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“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” -G.K. Chesterton.


What do you believe? What do you know to be true? These are two very different questions if you ask me. For a long time I was under the impression they were asking the same things. It has been only recently that the difference became clear, now blindly vivid in my mind. To understand the nature of belief is critical. Far too many have it tangled up with truth, I fear. 

Many people believe in God, obviously. But what does that mean? Does this mean they know there's a God? Of course they may not claim to possess empirical evidence, yet many feel in their heart of hearts that God is real. God exists. They know it to be true. More importantly, they live as if the existence of the divine is understood. They speak in terms of certainty. When discussing God, they make no disclaimers like "Well, if we could know God exists," or any other agnostic tendency. They speak of him like an old friend or a close relative. The matter of existence has been settled. Instead, they skip right to debating who God voted for in the previous election. 

Others do no believe in God, or at least popular notions of God. They equate believing in God to believing in unicorns, leprechauns, or dragons. Why believe in something without evidence? To claim God exists would somehow make all these other absurdities viable beliefs, right? To the atheist, imagining a dragon is no different than imagining God.

I have recently battled with the concept of "belief" quite viciously. I am not an atheist (although some fundamentalists may argue that point), but I cannot say with great certainty what I believe. At least, that's what I thought. I have equated belief with knowing for the majority of my life. If you asked me "Does God exist" a few years ago I would say "Yes." A few years earlier than that I would have said "Yes, of course!" If you ask me today I'd say "How in the heck would I know that? That's freaking impossible to know!" Why did I say "Yes" before and not now? For the same reason many still do today.

We equate belief with truth.

If someone says "I don't believe in God" then, for them, God literally doesn't exist as far as they're concerned (and vice versa). But this is silly. We know it's silly, yet this is how we've been taught to filter reality. Somehow, we have this crazy idea that whatever we believe is how the universe actually works. 

(Spoiler alert: What we believe isn't the same as what is real. Also, Dumbledore dies).

Now, that is not to say that everything we believe isn't true, it just means our beliefs have no bearing on what is actually true. True is true. Believe it or not. 

Personally, it has been tough adjusting to this new revelation. I am coming to terms with the fact that I can believe something but know I might be completely wrong. But maybe it only feels so strange because we have missed the point of belief itself. What if "belief" means (or should mean) something radically different than what we've been told?

I have a certain agnosticism about my faith these days. I don't want to say I believe in anything for sure, yet this is not being honest. For example, if someone asked me "Was Jesus fully human and fully divine?" I'll go into some long discussion about "Well, what do you mean by divine?" or "I think it's a mystery" or some other reflective motif that is more or less a fancy way of saying I don't know, but here are some cool thoughts I have about Jesus. But if someone asks me, "Do you believe the earth was created in six literal days?" I have a clear answer. "No, I do not believe that." If someone asks me "Is there life after death?" then I'll discuss my differing views of the Kingdom of God, social justice, consciousness, the universe, life, love, etc. More examples of me saying "I don't know." But if you ask me "Does God send Muslims to hell?" I would respond with "No, I do not believe that." 

When I am honest with myself, I admit that I am not agnostic about many things. I know, with everything in my being, that certain things are not true (as far as I am concerned). 

So why do I do this? Do I just believe what I want to believe? No. 

When I say I believe something, it is me stating that I believe it could be true, not that it is actually true. If you ask me if God is real, I can say "I believe in God, but I don't know he exists." I can imagine God. I can look around and imagine that he is in everything. Therefore, I can believe. This, however, in no way means God exists merely because I want him to. 

On the other hand, I refuse to believe certain things could even possibly be true, therefore I do not believe in them. Could a loving God send me to hell? No. That could not possibly be true, given the definition of love itself (again, as far as I am concerned). Therefore the answer is no. Now, maybe God is a comic jerk who will end up sending me there anyway. My disbelief in hell has no bearing on him doing so. 

If we can learn to let go of the burden of defining what is true, we may finally discover truth has been with us all along. The real significance of belief is, what do we allow to become real? What kind of life do we choose to live? What do we believe is possible? What battles are we willing to wage?

What dragons are we willing to slay?

Originally posted to BrettSaidit on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:25 PM PST.

Also republished by Religion Watchdogs, Street Prophets , and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is really a beautiful piece of writing. (9+ / 0-)

    Thank you!

  •  I believe in the scientific method. (15+ / 0-)

    I believe in what can be proved: the laws of thermodynamics.  That the earth revolves around the sun.

    Do I believe in God?

    Well...I'm agnostic.

    There's an old joke:  An agnostic is someone who doesn't know whether or not there's a God, and doesn't believe you do, either.

    I believe that joke.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:19:18 AM PST

    •  Being an atheist instead of an agnostic (13+ / 0-)

      isn't about proving that there is no god.  It simply means that the probability is low enough to discount.  There's countless things in this universe that you simply dismiss as untrue.  Oh, sure, it's possible that Mickey Mouse is a real person, and that the whole continental US is underlain by a 200-meter strata of elvis dolls, and that Ayn Rand wasn't really a selfish hypocritical hack.  But  all evidence around you tells you that it's not true.  There could be an invisible troll standing behind you this instant waiting to kill you if you type the letter 'Q'.  Hey, it's possible Are you going to avoid typing 'Q' to appease the possible Q-troll?  No, I don't think so.  And it's the same with atheists and god(s).  The probability is deemed low enough as to be discounted, just like with countless other possibilities in this universe.

      •  Probability isn't "deemed". (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tuffy, DJ Rix

        It's math. What you're talking about is choice.

        If you look at the world and the universe and "deem" a low probability of the existence of the devine, then your definition of the devine is just out of whack with the universe.

        The universe is beautiful "enough" for other's to make the choice to have faith in an unobservable purpose to its existence or our existence to observe it.

        What you describe has only to do with the perspective of the observer.

        •  If you don't like the word "deem" (0+ / 0-)

          ... then substitute in any word that you would use when you discount the possibility that there's an invisible troll sitting behind you waiting to kill you if you type "Q".   Do you say you're "invisible troll-agnostic"?  No, you simply say, "I don't believe in it".  Just like you say "I don't believe in Mickey Mouse" or "I don't believe in an Elvis Doll strata".

          So don't act shocked when atheists say the same thing about god.

      •  false dichotomies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DJ Rix

        Being an agnostic, means you are an atheist.  As you are admitting it is not reasonable claim belief for god(s) as sufficient evidence does not exist.  I really don't understand the need for word games unless it is the societal stigma and fear

        •  Wait... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Southern Lib

          I thought that agnostic means i dont know if there is or is not a God, and athiest meant there definately without a doubt is no God.  How can they be the same?

          •  You thought wrong. (0+ / 0-)

            An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in God.

            •  Not according to (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DJ Rix


              Atheist, agnostic, infidel, skeptic refer to persons not inclined toward religious belief or a particular form of religious belief. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. Infidel means an unbeliever, especially a nonbeliever in Islam or Christianity. A skeptic doubts and is critical of all accepted doctrines and creeds.
            •  Correction (0+ / 0-)

              "Not according to"

              •  Since when (0+ / 0-)

                does one reference take precedence over the self-identification of any one or group of atheists who do believe that atheism includes the lack of belief in any deity?

                In any case, the use of the word 'choice' when it comes to belief is, IMO, wrong. From what I can tell, there is never any choice in what we believe.

                Try it, try to choose to believe something right now that you previously didn't, or choose to disbelieve something that 5 minutes ago you did believe.

                Beliefs can change, but not by choice.

                •  I'm sorry... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  DJ Rix

                  But Capitan Pants said

                  Being an agnostic, means you are an atheist.
                  And you said
                  does one reference take precedence over the self-identification of any one or group of atheists who do believe that atheism includes the lack of belief in any deity?
                  Who gets to decide whether atheism is the lack of a belief in god, or a denial of the existence of god?  I have a lack of belief because i dont care to search for that meaning.  Dont care.  But I am not firmly stating that without a doubt there is no such thing as God.  Why is Captain Pants decision any more valid than my own??
                  •  It isn't (0+ / 0-)

                    You might not refer to yourself as an atheist. On the other hand, I might. Such is the nature of language, it's imprecise. If we want to be more definitive, we inquire about what we both mean by our words and come to a better understanding.

                    Quoting a dictionary doesn't help, especially since the second unquoted definition includes disbelief in a deity which aligns much more closely with lack of belief than denial.

                    So, call yourself an atheist or don't. Just don't be surprised if others refer to your lack of belief as atheism.

                    Agnosticism is generally accepted by atheist communities as orthogonal to atheism in that it refers to knowledge rather than belief. For example, an agnostic theist believes in the existence of a deity, but does not believe that one can truly have knowledge about whether such a deity exist, they just believe anyways.

                    The wiki isn't bad here:

                    •  Im lost (0+ / 0-)

                      So by that train of thought because i do not currently believe in a god im an atheist, because atheism has to do with beliefs.  Agnosticism has to do with knowledge of the existence of a god.  I infer that if there is an agnostic theist, there can also be an agnostic athiest?  Had I been classified as an agnostic theist, then I would be a theist, and not an athiest?

                      I think i grok now.  Thank you.

                  •  The handicap of being an atheist (0+ / 0-)

                    in America is that it is defined in relationship to a a beilef in a supernatural deity, in a negative way, by people who believe in a deity. I try to see atheism  as absence of a certain belief rather than a denial. I don't feel a need to say I don't believe in any  number of beliefs because  I'm not pressed in this  culture to  contextualize that way. The belief is simply absent in me. Belief & non-belief as a dichotomy is just not pertinent. But in this culture, absence of Judeo-Christian belief is seen mainly in opposition, as denial. It's the pervasiveness of American Christianity  into every nook & cranny of an atheist's existence in America that drives them nuts. If you're, say.  a northern mainline Protestant, a trip into the South or Midwest has the same effect, bombarded from everywhere by strictly literalist Protestantism, these people who can't even handle a freakin' metaphor in their holy book.

                    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

                    by DJ Rix on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:41:16 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

  •  I believe that you've taken the first step. (10+ / 0-)

    But old habits die hard.  

    Just give it up.  The real freedom is to stop kicking yourself in the head about this bullshit.  We humans want to believe in God with every fiber of our being.  But come on, think about it.

    A loving god would not leave us here wondering about his existence, killing each other over what we name him.

    A loving god would not let Newtown occur, nor the other atrocities that happen on a daily basis.

    I could go on and on about the rationale for not believing, but really it just comes down to whether you're ready to give up the need to have the comfort and security of certainty.  Give it up and you will be free.  

    •  This is exactly why I don't believe the "god" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wide eyed lib, carver, jo fish

      described in the bible is actually God.  What happened in Newtown is no different than what happened in the Old Testament, except that the murders of men, women and children were explicitly commanded by Yahweh.

      Newtown is another example of why I agree with you that there is no "loving" God.  

      Whether or not there is a "creator" of unknown origin and with unknown motivation, I cannot say.  I can say, though, that no creator of this world could possibly be described as "loving," as that term is understood in human reasoning.  Since the term could only exist outside our capacity for understanding, it is meaningless to rational humans.

      "Good" and "evil" are terms which apply only to human beings.  Other animals are just as cruel toward each other in their struggle for survival, but you won't find a cheetah killing an antelope to collect his life insurance.

      If this world was designed, it was designed to operate on acts of cruelty.  Yes, but humans are superior to other animals.  Bullshit.  Animals kill to survive.  Humans are destroying the earth.  There is nothing superior to that.

      So, my best reasoning tells me that "god" and the universe are one.  No one can answer the question "who created God?" but neither can anyone say who created the universe, and by all rational estimation, it does exist and for all we know, always has, although that is outside our understanding of time.  So, if "god" is the universe, then yes, there is a god, and it is neither good nor evil, it simply is, just as we see it, not as we imagine we would like to believe we see it.

      This should not be interpreted to mean I think you are "stupid" for believing god is whatever you believe.  No, in fact for all I know, you are a genius and I am stupid.  

      But this is what I personally think, and I would be lying if I said anything different.

      And who the hell is Grover Norquist???

      by ZedMont on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:52:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I should add that this (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wide eyed lib, carver, ScienceMom
        This should not be interpreted to mean I think you are "stupid" for believing god is whatever you believe.  No, in fact for all I know, you are a genius and I am stupid.
        is definitely the case if stupid is measured inversely with happiness.  There is nothing - absolutely nothing - about what I believe that brings me happiness.  

        Therefore, if what you believe brings you happiness in this short, brutal life, who am I to say YOU are stupid.  It is I who am stupid in that sense, and I wish it were otherwise, but I cannot make it so by pretending to believe things I don't.

        And who the hell is Grover Norquist???

        by ZedMont on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:57:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Eh (0+ / 0-)

          To that question, "who am I to judge?"  I would respond that I am a thinking human being judging the doctrine you claim to follow measured against the determined facts.  I'll also judge the impact of how the doctrine you uphold and legitimize affects my entire society, my family, and then me.  If the rejection of reality about the fundamental nature of the universe adversely affects society in EVEN THE SLIGHTEST nature, then I could really care less about your warm, fuzzy feeling.

    •  That's not what it comes down to at all. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      I could go on and on about the rationale for not believing, but really it just comes down to whether you're ready to give up the need to have the comfort and security of certainty.
      I'm a believer.

      My belief in God is not a certainty, and it does not provide me with much at all in the way of comfort and security.

      I know a lot of people -- believers, nonbelievers, and anti-believers -- talk about how the main reason for belief in God is how comforting and reassuring it is.  Some say that as an argument for why belief is a good thing; some say it scornfully, as an argument for why belief is nothing more than a security blanket.  (Or as Sir Terry Pratchett brilliantly phrased it: "I've already got a hot water bottle.")

      My belief is not comforting.  At all.

      I'm a little bored with being told that it must be or I couldn't possibly have it.

    •  You're certain about this? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fisheye, Captain Pants

      How certain?  Ho do you know it?

      Did you have to reduce the All That Is, Always, to your definition of loving in order to use your logic to eliminate It from your cosmic concept?  Seems like it...  

      You might be further down the well than many of the believers you're advising.

      Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

      by Leftcandid on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:20:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The certainty of atheism is the real security (0+ / 0-)

        blanket, and any other fundamentalist world view.

        •  yarg (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, CBrachyrhynchos, Simian

          Uh huh,   because every atheist I know claims hundred percent certainty.

          Straw man alert!

        •  Denying the importance of doubt and uncertainty (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ... means one doesn't understand atheism, and probably doesn't understand most religions either.

        •  I think only some atheists are "certain" with (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          respect to any deithy/consciousness.

          I'm not sure how useful it is, but (as CBrachyrhynchos sez below) I could choose to characterize myself as atheist with respect to well-defined deities--I can't believe that any of those characterizations are correct, thus I operate as if they don't exist as full entities.  But, since I perceive those definitions as limited, dim perceptions of What Really Is, I do not disavow the existence of the dimly perceived, if consequently ill-defined.

          I'm not sure where to draw a line between agnosticism & atheism; it's probably polite not to, even if it makes discussion more complicated by delving into the personal position on the belief spectrum of anyone in such a discussion.  Frankly, I'd assume the same spectrum of belief, so why not do the same for unbelief?

          I'm no fan of a fundamentalist certainty in any faith/belief discussion.  The issue is often figuring out what someone is actually being fundamentalist about.  I prefer to give people plenty of room on this.

          Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

          by Leftcandid on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:39:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  agnosticism dated? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The more I read Huxley, the more his protests seem to be philosophically obsolete given that the early 20th century was filled with a lot of philosophical muttering about if we can know anything for certain, and how we move forward. I don't see agnosticism especially relevant given the dominant pragmatic naturalism among contemporary atheists, and the equally pragmatic "faith in faith" now popularly demonstrated by Oscar frontrunner "Life of Pi."  (Which would have been a much better movie had it cut the absurd straw-atheist apologetics from the final scene. )  

            •  What does it matter, though? (0+ / 0-)

              What's dominant might be of interest, but it isn't much of a concern, unless it comes with negative consequences, aka actively conservative forms of religion.  Agnosticism is relevant to those who describe themselves thusly; they may yet change their minds.  Undercurrent agnosticism--as a companion to faith--is certainly prevalent; it's well-expressed by the diarist.

              Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

              by Leftcandid on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:56:34 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  You misrepresent or misunderstand the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          "certainty". One does not go around actively seeking to disprove any and all possible wild-ass ideas, one doesn't bother with them - they do not possess reality.

          You cognitively build a model of the universe based on the available evidence. The utility of the model and of any piece thereof depends upon the degree to which it maps upon whatever is out there, its utility in predicting and understanding things.

           You do not have pink unicorns in your model - they do not exist. There is ot one shred of evidence for their existence, they answer no questions, solve no problems and do not aid in predicting the behavior of the world around you. They are simply not part of the model.

          For atheists, it is the same with god and other faeries, no evidence, no point, no purpose, no use and no reason to include in the model - they do not exist.

          That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

          by enhydra lutris on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:44:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  And I would like to just remind everyone... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            enhydra lutris

            That one of the Major Religions of the world believes in the existence of Ganesh - A monkey headed god that is responsible for granting people material wishes.

            Personally, I think we should all embrace hinduism, it just laughs at the idea of reality, and bares how silly beliefs can be.  A religion of a thousand different gods that can even provide orgasms for all the ladies in India on a single night.  Now that's what I call believing!!!

    •  why does a god have to be a loving god? (0+ / 0-)

      can't there be an all powerful being that just doesn't give a damn???

      Deism maintains there is a divine being who created the Universe, but that this divine being does not interfere in the working of the world now..

      Give your heart a real workout! Love your enemies!

      by moonbatlulu on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 07:04:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent. (6+ / 0-)

    Having taught art to people with varying degrees of colour blindness, I'm not too sure about red.

    "We are monkeys with money and guns". Tom Waits

    by northsylvania on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 03:50:14 AM PST

  •  When it comes to God(s) the words "belief" (6+ / 0-)

    and "truth" are easily misused, especially by "believers". For me, it's not a belief like say, the way a kid believes in Santa Claus (a myth which, by the way, I have a serious objection to for reasons which are beyond the scope of this comment except to say that telling lies to children--no matter what the intention--is wrong, and this includes telling them things about God which we cannot pretend to know). Truth, when it comes to God, is different from truth when it comes to things for which we have empirical evidence. Some people have a visceral feeling that a God or Gods exists, but for me, attempting to prove or disprove that existence defeats the purpose of acknowledging a God at all. Holy writings of many traditions seek to explain what God is, or how God "shows up". When these writings and traditions are pulled out of the realm of mystery and put into the realm of "fact", (historical or otherwise) I believe we begin to miss the point of mystery and descend into trying to prove the unprovable and put ourselves into a spiritual and intellectual place where God cannot any longer manifest itself to us at all.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:04:29 AM PST

    •  I am having a hard time understanding (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, kyril

      your last point. It's a mystery to me and I guess if I try to figure out the true meaning of your thoughts, God will once again have a manifestation door shut in his face?

      •  I guess what I am saying is (4+ / 0-)

        that trying to prove God completely misses the point of God to begin with.

        What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

        by commonmass on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 07:45:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  So the point of God is that he/she/it (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fisheye, commonmass, ScienceMom

          is an unprovable mystery?

          •  exactly (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            •  Then what is the use of that god? (0+ / 0-)
              •  Historically, power and control over others by (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Farlfoto, Fishtroller01

                the priestly class.

                That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                by enhydra lutris on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:46:44 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Humility (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                •  So a "mysterious" totally imaginary (0+ / 0-)

                  being teaches one "humility"?

                  What do you mean exactly by "humility" anyway?

                  •  you added totally imaginary (0+ / 0-)

                    And I don't feel totally comfortable continuing to respond to a Fishtroller, considering my identity here. ;)

                    It should be self explanatory and your response is kinda funny. The fact that a mystery exists, by definition being beyond one's ability to grasp, is itself humiliating. So to speak. Mystery limits one's capacity to understand. By the nature of the word. Acknowledgement of limitations is humility.

                    If ultimate purpose and morality of our being is beyond our full grasp of understanding, yet deemed to exist in a "higher" or more expansive consciousness, that by itself defines limits to human control over these issues, prevents morality and purpose from becoming completely arbitrary. Prevents people from assuming the role of god in determining for themselves what is and isn't right for others.

                    That's not to say the origins of the religious moral guidelines didn't originate with humans and evolve by humans. But they are applied as extensions of something greater than ourselves. The story of Icarus. Our place as humans is grounded in the limits of our reality, not in the devine.

                    Humility means what it means, look it up.

                    That points to another problem. Like this other one who wants to argue that atheism doesn't entail certainty that deities don't exist. It's just bullshit. Everyone can have their own personal definition and apply their own personal meaning to any words used.  And we just make up new words constantly.

                    Even if a verifiable God laid out in detail our purpose, the ultimate moral code and the meaning of the existence of the universe and ourselves in it, human beings would still fight just as much if not more over what it really meant, and how people ought to behave.

                    Jesus spoke in parables and said some people get it and some don't. That's the truth.

          •  asdf, as is the future. We can only (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Southern Lib

            have faith that whatever commitments we make will bear fruit in the future. But there's quit a bit we can rely on to make that judgment.
            When it comes to our future after death, not so much to gauge it by, but faith.

            •  I have found "faith" to be (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              a highly overrated quality, especially when it comes to ideas like gods or the afterlife.  Actually the afterlife stuff is pretty arrogant.  Why would we out of all the life in the universe be preserved in some form after bodily death?

          •  Only in the abstract. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            All major religions make demonstrable claims in their doctrine and holy texts.  SO, in actuality, they have to start dismissing, actualizing only in piecemeal, or selectively convert to allegory to excuse further belief.

            Of course, delusion allows theists to pretend that doesn't destroy the whole foundation of their magical beliefs.

            All Abrahamic beliefs and offshoots, dead religions, and scientology demonstrably false.

        •  But (0+ / 0-)

          It completely captures the point of reality based living.

    •  The Language Fails Us (3+ / 0-)

      It's too bad that the word "believe" has come to have conflicting applications. It should be obvious that "believe" in the sense of believing in a god is not the same as "believing" in evolution or some other scientific principle. "Do you believe in God?" is not the converse of "Do you believe in evolution?" even though there are religionists who try to frame it that way.

      "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

      by midnight lurker on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:33:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It only fails because people don't know what (0+ / 0-)

        they are trying to say, or cannot reconcile themselves to it.  Take the following four statements:

        1) I believe in god.
        2) I believe in the devil
        3) I believe in Barrack Obama
        4) I believe in Rush Limbaugh

        If 'believe' simply means 'acknowledge the existence of', then all four of the above are correct.  Yet I'm sure most people here will not agree with #4, but many will agree with #3.

        So, what does #3 mean?  Obviously Obama and Limbaugh exist, so it must mean more than that.  To me it means "I have confidence in Obama's decision-making abilities and if he issues a dictate, I'm sure it is for good reason so I'll comply."

        So, lets move up to #2.  To me, it means I accept the devil exists and can exert influence over me whether I want it or not.  It is similar to #3, but I doubt many who 'believe in' Obama think he has magical powers over them (I'm sure Limbaugh will claim he does though).  Or, maybe they do, maybe there are people who feel so captivated by Obama they cannot resist his commands even though they want to.  That explanation is kindof weak though - there are no shortages of con-artists, but people usually say "I fell for", not "I believe in" when referencing a smooth-talking con-artist.  So I think we can agree 'believe in' carries different meaning for natural versus super-natural.

        So, where does that leave #1?  Obviously you accept that god exists, whatever his decisions are you will not resist, and (possibly) you think from time-to-time he directs you to do things you wouldn't otherwise do.

        See?  Not so hard.  Anyone disagree with my definitions can state their own.  

        The common theme here though is 'decisions', who is making them and do you agree or disagree (or can you resist in the case of the supernatural).  It has nothing to do with "proof", an atheist "believe in" just as rationally or irrationally as anyone else.  They are just throwing out the supernatural part and claiming responsibility on their own.

        To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

        by ban48 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:18:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  When I think of truth and belief (8+ / 0-)

    I'm always reminded of this lecture by Richard Feynman explaining the theory of quantum mechanics as it applies to light.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:05:15 AM PST

  •  I think people need to feel like they understand (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drnatrl, Aunt Pat

    and know and in some way shape or form control god and/or the order/chaos of the universe.

    I dislike the theories behind most organized religions in that they tend to rely on a god/creator that is human centered, interested in humans, innately understands that humans are good kind peaceful creatures despite the evidence, etc.

    But I also see in the pursuit of knowledge in sort of "scientific based" ways as another version of the same human need to understand, and thus to "know" or control the universe. I will give science method props for bring able to admit being wrong and to be flexible enough (in most cases) to change fairly rapidly.

    For me science can't address (nor is it obligated to) the purpose for biological life, in a universe of elements. I have found creation based theory to not be much more helpful.

    We just don't know why we are here, why what forms our inner sense of being exists, where it came from and where it will go. And that lack of understanding bugs the shit out of me, like I think it does for most people (at least at some time, some how).

    •  How about this? (6+ / 0-)

      We are here and have the abilities we have because of a long line of biological evolutionary processes.

      There is no "purpose" for our existence as a species that is any different than any other species.

      You can make your own life's purpose anything you want it to be.

      There is a saying attributed to "Buddha" (whose existence is just about as provable as "Jesus") that I kind of like....

      With our thoughts, we make the world.

      Besides, if we ever came across evidence of the absolute reason we are here, we would probably not be satisfied with it.

      •  Yes I understand the technical explanation (0+ / 0-)

        However I also feel it is possible that it is can be used as a cop out to having any spiritual thinking or wondering at all.

        I do believe one aspect of this line of thinking is because we don't know, its easier not to ask. If something is not easily understood or provable, it must not be there at all.

        I totally agree with your last point. I also think this could apply to any actual god as well, like if there was a way to even communicate with a such a thing, would it reply back "we have apparently GOT MOLD on planet 8,987,133,142,572.133232324665", or just a simple Willy Wonka type of brush off?

    •  Clearly the answer to why we are here, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wood Dragon, drnatrl

      to the question of life, the universe and everything is


      Seriously, though, nicely written diary and mostly a thoughtful discussion. Many of my questions about God, Christianity, and spirituality are coming up in this discussion.

      For those of you who don't get the reference above, check out Douglas Adams' "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

    •  Why does 'science can't address the purpose' (0+ / 0-)

      bother you?  Do you REALLY WANT a purpose pressed on you?  What if we had conclusive evidence that humanity was seeded on earth by aliens with the express purpose of drilling for oil, converting it to plastic, and stockpiling it up in garbage dumps so in 1000 years, when the aliens arrive, they'll pat us on the back, take all the plastic out of the dumps to whatever end, and 'reprogram' us to reclaim salt from the seas?  Would that make you happy?  Now you have a 'purpose', now you know why you are here.  Does that make you happy?

      To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

      by ban48 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 11:26:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  what about our beliefs in dragons? (6+ / 0-)
    Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.  ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

    War creates peace like hate creates love. David L. Wilson

    by drnatrl on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:24:43 AM PST

  •  I believe in the God that should be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Flint, drnatrl, aravir
    When I say I believe something, it is me stating that I believe it could be true, not that it is actually true.
    (emphasis mine)

    I think there is more to believing in God than the phrase could be communicates.  I believe there could be life on other planets, purple frogs, someone who can learn Russian fluently in three months.  But the mere possibility of reality in these and most other possible things is largely irrelevant to the rest of my thinking.

    My belief in God is different.  I believe in God because I believe there should be a God.  That statement is largely tautological because I think that God is what should be. I.e., my belief in God is a belief that what should be is real and more powerful than the things I know are real: money, brute strength, gravity, political corruption.  

    And most interestingly, when I say "I believe that what should be is real," that belief in what should be (as opposed to what merely could be) proves highly relevant to the rest of my thinking and my life.  As you point out, believing in dragons necessarily involves (in all the good stories) believing in heroes.  Indeed heroism is the real point of even talking about dragons: The stories point to what should be, indeed to what we should be.  And when we believe we really should be heroic, well, that can and often does change our lives.

    I believe in the God Jesus talked about--not in a way that causes me to label myself "Christian" and decry others who are not, but in a way that asserts that love for all creatures (from sparrows to people) should be the ultimate reality in the universe.  As you say, I do not assert that I know such a thing.  I don't.  But I assert that it should be.  And because I believe that what should be is real, my life changes in a variety of ways.  I am not by nature a very caring person, but my belief that all creatures great and small should be treated with love has made me a different kind of person than I would have been had I not believed that.  That belief, I think, has made me more of the person that I should be.

    Thanks again for a wonderful diary.

    •  Thanks for the reply... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm currently doing 1 blog post for seven days straight and last night I felt a little rushed to finish. You're right to state the difference between "could" and "should." I don't base my beliefs solely on what could exist, but I mean to say that for if it could be true, I'm free to believe it, but that belief is not certainty. It's a choice to live in the reality of my personal experience/evidences that bring me that said belief. Anywho... have a nice weekend. :)

      "Love is our god, and she is no myth." #weoccupyjesus

      by BrettSaidit on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:36:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It doesn't matter what anyone else believes... (5+ / 0-)

        It only matters what you believe!

        In my life I have had two "miraculous" healings, one from staph in the bone and one from pancreatic cancer. In both cases the docs said there was no medical explanation for them or the rapid healing I went through after the initial experience.

        I've had a boat load of what some would call "coincidences" and other would call "synchronistic events" in answers to prayers... some as rapidly as when I said Amen.

        But one thing those experiences have taught me is that they were for me and me alone. No telling of them ever convinced anyone of anything and that is okay. Faith is a gift that not everyone receives.

        I have no idea whether heaven exists or not, it is something that all of us will find out someday when we shuffle off this mortal coil as it is the birth right of us all.

        I choose to follow the moral precepts of certain teachers not because of the expectation of a grand pay-off at the end of life, but simply because my heart tells me they are the right way to live.

        It has been my experience that most organized religions are engaged more in "brand management" than in actually following the precepts of the teachers who are supposed to be at their core.

        There is a pathological drive in man to try to force others to believe as they do and as one of my favorite authors observed:

        “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.”
        ― Mark Twain
        However, if you think that religion is the only area of man's activities where this pathology manifests you are wrong. Our history shows massive loss of human life over political ideologies that function psychologically just as religious organization thinking can in worst case scenarios.

        I even know of a case where at a major research university one physicist tried to murder another faculty member because he didn't agree with the conclusions of his research.

        All of which would lead some to think that "man is the murderous animal" but I have seen the other side of this too in natural disaster I have lived through where I and family members have seen the best in man.

        I saw the spontaneous formation of rescue squads in the San Francisco earthquakes where people just ran to help others with no prompting. My brother lived through the disaster in Kobe Japan and saw it there and friends in Mexico City saw it there. Will any of us forget the first responders running into the World Trade Center?

        All of which brings me back to the words of another one of my favorite authors:

           “For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
            ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
        Frankl came to that realization on the death march from Auschwitz to Dachau. He was a contemporary of Freud and did psychoanalysis in the camps.

        He said that the prisoners who lived were those who knew love, remembered love, who felt love... in a hell that we can't even imagine, a place where they had lost everything that a human can have in this life. It gave them the will to live... it was the survivors salvation.  

        “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
        ― Viktor E. Frankl
        So I choose to believe what I believe based on my experience, but my beliefs are mine alone and I allow others to believe what they wish to... and go their own way in peace.
    •  There are puple frogs! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fiona West

      "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

      by Steven D on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 03:14:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm an atheist, and I 'believe in' lots of stuff. (9+ / 0-)

    Do you believe in Gravity?  What if I told you scientists KNOW gravity doesn't work. It cannot be squared with quantum physics, it predicts that stars should fly out of galaxies because they rotate too fast, and probes leaving the solar system accelerate at the wrong speed.  Now do you 'believe in' Gravity?

    I don't.  I also don't 'believe in' Global Warming, Coffee Mugs, or Nails either.  For me, 'belief' is about people and decisions: I believe this decision will have a good outcome, I believe that decision will have a bad outcome.  So, I 'believe' that the decision to pump endless pollutants into the atmosphere will have bad effects.  I believe that using the mathematical construct called Gravity will better put a probe in orbit than prayer beads.  I believe that the decision to use a coffee mug is better than trying to cup the coffee in my hands.  I believe that using nails to hold a house together produces better results than using elmers glue.  See, I believe lots of things, any of which is open to dispute.

    For me, 'believe in' is affirmation of real or potential decisions.  Now, granted, this produces a 'loophole' - I extend the concept to pretty much anything I accept has decision-making capabilities (I also revoke it from stupid people, but that is another story).  So, if my dog takes an aggressive stance towards someone, I will 'believe in' my dog and be wary of that person.

    So, why don't I accept that my coffee mug has an animate spirit and if I spent 15 minutes every morning appeasing my coffee mug, it would keep my coffee warmer?  Wrong question.  If I KNEW my coffee mug had a spirit and expected a song-and-dance every morning, I'd stop using it for coffee and switch to a different (inanimate) mug.  I have better things to do than spend 15 minutes every morning appeasing my coffee mug, and I have better uses for an animated coffee mug.  BELIEF and KNOWING (and the resulting action) are different things.

    As far as the god-thing goes, i cannot know there is no god (because god is by definition that which is unknowable, nice loop-hole).  I believe that the decision to act as-if god exists has no use for me.

    To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

    by ban48 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:30:49 AM PST

    •  Your comment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Captain Pants, kyril

      reminded me of a few religious books my brother got me for Christmas one year, which included "I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Athiest" by Normal L. Geisler and a Decoding the Da Vinci Code book (because Fundies, I guess, need to make a quick buck off of decoding a fiction novel). I don't know what possessed him to get me religious books for Christmas, but I had to grin and bear it for the sake of a calm Christmas morning instead of bashing my forehead into said religious books.

      Anyway, it reminded me because of the use of the word "faith" and the argument is basically that a person has to have "faith" in order to be an athiest in the same manner a religious believer has faith in God. I wanted to make the same argument you've made in your comment, but ate my breakfast instead. lol

      •  Well, it is easier to 'believe in god', because (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, theboz

        now you have an answer for everything:  why does it rain?  why does an egg break when I drop it?  why do things even fall?  Easy answer:  god commands it.

        It is no irony that atheists are accused of always needing to have an answer for everything when it is the theists that claim to have an answer for everything, and that answer is god.

        As far as faith goes (which I'm interpreting as the conviction that you will eventually get what you want), i always wonder how people would react if they actually got what they wanted.  What if god actually decided to intervene on your behalf EVERYWHERE.  Need a raise - got it.  Need a vacation?  Got it.  Need to get that guy or girl?  Got it.  There is an old twilight zone about a gangster who dies and goes to what he thinks is heaven because his every wish is granted.  At the end he realizes he is in hell because nothing means anything.

        To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

        by ban48 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:55:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've somewhat of an answer (haha) for you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Southern Lib

          regarding the idea of what if they got everything they want.

          The *church I grew up in and no longer attend used to cover their asses with that by preaching that God won't always give you everything you want because not everything you want is "good for you" more or less. There was usually some sort of message like that said in a variety of different ways.

          So when the question was asked "Why didn't God grant me x, y, z?" the pastor had the opportunity to say "It wasn't in God's plan for you" or "It wasn't God's will."

          My question became "What's the point?" and realized that I didn't need an answer.

          (*I grew up in an Evangelical Presbyterian church that is part of PCA.)

  •  a few more words on dragons (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leftcandid, dannyboy1, Wood Dragon

    Here is the entire paragraph of Rilke's:

    We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
    I offer this only in support, to agree that our beliefs color our world, inform our perceptions, help create our reality. The concept of "God", or "Dragon" (or "Red" for that matter) is highly individualized. And, as you so beautifully write, just because we believe in something, that doesn't make it so.

    War creates peace like hate creates love. David L. Wilson

    by drnatrl on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:36:12 AM PST

    •  In the East, dragons are mostly good. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drnatrl, Fiona West

      No accident that, while the dragon rises from the subconscious of virtually every human being, the less dualistic Eastern cultures conceived of them as wise guardians, manifestations of weather, who could be brought to wrath by human injustice, & were on occasion prone to a Fall--they might be more equivalent to angels.

      In the West, though, the strongly dualistic theological bent in which Christianity followed Zoroastrianism readily characterized a dragon as the primal entity of Evil Chaos, & more practically as wild Nature in need of "slaying" in terms of taming/subduing the earth.  Wolves, bears, & lions were the little dragons who needed to be eliminated for human benefit--Humanifest Destiny.

      To your main point, it's a rarely recognized truth that these concepts, while broadly understood, are understood uniquely by each of us, which is why we'll be discussing them forever.  It can be said that there are over six billion belief variants on Earth (and that's just our species).

      Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

      by Leftcandid on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:29:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who would win? (5+ / 0-)

    Jesus versus a Dragon.

    More importantly, who would be taking bets on the fight?

    ¡Cállate o despertarás la izquierda! - protest sign in Spain

    by gjohnsit on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:39:41 AM PST

    •  it would depend on what the competition was... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Basketball? Golf? Chess? Parcheesi?

      Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

      by ubertar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:48:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jesus wins easily. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ubertar, gjohnsit

      Jesus can turn water into wine.  

      For all living things (I think, presumably dragons included) a significant percentage of their body mass is water.  

      Jesus causes the water in the dragon's body to turn into wine and the dragon immediately disintegrates or explodes or something.  I can't imagine anything could survive such a profound mutation of the chemicals in their body.  

      Plus, even if the dragon somehow manages to kill Jesus, Jesus can come back to life.  Afaik, dragons cannot resurrect.  

      •  I never got how Jesus' death was supposed to be (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GRLionsFan, gjohnsit, Southern Lib

        a sacrifice. If you come back to life, it doesn't really count, does it? He had his fingers crossed*? I guess the Romans forgot to say, "no backsies". :)

        *Heh. Pun much intended.

        Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

        by ubertar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 07:45:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Did he know he was coming back? (0+ / 0-)

          If he didn't, I suppose that counts as a sacrifice ...

          •  If he didn't know, he wasn't god... (0+ / 0-)

            just some deluded guy. If he knew, it wasn't really a sacrifice. I don't see any way out of that. Even if you could allow that god could limit his own knowledge (pretty much the same as making a rock so heavy he can't lift it) he would still know his own doctrine of eternal life, so he'd know he'd live on in one way or another. Following that line of thought, anyone who believes an eternal reward is waiting for them cannot truly sacrifice their life. It's certainly not selfless, at any rate.

            Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

            by ubertar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:07:05 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Heh. This is so much like the girls on (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jo fish

              the Big Bang Theory last night arguing about Thor's hammer. :)

              Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

              by ubertar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:09:08 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not sure that first part follows. (0+ / 0-)

              I mean, I don't believe that he was God or the Messiah or any of that, but logically speaking -- if God could embody Himself as a human being with limited physical capacity, surely He could also limit His own awareness such that He wouldn't know if He were going to stay dead or not.

              And knowing, or believing, that you will live on after death isn't at all the same as knowing or believing that you will come back to physical life.

              Also, come to think of it, suffering through being tortured to death probably counts as a sacrifice even if you know it won't kill you permanently.

        •  I wasn't there, so I don't know for sure... (0+ / 0-)

          but I imagine that death by crucifix is pretty painful and horrifying.  Whether he knew he was coming back or not wouldn't have changed that suffering.

          Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

          by mommyof3 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:15:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  If god knows everything, god experiences (0+ / 0-)

            everything. So J being tortured doesn't make much difference, as a percentage of the whole. He would experience all of everyone's pain, and their pleasure as well.

            Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

            by ubertar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:01:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, thinking about it that way, (0+ / 0-)

              there's nothing particularly special about Ol' Jeez. Well, except for the being physically resurrected thing, and even that's a matter of doctrinal dispute among the Jeezy folks.

              Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

              by ubertar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:05:06 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  It's our sacrifice not Jesus' (0+ / 0-)

              and his resurrection is our redemption not Jesus'.

              That's how the story goes.

              •  Is it our sacrifice because now we don't have (0+ / 0-)

                him here with us? But I thought god was supposed to be omnipresent...

                Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

                by ubertar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:51:05 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Gee you're clever. But since you admitted (0+ / 0-)

                  your comments are inane.

                  •  I'm not trying to be clever. (0+ / 0-)

                    It was a sincere question. If you're not interested in a discussion, so be it.

                    Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

                    by ubertar on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:34:39 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  It's about sin and original sin, humility and (0+ / 0-)

                      recognizing a higher moral authority.

                      "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

                      Long story.

                      Jesus called himself the "son of man". Man killed him.

                      •  That makes no sense to me, but I don't suppose (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        it was meant to make sense. At least not rational sense. For some people it must make some kind of intuitive sense
                        that resonates with certain psychological archetypes and fits within a particular mythological paradigm (see C.G. Jung, J. Campbell, etc.). Personally, I don't get it. The whole thing seems extremely convoluted. To my perspective, it's as alien as Scientologists and their "body thetans", etc. though I'd assume you'd find the comparison offensive. It's not my intention to offend; I'm just describing my honest reaction. Thanks for the response.

                        Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

                        by ubertar on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 09:31:52 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Do you read all texts with the same (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          alienated feeling? There are lessons allegories and morals to lot's of stories. Even itsy bitsy spider.

                          You don't have to be of any particular archetype to get it.

                          Jung was certainly able to "get" ideas from Greek Mythology and the pantheon with out having to have been assimilated.

                          •  I don't have a problem with metaphor in general. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            I don't see the resurrection story as a straight metaphor or allegory though. Metaphors and allegories are generally fairly easily explained... Animal Farm as allegory for communism; "the rosy fingers of dawn"; etc.
                            Mystical thinking requires a kind of leap that's absent from ordinary literary techniques.
                            I used to be deeply into mysticism... I read everything I could get my hands on, from Meister Eckhart to Sufis to Zen to you name it. I read several Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Zohar, pretty much everything Jung and Campbell ever published, various alchemical texts, and so on. I also did a lot of meditation and other "spiritual" exercises, and experimented with psychedelics. At the time, all of what I read seemed to resonate with me-- I felt I knew what they were talking about, that it accorded with my experience, and that all these varied traditions were essentially talking about the same thing. I was particularly drawn to myths of death and resurrection-- the Isis/Osiris story, for example.

                            I'm not sure what changed, but I just don't see things the same way anymore. Myths that seemed full of hidden meaning just seem silly to me now, or at least fall flat. On the other hand I can read George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series and thoroughly enjoy it.

                            Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

                            by ubertar on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:05:25 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  To the old gods, and the new. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                          •  p.s. You might like Thomas Merton. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                          •  looks interesting. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            I'll have to check him out at some point. Thanks for the recommendation.

                            Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

                            by ubertar on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:43:23 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

        •  So the only sacrifice in life is the end (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fiona West

          of one's existence? I don't think so.

  •  Belief and lack of belief are not the same. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "I do not believe in God" is not an assertion of truth or knowledge.  I don't know that that is necessarily true of belief, either.  A 2006 Harris poll found 42% of Americans not "absolutely certain" about the existence of God.

  •  There is another question you could (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koseighty, kyril

    ask yourself about "God".

    "Do I need a God to function well in the universe and experience it with joy and hope?"

    I am not talking about "hope" for an afterlife by the way.

    All of the discussions that I have read like this one are infused with a glaring point- "God is imaginary".

    One of the reasons I became an atheist was the fact that after searching for my idea of God in differing religious traditions, I realized that I would never find him/her anywhere because "God" was all in my head.

    Then I had to answer the above question which took longer to answer.

    The hardest part is letting go of the idea of an afterlife. I found reading many different authors on this and some excellent blogs (Greta Christina, Adam Lee) that the universe makes much more sense without a system of consciousness preservation (how does an infant who dies at birth experience an afterlife?) and that no afterlife makes this life and this experience all the more special and valuable. Plus there is absolutely no proof of anything other than when the brain dies, so goes the consciousness.

    As for Jesus- many biblical historians are coming to the conclusion that this man most likely never existed. Richard Carrier will be coming out with a new book on this soon.

    Good luck with your journey.

  •  Interesting post. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fiona West

    I have a mixture of thoughts on the subject.  First, I have, for myself, anecdotal evidence of a spirit beyond my understanding.  In two of the instances which manifested that belief in me, I was not alone in thinking that there was a presence which transcended my sense of tangible reality.  Timing issues, when it came down to it.  I make no claim that my reactions to the experience were valid, or that what I believed to have happened was any more real that Marley was to Scrooge (I'm in the undigested beef camp).  I do not come from a religious background which includes charismatic vision.  I will concede that, on the occasions I am thinking of, I was feeling particularly attuned to the notion of a spiritual presence.

    As someone who is a parent to an autistic child, and who had to swim against the claims of fact in anecdotal evidence from the anti-vaccinators, I am particularly sensitive to the shaky ground upon which I stand.  Which is why I claim no special standing which allows me to generalize my experience as potentially meaningful to anyone but myself, or even to assume that what I believe reflects what is real.

    Years of experience in 12-step recovery has also shown me that there are plenty of ways to skin a cat, when it comes to the who "higher power" idea.  The person I personally know with the longest period of sobriety (50 years) has moved, in the time I have known him, from atheism to agnosticism.  But he managed well over 25 years of sobriety as a bonafide atheist.  I have worked with atheists, and simply removed "God" from the pages, rather than trying to persuade them to change their beliefs.  I have also known priests, ministers, high priestesses and rabbis in recovery.  There are five of us in my own family, all with over 20 years of sobriety, and none of us has a concept of a higher power like the others.

    The greater issue, in my experience, is not what I, or what anyone else believes for themselves.  It is how I choose to live among others, regardless of my belief.  Perhaps Lucretius is right.  Perhaps my only real connection to the universe is as a temporary repository of reusable atoms.  Perhaps, even if there is a god or are gods, the connection to real human life is, at best, disinterested and neutral.  I believe that how I act in the world is more important.  What I do now, today, transcends in importance whatever intangible force may exist.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 07:07:08 AM PST

  •  The problem with “know” vs “believe” (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is that know, along with a number of other so-called “factive” verbs, presupposes the truth of its complement. That is, in order for the sentence as a whole to be true or false, the complement must be true. Believe, on the other hand, is a statement about someone's state of mind and is not factive (that is, it does not presuppose the truth of its complement).

    I can assert, sincerely, that President Obama believes in God even though I do not believe that God exists. However, I cannot sincerely assert that he knows that God exists, because the use of a factive verb with a false complement is infelicitous. Furthermore, if someone else says that the president knows that God exists, I have trouble evaluating that sentence and must classify not simply as a statement about what the president believes, but as a violation of what is sometimes called the “speaker-hearer contract”, that all presuppositions are shared beliefs.

  •  I act on what I believe (or try to) (4+ / 0-)

    There are things that can be proven true or false, and there are things that cannot.

    When I say that I believe something, what I mean is not that I think that is unquestionably objectively true.

    Fundamentally, I mean that I intend to act based on accepting that that is true.

    I believe in treating others well in the ways I'd want to be treated -- or even more, in the ways they'd want to be treated. Does that benefit me? Is it provably the "right" way to behave? I don't know and I don't care -- I believe it & I try to act on it.

    I believe that "God is love". Does that mean I'm completely certain that God exists? No, how could I be? But I've decided to act on that basis, trying to express that love to others.

    Do I believe the world was created in six literal days? Nope, that's obviously false. But even if I did believe it, I don't know how it would affect how I act. So I think it would be a trivial belief.

    The beliefs that matter are the ones that affect how we act. It's important to know what we believe, and why.

    E.g. I'm convinced that most people who believe that gay sex is wrong do NOT believe that because  "the Bible says so". They believe it for other reasons & pick out justifications. If it was really because of the Bible, they'd consider shellfish an abomination, too.

  •  I act on what I believe (or try to) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There are things that can be proven true or false, and there are things that cannot.

    When I say that I believe something, what I mean is not that I think that is unquestionably objectively true.

    Fundamentally, I mean that I intend to act based on accepting that that is true.

    I believe in treating others well in the ways I'd want to be treated -- or even more, in the ways they'd want to be treated. Does that benefit me? Is it provably the "right" way to behave? I don't know and I don't care -- I believe it & I try to act on it.

    I believe that "God is love". Does that mean I'm completely certain that God exists? No, how could I be? But I've decided to act on that basis, trying to express that love to others.

    Do I believe the world was created in six literal days? Nope, that's obviously false. But even if I did believe it, I don't know how it would affect how I act. So I think it would be a trivial belief.

    The beliefs that matter are the ones that affect how we act. It's important to know what we believe, and why.

    E.g. I'm convinced that most people who believe that gay sex is wrong do NOT believe that because  "the Bible says so". They believe it for other reasons & pick out justifications. If it was really because of the Bible, they'd consider shellfish an abomination, too.

  •  My take (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Southern Lib, billybush

    God might be real, but the evidence is virtually non-existent, so I'm not going to live my life or base any decisions on the notion that there is a god and he/she/it wants me to behave in a certain way.  And I'm certainly not going to listen to those who claim to speak for God, nor do I want people like that in charge of public schools or running the country.


  •  I believe in Spaghetti (8+ / 0-)

    Whether a Flying Spaghetti Monster exists is not a question that concerns me.

    Time, space, and life on this tiny beautiful blue marble floating in a fantastic universe beyond my imagination keep me occupied.

    That, and sauce with mushrooms.

    Poor people have too much money and vote too often. Republican platform plank, 1980 - present

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 07:44:20 AM PST

  •   Was the modern day Bible divine inspired (0+ / 0-)

    Thieir  were all kind of book said too be inspired by the word of God,  but it was left up to the devices of man too put the bible together in an orderly form , thier were no orderly bible until the Council of Nicea ,they  got together and cobble the first bible together,anything put together with man influence ,also has it bias ,that why lots of people question the validity of the Bible,

  •  I been doing some biblical research (0+ / 0-)

    Not for myself , i have already accepted the faith that life has handed me,but for a couple of Jehovah Witness women ,i am acquainted with ,the more i learn about the Watchtower Society ,the more    i know that is  one of the biggest religious fraud in the history of religion , i am not gonna  condemn  Jehovah Witness that were born in it ,they were victim of thier upbringing ,but people that go in it eyes wide shut ,they  are generally asking for it, the Watchtower do  nothing spiritually for members ,but always seek too condemn them,

  •  Using the word "know" outside empirical contexts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, Fiona West

    is tricky, but doable.

    Maybe it's doable only in the manner in which one accepts evidence--evidence can be things that don't meet scientific criteria, such as a dream, peak experience, or a seeming coincidence that proves significant.  Inner experience is evidence, but only to oneself, unless another one is told of the experience & believes it.  The telling counts as evidence, even if it's permanently unempirical.

    One thing I always say about this topic is to ask the question, "What is the opposite of Faith?"  I find that asking someone who is more traditionally/conservatively inclined commonly produces the answer, "Doubt."  This seems like a reasonable pairing.  I think a more correct (true?) opposite of Faith is Certainty.  Doubt must always accompany Faith, but it doesn't accompany Certainty.   Many of the so-called faithful should be more accurately described as the certain.  This is too bad, because that's where the trouble starts, as it is not Faith but Certainty that generates religions based on rigid social control structures, rather than communal exploration of a spiritual insight & practice.  And it is Certainty, absent Doubt (which is often a healthy self-reflection), that begins to justify means with ends, believes itself infallible, launches Inquisitions & Crusades.

    Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

    by Leftcandid on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:47:32 AM PST

  •  God does not exist... (2+ / 0-)

    ...because to exist is to be a thing - and God is not a thing.  

    Why is it nobody ever demands proof that honor exists?  Or love?  Maybe because while love and honor are real, they do not exist as things, and cannot be proven.  In fact, somebody who demanded proof that love exists is completely missing the point of love.

    And God is love.

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:26:36 AM PST

  •  Excellent conversation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Southern Lib

    Now, who's ordering the pizza, who drank the last of the Boone's Farm and don't Bogart that f*cking joint, my friend!

    :)  /snark off ---sorta-- :)

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 09:31:51 AM PST

  •  reality requires we agree on definitions (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, CBrachyrhynchos

    Fundamentalists?  Or maybe people who use a dictionary.

    If you don't find it reasonable to claim a god(s) exists you are an atheist.  That is it.  It's really simple and doesn't require amorphous hedging and nonsense.  It isn't fundamentalist to use the dictionary.

    If you admit that you can't prove to a certainty that it is possible to know a god(s) doesn't exist, then you are an agnostic atheist.  

    Why complicate words when the investigation and emotions are already so complicated?

  •  Everyone confronts doubt. Even (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fiona West

    Mother Teresa. "Why have your forsaken me" is the ultimate testament of human doubt, and the foundation for many an atheist's reasoning. Faith is a choice that necessitated by doubt. Or it wouldn't be faith. It would be 'knowing', or believing, rightly or wrongly.

    Faith is a choice. And once you've realized that and accepted the reality of doubt as integral to human nature and the nature of our relationship to god, then you can free yourself of the question of whether god exists, which is incredibly boring and finite, burdensome, guilt ridden and emotionally taxing,
    and allow to the question what god is freer reign, in all it's manifestations on earth as well as beyond our experiences, an infinite journey that spans all of human experience.

  •  Great post, thank you for sharing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Made me log in for the first time in ages, just to say thanks, and to share my own diary post from a couple years back....

    Lemme know what you think.

    I do a little environmental science, a little writing, a little American Sign Language, some dancing, and some parenting.

    by Tuffy on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:12:19 AM PST

  •  Is there a problem for people who don't believe in (0+ / 0-)

    the existence of an eternal creator?  I wouldn't think there is because if I were a non believer or one who just is not sure I would be glad that these people are open with this issue.  I would hope that they had identification on them so I could always know that I was dealing with a person who is "what ever".  

    If I were cock sure of my 'belief system' of not being certain of the existence of God or without doubt that He does not exist and I wanted to help 'these people' I think my question would be why do people 'think' that they need to believe in a Creator?  

    I mean belief is in our psychology from the beginning.  Why don't we have children by nature running away from their families as soon as they can?  How close is belief and trust?  Why don't we lay awake at night more than we do worrying about the 401k, that the earth won't stop it's orbit or rotation?  

    Parents who love their children drop them off to strangers that our only association is a certificate of accreditation.  Belief/trust is not so uncommon in the matter of being able to prove that this or that is what we have been told.

    Those of us who have never been to Europe take the word of books  and witnesses.  But yet we are not hesitant to give credence to the term Europe.

    As for me personally, I have more of a problem accepting that existence is happenstance.  And can not at all wrap my teeny weeny mind around the idea that something can be derived from nothing.  That is where I have a problem.  

    If I were to boil it down to two questions on sanity and the rediculous this is what I would put on the table.  Whether existence (what we Christians call Creation) occured by some "fluke" where something just "____".  I don't even have a world for something coming from nothing.  

    And the other question would be if I believe that Creation occured by an Intelligence that is beyond human conception without God revealing Himself to humanity.  

    Um jess sayin'

    I may not be deep, but I am very wide... Honree Balzac

    by meknow on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:36:56 AM PST

    •  Curiously (0+ / 0-)
      As for me personally, I have more of a problem accepting that existence is happenstance.  And can not at all wrap my teeny weeny mind around the idea that something can be derived from nothing.
      So do many atheists. To spin a common phrase in apologetics, "Tell be about the atheism you disagree with, and chances are, I disagree with it also."

      But I suppose it's easier to just make shit up rather than to actually listen to or read about the diversity of things we have to say about the big questions of life.

      •  make what up? (0+ / 0-)

        Christianity is predicated on Faith.  No reason to make up anything.  Now let's be clear, I never mentioned the word atheist once in the reply above...  so what got your underwear twisted, tell me and we can discuss it.

        I admitted that I have no idea how there could even be a concept of anything being eternal.  If I had been invited to sit at a table of honor to discuss it I would have to admit that there is no way that anything should exist.  Nothing scientific can even suggest that.  But I agree with Descartes, who said something like "I think, therefore I am".  

        Does the big bang theory and other theories that try and explain how existence began fall in the catagory of "making up shyt"?  I don't think I ever made up shyt to be honest.  I walked awake from Christianity at the age of 18 being skeptical of a God who got killed.  I would often tell the Jehovah Witnesses and Jesus Freaks of the 70s that Jesus and MLK did not appeal to me.  Give me Malcolm, the Panthers and a God who did not take shyt.  

        I now understand what the bloody scene at Calvary meant. It was witnessed by a host of people including Roman soldiers.  

        I am not adding anything to what the bible says.  I have no reason to make up anything and will be the first to tell you what I do and don't understand.  

        I give you all the liberty that God does.  No where do you find where He forces anyone to believe.  The angels have the freedom of choice as men do.  Some one mentioned that they can not believe in a loving God who would condemn people to hell.  It seems like it is not God who condemns people to hell, but people by not choosing His means of being saved from hell.  It seems to be a choice that man has that is available till the last breath.

        I may not be deep, but I am very wide... Honree Balzac

        by meknow on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 11:19:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I quoted it (0+ / 0-)

          I specifically quoted what I referred to as making shit up:

          1: "existence is happenstance"
          2: "something can be derived from nothing"

          I don't find these to be fair statements of how non-religious people or atheists look at the world.

          •  Well could you agree that it may be a fair (0+ / 0-)

            assessment of mine.  I did not say you or that atheists said this.  I don't study the tenents of atheism so I don't know what you believe about existence...  i am willing to listen...

            I may not be deep, but I am very wide... Honree Balzac

            by meknow on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 11:36:29 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  A great thought piece! (0+ / 0-)

    Everything we know and believe comes through a filter: We are organisms with limited senses. The universe has more dimensions than our species (or our world of life) could ever imagine.

    I appreciate St. Paul more as I get older. Depending on your translation, he wrote: "We see now through a glass darkly."

    Every religion is an interpretation of a tiny bit of knowledge/awareness...a bit like the "blind men and the elephant."

    "God" isn't what anyone alone can perceive. But there are a lot of humans who hope to get a little power for a little while by convincing others that they've cornered the market on understanding and influence.

  •  I'd like to credit your questioning (0+ / 0-)

    and open approach to the subject, too. Your tone is not hostile or negatively oriented. There are perhaps religious people who believe that God sanctions or even alters certain election results, or worse, causes natural catastrophes to punish societies for any liberal leanings in their governance. Their hostility and narrow-mindedness, to me, reveals extreme contradictions between a yearning for a rewarding afterlife and a desire to see anyone deemed an "enemy" to suffer here or hereafter. I see that as a manifestation of a flawed belief system hypocritically applled to others to elevate the believer over those with whom he disagrees. It's too bad, then, that those dogmatically opposed to belief in anything spiritual come off as just as closed-minded as those they would seem to oppose. Overly judgemental anything, in my experience, self-righteous religious dogmatism or militant atheism, results in similarly hostile territory. Also, quite frankly, such dogmatism is boring. We can evolve intellectually and emotionally in this life (and spiritually, in my opinion). In fact we should. To avoid it and to remain rigid or to affect a posture of having all the answers (or the absolutely correct approach to getting them), ends up sounding juvenile to me. I like your basic approach better. To wonder and query. Thank you.

    I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

    by dannyboy1 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 11:32:32 AM PST

  •  Another thought I had (0+ / 0-)

    is that for many people who end up being non-religious in the USA, its due in large part to the dominance of the judeo-christian "explanation" of life, wherein millions of otherwise rational people shoehorn the shared reality of all existence into a domga based on a politically tainted version of some  parts of spiritual folklore, which was itself an amalgamation of what the leaders of a cultural group taught the majority of their people, to explain how they always were the chosen despite endless wars, famines and enslavement.

    Jesus was here for the Jews, which for the most part did not agree that he was the one. After he died a lot of people made up a lot of shit about what he really meant that he never said, and mostly disappeared much of what he did say that was inconvenient to bolster their own fledgling cults, and THIS is what alot of people spent their lives today trying to reconcile, because to doubt any of it is to "call god a liar". So yes logic demands that if this be god, than to be godless is to know the truth and to set yourself free.

    •  You bring up a very good point with the Jews... (0+ / 0-)

      although you can actually say that the first mention of the Jews was in Gen 3:15, but most say it is the 12 Chapter of Genesis where God made promises to Abraham.

      If you need tangible evidence of God then I say look to the history of the Jews.  Look at them now.  

      They are the chosen but they certainly have been chastened as much as God has shown devine favor in their behalf.  The bible mentions Israel as a big player in prophesy of the end time.  They (Israel) certainly seem to be poised to be a player for sure.  In fact I would say out side of finances in particular Israel might be the biggest issue in the world that can affect almost if not all the nations of the earth.

      I may not be deep, but I am very wide... Honree Balzac

      by meknow on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:55:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not all religions are focused on "god". (0+ / 0-)

    Theraveda Buddhism, for example, or many forms of "shamanism", are not. What all religions have in common is a belief in spirits of some kind, not a belief in god(s).

    OTOH, modern cosmology is actively researching the origin of the universe, so it isn't necessary for an "agnostic" to disavow the possibility of knowing about "creation". At one time, the origin of life also seemed impossible to grasp, but it too is an active area of research in biology.

  •  Nature was the first "god" (or "goddess") (0+ / 0-)

    Patriarchy introduced male conqueror gods -- e.g. Marduk, the Babylonian predecessor of Yahweh, who in the pre-OT creation story Enuma Elish killed the Mother-goddess Tiamat and built the universe out of her severed body parts.

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