the track! :) - but the difference I think is that in Spong's mind any unfolding of the universe is a consciousness, in some way or another.  Spong feels 'touched' by this unfolding in some way, as opposed to simply recognizing he is but a bit part in a non-conscious drama.  And it's not so much anthropomorphizing that Spong does, it's more he questions why should a weed desire to grow?  Where did 'this' come from that things want to or simply do try to, 'live'?

6 hours ago, romansh said:

Yes we can take inspirations from a myth or allegedly true stories (to varying degrees). We can get inspiration from cathedrals or stories about saints. For me looking down a microscope or at the night skies through a telescope is far more inspiring. Getting a tiny glimpse of how the biochemistry of how life works, how environments are on the edge of competition and cooperation. How the universe might tick and where mankind and life fit into it, that's where inspiration lies for me.

I think that's beautiful, but we all get inspiration from different sources.  Why we do and how we do is what makes life interesting I think, and this itself has us asking questions about why.

6 hours ago, romansh said:

I hope it's the sea that bobs up and down and not the rig.

Bit of both, but mainly the sea.  We are shaped like a vessel (some 350m long and 8 stories above ocean level with 5 stories below water level) but are moored to the seabed.  So we weathervane around the conditions, including Cat 5 cyclones, but get a little bit of rocking up from time to time.  Helps you sleep! :)

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18 hours ago, PaulS said:

I think is that in Spong's mind any unfolding of the universe is a consciousness

This I think is fair enough, but weeds struggling to take hold of cracks in the cement? Consciousness (panpsychism) doe not do it it for me. Panpsychism might be true, but the question remains does consciousness actually do anything or is it an epiphenomenon?

18 hours ago, PaulS said:

he questions why should a weed desire to grow

This is exactly anthropomorphizing, ascribing desires to weeds. The best word I could come up with was affinity ... certain combinations of chemicals have an affinity to form life ...  or something like that.

18 hours ago, PaulS said:

I think that's beautiful, but we all get inspiration from different sources.  Why we do and how we do is what makes life interesting I think, and this itself has us asking questions about why.

Yes people have been inspired by all sorts of things. Books come to mind, Mein Kampf, Das Capital, all sorts of religious texts. Why is one of those unfortunate question words. If by why we mean what are the underlying causes, we may make some headway, but we will eventually bump into a place where we can't see, at least for the present time. If we mean what is the purpose? We can start writing our fiction now.

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2 hours ago, romansh said:

This I think is fair enough, but weeds struggling to take hold of cracks in the cement? Consciousness (panpsychism) doe not do it it for me. Panpsychism might be true, but the question remains does consciousness actually do anything or is it an epiphenomenon?

I'm guessing that for Spong, as he considers 'it' the Ground of Being, to me he seems to indicate that he thinks it actually does (or has done) something.  For me - who knows.

2 hours ago, romansh said:

This is exactly anthropomorphizing, ascribing desires to weeds. The best word I could come up with was affinity ... certain combinations of chemicals have an affinity to form life ...  or something like that.

I like that.  But Spong might ask 'what' causes this affinity, 'where' does it come from, 'why' this affinity and not another?  I'm sure there could be very scientific explanations which we are yet to fully grasp, but then again, I leave room for Spong's 'Ground of Being'.

2 hours ago, romansh said:

Yes people have been inspired by all sorts of things. Books come to mind, Mein Kampf, Das Capital, all sorts of religious texts. Why is one of those unfortunate question words. If by why we mean what are the underlying causes, we may make some headway, but we will eventually bump into a place where we can't see, at least for the present time. If we mean what is the purpose? We can start writing our fiction now.

And, I have no issue with writing such fiction if it is what works for the individual.  For me where it goes pear-shaped is when individuals start claiming authority or right-ness.

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3 hours ago, PaulS said:

I like that.  But Spong might ask 'what' causes this affinity, 'where' does it come from, 'why' this affinity and not another?  I'm sure there could be very scientific explanations which we are yet to fully grasp, but then again, I leave room for Spong's 'Ground of Being'.

Ultimately the answer becomes (at least for me) I don't know.

What causes affinity? Our thermodynamic laws. What causes them? It seems the probabilistic arrangements atoms can take up. What causes this, here I think we are looking deeper than we can see? That's OK.

But I don't have a need to calling it a ground of being. It does not seem to explain anything, just causes obfuscation, at least for me. 

There are a whole bunch of "affinities".  Science is making valiant efforts to identify them. While Jesus and the testaments give us insights into the human condition, so does Harry Potter, but ultimately it us, as proximate causes, giving those insights. And we as proximate causes are a product of our environment, past, present and imagined future.

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4 hours ago, romansh said:

Ultimately the answer becomes (at least for me) I don't know.

Yep - with you there.

4 hours ago, romansh said:

What causes affinity? Our thermodynamic laws. What causes them? It seems the probabilistic arrangements atoms can take up. What causes this, here I think we are looking deeper than we can see? That's OK.

Yep - agree also.

4 hours ago, romansh said:

But I don't have a need to calling it a ground of being. It does not seem to explain anything, just causes obfuscation, at least for me. 

No, I don't have a need either.  Spong does - but I do wonder if that's because he just doesn't want to fully let go of the concept of God that he was so accustomed to throughout the bulk of his life.  Could there actually be a ground of being though - maybe, and I'm agnostic on that.

4 hours ago, romansh said:

There are a whole bunch of "affinities".  Science is making valiant efforts to identify them. While Jesus and the testaments give us insights into the human condition, so does Harry Potter, but ultimately it us, as proximate causes, giving those insights. And we as proximate causes are a product of our environment, past, present and imagined future.

I think insight can be valuable from the point of view in helping us exist in a way that we find 'better' than perhaps other ways without such insight.  But whether such insight is a 'truth' or not, can be much more difficult to distinguish.  I kinda like "you do what's good for you, I'll do what's good for me, and if neither of us are hurting anybody else (physically or mentally), I'm not sure anybody else should care". :)

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I think we are largely in agreement. I have only read one of Spong's books some twelve years ago, Jesus for the Non-Religious. I have to admit the book was not for me. Too pedagogic. And did not somehow connect non-religiosity with Jesus, at least for me. I wondered at the time who was the book written for? Having said that, I read it in the time between my father's death and his funeral.

5 hours ago, PaulS said:

I think insight can be valuable from the point of view in helping us exist in a way that we find 'better' than perhaps other ways without such insight.  But whether such insight is a 'truth' or not, can be much more difficult to distinguish.  I kinda like "you do what's good for you, I'll do what's good for me, and if neither of us are hurting anybody else (physically or mentally), I'm not sure anybody else should care".

Yes insight can be useful for navigating the unfolding universe. It also depends on the 'accuracy' of the insight, does it not? Checking the application against outcomes is not a 'bad' idea as such. Doing what's good for you reminds me of a Joseph Campbell quote: 

You yourself are participating in evil, or you are not alive. Whatever you do is evil to someone. This is one of the ironies of creation.

So distinguishing truth comes from actually trying to correlate an application of an insight with the outcome; it takes effort, especially to isolate all the confounding variables and perhaps an acceptance that there will always be some uncertainty.

And  suppose for me ... the phrase the ground of being requires, like God, requires a bloody good definition before I get too excited.

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13 hours ago, romansh said:

I think we are largely in agreement. I have only read one of Spong's books some twelve years ago, Jesus for the Non-Religious. I have to admit the book was not for me. Too pedagogic. And did not somehow connect non-religiosity with Jesus, at least for me. I wondered at the time who was the book written for? Having said that, I read it in the time between my father's death and his funeral.

I read once that Marcus Borg was attributed as saying that Spong was good at pulling things apart and breaking down/dismissing the old understandings, but not so good at putting them back together (or something to that affect).  I think it sums Spong up nicely for me - I'm grateful for his education and insight about how Christianity in general has gotten so much wrong about Jesus and God, but what he tries to 'replace' it with doesn't necessarily work for me.

13 hours ago, romansh said:

Yes insight can be useful for navigating the unfolding universe. It also depends on the 'accuracy' of the insight, does it not? Checking the application against outcomes is not a 'bad' idea as such. Doing what's good for you reminds me of a Joseph Campbell quote: 

You yourself are participating in evil, or you are not alive. Whatever you do is evil to someone. This is one of the ironies of creation.

So distinguishing truth comes from actually trying to correlate an application of an insight with the outcome; it takes effort, especially to isolate all the confounding variables and perhaps an acceptance that there will always be some uncertainty.

And  suppose for me ... the phrase the ground of being requires, like God, requires a bloody good definition before I get too excited.

I'm not sure there are 'truths' to always be distinguished.  Like Campbell alludes to, nothing we do is 100% good.  Our 'truth' is probably never going to align with 100% of other people, so it can't be a 'truth' other than for the individual (and maybe a certain number of others).

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13 hours ago, PaulS said:

I'm grateful for his education and insight about how Christianity in general has gotten so much wrong about Jesus and God, but what he tries to 'replace' it with doesn't necessarily work for me.

Yeah ... It is almost as though Spong has shown [traditional] Christianity the exit door but he himself never quite stepped through it. People like Gretta Vosper I think might be straddling that door. i have not read them but I think they might be of interest to the PC community. With or Without God and Amen.

13 hours ago, PaulS said:

Like Campbell alludes to, nothing we do is 100% good. 

I am not sure Campbell actually believes in good and evil.

Truth exists ... I am sure of that. How accurate is my description of this truth is another matter though.

Edited by romansh
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On 9/22/2021 at 2:58 AM, romansh said:

Yeah ... It is almost as though Spong has shown [traditional] Christianity the exit door but he himself never quite stepped through it. People like Gretta Vosper I think might be straddling that door. i have not read them but I think they might be of interest to the PC community. With or Without God and Amen.

It's almost as though people are recognizing the limitations on mindsets within a narrowly defined culture from 2000 years ago!  Imagine that! :)

On 9/22/2021 at 2:58 AM, romansh said:

I am not sure Campbell actually believes in good and evil.

Truth exists ... I am sure of that. How accurate is my description of this truth is another matter though.

I think 'some' truth exists - at least in how we define it.  Most of us for instance accept the truth that the earth revolves around the sun.  That's a pretty straightforward truth.  Where 'truth' gets icky, in my opinion, is where it is more conceptual.  For instance, the 'truth' that something is good or something is bad.  That's what I was taking from Campbell - we may seem a certain truth as 'good' for us, but simultaneously that truth of good for us is considered 'bad' by another.  So there would appear to be no 'single' truth, rather the truth is so much more broader and all encompassing.  Maybe that's what you mean by 'accurate description'? 

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15 hours ago, PaulS said:

I think 'some' truth exists - at least in how we define it.  Most of us for instance accept the truth that the earth revolves around the sun.  That's a pretty straightforward truth. 

Yes semantics are important. Earth revolves about the Sun? Perhaps. Einstein might argue the Earth travels in a straight line, but space is bent. But I would agree revolving around the Sun is a more accurate paradigm than say a flat Earth.

15 hours ago, PaulS said:

Where 'truth' gets icky, in my opinion, is where it is more conceptual.  For instance, the 'truth' that something is good or something is bad. That's what I was taking from Campbell - we may seem a certain truth as 'good' for us, but simultaneously that truth of good for us is considered 'bad' by another.

When we apply Truth© to concepts we might first examine the nature of the concept. eg good and bad. We might describe a bit of the universe unfolding as good or bad, but does the concept even make sense. With respect to the concept of good and bad I would point people to Alan Watts' Chinese Farmer fable and maybe.

15 hours ago, PaulS said:

So there would appear to be no 'single' truth, rather the truth is so much more broader and all encompassing.  Maybe that's what you mean by 'accurate description'? 

I might consider something as bad and you consider it as good. This might be true, but whether this something is good or bad is irrelevant, if, the concept of good and bad is an illusion or perhaps a delusion. We have lots of different concepts ... take ownership. The concept seems to exist (at least for some), but ultimately ownership is a complicated societal agreement. In what sense can I own a cat, tree or a piece of land?

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14 hours ago, romansh said:

I might consider something as bad and you consider it as good. This might be true, but whether this something is good or bad is irrelevant, if, the concept of good and bad is an illusion or perhaps a delusion. We have lots of different concepts ... take ownership. The concept seems to exist (at least for some), but ultimately ownership is a complicated societal agreement. In what sense can I own a cat, tree or a piece of land?

Which is where I question if there can always be a single truth.  To me, it would seem not.  What is truth for one, is simply not truth for another, very often.  So whilst some things maybe we can say are 'true', in general I think maybe there is no 'truth' per se - there's just what we feel is the truth.

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7 hours ago, PaulS said:

Which is where I question if there can always be a single truth.  To me, it would seem not.  What is truth for one, is simply not truth for another, very often.  So whilst some things maybe we can say are 'true', in general I think maybe there is no 'truth' per se - there's just what we feel is the truth.

Paul ... for me there is a difference between there being no truth and not having access to it or perhaps not being able to express this truth.  I would almost turn around what you said a little and say ... we can't say our beliefs are 'true' in general, there is a truth per se - then there's just what we feel is the truth.

As an agnostic I can't help but be skeptical of proclaimed truth (even my own). But logically there has to be a truth, even if I don't have access to it. Claiming truth does not exist for me becomes some sort of post modernist hell. 

Ultimately our affinities tend to align with good and bad aligns with our repulsions. In a no free will world or an unfolding universe the existence of good and bad make no sense. Good and bad are illusions (I would argue) in the same way my kitchen chair is red. The illusory concept of red is usually useful, but I do wonder about the concepts of good and bad.

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11 hours ago, romansh said:

Paul ... for me there is a difference between there being no truth and not having access to it or perhaps not being able to express this truth.  I would almost turn around what you said a little and say ... we can't say our beliefs are 'true' in general, there is a truth per se - then there's just what we feel is the truth.

 

Yeah, I can accept that - the difficulty is in accurately defining any said 'truth'.  It may seem accurate to us, but then it is not accurate to another.  Rather, perhaps there is a truth amongst that lot somewhere, but likely all sides haven't precisely captured it.

11 hours ago, romansh said:

As an agnostic I can't help but be skeptical of proclaimed truth (even my own). But logically there has to be a truth, even if I don't have access to it. Claiming truth does not exist for me becomes some sort of post modernist hell.

I believe truth does exist, just that not everything we understand as truth should be called truth just because we think it is truth.  I guess it can be said to exist - it just can't be accurately defined most of the time.

11 hours ago, romansh said:

Ultimately our affinities tend to align with good and bad aligns with our repulsions. In a no free will world or an unfolding universe the existence of good and bad make no sense. Good and bad are illusions (I would argue) in the same way my kitchen chair is red. The illusory concept of red is usually useful, but I do wonder about the concepts of good and bad.

I guess good and bad can be assessed as valuable or not depending on what it delivers to the community.  If a community wishes to survive or even thrive, then that community must judge good versus bad in order to manage it's existence.

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12 hours ago, PaulS said:

I believe truth does exist, just that not everything we understand as truth should be called truth just because we think it is truth.  I guess it can be said to exist - it just can't be accurately defined most of the time.

This is exactly what I have been trying to say ... but in different words.

12 hours ago, PaulS said:

I guess good and bad can be assessed as valuable or not depending on what it delivers to the community.  If a community wishes to survive or even thrive, then that community must judge good versus bad in order to manage it's existence.

Valuable? Dollars are they valuable and if so are they good? "what it delivers to the community" Again I would point you and any passer-by to the Alan Watts Chinese Farmer's Parable. It counsels us not to think in terms of good and bad. As does Genesis 3:22, and bits of the the new testament are are sprinkled with not judging. 

Of course main stream Christianity has screwed that up.

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5 hours ago, romansh said:

Valuable? Dollars are they valuable and if so are they good? "what it delivers to the community" Again I would point you and any passer-by to the Alan Watts Chinese Farmer's Parable. It counsels us not to think in terms of good and bad. As does Genesis 3:22, and bits of the the new testament are are sprinkled with not judging. 

Of course main stream Christianity has screwed that up.

I can't see how a community can avoid judging, if indeed that community wants to survive or even thrive.  If something harms the community, let's say drug or alcohol abuse, then the community would probably judge those actions as 'bad' or harmful to the community, and may try to minimize or eliminate them.  I doubt a community just saying 'maybe' to a problem would be beneficial to that community.

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On 9/25/2021 at 6:14 PM, PaulS said:

I can't see how a community can avoid judging

I really want to stress there are two broad senses of judging ... 1) will something help achieve objectives or be detrimental. 2) or is this same something intrinsically good or evil (bad). The first for me is a sensible way of approaching this act of "judging". The second is not.

On 9/25/2021 at 6:14 PM, PaulS said:

I doubt a community just saying 'maybe' to a problem would be beneficial to that community.

Again ... It is the response to this collective want (to reduce harm in this case) that I am pointing to. If the response is a retributive one to punish/deter the dealers and perhaps users. Playing sports is potentially harmful ... Alcohol is definitely harmful. Apparently teaching girls in Afghanistan is now harmful. What I am trying to point to is: harm/benefit that we perceive is driven by our individual and collective "wants". And our wants are a product of our environment.

 

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