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Why Is Belief in the Invisible the Number One Virtue?


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This is not just in Christianity--I've looked into other religions.  

Christianity is reportedly the largest religion, so seems to me the most likely to be right, and I was raised in that environment ("bloom where you're planted" thinking) and it attracts me for other reasons, too much to go into here.  However, its message seems to me to be a lot about how you treat other people.  For some people--this includes me--believing in the invisible* (see end of post) doesn't come easily.  Does that make us the most evil of people?  Skepticism is generally a good thing in the material world we seem to be living in.  Why would God torment us for it?

One explanation I've thought of is that actually many of the rules in the Bible are just things that are good for us as human beings in the material world.   Pork tends to give you parasites if you don't cook it right.  Having at least one day a week when you don't work has been proven to be healthier.  Prayer is a form of meditation, etc.  So maybe believing in someone watching over us is a good thing--unless you get into all this complicated stuff about being born sinful, and faith being a gift but if you don't have it you'd better make haste to get it because if you don't, bad news.

What would be wrong, if God does exist but I can't know it, with following the most-repeated Biblical principles and feeling respectful towards what God or Gods may have given us life and a planet that supports us?  If we don't know, should we try to lie to ourselves and other people?  I keep an open mind and in fact ask God regularly to make it possible for me to know Him.  I have a few faults, like gossip and not giving as much to charity as I probably could, but I'm working on those.  I don't think I'm a terrible "sinner."

The emphasis on one God only is also difficult for me to understand.  How would I know?  God could have a son if He wanted to.  He could have 100 children, or 7.89 billion.  Maybe He has brothers and sisters, etc.  I don't see any disrespect in thinking those things possible.  But maybe there's some advantage to US to believe that there's only one such being.  It would make prayers simpler.   

Apologies to God if what I'm saying is wrong, but I'm trying to make sense of things that are puzzling to me.  And if someone reading this knows that God is there, I'm not saying that you don't.  I'm not saying that millions of Christians don't.  I'm just talking about those of us who by our natures tend to question things, even if we'd rather believe them.

(*  Or accessible to other senses, or easily reproducible.  As best I know, I believe in electricity largely because 99% of the time, if I flip a switch, the light or fan or whatever comes on.)

 

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51 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

Christianity is reportedly the largest religion, so seems to me the most likely to be right

While I did read the rest of your post, I got stuck here! 

Largest? While Christianity as a whole is the largest, which denomination has the intellectual property on rightness? I have heard Evangelicals argue that Catholicism is not really Christianity.  Also a large consensus is not a measure of being right is it? For example, there have been times that people have believed the Sun goes around the Earth. 

Right? When you say right do you mean accurate, useful or something else? Say Calvinists are a little circumspect about free will. It takes some special pleading to make sense of salvation without free will, does it not? Do you think the Russian Orthodox patriarchy is interpreting Christianity "right" given the current situation in Europe? Do we take some Evangelicals insistence on the Bible as being literally true as right? Is the almost atheistic take by late John Shelby Spong and the definitely atheistic take of Gretta Vosper somehow right?

Likely? You seem to suggest that we have some insight into the probabilities of being "right"? This is a bit of a bookmakers fallacy.  Where punters believe the bookmakers have an insight into the outcome of a bet. The bookmakers don't care. What they care about is how much money has been placed on each bet. What you say is about as logical as if I were to argue, most of the people on Earth are not Christian therefore Christianity is likely wrong. I think a study of Bayesian probabilities might be in order here.

I can't help thinking your opening line is a reflection of your biases (which of course is fair enough) and what follows is a confabulation or motivated reasoning. What if pantheism or deism are closer to the truth?

 

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I'm not used to talking about this subject with other people.  It would have been better if I had been more clear.   The first part was just getting stuff out of the way.

When I think about choosing a religion, I think about which one God would want me to choose, since if there is no God it hardly matters and I could choose the one I like.  If God is running things, the most-followed religion would seem to be the one He favors.  It didn't say it WOULD be, but I was going on what little I could reason out.  I realize that all of your points are good.  

I'm not much of a debater; I just think and sometimes write down what I come up with.  On this whole subject, I'm basically just thrashing around in the woods.

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25 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

I'm not used to talking about this subject with other people.

Sorry, I'll try to be kind. :)

27 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

When I think about choosing a religion, I think about which one God would want me to choose

Assuming there is a God, why do you think she would want you to choose a religion? Why not live your life as you best see fit? Why choose a dogma that comes with many religions? Gandhi's Be the change you want to see in the world comes to mind. To me this seems like sound advice.

32 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

if there is no God it hardly matters and I could choose the one I like

Well this seems like the basis of Pascal's wager. The problem for me is what is the cost of knowingly living a lie? For some it may well be zero or even a benefit. It is not something I could do, but you no doubt will decide for yourself. Again what is making you choose?

Do you need need a holy text to guide you through life? I have my own guidelines for living life, as honestly as I can. I also have a wife that tells what to do. But of course not all circumstances will fit the guidelines, and it will require some thought and action to get a desired outcome. I don't see any gods coming to our rescue. 

My advice is to live your life to the best of your ability, try and do what makes sense. By all means be kind and generous to those in need as it hopefully will lead to a more equitable world. If you want a dirty great big luxury yacht start saving now. Another suggestion is to examine your wants, where they came from and where the might lead.

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9 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

Christianity is reportedly the largest religion, so seems to me the most likely to be right, and I was raised in that environment ("bloom where you're planted" thinking) and it attracts me for other reasons, too much to go into here.  However, its message seems to me to be a lot about how you treat other people.  For some people--this includes me--believing in the invisible* (see end of post) doesn't come easily.  Does that make us the most evil of people?  Skepticism is generally a good thing in the material world we seem to be living in.  Why would God torment us for it?

For me personally, I'm not sure there is a 'right' religion.  Certainly Christianity is the largest, but I think that is mostly due to geo-politics rather than 'rightness'.  I mean, Islam is projected to become the largest religion by about 2050 - so will Islam then become the 'right' religion?  And I agree the message seems be a lot about how you treat other people, but I see various degrees of how that is interpreted and practiced - from the most compassionate to the downright evil. 

Not believing in the invisible is certainly not evil.  In fact, I would say that any God that chooses to exclude somebody that uses their God-given logic to come up with a different understanding than what said God allegedly says they are meant to, is the true evil here.

9 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

So maybe believing in someone watching over us is a good thing--unless you get into all this complicated stuff about being born sinful, and faith being a gift but if you don't have it you'd better make haste to get it because if you don't, bad news.

I do think you've hit the nail on the head when it comes to maybe why Christianity has been so popular - governments throughout history have adopted and used it as a means to control their populations.  If you can convince people to "behave or else" then you are much likely to rule longer.

Constantine started the trend in the early 300's when he claimed that Jesus wanted him to win a war because of the vision of a cross in the sky.  I always find it ironic that Christians celebrate Rome adopting Christianity at this point - believing that the Prince of Peace, the one who lived by 'turn the other cheek' is now showing solidarity with one particular side in a war.  This is standout politics and not religion in my mind.

9 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

What would be wrong, if God does exist but I can't know it, with following the most-repeated Biblical principles and feeling respectful towards what God or Gods may have given us life and a planet that supports us?  If we don't know, should we try to lie to ourselves and other people?  I keep an open mind and in fact ask God regularly to make it possible for me to know Him.  I have a few faults, like gossip and not giving as much to charity as I probably could, but I'm working on those.  I don't think I'm a terrible "sinner."

I think Judaism and later Christianity turned 'sinning' into something it wasn't.  The Garden of Eden myth told in Genesis wasn't about 'original sin', it wasn't about being 'separated' from God, and it certainly wasn't about eternal punishment after death.  So for me, there is no such thing as a sinner, other than there are people who can cause harm in our society (warmongers, murderers, rapists etc) and others much, much less so (gossip, noth giving to charity etc).  There's not an in and an out group as far as God is concerned, but we as a society do get concerned when various levels of harm are caused.

9 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

The emphasis on one God only is also difficult for me to understand.  How would I know?  God could have a son if He wanted to.  He could have 100 children, or 7.89 billion.  Maybe He has brothers and sisters, etc.  I don't see any disrespect in thinking those things possible.  But maybe there's some advantage to US to believe that there's only one such being.  It would make prayers simpler.   

I don't think we can know God, if indeed there is a God to know per se.  

I like what Xenophanes had to say, about 500 years before Jesus existed: If cattle and horses, or lions, had hands, or were able to draw with their feet and produce the works which men do, horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make the gods' bodies the same shape as their own.  He also said: Men create the gods in their own image.

So I think go easy on yourself - it seems mankind has never firmly landed on exactly who or what God is - despite what many will say.

9 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

Apologies to God if what I'm saying is wrong, but I'm trying to make sense of things that are puzzling to me.  And if someone reading this knows that God is there, I'm not saying that you don't.  I'm not saying that millions of Christians don't.  I'm just talking about those of us who by our natures tend to question things, even if we'd rather believe them.

(*  Or accessible to other senses, or easily reproducible.  As best I know, I believe in electricity largely because 99% of the time, if I flip a switch, the light or fan or whatever comes on.)

If Jesus' words are to be believed, when he said whoever is not against us is for us, I think he was summarizing one single message - love one another.  The rest is religion and dogma.  

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15 hours ago, PaulS said:

If Jesus' words are to be believed, when he said whoever is not against us is for us, I think he was summarizing one single message - love one another. 

And then we have hate

No doubt we will have expert apologists to explain this away in terms of context etc. and give an opposite meaning. Ultimately we end up believing what we believe. 

Edited by romansh
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20 hours ago, romansh said:

Sorry, I'll try to be kind. :)

Assuming there is a God, why do you think she would want you to choose a religion? Why not live your life as you best see fit? Why choose a dogma that comes with many religions? Gandhi's Be the change you want to see in the world comes to mind. To me this seems like sound advice.

Well this seems like the basis of Pascal's wager. The problem for me is what is the cost of knowingly living a lie? For some it may well be zero or even a benefit. It is not something I could do, but you no doubt will decide for yourself. Again what is making you choose?

Do you need need a holy text to guide you through life? I have my own guidelines for living life, as honestly as I can. I also have a wife that tells what to do. But of course not all circumstances will fit the guidelines, and it will require some thought and action to get a desired outcome. I don't see any gods coming to our rescue. 

My advice is to live your life to the best of your ability, try and do what makes sense. By all means be kind and generous to those in need as it hopefully will lead to a more equitable world. If you want a dirty great big luxury yacht start saving now. Another suggestion is to examine your wants, where they came from and where the might lead.

Hi romansh,

I haven't figured out how to divide a quote into pieces, and also my computer is doing strange things today, so if this post ends in an incomplete sentence, I didn't do it.

As for why God would want me to choose a religion:  Doesn't make sense, does it, when there are so many, some of them saying that the others are evil, and some of the ones referred to saying that the referrer is evil.   We Christians, the ones like me, are raised to think that God is very demanding and wants us to choose without actually having any real basis, except maybe for those people God has personally appeared to.  That's why I get into speculations about how to pick the "right" religion.  I'm doing the best I can.  I never thought much of Pascal's wager because I never thought you could just choose for your advantage and have it mean anything. 

Do I need a holy text?  Kind of.  I want one, anyway. Where did my wants come from?  I don't know; God, evolution, whatever.  But they are firmly attached to me and one of them is not to spend the rest of my life in pointless, to me, analysis of things I've never been able to learn a darn thing about.

I haven't found a life of hedonism to be rewarding, and being kind to others is more satisfying but still not enough.   So here I am at Progressive Christianity.  I was hoping to be able to discuss how to live with Christianity and intelligence both.  There are some things that are just hard to believe even when you want to be a Christian. The idea of a loving God and an eternal Hell, why God would allow someone to be born if He knew that the person would end up in Hell, faith being a gift but there are things you're supposed to do to get it--well, that's an argument among various Christian factions and even down to the individual level.  I'm not trying to figure them out.  I'm going straight to the horse's mouth and reading the Bible.  

To say that I'm looking for discussion about Christianity is not to belittle your input.  It makes me think and has clarified what I'm looking for.  You pushed me towards more Christianity.  I hope you don't mind.  :)

 

 

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11 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

I haven't figured out how to divide a quote into pieces, and also my computer is doing strange things today, so if this post ends in an incomplete sentence, I didn't do it.

Highlight the bit you want to quote and you should get a little pop-up saying "quote" ... click it.

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16 hours ago, PaulS said:

For me personally, I'm not sure there is a 'right' religion.  Certainly Christianity is the largest, but I think that is mostly due to geo-politics rather than 'rightness'.  I mean, Islam is projected to become the largest religion by about 2050 - so will Islam then become the 'right' religion?  And I agree the message seems be a lot about how you treat other people, but I see various degrees of how that is interpreted and practiced - from the most compassionate to the downright evil. 

Not believing in the invisible is certainly not evil.  In fact, I would say that any God that chooses to exclude somebody that uses their God-given logic to come up with a different understanding than what said God allegedly says they are meant to, is the true evil here.

I do think you've hit the nail on the head when it comes to maybe why Christianity has been so popular - governments throughout history have adopted and used it as a means to control their populations.  If you can convince people to "behave or else" then you are much likely to rule longer.

Constantine started the trend in the early 300's when he claimed that Jesus wanted him to win a war because of the vision of a cross in the sky.  I always find it ironic that Christians celebrate Rome adopting Christianity at this point - believing that the Prince of Peace, the one who lived by 'turn the other cheek' is now showing solidarity with one particular side in a war.  This is standout politics and not religion in my mind.

I think Judaism and later Christianity turned 'sinning' into something it wasn't.  The Garden of Eden myth told in Genesis wasn't about 'original sin', it wasn't about being 'separated' from God, and it certainly wasn't about eternal punishment after death.  So for me, there is no such thing as a sinner, other than there are people who can cause harm in our society (warmongers, murderers, rapists etc) and others much, much less so (gossip, noth giving to charity etc).  There's not an in and an out group as far as God is concerned, but we as a society do get concerned when various levels of harm are caused.

I don't think we can know God, if indeed there is a God to know per se.  

I like what Xenophanes had to say, about 500 years before Jesus existed: If cattle and horses, or lions, had hands, or were able to draw with their feet and produce the works which men do, horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make the gods' bodies the same shape as their own.  He also said: Men create the gods in their own image.

So I think go easy on yourself - it seems mankind has never firmly landed on exactly who or what God is - despite what many will say.

If Jesus' words are to be believed, when he said whoever is not against us is for us, I think he was summarizing one single message - love one another.  The rest is religion and dogma.  

It's lunchtime so just a few notes here:

On evil, a Christian told me that the reason I have trouble believing is that I haven't accepted my sinful nature.  Well, I don't feel sinful.  No parent wants their child to confess to a bad deed they didn't do.  So I'm at a loss on that one.  

War, oh yes.  In the Bible Jesus said that He came to bring peace, then He said He came not with peace, but with a sword.  ????  Seems like if you want to believe in the Bible, you have to forget about consistency and just--I don't know.  Just accept what's there?  I may try that if I can't find another way. I'm not interested in all the human, Christian attempts to explain away these things.  I'll listen to God if He's willing to tell me about it.  I do have a small hope that this will happen. 

I've heard that thing about the horses.   I didn't know it extended to cows.  Do you suppose that's where the golden calf idols came from in the Old Testament?  Somebody found some cow art.  :)

I had forgotten the Bible verse about "whoever is not against us."  It's very comforting to me; thank you. I'm not against Christianity.  I'm clinging to Christianity not just because of habit, upbringing, and culture, but also because of a person I know, and because of some religious-like experiences I've had.  The person was my Uncle John, one of the nicest, most decent people I've ever known.  He was a Christian.  He made no secret of it, but he didn't beat you over the head with it.  He just sat there, ready to help whoever needed it, radiating peace and acceptance of everyone.  He wasn't stupid.  So how did he get like that?  I'd like to know, and maybe even be like that myself.  

The experiences I had: do you think I should write about them?  On a separate thread?   Although they're not very weird, and I already know some alternate explanations for them, I don't think anybody would believe them.  When I hear anybody else making such claims, I wonder if they're faking or were coming down with a fever or something.  But the experiences are real to me, and keep me hoping. 

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20 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

That's why I get into speculations about how to pick the "right" religion.  I'm doing the best I can.  I never thought much of Pascal's wager because I never thought you could just choose for your advantage and have it mean anything. 

So what I am reading into what you are saying you want to choose a "right" flavour of Christianity and in the next sentence you think it will have  little meaning. Hope I am not being to "pushy", that's my style.

25 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

Do I need a holy text?  Kind of. 

I certainly accept you feel this way. I certainly don't believe you don't have the capability or intelligence to work out a plan for yourself, your family, community and the world in general. As to the need for where the want comes from, I suspect you missed out one important aspect, social pressure. You rightly noted evolution as an aspect, humans have evolved as social animals and social conformity is a valuable trait.

31 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

I haven't found a life of hedonism to be rewarding

I find hedonism is given a bad rap. Firstly hedonism, it is about doing things for pleasure. In its shallow aspects I agree, buying stuff for oneself, partying etc I agree does not do much after a while. And if you don't get pleasure from helping the poor or those in some kind of hurt then fair. I know you are not saying this. But if you are looking for something "more", then is this not looking for some form of pleasure that you feel you do not have at the moment? A more sophisticated form of hedonism, if you like? 

41 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

The idea of a loving God and an eternal Hell, why God would allow someone to be born if He knew that the person would end up in Hell

I think intelligent Christians discard this idea completely. I have seen people argue that the Genesis myth is really an analogy of how we create our own hell and whereas we could be metaphorically in the Garden of Eden.

44 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

I'm going straight to the horse's mouth and reading the Bible.  

So ultimately your interpretation of the "horse's mouth" will be based on the myriad of influences you have had in your life? The fact that you have settled on the Bible is a reflection of those influences. Are you going to read/investigate criticisms of the Bible? 

48 minutes ago, PinkAzalea said:

You pushed me towards more Christianity.  I hope you don't mind.

Hopefully I planted a seed that causes you to examine carefully all the influences around you. When I lost the tiny bit of faith I had in Christianity, I was all to aware of its effects on society, some I agreed with, some I find horrendous. :)

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romansh, Thank you for your attention.  I know a lot of people enjoy this kind of discussion, but I don't.  I'm not saying you were rude; obviously you weren't.  It may be my mistake to have posted on this board, now that I reread the blurb.  Debate, argument, examining yourself and rethinking all your decisions and attitudes, instead of just living it--not what I'm looking for.  I'm more apt to go sit under a shade tree, relax, and listen to the birds. 

Absolutely no hard feelings, and I hope you don't have any either.

--Pink

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7 hours ago, romansh said:

And then we have hate

No doubt we will have expert apologists to explain this away in terms of context etc. and give an opposite meaning. Ultimately we end up believing what we believe. 

I tend to think that Luke, being the latest Gospel to be written and some 40 or 50 years after Jesus died, may be more about developing Christianity than accurate reporting of Jesus' life.  Hate simply did not seem to be a particular focus of Jesus'.

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6 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

On evil, a Christian told me that the reason I have trouble believing is that I haven't accepted my sinful nature.  Well, I don't feel sinful.  No parent wants their child to confess to a bad deed they didn't do.  So I'm at a loss on that one.  

What started out as a story around the campfire concerning the unanswered questions of life (why is there suffering and hardship), morphed into an intricate theology over the centuries and became one of the most harmful cult beliefs in history.  Nobody is born inherently evil - even most Christians can't bring themselves to thinking a baby is born evil.  We know from the science of evolution that one couple did not populate the world in the last 6000 or so years, so we are NOT a product of their sin.  Further to that, where was "God's Word"  for the +150,000 years that homosapiens walked the earth before Genesis was written?  To me 'sinful nature' is just a way to understand that people sometimes make bad choice concerning how to live.

6 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

War, oh yes.  In the Bible Jesus said that He came to bring peace, then He said He came not with peace, but with a sword.  ????  Seems like if you want to believe in the Bible, you have to forget about consistency and just--I don't know.  Just accept what's there?  I may try that if I can't find another way. I'm not interested in all the human, Christian attempts to explain away these things.  I'll listen to God if He's willing to tell me about it.  I do have a small hope that this will happen. 

The bible was written over hundreds of years, by dozens of different authors, from all sorts of stages of cultural and societal development (as well as there being the many,  many writings that religion DIDN'T include in the bible).  That's why we see old writers attributing genocide and rape to God, stoning human beings to death for sex outside of marriage, prohibitions on eating shellfish (applicable to somebody in the desert, less so to somebody who catches fresh ocean crustacenas each day), etc.  The bible is a representation of many different beliefs and thoughts.  I no longer understand what people mean when they say 'believe in' the bible - i.e. Who's interpretation?

6 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

I've heard that thing about the horses.   I didn't know it extended to cows.  Do you suppose that's where the golden calf idols came from in the Old Testament?  Somebody found some cow art.  :)

Possibly. :) The ancient Hebrews worshipped lots of God's before they slowly transitioned to monotheism.  I think the golden calf most likely represented the Egyptian bull god Apis.

6 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

I had forgotten the Bible verse about "whoever is not against us."  It's very comforting to me; thank you. I'm not against Christianity.  I'm clinging to Christianity not just because of habit, upbringing, and culture, but also because of a person I know, and because of some religious-like experiences I've had.  The person was my Uncle John, one of the nicest, most decent people I've ever known.  He was a Christian.  He made no secret of it, but he didn't beat you over the head with it.  He just sat there, ready to help whoever needed it, radiating peace and acceptance of everyone.  He wasn't stupid.  So how did he get like that?  I'd like to know, and maybe even be like that myself.

For me, some of the kindest most giving people I know were and are atheists.  I have no doubt Christianity attracts 'good' people, as it also attracts 'bad', and every other kind in between.  But I think if Christianity is what helps you lead a happier, more fulfilled life, all power to you.

6 hours ago, PinkAzalea said:

The experiences I had: do you think I should write about them?  On a separate thread?   Although they're not very weird, and I already know some alternate explanations for them, I don't think anybody would believe them.  When I hear anybody else making such claims, I wonder if they're faking or were coming down with a fever or something.  But the experiences are real to me, and keep me hoping. 

Sounds good - just start a thread yourself if you're happy to share.  I for one would find it interesting, I'm sure.

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