Btheist's blog listings. Feed Zend_Feed_Writer 1.10.8 (http://framework.zend.com) http://community.beliefnet.com/btheist Disagreement How should we handle disagreement about the fundamental nature of reality and morality? How can so many people be wrong about such important things?

One suggestion is that different people have different experiences of the divine. A Muslim experiences the divine in ways that are consistent with Islam, a buddhist in ways that are consistent with buddhism. People have different intuitions about salvation, evil, divine nature, and so on, that reflect the differences in various faiths.

But can we trust our experiences or intuitions if they lead us to different conclusions? If I build a telescope that I claim allows you to view a previously hidden facet of reality, and different people look in it and see different startling things, and some nothing, then can anyone trust the information the telescope gives them? It seems not.

Perhaps people disagree because they start from fundamentally different assumptions. We can't justify the grounds upon which we justify all else. We must assume certain axioms in order to prove anything. So a Christian might start with the Bible, or God's revelation, an atheist with reason and experience, a Mormon with the Book of Mormon, and so on. But do the fundamental axioms of different people really differ so much? Can we help believing what our senses tell us? Can we help seeing the obviousness of logical truths, such as that we should avoid contradicting ourselves? Someone might believe in a higher being not because of reason and experience, but because of a psychological or spiritual need to believe, but even then don't we share those needs? A common belief in all religions is that we all come from the same place. We all have similar starting positions.

Maybe, as fundamentalists would like to believe, some people are just smart and some are dumb, and the smart people accept their religion and the dumb people believe something else. There are fundamentalists of this kind in every religion (and of no religion), and they all have to blinker themselves to the fact that every position has had defenders that are wise, good, and often very intelligent. Often the only good answer to fundamentalism like this is experience: get fundamentalists to meet people who disagree with them, and they'll quickly learn that not everyone that disagrees with them is a fool.

Maybe then, given that there are people just as reasonable as us who disagree with us drastically and strongly, we should give up our religious beliefs. But for what? Atheism? But the problem of disagreement applies equally to atheism; for every wise atheist who thinks critically about their beliefs, there is a theist who is just as wise, just as critical, and just as rational. Even if most scientists and philosophers are atheists as polling may suggest, it only takes one rational theist to cast doubt on the claim that atheism is the only rational position. Agnosticism? No, the same problem applies to agnosticism, which is just another view about the divine (that it is unknowable) with which many disagree. Maybe the answer is that we shouldn't think about religion or faith at all. But that just isn't an option, for me at least.

Given how little we know, we should be humble. We don't understand many of the concepts we take for granted every day. The theologian St Augustine of Hippo said "If you don't ask me what time is, I know. If you ask me what time is, I don't know." The same goes for causality, free will, personhood, knowledge, etc. No wonder we can't agree on the ultimate questions.

Our religious beliefs are probably unreliable and even wrong. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we should give them up. Human knowedge advances through disagreement, and debate, and dialogue. Science thrives on disagreement and controversy, and even encourages it, which is why it's so powerful. Religion has been slow to even acknowledge differences of opinion, but I think that religious belief is also slowly moving closer to the truth. Belief in Hell and narrow conceptions of salvation are being questioned, and may even be diminishing, which for my money is a step in the right direction. But for there to be disagreements, people need to have, and hold on to, different positions. We should stay faithful to our differing faiths not for our own sakes, but for the sake of possibly furthering human knowledge as a whole.

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Sun, 15 Apr 2012 12:12:48 -0500 http://community.beliefnet.com/btheist/blog/2012/04/15/disagreement http://community.beliefnet.com/btheist/blog/2012/04/15/disagreement How should we handle disagreement about the fundamental nature of reality and morality? How can so many people be wrong about such important things?

One suggestion is that different people have different experiences of the divine. A Muslim experiences the divine in ways that are consistent with Islam, a buddhist in ways that are consistent with buddhism. People have different intuitions about salvation, evil, divine nature, and so on, that reflect the differences in various faiths.

But can we trust our experiences or intuitions if they lead us to different conclusions? If I build a telescope that I claim allows you to view a previously hidden facet of reality, and different people look in it and see different startling things, and some nothing, then can anyone trust the information the telescope gives them? It seems not.

Perhaps people disagree because they start from fundamentally different assumptions. We can't justify the grounds upon which we justify all else. We must assume certain axioms in order to prove anything. So a Christian might start with the Bible, or God's revelation, an atheist with reason and experience, a Mormon with the Book of Mormon, and so on. But do the fundamental axioms of different people really differ so much? Can we help believing what our senses tell us? Can we help seeing the obviousness of logical truths, such as that we should avoid contradicting ourselves? Someone might believe in a higher being not because of reason and experience, but because of a psychological or spiritual need to believe, but even then don't we share those needs? A common belief in all religions is that we all come from the same place. We all have similar starting positions.

Maybe, as fundamentalists would like to believe, some people are just smart and some are dumb, and the smart people accept their religion and the dumb people believe something else. There are fundamentalists of this kind in every religion (and of no religion), and they all have to blinker themselves to the fact that every position has had defenders that are wise, good, and often very intelligent. Often the only good answer to fundamentalism like this is experience: get fundamentalists to meet people who disagree with them, and they'll quickly learn that not everyone that disagrees with them is a fool.

Maybe then, given that there are people just as reasonable as us who disagree with us drastically and strongly, we should give up our religious beliefs. But for what? Atheism? But the problem of disagreement applies equally to atheism; for every wise atheist who thinks critically about their beliefs, there is a theist who is just as wise, just as critical, and just as rational. Even if most scientists and philosophers are atheists as polling may suggest, it only takes one rational theist to cast doubt on the claim that atheism is the only rational position. Agnosticism? No, the same problem applies to agnosticism, which is just another view about the divine (that it is unknowable) with which many disagree. Maybe the answer is that we shouldn't think about religion or faith at all. But that just isn't an option, for me at least.

Given how little we know, we should be humble. We don't understand many of the concepts we take for granted every day. The theologian St Augustine of Hippo said "If you don't ask me what time is, I know. If you ask me what time is, I don't know." The same goes for causality, free will, personhood, knowledge, etc. No wonder we can't agree on the ultimate questions.

Our religious beliefs are probably unreliable and even wrong. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we should give them up. Human knowedge advances through disagreement, and debate, and dialogue. Science thrives on disagreement and controversy, and even encourages it, which is why it's so powerful. Religion has been slow to even acknowledge differences of opinion, but I think that religious belief is also slowly moving closer to the truth. Belief in Hell and narrow conceptions of salvation are being questioned, and may even be diminishing, which for my money is a step in the right direction. But for there to be disagreements, people need to have, and hold on to, different positions. We should stay faithful to our differing faiths not for our own sakes, but for the sake of possibly furthering human knowledge as a whole.

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My beliefs My most fundamental beliefs are the importance of caring for others, and questioning everything.

Why question everything? Because you might find some interesting and insightful answers (moreso than this one!)

Why care for others? For your sake, and for their sake. If you don't love other people, what can you love? And how hollow is a life without love? Everyone loves something or someone, even if it's just themselves. But if their hearts were as "open as the sky" as the Tao Te Ching says, then they would have some other thing to love when they found it hard to love themselves, or their friends and family. Of course, loving people is a challenge. When the lives of the people you love go well, you're naturally happy, but when the lives of people go badly, it causes you pain. But it's just the same if you hate others: when the lives of the people you hate go well, you spite them and hate yourself for not doing as well as them. I think the pain you feel when you hurt someone you love is better than the satisfaction you feel when you hurt someone you hate. If you try to take from people, then you'll never be satisfied, there'll always be more to have. But when you give to others, you're done when you're done. Not that you really have a choice whether to love or hate. Nobody chooses to hate, but they're made to hate by unfortunate circumstances, by the trauma of life. Everyone would choose love given a free and informed choice.

These two beliefs inform my metaphysical and ethical beliefs. I used to be an atheist, but I've become convinced that there is a God who created all worlds by thinking them into existence. I believe that God exists because God is good, a belief that dates back to Plato. This solves the problem of regression: what caused or designed God's mind? It gives a fuller explanation of why people, who are capable of appreciating and valuing reality, exist. Not just because of a series of prior causes, but because of our telos or ends; we give reality purpose, as does God.

I believe in the Taoist version of the golden rule: "Consider your neighbour's loss your loss, and your neighbour's benefit your benefit". Or, as Jesus put it later in history: "Love your neighbour as yourself".

For this reason, I think that violence is never called for unless it is used to minimize the violence of another. We have a right to stop people harming others, but no right to force people to do good, for example by taking their money and giving it to others. This means that I'm a libertarian, and believe in minimal government intervention. If we were wise and just, we wouldn't need to be governed, and so the state is a necessary evil.

This is my statement of my beliefs so far, but they may change over time, especially as I talk to others with different views. We shall see.

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Sun, 15 Apr 2012 09:28:18 -0500 http://community.beliefnet.com/btheist/blog/2012/04/15/my_beliefs http://community.beliefnet.com/btheist/blog/2012/04/15/my_beliefs My most fundamental beliefs are the importance of caring for others, and questioning everything.

Why question everything? Because you might find some interesting and insightful answers (moreso than this one!)

Why care for others? For your sake, and for their sake. If you don't love other people, what can you love? And how hollow is a life without love? Everyone loves something or someone, even if it's just themselves. But if their hearts were as "open as the sky" as the Tao Te Ching says, then they would have some other thing to love when they found it hard to love themselves, or their friends and family. Of course, loving people is a challenge. When the lives of the people you love go well, you're naturally happy, but when the lives of people go badly, it causes you pain. But it's just the same if you hate others: when the lives of the people you hate go well, you spite them and hate yourself for not doing as well as them. I think the pain you feel when you hurt someone you love is better than the satisfaction you feel when you hurt someone you hate. If you try to take from people, then you'll never be satisfied, there'll always be more to have. But when you give to others, you're done when you're done. Not that you really have a choice whether to love or hate. Nobody chooses to hate, but they're made to hate by unfortunate circumstances, by the trauma of life. Everyone would choose love given a free and informed choice.

These two beliefs inform my metaphysical and ethical beliefs. I used to be an atheist, but I've become convinced that there is a God who created all worlds by thinking them into existence. I believe that God exists because God is good, a belief that dates back to Plato. This solves the problem of regression: what caused or designed God's mind? It gives a fuller explanation of why people, who are capable of appreciating and valuing reality, exist. Not just because of a series of prior causes, but because of our telos or ends; we give reality purpose, as does God.

I believe in the Taoist version of the golden rule: "Consider your neighbour's loss your loss, and your neighbour's benefit your benefit". Or, as Jesus put it later in history: "Love your neighbour as yourself".

For this reason, I think that violence is never called for unless it is used to minimize the violence of another. We have a right to stop people harming others, but no right to force people to do good, for example by taking their money and giving it to others. This means that I'm a libertarian, and believe in minimal government intervention. If we were wise and just, we wouldn't need to be governed, and so the state is a necessary evil.

This is my statement of my beliefs so far, but they may change over time, especially as I talk to others with different views. We shall see.

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In The Beginning... Hello,

This is my first entry in the journal of my new spiritual path. Doesn't that sound highfaluting?

What is spirituality, I wonder? I've heard the religious studies scholar Huston Smith (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huston_Smith) describe religion as institutional spirituality. He humorously compared institutional spirituality to institutional education, or institutional justice. Pale imitations of real education, real justice, or real spirituality.

But the question remains: what is spirituality? It seems to me like a practice, the kind of practice that anyone can engage in. The practice of living out what you believe, or believing what you live out. Finding out what you believe is philosophy, a discipline that I firmly believe in. And I live out my belief in philosophy by questioning my most heartfelt assumptions, and shining the light of inquiry onto them.

The study of how people live is psychology, my discipline of study. The deliverances of psychology are rarely flattering: human beings think they're in control of their thoughts and behaviour, but seem to be adrift on a sea of invisible forces, from upbringing to conditioning to advertising. But we can use psychology to in some small way bring order to our tumultuous lives. But to what ends? Spirituality is the fusing of philosophy with psychology. Einstein knew that science is lame without the spiritual and moral guidance of a comprehensive worldview.

My worldview has changed a lot recently (more on that later). I wouldn't like to think that I've changed all that much, but my friends would probably disagree. Five months ago I met a girl that quickly became the center of my world. She's a kind and gentle soul, but more down to earth and practical than me. Though I'm pretty sure she loves me even if we disagree on the big questions, I wonder if she can share my interest in the world beyond. Most of my friends just don't care about whether or not there is a God, or life after death. They just care about the here, and now. Maybe, in a way, they're the most religious people of all.

But that's why I'm here, to meet people with whom I can talk about matters of Heaven and Earth. Or maybe I'll find myself in troll hell ;) either way, it'll be an opportunity to learn.

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Sat, 14 Apr 2012 16:53:37 -0500 http://community.beliefnet.com/btheist/blog/2012/04/14/in_the_beginning... http://community.beliefnet.com/btheist/blog/2012/04/14/in_the_beginning... Hello,

This is my first entry in the journal of my new spiritual path. Doesn't that sound highfaluting?

What is spirituality, I wonder? I've heard the religious studies scholar Huston Smith (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huston_Smith) describe religion as institutional spirituality. He humorously compared institutional spirituality to institutional education, or institutional justice. Pale imitations of real education, real justice, or real spirituality.

But the question remains: what is spirituality? It seems to me like a practice, the kind of practice that anyone can engage in. The practice of living out what you believe, or believing what you live out. Finding out what you believe is philosophy, a discipline that I firmly believe in. And I live out my belief in philosophy by questioning my most heartfelt assumptions, and shining the light of inquiry onto them.

The study of how people live is psychology, my discipline of study. The deliverances of psychology are rarely flattering: human beings think they're in control of their thoughts and behaviour, but seem to be adrift on a sea of invisible forces, from upbringing to conditioning to advertising. But we can use psychology to in some small way bring order to our tumultuous lives. But to what ends? Spirituality is the fusing of philosophy with psychology. Einstein knew that science is lame without the spiritual and moral guidance of a comprehensive worldview.

My worldview has changed a lot recently (more on that later). I wouldn't like to think that I've changed all that much, but my friends would probably disagree. Five months ago I met a girl that quickly became the center of my world. She's a kind and gentle soul, but more down to earth and practical than me. Though I'm pretty sure she loves me even if we disagree on the big questions, I wonder if she can share my interest in the world beyond. Most of my friends just don't care about whether or not there is a God, or life after death. They just care about the here, and now. Maybe, in a way, they're the most religious people of all.

But that's why I'm here, to meet people with whom I can talk about matters of Heaven and Earth. Or maybe I'll find myself in troll hell ;) either way, it'll be an opportunity to learn.

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