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The philosophical conception of god in the age of reason and science.

 
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 08:11 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;122040 wrote:
Well that depends. Many people have had encounters with what they believe is the holy spirit. I am not one who prays to God for salvation, but I don't believe that all those who do are delusional. Maybe you could say, they want to believe it, and you don't want to believe it. It might be that simple.
I lost my faith many years ago but I did not loose my desires or certain aspects of my beliefs. Im trying to let go of this inbuilt necessity to try to see, or imagine a creator, who can answer all the logical questions it requires for me to believe. Why should we constantly search for a god that constantly eludes us, is he necessary? I believe in a spirit world , an after life , a soul. I can reconcile them with logic but this god that we try to imagine defies us all. Why cant we accept nature and all its wonders without putting a name to it.
pagan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 10:08 am
@xris,
As i understand you prothero, science can be elevated to the metaphysics of the machine. But in accepting the power and worth and insight of science, we do not have to raise it to that metaphysical grand narrative. So, can the metaphysical belief in god still be maintained in the modern (post modern) context, while still keeping qualities of love and power....... and personal two way relationship? If so how is it modified?

Prior to science the laws of nature were open to the will of the gods such that a god could not only will a great flood ..... but the flood was understood as gods will. With spiritual intent. Science shows that we can now understand many natural phenomena without that scheme of understanding, but actually something akin to physical mechanism. Although for some this of course gets rid of the need for god also, for others it places god in a new context.

God created nature. Nature has its physical laws, and we abide by them whether we believe in god or not. Immediately though, for those who believe in god (and accept science as generally true of the physical world) god would have to actively interfere in the world either in a way that we might conceivably scientifically detect his interference because the laws of nature would be violated, or that the laws of nature are not entirely fixed. There is good evidence for the latter being quite possible. Nevertheless if god acts in a way that generally does not violate the laws of nature, then why the laws of nature? Why science?

What also follows from the latter is that we are probably therefore as humans, limited to what we can do generally by the laws of nature. It seems very much that way. So science reveals the constraints and context of physicalism for us, and quite probably god too. However, if nature is not fixed in time, but flexible enough to respond to some extent to our will and desires then moderns should recognise that also. It is quite possibly neither extreme. Neither fixed nor completely free.

So why would god create us in a world where science is generally true and our freedom is limited?

This brings in the aspect of a personal god. We are limited and god is also limited (maybe by gods choice) in how the relationship can manifest itself in this universe. It may be that because of our limitations with regard to free will and spiritual power that god relates back to us in the same way.

So what of natural and man made suffering? The abuse and terribly painful death for example of small children?

Well first of all we are not gods. We are limited. We suffer not least because of those limitations. God created us (at least temporarily) in this way. Why science, why limit our abilities?

Well is it temporary? This is a big question. Does it make sense to conceive of a loving powerful personal god who creates us with limitations, pain that will necessarily ensue from those limitations AND thats all we get? ie no afterlife, here or elsewhere.

Thats difficult for us. Those who believe in god have a strong tendency to believe in an afterlife. An afterlife with limitations and suffering? Well thats more of the same, so the afterlife is potentially without this level of suffering. That means an afterlife that does not comply with science, because science reveals painful limitation.

There is of course the buddhist option of enlightenment whereby we return to limitation but do not suffer because suffering is not necessarily tied to limitation of free will and desire. But its still afterlife through reincarnation. And that does not negate the suffering of the unenlightened child.

Suffering in this world, through limitation (physical or spiritual). It has always been the key question to a personal relationship with a god.

The pain of birth? A necessary consequence of not being a god? A right of passage? I think these are still the spiritual concepts we have to wrestle with. They directly relate how we behave now to our afterlife.

The afterlife blows science out of the water as a metaphysical philosophy.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 10:58 am
@pagan,
The notion of god and its problem stops most of us from contemplating an after life or a spiritual experience. It hampers mans spiritual adventure. If you mention soul, the spirit of nature , others presume god, why? The concept of god in any age is a disadvantage. Hindus, Buddhist are not hampered by these illogical concepts. Hindus inject human characteristics into their gods and realise you wont find the perfect beast to worship. Buddhists can acknowledge another realm without the need of supreme being, why cant we?
0 Replies
 
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 01:29 pm
@prothero,
I want to clear something up about enlightenment in terms of Buddhist philosophy.

Most people think that nirvana is some sort of heavenly afterlife, it isn't. Sure there are Buddhist circles that talk about rebirth or reincarnation but there is an alternate mindset that explains these are just meta-mind states. Take that as you want, but nirvana needs to be addressed and cleared up for those who have the concept incorrect.

Nirvana is extinction, a "blowing out" or extinguished existence.

Meaning, that once the desire for existence ceases, then existence ceases. There is no continued existence, not here, not in any place. You do not have anything, you do not do anything, you do not think anything, you do not exist. He uses the metaphor of a candle flame being blown out. Where does the flame go? No where, it just ceases to burn. That is the state of our existence, it is completely gone.

One famous mantra, translated is.

Gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, oh awaken.
gate gate paragate para sumgate bodhi svaha.

It is describing nirvana and the whole talk before the mantra describes the state in which one arrives at prior to realizing it. No heaven, no hell, no rebirth, no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 02:12 pm
@Krumple,
Krumple;122176 wrote:
I want to clear something up about enlightenment in terms of Buddhist philosophy.

Most people think that nirvana is some sort of heavenly afterlife, it isn't. Sure there are Buddhist circles that talk about rebirth or reincarnation but there is an alternate mindset that explains these are just meta-mind states. Take that as you want, but nirvana needs to be addressed and cleared up for those who have the concept incorrect.

Nirvana is extinction, a "blowing out" or extinguished existence.

Meaning, that once the desire for existence ceases, then existence ceases. There is no continued existence, not here, not in any place. You do not have anything, you do not do anything, you do not think anything, you do not exist. He uses the metaphor of a candle flame being blown out. Where does the flame go? No where, it just ceases to burn. That is the state of our existence, it is completely gone.

One famous mantra, translated is.

Gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, oh awaken.
gate gate paragate para sumgate bodhi svaha.

It is describing nirvana and the whole talk before the mantra describes the state in which one arrives at prior to realizing it. No heaven, no hell, no rebirth, no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.
Im sure that rebirth has a certain part to play in arriving. The talk of returning to state that we dont comprehend is more relevant....Its not that Buddhist conclusions are right or wrong, its the idea that spirituality is possible without the need of a supreme entity. Im not a Buddhist but an agnostic who finds this attention to god a bit excessive. It takes away the view of the horizon.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 03:27 pm
@Krumple,
xris;122132 wrote:
I'm trying to let go of this inbuilt necessity to try to see, or imagine a creator, who can answer all the logical questions it requires for me to believe. Why should we constantly search for a god that constantly eludes us, is he necessary?


I don't know - why should we? It seems to be a question for you that comes up all the time. I would look very closely and impartiality at the feeling of annoyance that this is associated with.



Krumple;122176 wrote:
I want to clear something up about enlightenment in terms of Buddhist philosophy.

Most people think that nirvana is some sort of heavenly afterlife, it isn't. Sure there are Buddhist circles that talk about rebirth or reincarnation but there is an alternate mindset that explains these are just meta-mind states. Take that as you want, but nirvana needs to be addressed and cleared up for those who have the concept incorrect.

Nirvana is extinction, a "blowing out" or extinguished existence.

Meaning, that once the desire for existence ceases, then existence ceases. There is no continued existence, not here, not in any place. You do not have anything, you do not do anything, you do not think anything, you do not exist. He uses the metaphor of a candle flame being blown out. Where does the flame go? No where, it just ceases to burn. That is the state of our existence, it is completely gone.

One famous mantra, translated is.

Gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, oh awaken.
gate gate paragate para sumgate bodhi svaha.

It is describing nirvana and the whole talk before the mantra describes the state in which one arrives at prior to realizing it. No heaven, no hell, no rebirth, no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.


I would be very careful at this point. One of the hindrances or bindings is the desire for non-existence. Nirvana is the extinction of the individual self-centered consciouness, but it is also awakening into a state of inconcievable bliss. The reason it is not described is because it is indescribable.

It is true that Nibbana is understood as being beyond the states of heaven that are attained by merit, which, even though long-lasting, are ultimately transient.

But I think it is a misintepretation to say that Nibanna is simply non-existence. Buddhism is not nihilism, even though many say it is. Nibanna is beyond all existence, and inconceivably great, but it is not simply ceasing to exist.

As a principle it 'makes its presence felt' before it is even realised; there is some premonition of the nature of Nibanna that starts to become manifest through meditation if practised correctly. And it shows up as bliss, equanimity, and compassion even before its nature is fully grasped.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 03:40 pm
@jeeprs,
I have no problem with my observations of the believers, if they have a problem with my observations, its for them to face and question my observations. I no more bring it to your attention than they confirm their beliefs.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 03:40 pm
@prothero,
Also in the Mahayana tradition, which is the tradition associated with the Heart Sutra, from which the quote is taken, the bodhisattva's aspiration for Nirvana is focussed on the enlightenment of all beings in the Cosmos, not on his/her own states or attainment.

---------- Post added 01-25-2010 at 08:43 AM ----------

Spiritual questions are not easy and maybe never should be. In the consumer culture we like everything nice and packaged and explained clearly and convenient to use. When it comes to spirituality, this is the origin of consumer-oriented movements and sects which promise nirvana following these three easy steps. It is similar to those hopeless scenes where someone has said that the statue of the virgin is weeping in the church, and the next thing there are three thousand people camping in the car park with a CNN anchor standing in front of them.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 03:44 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;122197 wrote:
Also in the Mahayana tradition, which is the tradition associated with the Heart Sutra, from which the quote is taken, the bodhisattva's aspiration for Nirvana is focussed on the enlightenment of all beings in the Cosmos, not on his/her own states or attainment.
You appear to admire their view of spirituality without the need of a god but reject its conclusions. Are they wrong ? if so why do you think they are?
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 04:29 pm
@prothero,
I have 'taken refuge' in the Mahayana. This is a formal ceremony that signifies my commitment to the practise. So, no, I don't think they are wrong, nor do I reject their conclusions. I practise Buddhist meditation and aspire to live in accordance with the Buddhist precepts. But this is a pragmatic matter. You could say one is Buddhist in the sense that riding a bicycle makes you a 'cyclist'. Sure, if you ride a bike, you're a cyclist, but that is only while you are on the bike. It is not your 'essential nature'. Buddhism is like that also. It is a means of travelling, a vehicle. But it is necessary to travel, and better to have a vehicle to travel on.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 06:42 pm
@prothero,
as regards God, I am very sensitive to the sensibilities of those around me. My wife's family are in very dedicated Christians (members of a very small, dissident protestant sect); and I am not anti-religious, even though I am no longer formally Christian.

But in the Buddhist path, one is responsible for one's own destiny. The Dhammapada says 'By oneself one is purified, by oneself one is defiled'. In that respect, the Buddhist attitude is quite different to the Christian. (There are sects in Chinese Buddhism which believe in salvation by faith in Amidha Buddha; but the general emphasis in Buddhism is on responsibility for oneself and one's destiny.)
pagan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 06:57 pm
@jeeprs,
Quote:

jeeprs
But in the Buddhist path, one is responsible for one's own destiny. The Dhammapada says 'By oneself one is purified, by oneself one is defiled'. In that respect, the Buddhist attitude is quite different to the Christian.
No afterlife? It seems to me buddhism is equally applicable to a belief in the afterlife or not. Enlightenment being worthwhile if this is our only life.

But if enlightenment is achieved over many lifetimes, then surely in that sense being responsible for one's afterlife path can be equally true with a belief in god?
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 07:06 pm
@prothero,
hmmm. Buddhist view also discourages speculation in this respect. Very pragmatist in attitude. Of course in the milieu of Asiatic traditional culture, re-birth and 'many lives' was assumed - the six realms of rebirth and the traditional beliefs about them. But in my view it is very easy to become entangled in speculative views by entertaining all of these possibilities. The attitude I try and cultivate is one of 'open minded skepticism'. I don't think that these traditional ideas are just meaningless myths or relics of a past age. On the other hand, I don't think too much about them either. Whatever the case, if you understand and apply the principles in daily life, you benefit yourself and others in the here-and-now. I think this is very much the approach of the Goenka 'vipassana' teaching - it is pragmatist and mainly secular in approach. But it is secular without being materialist, if that is a distinction that can be made. Anyway I am taking up to much space here in Prothero's thread, I will shutup about Buddhism now.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 08:30 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;122284 wrote:
. Anyway I am taking up to much space here in Prothero's thread, I will shutup about Buddhism now.
It's not my thread and I probably should have not used the word "god". Instead I might have used other terms like the divine, the sacred, the numinous, the holy, etc. The term "god" seems to carry too many; or in some cases too few assumptions about its "meaning".

I am interested in any view of "the ultimate nature of reality and the universe" other than "blind pitiless purposeless indifference" and any metaphysic other than mechanistic determiistic materialism.

The most interesting forms of Western monotheism are mystical and carry some concepts in common with Eastern monism. Any spiritual worldview which is not in conflict with science and has some rational conceptual expression is of interest. I think Buddhism (at least some expressions)falls into that class of worldviews.
pagan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 08:52 pm
@prothero,
Quote:

prothero
I am interested in any view of "the ultimate nature of reality and the universe" other than "blind pitiless purposeless indifference" and any metaphysic other than mechanistic determiistic materialism.
ah! Well if gods are as relevant as god to this thread ..... Smile

Still, the afterlife as a metaphysical belief holds though.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 10:31 pm
@prothero,
There is another observation I have make here - use the word 'God' and there is a certain type of reaction you will always get. There is a great deal of historical baggage associated with the term. So it will invariably provoke a dissertation on the 'barbarisms of the old testament' or 'the evils of the church' and so on. This is not to dispute that the Old Testament contains barbarisms, or that Churches have committed evils. But it is a conditioned response, almost Pavlovian: God - bark. God - bark. I don't see any way around this. Some people are always going to hate the idea; I suppose they have their reasons. But I do think that those who respond this way could be well served by considering the following observation from philosopher Thomas Nagel in his essay Evolutionary Naturalism and the Fear of Religion:

Quote:
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper-namely, the fear of religion itself.

I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."
I think Nagel is being very candid in this essay, and I applaud him for it. I think many people, deep down, are very afraid that religion might turn out to have some truth in it. And the reason for the trepidation is because it makes demands on you, and we have this feeling that there might be amends to be made. It might be the fear of a most inconvenient truth.

Well I can only speak for myself in saying that it hasn't turned out so bad. I suppose what drove my whole 'quest' was this feeling of 'religious necessity'. Hence all the reading, meditation, my participation here, and so on. It is ongoing of course, and who knows what lies ahead. And also commitment to the Buddhist path does not actually demand a belief in God - which is probably a very important point in its own right (and perhaps something that Nagel should consider). But I can say that out of all this search has come a reconciliation with religion. I am at peace with it. If I go to a Catholic Church for a funeral, as I did last week, I can be moved by the ceremony, be very alive to the sense of sanctity within the liturgy and the tradition, without feeling I need to either join it, or reject it. And I think this is a good place to be.


PS - I suppose that last remark sounds rather self-congratulatory. It wasn't mean like that.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 04:30 am
@jeeprs,
Jeeprs I make no excuses for my distaste of accepted religions. They have had it easy for much too long. I'm constantly bombarded with their sanctimonious attitudes , their certainties. They have harmed those who chose not believe for centuries, let them feel just a little of the pain they inflicted. Recently we have seen the new birth of rational believers who have adjusted their belief to answer certain difficult questions but my problem with them all is their continued addiction to dogma. If their faith is strong and their god true, my critical approach should not harm them or embarrass them.

Christians destroyed many pagan faiths with little mercy. Its time for natures children to return and question those who tried to eliminate its followers.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 05:28 am
@prothero,
well I guess I will have to differ there. I find it necessary not to condemn Christianity, even though they would regard me as an apostate, and probably as a heretic to boot (not that any of it matters any more.)

Each to his own.
pagan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 06:10 pm
@jeeprs,
I still think its the concept of an afterlife that scares the crap out of us! lolol That includes Thomas Nagel i reckon. Religions of all flavours consistently refer to it, including buddhism.
0 Replies
 
1CellOfMany
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 08:12 pm
@xris,
xris;122132 wrote:
I lost my faith many years ago but I did not loose my desires or certain aspects of my beliefs. Im trying to let go of this inbuilt necessity to try to see, or imagine a creator, who can answer all the logical questions it requires for me to believe. Why should we constantly search for a god that constantly eludes us, is he necessary? I believe in a spirit world , an after life , a soul. I can reconcile them with logic but this god that we try to imagine defies us all. Why cant we accept nature and all its wonders without putting a name to it.


Back in the '70's I rejected the Christian religion for numerous reasons. Much of it had to do with the injustices that had been committed with the blessings of the church. (I still accepted the essence of Christ's teaching: that we should love one another and treat others as we wish to be treated. But I could not accept the churches emphasis on condemning sex while promoting the act of condemnation, and I could not accept that any church would accept the war in Vietnam.)
I took up activism and turned to the social sciences to find tools to make the world a more ust and loving place. I also turned to paganism for it's appreciation of nature and the inter-relation of all life.
In the '80s I began studying the Baha'i Faith, which looks to me to be a powerful force for bringing justice to the world. Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith, taught from 1844 - 1892. He proclaimed the oneness of mankind, the equality of women and men, the equality of the races, that the leaders of nations must all come together to resolve their differences and put and end to war, and many other values that are now considered important by thinking people. He also proclaimed that "science and religion are like the wings of one bird."
What is most relevant to this thread in all this is that Baha'u'llah says that we should not bother trying to figure out what God is, but rather should study what God says (through God's manifestations), and listen and feel God's influence within our selves. From this, we learn about who WE are.
"O SON OF BEING! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee."
 

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