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"I got ramblin' on my mind"

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

(Marshall Tucker band reference)

A friend of mine who is an atheist and former agnostic (she is losing intelligence as she ages, I suspect, but that is merely a personal opinion) came into this board to have a look, as she got wind of some of the supposed hullabaloo.

She said she found it all amusing and added that there was no debate at all.

I was moderately offended, to be honest, because I feel that the majority of exchange on this board is certainly not 'amusing' and is, for me, the most enjoyable of exchanges, flame to ignite the muse of thought, as it were, and occasionally the link to other avenues of thought.

Then I realized that she had the same myopic perspective that other 'believers' have (and, yes, she is a believer: she believes there is no deity): her mind is set in concrete.

While I wonder how anyone can expect to learn anything with such a mindset, still, I understand. There is faith in both theism AND atheism. I can see and read the vehemence from both sides, even if I consider that one side of that 'debate' has a more legitimate leg to stand on (there ARE imaginary numbers, irrational numbers, but I am not aware of non-numbers, and I will leave it at that).

I am bemused by the idea of atheists, though, finding theists/deists to be ignorant, in any event. Atheists haven't a leg to stand on, not even the leg of faith, of irrational belief, of signs, of omens, of the notion, simply, that there is something out there that may be beyond our ken. I can understand true believers (while understanding the contempt someone else recently posted about the posers who are just out for money). I cannot understand the smug certainty of those who know there is no god. And I find the smugness, the holier-than-thou attitude (how ironic) to be paradoxical and even moronic. Especially coming from people who allegedly have thought these things through.

That rant aside, she did mention that there was no debate and in that regard she is correct to some degree, largely because those who believe believe fervently and those who believe not believe not just as fervently. There is no room for debate.

I think if you look through this board you will find that most of the so-called debate is among those of us who are unknowing, seeking, not looking for answers necessarily, but looking, nonetheless. Perhaps the tolerant, the curious.

I rarely see evil intent in here, even from those I disagree with. Maybe we have too much time on our hands, and some of us certainly seem to have agendas, but I find this board the most interesting of all of them. Of course: It is not about cancer. It is about living and dying. And I find that intriguing as I always have. It is about belief and doubt, and I find those not amusing subjects but the subjects that should be of greatest concern to all of us.

You believe. I doubt. Let's discuss it.

luz del lago's picture
luz del lago
Posts: 452
Joined: Jul 2010

There's a lady who's sure
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

There's a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have
Two meanings.

In a tree by the brook
There's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are
Misgiven.

Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There's a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving.

In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking.

Ooh, it makes me wonder.

And it's whispered that soon
If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.

And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forest will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.

And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won't go
In case you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him.

Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow?
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The truth will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she's buying a stairway to heaven...

As the lyrics go, "and it makes me wonder". I am often over-joyed at the freedom and ability I have to "wonder". To search and explore all facets of my place in this world. When I was much younger, I loved this song because it sounded great. At some point, I listened very hard, reflected on the words and now I love it because it means something to me!

Lucy

Marcia527's picture
Marcia527
Posts: 2733
Joined: Jul 2006

I've written three comments and deleted them all. Maybe because I really don't know what to say. How do I explain why I believe? I have to think about it some more.

ms.sunshine
Posts: 710
Joined: Mar 2010

You say you are unknowing, seeking, curious, not sure. I ask you what it would take for you to be convinced there is a God or no there is not? You seem to be adrift.

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

That is a good question, ms.sunshine. I suppose, in light of my understanding that religious belief is irrational (and by that I do not mean crazy, but rather, outside of the realm of the rational, outside of the realm of that which can be proven via scientific method or mathematical construct, for example), it would therefore have to be from some irrational source (some divine source, you might say), from something not now comprehensible to me.

I find Marcia's and RE's responses revealing and thoughtful for this very reason: whatever it is that provides their belief, their faith, it seems it is not something easily explainable in rational terms.

I have said in the past and say again: this does not mean that belief is wrong, not by any stretch. As I tried to indicate in the original post, I believe that true believers DO have that 'irrational' leg to stand on: not all is known, not all is comprehensible. I accept that.

But all I have today is what I know, what I comprehend. What is unknown, what is mystery, I have not been given the power to understand or to know.

Take care,

Joe

luz del lago's picture
luz del lago
Posts: 452
Joined: Jul 2010

For most of my adult life I have always believed that knowledge is empowerment, I even taught my children this. If you don't know, ask or better yet find the answer for yourself.

Throughout Dennis' diagnosis and treatments, I asked, I researched, I wrote and corresponded with educators and researchers at the medical universities. Somewhere inside of me I felt that if I could gain some knowledge and understanding of his disease, of the treatments, of the studies, that perhaps I would have some control as to what the outcome would be.

Closer to the time of his passing and now, I have come to believe that I never had any control. That besides love him, care for him and be by his side there really wasn't anything that I could have done to affect the outcome of his journey.

And furthermore, I see that I really don't have control of the outcome of my journey. I can make a difference in my and perhaps others lives. But in the end it will not be up to me as to how and when I go.

For myself, I believe that it will be the decision of a divine being, my lord. How do I KNOW this? I don't know, I just believe. In losing the man that I loved and built a life with, there is an endless list of questions and unknowns for me. Do I ask my Lord why? You betcha! Have I gotten an answer, nope. Will I? Probably not. Has "believing" been easy the past couple of months? No. But it is what I have to hold on to, as so many things have been pulled out from under me. So I cling to it for fear of falling.

So far, it (believing) hasn't let me fall, at least not too hard, or where I couldn't get back up again. Also, I no longer feel the need to know everything about everything. Alot of good that did me! I'll just let some mysteries remain mysteries. Learning to accept His will has been a very hard lesson for me, but I have noticed that the more I do, the better I can cope.

Lucy

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4622
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi Lucy, I am truly sorry for you loss. I have lost my Mom and my sister as well as sister in-law and two brother in-laws to this illness, but not my husband it is I who have the cancer. Your words brought back the memory of my speaking with my pastor when his wife was gravely ill from recurring cancer. He was distraught at the knowing that he was going to lose the woman he had been with since he was 14, the woman he had 9 children and a host of grandchildren with. We spoke awhile and during this time he said when he passes the first thing he hopes to do is ask the Lord why she had to go so soon, well she has since passed on and he has remarried and although he misses her greatly he continues to serve our Lord and continues to raise the children he still has at home as well as caring for the new ones in his life. I am not suggesting you are to remarry (sorry if it sounded that way) I am only saying that God will provide for you although I realize I cannot possibly know the depth of your loss. My sister too lost her husband and my dad his wife, they both are people of faith which helped to carry them through the loss of one so dear to them. I am rambling I just felt the need to give you my condolences and my prayers for a brighter days ahead.

RE

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

(Led Zeppelin reference, and I agree, Lucy, while it is considered rather trite among musicians these days, it is an awesome tune and always will be)

I understand, I think completely, Lucy. I am, of course, first and foremost, sorry for your loss. Secondarily, I am happy that you have your faith to rely upon, and I mean that with absolute conviction. What some people don't seem to get about me is that I am not anti-faith, anti-religion. I respect faith, I envy belief. I am opposed to having it jammed down my throat; I am opposed to having people who clearly have given little thought to what they purportedly believe in trying to tell me what is right and wrong; I resent when people try to quote the bible with obviously little knowledge of the books or their history or even what is really in them nor even with respect for the context within which their quotes were originally framed; but I have nothing but respect and even envy for those who are of true faith.

Yours is a most cogent argument for faith, Lucy, but also, to be honest, and I think I sense in you the willingness to listen, the very threads of that which I find most disconcerting about faith.

You certainly do not care to know this, but I will tell you anyway, and let you be the first in these boards to know some or most of this: I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. Both of my parents attended catholic schools for the duration of their educations and insisted that their children, while not attending private schools, do the catechism thing, do the rites. I was the oldest of six and took this stuff seriously. At the age of 13 I was given the option of attending mass or not, and I chose not to do so. Still, as odd as it sounds, my intent at that time was to perhaps become a priest (or a jet fighter pilot, I must admit).

At the age of 16, I spent virtually an entire summer in the local library studying various religions. More accurately, I borrowed books, I brought them home, I read them, I took notes. I compared them.

I discovered some common themes, some good, some not so good, and was especially dismayed by the not-so-good. It struck me then, as it does now, that religions (organized religions both eastern and western) prey upon those in need. Contradictorally but equally true, they serve as corporate ladders for those aspiring to wealth and power. They ARE wealth and power. I realized that, as has been dragged out here time and again and I am almost ashamed to repeat, they are responsible for more death and destruction over the ages than any disease, any conquering Hun, continuing unto this very day. They mold the culture of their times, the art, the music, the history, and all that is ever left is what they decide can be left.

I theorized Lucy, over time, that religions were created to perform the above functions and also, perhaps most importantly especially in their gestational periods, to offer man reason for existence, reason for conformity, reason for community, reason for morality and ethics (good things, in the main). Reasons nonetheless, that had nothing to do with the actual existence of a higher power.

Religion explained solstices and eclipses and falling stars and rainbows; religion gave reason to kindness and also to vengeance; religion offered hope beyond our current existence. What's not to buy into?

Ultimately, Lucy, and you are bored by now, I am sure, I decided that religion bought us out of our Aloneness. This is the big one. I have since learned that this is really not original to me (:)). Seriously, though, I derived it on my own, not knowing of the purportedly great philosophers who had said the same thing in different terms. Religion allowed and allows us not to be Alone. Alone with a capital A. Man, Alone, would not have survived the evolutionary process, I do not believe. Man needs Man. And Man needs God.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, and I am most certainly not, Mankind, for the most part, is not wired to be Alone. Some of us accept it because we have science or math or orneriness or courage or some combination of these in our genes (perhaps it is stupidity or inability to comprehend and perhaps it is us who are next to leave the evolving tree?). It is a frightful place, at least for me, Lucy. It is a scary place to be, to be Alone.

But, for me, it is a place of integrity. I am not making anything up, I am not selling anything, although I could probably be a very good televangilist. It is a place of personal honesty. It is Sartre's existential angst and Camus' despair, to be sure, but it is honest to me.

Sorry for that Lucy.

That is where I am coming from.

To your points: I agree 100% with your first paragraph. As you might gather from the above, I do at least try to empower myself with knowledge, and I do not rely on anything less than fact if I can help myself.

Your second paragraph, Lucy, is a painful one for you to write, I am sure, and painful for me to read. Control is essential for some of us, you and I both, it appears. I have had to realize loss of control on a number of occasions, the first when I was still a very naive and headstrong 26 year old dad. My second daughter was lost, full term, in the hospital awaiting delivery, to a pinched umbilical cord. Doubt if that would happen today, and if it did, I would probably be a millionaire. Then, we were grieving parents, and I first learned that I was not in control of everything. I know what you are saying.

To your third point, there is nothing I can say but to applaud you for the recognition and acceptance. At the time I describe previously, I was not yet mature enough to be so accepting of that. At the time of my daughter's death, we were moving, Lucy. All that was left in the apartment was an abandoned kitchen chair of the 1950s variety. I placed it in the middle of the living room of our apartment and drank. And wept. And for the first time in more than 10 years talked to God. It was not a good conversation. It was one-sided, to be sure. However, this is not why I am agnostic. I was agnostic before that and I was agnostic the next day. That night was my last night of faith, you might say. I am not sure that is so. I had to rant at something or someone, as you might imagine. I might just as easily have screamed at Odin, but I wasn't raised that way, you know?

With respect to your next several sentences about the journey and your belief, I can do nothing less, again, than to envy you that firm belief. I shrug as I write this, but it is so: I do not have it. Some of my 'religious' friends seem to find something in me that tells them I will find it, but I am not so sure. I am rather empirical in my ways, I am rather hard-headed as well. But I am heartened by their hope, I am.

Your last paragraph is perhaps your best, Lucy, although, again, I applaud your first. In your last, you acknowledge as I do that there are mysteries that you have no answers for. You, you choose to have faith. Me, I choose to wait, I wait to KNOW.

I truly enjoyed your response, Lucy. I am hopeful that your faith carries you forward with some happiness. I am certain it is hard to lose the love of your life. I am certain that the uncertainty of moving on is difficult to deal with in real terms, in day-to-day terms. I am equally certain, based on your correspondence, that your faith will carry the day.

Consider me, Lucy, not an enemy or an antagonist, but someone who simply isn't where you are. I rely on rationality and the empirical and will until otherwise directed by that irrational force that compels you otherwise.

Take care,

Joe

mr steve
Posts: 286
Joined: Sep 2009

Joe,

It's always nice when someone gets you to think. There has to be more than this. I wish I had more time but I have to get back to work.

Steve

luz del lago's picture
luz del lago
Posts: 452
Joined: Jul 2010

Joe,
A bit of history. I was baptized Catholic. I attended Catholic daycare and elementary school. With nuns. In 3rd grade, I wanted to be a nun! I thought that's how everyone lived. My dear parents did not attend church. When they placed me in public school, by 6th grade, I asked to go to CCD, as all my friends were attending, so I was taken. On Sundays I was dropped off at Mass, and walked back home. My younger sister was raised about the same way.

My beloved husband was baptized Catholic, received all the sacraments, and when I met him was a practicing Catholic. I fell in love with this man, and wanted nothing more than to please him. Our children were baptized and attended Catholic school, also. Yes, we married in the church. Through the years, we ran the "Engaged Couples" program. We "trained" Alter servers and were on the Parish Council.

At some point, life changed, our children moved to public schooling and we didn't attend church every Sunday as in the past. If you were to ask me why, I really don't have an answer. The kids grew older, had activities...

Fast forward, Dennis is diagnosed with cancer. I begin to pray harder than I have ever prayed before in my life. He is in denial. Three months before his passing, I choose to really explore my spiritual journey. I buy a New Version King William bible. I'm accused of almost being a "heretic" by him! I tell him that I am on this journey. He can remain on this journey or we can "explore" together. I am told that he was raised on the "Baltimore Chatechism" and that's what he knows. I told him that I would respect his opinion, but to respect mine.

Ok, truth. In my opinion, he was not connecting with our Lord, and should this be the end of his life, I wished for him to be in that place. I wished for him and I to walk hand in hand in this journey. How arrogant of me, to think that I was in a better place than him!

He struggled with this. He truly believed that Catholic was the only way! It infuriated me! Was I trying to "save" him? Who do I think I am?

He died on Dec. 20th. On the 18th, I asked Hospice to send a Chaplain to give him Holy Communion. On the 20th, I requested a Chaplain to administer the "Celebration of Life", AKA last rites. On the 23rd a Mass was celebrated in his name. On the 22nd of Feb., he was buried with full military honors and a Priest consecrating the ground. I requested all of this for him, respecting him. I will tell you that I shall not request this for me. I will request the full military honors as I am a Veteran also. Why? I am such a non-conformist, that I do not wish a specific "ritual" at my burial. Whom-so-ever wishes to pray or wish for me or my family at that time, may do so in their way.

Joe, I shall not consider you an enemy or antagonist. You are a fellow human being, with the right to think and feel as you do. I appreciate your view. We are what we are. Not that similar, but not that different...

Best Wishes,

Lucy

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4622
Joined: Feb 2004

Remember that one, it came to mind (she must be thinking of us up there). Marcia, I too have a hard time telling someone why I believe, for me the truth is that I have always felt God's being around me since I was a child, I have always known and God has always been a part of me. Somethings are difficult to put to words and must be felt to be fully understood. However even when someone feels the spirit of God they can still persist in disbelief because logic has a way of getting in the way. I know with all my being that God is there and when my time comes I will have the honor of meeting him.

RE

Tricia02's picture
Tricia02
Posts: 130
Joined: Mar 2009

Hello, well here I sit in London having my first morning cuppa - rose late today cos stayed in chat last night till 4.00 am! Blame it on the Kiwi!

I have read your opening blog with interest Joe and I have decided to "come out" hahahahahaha.

We have had many many chats on this subject, and on reflection yes I would say I have come across somewhat "smug" without true intention, but this is a facet of my nature ie a character defect that I do at times try to work on or at least hide, obviously unsuccessfully!

For myself the state of atheism is not by definition as you state "to believe there is no deity" it is actually just a lack of belief in the existence of a deity. For most atheists if proof for them became available regarding the existence of a deity, then they would believe. Atheism is just a world view that says if I see evidence or proof of any kind in anything, then I believe it does exist. Without proof there is no belief in existence.

One position is to believe in god - this leads a lot of people to believe atheists take the opposite position ie there is no god, this is not quite accurate for most atheists. A common view is they chose not to believe in the existence of a god. This might seem like splitting hairs but it's very important. Atheists chose not to believe in something unless there is evidence or proof that satisfies their judgment. Just not believing something exists is not the same as holding an opinion that it absolutely does not exist, and I think that is where I have been misunderstood.

There is in fact a subtle and very different position taken by most atheists, which is we just do not believe there is a deity. This is not a dogma, ie there is no deity just a reluctance to believe without proof or evidence.

I have no belief in a deity, I am not closed minded. If tomorrow there was proof of a god then I would alter my opinion. I am not undecided as to whether to believe or not, which would be an agnostic, I do not believe!

By stating there was no debate, the writer meant two people just stating opposite opinions is not a debate. But two people with opposite opinions putting forward arguments and reasons for their position and discussing those is a debate.

Lastly, and I blame this again on the kiwis! I believe more in Jedi - have a look at the Jedi site it is very amusing http://www.jedichurch.org/

I think for some people atheism seems like some crazy belief structure, which it isn't - it's just as I have stated a world view. I mention this because a few people have actually said to me do I belong to the Church of Scientology and lots have asked, do you believe in the Devil! Which leads the writer to conclude that some people view atheism as some sort of alternative religeon.

For the record, my belief structure and values are these. The only proof I have is that I exist today. I cannot know what will happen when I die, maybe that is when I will get the final proof of whether there is a deity! So knowing that I am here today nothing else is gauranteed, not assuming god will help me or anybody I come across, leaves me with the responsibility alone to enjoy life and when the opportunity arises, to help others to fulfill their lives because it is all too valuable to waste. Life rocks.

I am not properly awake so I may have repeated myself, apologies.

Cheers Tricia

stayingcalm's picture
stayingcalm
Posts: 656
Joined: Feb 2007

I believe you just neatly summed up my entire worldview!
stayingcalm

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

It seems a matter of semantics here, Trish. What you describe as atheism in your response, I describe as agnosticism, to a tee, above. Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher, described himself in public as an atheist, but once wrote a brief treatise on religion in which he admitted he was truly an agnostic but called himself an atheist in public because explaining the difference would be too difficult. To quote the man directly:

"Here there comes a practical question which has often troubled me. Whenever I go into a foreign country or a prison or any similar place they always ask me what is my religion.

I never know whether I should say "Agnostic" or whether I should say "Atheist". It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all the gods of homer really exist, and yet if you were to set to work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful job. You could not get such proof.

Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line.

That is where I am coming from Trish, and it seems that you are as well.

Take care, my friend,

Joe

Tricia02's picture
Tricia02
Posts: 130
Joined: Mar 2009

Here I sit once again, teapot full for my next cuppa! I did actually rise early today and get to my favourite charity shop and bought 2 books, one a first edition of Madame Bovary, and the other incredibly Russell's What I Believe! Would you Believe? We have spoken of Russell before and he is one of my favourite philosophers, logician, historian et al. And now my new book and your blog have got my juices flowing! Which is a good thing.
Yes I do believe we are playing with semantics and all I can say with regard to my position is this, there are those who believe the existence of god, there are those who don't believe there is a god, and there are those who say there is no god and never will be, and that last group are closed minded. I am in the second group, I believe.
I am no Bertrand Russell however , therefore I do not believe I can be allied to his belief structure.
I personally think that Russell dared not use his usual cavalier and sarcastic approach with his philisophical audiences, lest he look unintellectual. He openly said many times that before such audiences he would only go as far as to declare himself as agnostic. This admission reveals to the writer where he stood "intellectually" only, as in the writers opinion he was bowing to social pressure in this regard. This is the only conclusion one can draw, as to his philisophical followers he referred to himself as, an atheist.

I too wonder "how anyone can sit at the bedside of a dying child and still believe in god"!

I consider myself a "freethinker" and moreso now thanks to my wake up call, as I don't have to work ie I don't have to compromise my beliefs for anyones corporate policy.

I am a happy individual mostly and I am without god, and I believe for myself that my happiness does lead me to be a healthier human being.

I cannot resist pasting some Russell quotes for the reader, as they are truly stupendous.

Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.
One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.

The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.

That we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked.

If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing.

MY FAV "Of course not. After all, I may be wrong".

So my friend we are both in a similar camp so to speak, ie no-one can prove there isn't a god, but the lack of proof of no god cannot be read as proof of a god, or even bolster the assumption that there is a possibility of a god lol.

Finally and most importantly, what does Russell know - he's in heaven now hahahahahahahaah.

Take care my friend

Tricia

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

From a logical perspective, my friend, as far as I can fathom, you are amiss.

You say that there are three subsets:

1. there are those who believe the existence of god

2. there are those who don't believe there is a god

3. there are those who say there is no god and never will be

I find little to differentiate between two of your three options, options 2 and 3.

In fact, the middle option, I maintain, should be that there are those who do not know if there is a god. These are the agnostics, by the definition I am familiar with. Black, white, and grey, that sort of thing.

Many atheists argue that it is whimsical (at best) to suggest that something we do not know may actually exist. I find this curious, indeed. Virtually all that we purport to know now is knowledge we once did not possess, which is to say, again, that atheism is an oxymoron, requiring omniscience of the very one who claims there is no omniscient being.

That aside, nice to see that you have been moved to buy some Russell. To be honest, I used his quotes to make a point that was easier to make using his words than mine, but find him to be something of an elitist (sign of the times, I suppose) and also a hypocrite, by his own unrealized confession.

Who can rely on the words of one who changes his definition of himself according to his audience.

In any event, if you are reading Russell, read him in stead with Piaget (The Epistomology of Knowledge), with Carl Jung (inherent knowledge), B F SKinner (the extrapolation of Pavlov, as it were), Sartre, and Hawking ( a friend here would eagerly suggest Joseph Campbell as well, although I have not yet read him). No need getting into the mix without knowing a bit about the bigger picture.

Glad to hear from you, as always, and especially glad that I moved you to read :).

Take care, my friend,

Joe

Tricia02's picture
Tricia02
Posts: 130
Joined: Mar 2009

I think we're splitting hairs a bit here. But, I will attempt to convey the 3 categories as I interpret them. Obviously those that believe in god are believers, those that do not believe are atheists and those that think there maybe a god, but are not really sure and at the same time think there probably isn't a god would fall into the group of agnostics. The definition I gave before was more a comment on dogma that can lay on the believers side and that of the atheist. The only category that obviously we are both struggling to define is those that do not believe in god, but are prepared to modify that view if the evidence ever became available e.g. I do not believe in god or a deity but, I feel it would therefore be very arrogant and close minded to say I believe there is no god or deity. To be open-minded means to me, acceptance of the possibility however unlikely that evidence could arise that would require me to revise my current position. If someone absolutely refuses to ever consider evidence and continues in a belief they hold i.e. there is no god, it does not make them more of an atheist it just makes them close minded.
I refer to your fourth para. I acknowledge some atheists may not be as clear thinking as others, some believers lack this clear thinking also. For an atheist to think it is whimsical is probably more related to them possessing arrogance rather than their beliefs. Again, this is a fine point. The decision to not believe in something that one has personally not witnessed and without compelling evidence, is not a denial of the possibility, it is just a refusal to assume something is real because it could be. The normal scientific process in all fields is normally either driven by discovery or theory. At its early stages however well informed, theory is still fantasy. And only gradually becomes reality as evidence is discovered. This can be real observational evidence, or it can be predictive evidence i.e. if this attribute exists, then I predict in a certain situation it will behave in a certain way, then you look for that situation and if your prediction is correct it takes you gradually towards an understanding of the phenomena. Repeated many times by many different people, and you start to approach what you can state as fact.
Thank you for the further author recommendations. I am of course familiar with the wonderful Hawkings and his universe and Carl Yung. Thanx m8.

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PhillieG
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Why is it that whenever I get involved in one of Joe's post, I always tend to follow suit and through in a song title?
It is getting confusing for me with the definitions.

Isn't an atheist someone who does not believe in God?
Isn't an agnostic someone who is not sure if there is a God?
Isn't one who believes in God a believer in God?
It sounds like an atheist is being defined as not believing in God but proof came along they would then believe. Would that happen with a believer in God? If proof came along that there is no God, would they even accept that at all?

I guess a 4th group would have to be created...

Tricia02's picture
Tricia02
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Good point Phil - the ones who wouldn't accept it would be catholics and the ones that would accept it would be protestants lol. That's according to UK rules!

There was an agnostic dyslexic insomniac that laid awake all night wondering if there was a dog!

wolfen's picture
wolfen
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That one was great Tricia. I told my husband and he is ROFL. He says there's no difference between an agnostic and an atheist. They both drink beer.

Take care,

Wolfen

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
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The difference is that the atheist does not believe in free beer, while the agnostic holds out hope.

:)

Take care,

Joe

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
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I've heard that one before, it's a good one.
I do have an epileptic oyster shucker joke but I don't think this is the venue for it
;-)

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
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(Ted Nugent reference)

Actually, Phil, I would disagree, although I think we are all beating on the proverbial dead horse at this point.

If proof came that there was not a god, that would be sufficient evidence, to me, at any rate, that man was omniscient, and therefore, paradoxically, god-like himself, since, I think, such proof would require knowledge of whatever exists in every nook and cranny of the universe and even beyond (if there is something beyond).

Man, in effect, would be calling himself SuperMan, in Nietzche's words.

No need, in my opinion, for that fourth option. Otherwise, you and I agree as to the semantics. Those who want to change the rules by re-defining the terminology (TRISH!) are really too slippery to keep up with.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Take care,

Joe

Buckwirth's picture
Buckwirth
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Joe,

You say:

"If proof came that there was not a god..."

The problem is that you cannot prove a negative.

How about these definitions:

A believer has a clear picture of their god(s), in other words, some sort of religion, even if it is entirely personal

An agnostic posits that some form of faith may be correct, or they may all be wrong, so barring proof, chooses not to believe

An atheist posits that all faith is a creation of man, and therefore is false

luz del lago's picture
luz del lago
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We have shared many thoughts and beliefs lately, but what do those of you that say you are agnostics or atheists believe happens to your being when your biological being ceases to breathe?

Please keep in mind that I respect most of you and that I believe that we are all here for a purpose. I am not challenging anyone's thoughts, theories or beliefs. Just curious.

Lucy

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
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(Kansas reference)

I am afraid, Lucy, that for those of us who are unknowing, there is the prospect of simply leaving, remaining only as imprints on the minds of those we have affected, perhaps. I suppose this is why I describe agnosticism as courageous and lonely: I don't WANT to just go away, but 'just go away' I may very well do.

Atheists, I am sure, feel similarly, although we agnostics have the added dread of finding ourselves before some sort of Pearly Gates and thinking to ourselves, "Uh oh." :)

Take care,

Joe

luz del lago's picture
luz del lago
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I asked the question before, not to question folks beliefs, but since Dennis passed there are questions that I have been asking. I believe he is in a better place, a place where the deterioration of cancer, the pain, the struggle is no longer an issue for him.

The night he passed, the funeral home sent two directors to take away his body. Rewind... two weeks after his diagnosis, extensive small cell lung cancer with mets to his liver, he awoke from a bad dream. I tried to soothe and calm him. He described the dream to me. He said he was laying face down, it was dark and he could not move. Two men, in dark suits came to take him away, he struggled within himself and cried out to me. He said that he knew I was the only one that could save him. Back to the night he passed away... You can only imagine the look on my face when two gentlemen,both in dark suits, came in through our front door and introduced themselves, offered me their condolences and said they were here to pick up the deceased! I went to another room. I had said my goodbyes to my love and did not want to see them take him away.

A week later, he was cremated. His military burial was delayed for a few weeks and our two adult children did not want their father's cremains sitting on a shelf, so we brought them home. The whole time they were here, I never saw them as "him". My belief is that he had entered eternal life. These were just the remains of the biological body that had housed his soul here on earth.

As time has passed, I have begun to wonder about "eternal life". Based on my belief, all the toils, ills and troubles of the earthly life are gone. There is no sorrow, no tears, no pain. So does that mean that to my love all that was here no longer matters? That the glory and magnitude of seeing God is so splendid that leaving it all is of no consequence?

I suppose that the glory is his ( Dennis') and not mine. His dying really has nothing to do with me. And everything to do with him. It's just that we shared everything for so long that I really feel left behind in all of this!

Other things I wonder: Can he hear me? Can he see me? Can he do anything to help me when I am confronted with an obstacle due to his passing? Should I even think this? Shouldn't I be asking God to help me? Which I do, and many times in this new journey, I feel He has. Not like I've sat back and all of a sudden, problem solved. I've had to dig deep inside, find courage, seek assistance. I feel God has given me the strength to find the answers.

Dennis' passing has led me on a new journey. Not just living alone and handling everything on my own. It is a journey of learning, about myself, about the world. About what I believe to be possible. About what I am not sure of, so I seek or question. About what I choose to accept and believe in, based on what I have experienced. Not scientific fact, just life experience.

I suppose this is why I find other views so enlightening. Not that I am seeking to change my beliefs, just wanting to hear how others view these ideals. As you've said before, Joe, I probably have too much time on my hands!

Lucy

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
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(John Hiatt reference)

I am not Gandhi or some such, Lucy, as you clearly know, just another butthead surfer with an opinion and you must certainly know the expression about how everyone has one, but since you ask, here is what I think:

To begin with, it took me quite some time to understand that someone of faith might also have doubt, as you seem to be exemplifying. How, I wondered, could a person of faith have doubt? The notions seem contradictory. Faith requires something beyond doubt, I guess I thought (and, still, largely do).

But we are human beings, after all, not logical constructs, and so, yeah, a person of faith can doubt. I understand that and accept it, even if it still seems strange to me.

With respect to where your husband is, I clearly have no idea, and if I were you I would go with your faith and your instincts. They got you this far, after all.

With respect to 'glory', I would advise, Lucy, without knowing exactly what you mean when you use that word, that you should give yourself some credit. If you mean that your husband has gone on to the greater glory, fine. But in any event, you have worked your butt off for however long to care for him, I suspect, to let him know that you were there for him, and to believe, along with him, that you would see each other again. I would say that as his primary caregiver some of the glory should at the very least reflect upon you.

Otherwise, Lucy, seeking 'enlightenment' is never a bad thing, as far as I can tell, as long as it is honest and intelligent.

As you have said yourself, knowledge is empowerment.

Take care,

Joe

3Mana
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Lucy,
Got up early this morning. Guess since it's getting closer to March 25th, the day Tom died last year, I just can't sleep. I have so many questions too, but as for Dennis & Tom hearing us & seeing us, I really kind of believe they can. Sunday I drove on the freeway for the first time (don't laugh) and when I got home I took his picture & talked to it and said " Hey, buddy, guess what I did? I drove home on the freeway, aren't you proud of me?" I felt like he did hear me. And like I said once before, I bought myself a little snowblower this year. Well one day when I was out there snowblowing, I almost felt like he was watching me and saying "why the hell didn't I buy her one sooner?" Am I nuts or what???
Darn I wish you & I lived near one another, cause we really think so much alike, Lucy!!
That was weird that Dennis dreamt about the 2 guys in the dark suits! Actually when the funeral directors came to get Tom, the kids made me go down into our rec room. Now I wish so much that I could've given him one last hug. Because of the way he hemmoraged though guess they didn't want me to see him. As it was, they had moved him to the living room and when they took him away and I went upstairs, there was a big spot of blood on the carpeting and I just couldn't take it. Had to get new carpeting the next week cause even though I put a throw rug over it, I knew it was there.
Anyhow here I am, rambling again. I just enjoy talking so much to you, cause it seems like we went through similiar experiences. Take care Lucy! Carole

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wolfen
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Lucy and Carole,

As I sit here and read the various posts on this subject, I find that some of us have similar experiences and feelings. Although I have not lost a spouse, I have lost both my parents(my father in 1977 and mother in 2006). I am far from a child, but still find myself having one sided conversations with each of them. I guess this is just being wistful. I hope they can hear me wherever they are, but unfortunately have never had that feeling. I do think it's wonderful that each of you have a special connection with your spouses. My daughter, Johnnybegood, told me that as she fought this cancer beast the first time, she felt that "Gram" was helping her and watching over her. She and my mother were very close.
When Lucy wrote about the "men in black", it was an eerie feeling. My father-in-law died about 10 years ago(black lung and prostate cancer). My husband went home to take care of him before he passed away and he told my husband about multiple dreams or visions and being very frightened because the "men in black were coming for him". Just before he died, he said to my huband "The men in black are here" and then he slipped away. There may be other experience of this kind, but this is the only other I have heard of. He was a minister.
I count myself among the Agnostics, I guess. I want to believe there is something better ahead for us all, but I'm just not sure. One of Joe's comments about Agnostics hit home in reference to arriving at the Pearly Gates and going "uh oh". Maybe some of us who aren't sure what's out there, just want an "insurance policy" way out, so if we do arrive there, we won't be left out in the cold.
I do envy those of you who have found something wonderful to believe in.

My best wishes to all,

Wolfen

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Buckwirth
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"His dying really has nothing to do with me. And everything to do with him."

In my worldview my death is all about those I leave behind and not about me at all. In death, I am gone, but my friends and family are left with a hole to fill and that burden will be theirs, not mine. That said, i will do what I can to make it easier for them.

A funeral is not about the body in the casket, it is about helping those who survive cope with the loss.

Hopefully that helps you understand me.

luz del lago's picture
luz del lago
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In writing, his dying had nothing to do with me, I was reflecting on the eternal life that I believe he has now been given. It was his time to receive that wonder. And like I had written previously, nothing I could have said or done would have changed the outcome. You are so right, the ones left behind carry the burden. The burden of missing them so, wondering why it all happened, working through financial, emotional, spiritual, and even physical stresses. The one who has passed will no longer be troubled by any of these issues.

I believe I was afforded a wonderful opportunity when it came to his, "second" service. I'll explain: Two days after his passing, a Funeral Memorial Mass was held. He was to be cremated, so there was no casket, and no cremains in an urn, as it was the holidays. Many, many friends and family attended. To be perfectly honest, I was so exhausted, as I had cared for him, with the assistance of Hospice for one week with hardly any sleep or rest! At the Mass, which was his wish, I sat numbly watching as if I were in a movie theater. I know that it meant so much to others, me not as much as I guess shock was what I was experiencing. His full military honors ceremony was not scheduled until a month and a half later. I brought his cremains home until that time. Many were concerned how that would feel to me, if it would cause more grief. I said to them, "please don't worry. What I feel is that these cremains are just that, yes to be treated with dignity and respect, but the man I loved, the father of my children is not in that box!". In having a second ceremony, I was in a better place then to receive the comfort and peace.

So now he has been buried and I'm to begin to move forward in this new journey of mine. I am a Believer and thus I am holding on to this faith as I make my way through this time. The best thing I've been told in all of this was, "just because you are a Believer does not mean you don't get to cry, scream and question why this has happened". Thank goodness! For years, I just accepted what I was told to believe, now I find that in order to "believe" I must question and search for some of the answers myself, not just because someone says so. But I must say, that I am not questioning the existence of God, but questioning what is there for me to learn in all of this? What of it will make me stronger or a better person?

I posed the question as to what agnostics and atheists believe or think happens when they have ceased to breathe. What do they think or feel about souls? As I have stated and shared with Joe and Phil, I have no agenda here, only seeking enlightenment. I respect others and what they believe or not believe. I share my thoughts and experiences as a way of communicating with my fellow human beings, and perhaps I may occasionally be able to be of comfort to someone as they journey through this life.

Phil, I rather like what you said about energy. That is scientific, so perhaps there is some proof for some of us, perhaps...

Thank you all for sharing.

Lucy

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
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That's why I'm an agnostic!
;-)

Physics tells us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed so I lean more toward our energy moving on in some form or another. That's about it. I'm much clearer about what I believe does not happen.
-phil
Great rose photo by the way...

luz del lago's picture
luz del lago
Posts: 452
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Thanks, Phil. That is a rose from our many rose bushes. Dennis loved roses, so we grew them. I look forward to their blooming this season, I think it will bring joy to my eyes and to my heart to see them, to smell them once again!

Lucy

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mariam_11_09
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For me, science and God go hand in hand. They are not mutually exculusive. This I realised while I was studying applied math, physics and chemistry. It was such a deep spiritual experience.

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
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Buck, I didn't bring up the 'proof that there is no god' suggestion, but merely responded to it.

I like your definitions, except that I would still maintain that agnosticism is a-belief, without belief, that is, an agnostic does not 'choose' not to believe, does not choose TO believe, and, in fact, cannot choose. It is what it is. He or she simply does not know and accepts this.

It is not about belief for the agnostic, which separates him/her from the atheist semantically; it is about knowledge. That provides hope that at some point the agnostic will have a revelation of some sort, will be provided a 'knowledge' (faith, rather) not available to one who is adamantly opposed to the proposition that a god (or gods) might exist.

At least by my definition.

Your definition of the agnostic would be good (to me, anyway) if you left off the part about choosing not to believe.

Take care,

Joe

Buckwirth's picture
Buckwirth
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But the point is the same.

In general, Both the atheist and the agnostic have a scientific worldview. Were science to discover the existence of a creator/supreme being most, not all, but most, would accept its existence. I actually expect much more so than those with a particular religious POV.

Atheism is not a religion, and, to me, is not so much about the existence of god(s) as it is about the folly of religion, worship and putting faith before science.

Here's a thought:

If there were a single world interpretation of god, and you only had to choose between that faith and no faith, would it make your choice easier?

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
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That's good Buck, and got me to thinking, I don't know why, but the answer is the same: it would not make anything easier and there still would be no choice.

There simply is no choice in the matter.

As for lumping atheists and agnostics into the same grocery cart, from a logical perspective that is intolerable. There IS that middle ground. If you want to call yourself an atheist who has an out, that is fine with me. No probs. But anyone who leaves room for a higher power is NOT an atheist by the classical definition, but, rather, a reasonable person with a quick understanding of what others might not be aware of: an agnostic.

Belated welcome to this room, by the way! Enjoying your viewpoint.

Take care,

Jloe

Buckwirth's picture
Buckwirth
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They just seem to sit in the middle.

Reread my statement. How would adherents of the worlds great religions react to such a discovery? How would atheist's react?

Those with a personal image of a higher power would probably react much the same as an agnostic, and my statement did not include them.

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

(Greg Allman reference)

Here is how Merriam-Webster describes atheism, for what it is worth:

a: a disbelief in the existence of deity

b: the doctrine that there is no deity.

And this is how it describes agnosticism:

a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable broadly: (one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god

They seem quite distinct to me, and I am sure to you, too, Buck.

I frankly do not think that you and I are in disagreement, Buck, based on your last two responses here. I think, again, as with Trish, there may a semantics issue.

Given the above definitions of atheism, for example, it becomes apparent that it IS faith-based. It is, that is, a religion. How does one, that is, disbelieve something of such all-encompassing magnitude without faith (or omniscience, of course)? Going back to the Russell thing, and to your own acknowledgement that you cannot disprove a negative, what permits one to call oneself an atheist?

Faith.

More interesting to me is the notion that you nearly expressed out loud, although I am not sure you did: What if a god exposed itself, revealed itself; how would believers and non-believers (atheists and agnostics alike) react?

That story has been told many times, of course, beginning with the New Testament itself and repeated over time in various fictions right up to the present day. I would suggest that if this entity were presented in a form we understand (in the form of a man, let us say) then most of humanity would disregard it as a saviour, while there would be the inevitable followers, as was, reportedly, what Jesus experienced.

If the entity contradicted notions of godliness, that is where it gets really interesting: What WOULD born-again christians, for example, do if god turned out to look like a toad or any other such thing far beyond what they have always believed? What would muslims do for that matter? Hebrews? Bhuddists?

Would they be like Peter? Would they deny 'it' three times and maybe more? Would they be suddenly doubtful Thomases? Would they reject it outright because it did not fit their socioethnoeconomic images of what god must be?

I think I agree with what you seem to be suggesting, that the doubters and disbelievers might actually come around first, since they have no a priori expections.

Take care,

Joe

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
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I wrote about a healing I had while in hospital, the promise came to pass - the cancer never came back. I won't write it all again but Joe you had mentioned maybe having a direct exposure to Divine Intervention might cause you to believe and I agree. It totally does. Hard to argue with events like I went through. I don't feel the need to convince anyone though, it's between God and myself. I pass along the story now and then when I get the feeling someone could benefit from it.

I am not a church goer, couldn't recite a verse from the bible if you paid me but still the healing happened and there was no question that is what it was. I wasn't expecting it, I was praying for my life at that time though but never said the words 'send a healing' really didn't even know exactly what it was or how it might play out but it happened anywho.

I believed before this, no idea why and I don't question it. After the healing I KNEW like I never KNEW anything before. When it comes from The Big Guy, trust me, you KNOW. No question.

Thought I would throw in my 3 cents.

Blessings,

Bluerose

Lisa13Q's picture
Lisa13Q
Posts: 683
Joined: Jul 2009

I'm envious BlueRose......I wish I could believe.....consistently.....

bluerose's picture
bluerose
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I didn't want to go into the whole experience with the healing but one important thing I forgot to include was what I prayed for. It was to be cured but it wasn't for me, it was so that I could be there for my children. I believe, and this is just my little feeling and I'm not preaching, but I believe that prayers like those for a Mother for her children are especially powerful. To be there for them. I believe that's why I was blessed with a healing. Then my kids were around 3 and 5 and today my daughter is graduating univeristy soon and getting married as well. My son has started his career too. It's not THE MOST POWERFUL prayer I'm sure but it is one of the most powerful I think. I think the word 'unselfish' when praying is the more important word.

If you pray unselfishly for others I think that is powerful prayer indeed. Don't ask me why some do that and the prayer is not granted, I don't question why one and not another but for me I think it's about the fact that some have their life mission finished and others still have yet to accomplish that. That makes sense to me anywho. I'm still around so maybe it just means I am a slow learner. lol. Hey no comments from the cheap seats friends who are reading this. lol.

Anywho Lisa I personally feel God is with us all and even though prayers don't always go the way we want them too I believe in a master plan and I am not the master.

Wishing you all the best Lisa.

Hugs,

Bluerose

Lisa13Q's picture
Lisa13Q
Posts: 683
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi Blue, Glad to see you again..i remember you from the Ovarian cancer board...I lurk on this one... and love reading the posts....don't know what I am: agnostic, atheist, or what...not sure it matters to me actually, what does that make me? An agnostic of major proportions....I just realized in reading so many of the posts in this discussion, that I am envious of those who "know" or "believe"...I want to so much, ....how much happier i could be for my mother....and all of us to know there is something watching out for us, and a great place to go when all the suffering was over....someone said "fighting cancer without God would be horrible" I thought fighting cancer with God is still be horrible. I know plenty of "believers" who suffer pretty badly....fighting cancer without doctors would be horrible too...fighting cancer with doctors sucks pretty bad as well....I think fighting cancer no matter what is horrible....I'm just not sure where God fits in.....I'd like to know where someone who wants to believe but can't believe goes? How can I get some of that? Why do some folks have that "belief and others don't?" I'm a wanter of the belief gene....

Buckwirth's picture
Buckwirth
Posts: 1272
Joined: Jun 2010

That same poster told a user on the CRC board she was going to hell for not believing as he did. He then did one of those non apologies, saying he was sorry if he offended, but he could prove it with scripture.

If you click on his name it will take you nowhere, as he got banned from the site.

Fighting cancer without family is horrible

Fighting cancer without friends is horrible

Fighting cancer without insurance is horrible

Fighting cancer without doctors is horrible

As to how you get belief? Choose. Be a Hindu, Sikh, Sunni, Shiite, Coptic, Jew, Mormon, Scientologist or any of the thousand or so brands of Christianity. Then study their books, pay their dues, take their blessings and you will become one of them.

Or, as some others do, accept a vague notion of a higher power and let it rest at that, your own personal view of god and heaven.

Or, you can continue to question, be rational, accept that not everything is known, but just because it is unknown does not mean that the answer is magic or mysticism.

Your choice, but only you get to choose.

Lisa13Q's picture
Lisa13Q
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Joined: Jul 2009

OMG,,, belief is a choice? Damn,,,,,I was hoping that I would be infused, or have an experience that somehow crossed my intellectual barrier....as someone said to me at dinner tonight, "I want to believe, but my intellect just can't make that jump". Ever since I was little and heard about heaven and God, I always wondered, how in the world is there a place that can hold so many people? If God created the world, ok, but who created God? ....I love Blue Rose's story about her healing and she just "knew". I think she's lucky......wouldn't that be nice? But alas, I have not had that experience....,,,I can read and it's fascinating, but I cannot jump...I do admit, I envy those who have made the leap of faith....I guess I'm a believer wanna be...or I choose to stay on this side of the abyss...

Buckwirth's picture
Buckwirth
Posts: 1272
Joined: Jun 2010

;-)

Lisa13Q's picture
Lisa13Q
Posts: 683
Joined: Jul 2009

It's my photograph...thought it emulated my personality....LOL

MeggieTye
Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2010

I tried to put me (square peg) into a round hole (organized religion)...never really fit And I thought there was something wrong with me!! Turns out I believe in a Source ( God/Fred/Light ) whatever you want to call Him/Her but not in a paper membership card. Someone told me about the Spiritualist Church and a year later I took a gal pal and we visited one Sunday. NOT like any "church" I had ever been in!! They praise the Creator/Source/God/Godess whomever it is for you..my RC friend is still attending and that was 17 yrs ago. It is a place for everyone and many people who have their regular place of worship plus this church. It works well for us to be open minded in life and because I was while I was at loose ends, I found something pretty terrific that has enhanced my life. I mention it only as a service to people who may find it appealing but not familiar with the group.

Meggie

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