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The Problem of Religious Philosophy

 
 
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 09:10 pm
@Axis Austin,
Axis Austin wrote:

I disagree: I think the notion of God being all-powerful should be read literally (he can do all that's logically impossible, I believe).


To make that assertion you would have to first experience God.

But let's get to the heart of this problem: how can human notions be applied to God? Isn't that anthropomorphism? And therefore figurative?

Axis Austin wrote:
Why is language about God necessarily figurative? I'm still not sure why you say this. Because he is greater than us and we can't understand him? Because he is infinitely greater than us and we can't grasp infinity? What if infinity tells us about itself literally?


We can/i] speak literally about God: and to do so would make us fundamentalists. Check out that quote in Boagie's signature, the Joseph Campbell line.

It's that to speak about God in literal terms is idolatry: it mistakes the finger for the moon. I can describe the moon all day, but my descriptions are not the moon. Only the moon is the moon. Now, the difference between the moon and God is that they are sensed in different ways: We can speak literally about the moon because the moon can be measured. Unless you can find a way to measure God, speaking literally about God is necessarily mistaken.

[quote=Axis Austin]Experience is part of being a Christian. But so is argument, contemplation of God, etc. There's more than just experience. But if you disagree with that, then we have nothing further to discuss.[/quote]

Ask yourself: why, in terms of spiritual practice, do we argue about and contemplate God? Is the answer 'so that we can better experience God'?

[quote=Axis Austin]No, it doesn't mean it's inherently important, but nor is experience inherently important just because it can be had. And saying that discussion is only valuable to help you have an experience seems odd. When I discuss issues about God on this forum, I am not experiencing God, nor is it helping me experience him. It is helping me get a better understanding of him. Yes, I hope to have more intimate experiences with God, but I also value discussion about him. The two are not the same and the discussion is still valuable. What about you, do you experience God as you write on this board?:listening:[/quote]

To better understand God is a step in better experiencing God, don't you think?

You say that the experience of God is not inherently important. But that is the aim of spirituality, in any tradition. If you are not on a path toward that experience, you are not on a spiritual path. If all you are looking for is an intellectual understanding, that's fine I suppose, but that is not spirituality: it's the academic study of spirituality rather than the practice of spirituality.

No, I do not experience God as I write on this forum: instead, I use this forum as an outlet for some of my contemplation, a sounding board for my intellectual studies. But I also know that God is not completely understood intellectually.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 09:14 pm
@Axis Austin,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
It's not just abiding by his prescriptions; it's cultivating honest compassion for your fellow man. The idea is to live as Christ-like a life as possible, and when you do, what you end up with is Heaven-like.

Interpretations can differ. We might say that living a perfectly Christ-like life is to be in Heaven, or we might say that when everyone lives perfectly Christ-like lives we have Heave. But it doesn't really matter: the point is that we should be as good as we can be. We should strive to be saints.


But where did you derive this notion to act "Christ-like"? From the scriptures, interpreted literally, no?

Didymos Thomas wrote:
To use the old Buddhist analogy: don't take the finger for the moon. Descriptions of God, the ineffable, point to the truth. That's why they are figurative. God is effable only in that we can discuss God in figurative language, thus, he is ultimately ineffable.


Perhaps with your notion of God. However, you speak of "God" as if you're the only making an appraisal here, when you are not -- it is a constructed notion, often times abstract in nature, which anyone can attempt to define if they so choose. If I wanted, I could construct a notion of "God" that was completely effable, just as I can construct a notion of "Goblin" that was completely effable.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
And I would argue that to define a Christian as someone who only looks to Christian scripture for guidance is to define Christianity in such a way as to exclude a great many people who are most certainly Christians.


Excluding people? You say this as if it's a great fan club or something. Why would one want to be defined as "Christian", anyway?

Didymos Thomas wrote:
A great example would be Thomas Merton. He was a Christian monk who studied other religions, especially Buddhism and Taoism. If a Christian can only turn to Christian scripture for guidance, then that Roman Catholic monk was not a Christian. So, I do not think such a definition works.


...why do you want him to be dubbed, "Christian"? Does it take something away from his character or something if he's not?

Didymos Thomas wrote:

... my definition does not exclude people who only turn to Christian scripture, rather, it opens the door for people such as myself and Father Merton to be considered Christians


And it seems as though you really are relishing this door being open. Again, why?

Didymos Thomas wrote:
And we already know that my definition is not meaningless

You're right, "meaningless" was a bad choice of word. "Misleading" is a little better. Again, one that is open to all religions, I'd dub spiritual. So, I would call you spiritual instead of Christian (even though you favor Christian scripture). If you're willingly open to acquire all new wisdom (which I feel is an absolutely wonderful thing -- I try to do so myself), why the need to label? Isn't this feeding right into the deviation of religion, the notion of "religion being political, favoritism, pissing contest" that you're so adamant against?
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 09:20 pm
@democritus,
democritus;50842 wrote:
Aedes, I would be grateful if you kindly enlighten us WHAT IS "highly irrational" formal philosophical writings of J.P.Sartre.
It's not his writing that's irrational. It's that he specifically explores a highly irrational human phenomenon without the assumption that we're inherently rational. Nausea is an exposition by example of an internal conflict. Internal conflict is the domain of irrationality -- it's the world of Freud, of Jung, of Dostoyevsky, of Nietzsche.
0 Replies
 
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 09:29 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
But where did you derive this notion to act "Christ-like"? From the scriptures, interpreted literally, no?


No: from reading scripture and taking the example of this mythologized figure to heart. If I took the example literally, I would be roaming the country looking for money-changing tables to overturn in Jewish temples. Instead, I'm here on this forum. Smile

Zetherin wrote:
Perhaps with your notion of God. However, you speak of "God" as if you're the only making an appraisal here, when you are not -- it is a constructed notion, often times abstract in nature, which anyone can attempt to define if they so choose. If I wanted, I could construct a notion of "God" that was completely effable, just as I can construct a notion of "Goblin" that was completely effable.


Yes, you could redefine God for your own purposes: but then we are not talking about the same thing, we would just happen to be using the same word for different concepts.

Zetherin wrote:
Excluding people? You say this as if it's a great fan club or something. Why would one want to be defined as "Christian", anyway?


Do you have a point? We were talking about how to define "Christian", and I argued that the proposed definition would be such that many people who are obviously Christians would be considered not to be Christians.

Why a person wants to be a Christian is irrelevant: if someone is a Christian, to redefine the term in such a way as to exclude them from being a Christian is to misunderstand the aforementioned term.

Zetherin wrote:
...why do you want him to be dubbed, "Christian"? Does it take something away from his character or something if he's not?


Well, considering that Father Merton was a Catholic monk, I would imagine he would want to be called a Christian.

Were he not a Christian, that would be fine by me: but he was a Christian, and that has nothing to do with my desires.

Zetherin wrote:
And it seems as though you really are relishing this door being open. Again, why?


That's not the point, Zetherin, and you know it. You are trying to turn this discussion about the definition of Christian into a discussion of me. But I'm not the only Christian in the world. Our definition of Christian should be accurate, which means that it should include Catholic monks like Father Merton, people who are obviously Christians.

Zetherin wrote:
You're right, "meaningless" was a bad choice of word. "Misleading" is a little better. Again, one that is open to all religions, I'd dub spiritual. So, I would call you spiritual instead of Christian (even though you favor Christian scripture). If you're willingly open to acquire all new wisdom (which I feel is an absolutely wonderful thing -- I try to do so myself), why the need to label? Isn't this feeding right into the deviation of religion, the notion of "religion being political, favoritism, pissing contest" that you're so adamant against?


How is my definition misleading? If anything, a definition of Christian which demands that a Catholic monk be considred a non-Christian is the misleading definition.

We do not need the label Christian any more than we need the label "car". It just so happens that these labels are useful.

By developing a clear and accurate understanding of what it is to be a Christian we begin to tear down the notion that religion is "political, favoritism, pissing contest". By showing that Christians are not limited to just Christian scripture, we make evident the open-mindedness of the tradition.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 09:46 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
No: from reading scripture and taking the example of this mythologized figure to heart. If I took the example literally, I would be roaming the country looking for money-changing tables to overturn in Jewish temples. Instead, I'm here on this forum.


"Taking the example of this mythologized figure to heart" is reading something in the scriptures literally! You're taking the notion of "Christ-like" to be actual, in effect, and this was derived from reading -- a literal reading. If you regarded all of this as figurative or metaphorical, you wouldn't be actually applying it!

Didymos Thomas wrote:

Yes, you could redefine God for your own purposes: but then we are not talking about the same thing, we would just happen to be using the same word for different concepts.


If every notion of "God" is ineffable, then how in the world would you be talking about the same thing with anyone? Of course, unless you agree on a notion of "God" beforehand -- such as what religion allows. Of course, not everyone is religious, though!

This is the most important part, and I don't want you to overlook this: We all can redefine "God" for our own purposes; it's an abstract notion we can each contemplate. So, of course, yes, we could be talking about two different concepts, and neither of us would be "right" or "wrong"! The nature of an abstract notion, such as "God", begs for this open interpretation!

Didymos Thomas wrote:
That's not the point, Zetherin, and you know it. You are trying to turn this discussion about the definition of Christian into a discussion of me. But I'm not the only Christian in the world. Our definition of Christian should be accurate, which means that it should include Catholic monks like Father Merton, people who are obviously Christians.


No, this has nothing to do with you as a person, but rather you feeling the term "Christian" should be more liberally used. I was trying to get to the bottom of it by asking those questions. Again, I ask, why?

Didymos Thomas wrote:
We do not need the label Christian any more than we need the label "car". It just so happens that these labels are useful.


You know why it's useful? Because it clarifies, defines an object! Do you know why it would be a bad idea to call "cars" "boats"? Because we need two different definitions for each object for clarity purposes. If we just let every term run it's merry liberal way, we would all be lost linguistically.

Didymos Thomas wrote:

By showing that Christians are not limited to just Christian scripture, we make evident the open-mindedness of the tradition.


No, you're not showing "Christians" are not limited to just "Christian" scripture. You're showing that humans, "Christian" or not, are not limited to any scripture.

Didymos Thomas wrote:

By developing a clear and accurate understanding


Haha, what?! This is what I'm advocating. I'm advocating a distinction between a "Christian" and another that has faith in another religion. You, however, are blurring the distinction. This is my point.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 10:04 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
"Taking the example of this mythologized figure to heart" is reading something in the scriptures literally! You're taking the notion of "Christ-like" to be actual, in effect, and this was derived from reading -- a literal reading. If you regarded all of this as figurative or metaphorical, you wouldn't be actually applying it!


No, if I took the example as being what I should literally do I would be trying to walk on water, looking for Jewish temples with money-changing tables to over turn, and riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. But I do not do these things, thus I do not take the example literally.

Edit: If you are going to argue that because I try to live a Christ-like life that I am reading this scripture literally, you would have to account for the fact that I do not imitate the actions of Jesus, like walking on water.

Further, to argue that by taking the example I am reading the scripture literally, you would also have to argue that people cannot take metaphors to heart without reading metaphors literally. That's an argument I doubt you want to make.

Zetherin wrote:
If every notion of "God" is ineffable, then how in the world would you be talking about the same thing with anyone? Of course, unless you agree on a notion of "God" beforehand -- such as what religion allows. Of course, not everyone is religious, though!


It's not that every notion of God is ineffable, it's that effable notions of God are idolatrous. Unless we advocate idolatry, we have to accept effable notions of God as inaccurate and misleading, and downright spiritually dangerous.

We know we are talking about the same thing due to experience. Compare the language of mystics from around the world and I think you will find they are all pointing to the same truth.

Zetherin wrote:
This is the most important part, and I don't want you to overlook this: We all can redefine "God" for our own purposes; it's an abstract notion we can each contemplate. So, of course, yes, we could be talking about two different concepts, and neither of us would be "right" or "wrong"! The nature of an abstract notion, such as "God", begs for this open interpretation!


But contemplating and figuratively expressing God is not the same thing as defining. And yes, we each have to personally experience God, and that people can figuratively express God in a multitude of ways is wonderful: but this does not mean that we are redefining God when we do so.

Zetherin wrote:
No, this has nothing to do with you as a person, but rather you feeling the term "Christian" should be more liberally used. I was trying to get to the bottom of it by asking those questions. Again, I ask, why?


The old Confucian principle of the rectification of names: a student is someone who studies, a teacher is someone who teaches, a Christian is someone who practices Christianity. A student might also teach, a teacher might also study, and a Christian might also use non-Christian practices.

Zetherin wrote:
You know why it's useful? Because it clarifies, defines an object! Do you know why it would be a bad idea to call "cars" "boats"? Because we need two different definitions for each object for clarity purposes. If we just let every term run it's merry liberal way, we would all be lost linguistically.


Right: these definitions clarify. But if we define Christian in such a way as to exclude people who are obviously Christian we have obscured rather than clarified our subject.

Now, look again at my definition: it is not "linguistically lost". Instead, it is broad enough to account for the plethora of varieties of Christianity yet narrow enough to exclude anyone who does not primarily turn to Christian scripture for spiritual reading. That definition clarifies and follows the Confucian principle of the rectification of names. It works.

Edit: As to your definition, it does not work as people who are obviously Christian are redefined as non-Christian.

Zetherin wrote:
No, you're not showing "Christians" are not limited to just "Christian" scripture. You're showing that humans, "Christian" or not, are not limited to any scripture.


I think that is also true, that no human is limited to reading any scripture. But to say that I am not talking specifically about Christians is, well, a bit silly considering that that is the subject of the debate: what is a Christian?

Zetherin wrote:
Haha, what?! This is what I'm advocating. I'm advocating a distinction between a "Christian" and another that has faith in another religion. You, however, are blurring the distinction. This is my point.


Haha, what?! Boohoo, wallah, high-dee hoe?!

You say I am blurring the distinction: well, explain yourself.

The distinction you advocate, that definition of Christianity, excludes people who are obviously Christians. Therefore, your definition is not accurate. Therefore, your definition does not clarify the matter, but is instead misleading.

Edit: I have no doubt that you are trying to develop a clear and accurate understanding of the term Christian, that's not the issue. The issue is whether or not your definition succeeds at achieving this end.

My definition may seem strange at first, but if it works it works.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 10:29 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
No, if I took the example as being what I should literally do I would be trying to walk on water, looking for Jewish temples with money-changing tables to over turn, and riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. But I do not do these things, thus I do not take the example literally.


You take the example of "Christ-like", illustrated in the scriptures, literally.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
It's not that every notion of God is ineffable, it's that effable notions of God are idolatrous. Unless we advocate idolatry, we have to accept effable notions of God as inaccurate and misleading, and downright spiritually dangerous.

We know we are talking about the same thing due to experience. Compare the language of mystics from around the world and I think you will find they are all pointing to the same truth.


Idolatrous? You're sounding more Christian by the minute, now you're on the right track Very Happy

Basically, I completely disagree with all you've said here: I don't believe any notion of "God" is idolatrous, for to assert idolatry in the first place is to assume there's a 'true' "God" (otherwise, an idol of what?). With an abstract notion such as this, 'truth' is completely relative, which means there are no idols -- everyone has fair say in their contemplation of "God". Again, there's no "wrong" or "right" answer in my eyes.

I also don't think any of this is spiritually dangerous: Any contemplation of an abstract notion such as this is a positive thing in my eyes, and I would never limit someone by saying, "No, you can't think of your notion of "God" as effable, this is idolatry!". This sounds absolutely absurd, and well, rather fundamentalist.

Didymos Thomas wrote:

But contemplating and figuratively expressing God is not the same thing as defining. And yes, we each have to personally experience God, and that people can figuratively express God in a multitude of ways is wonderful: but this does not mean that we are redefining God when we do so.


Through contemplation and expression, one can define "God", yes. If someone conjures a notion of "God" that doesn't require experience (like yours), a definition could be made easily. What if I just said "God" is all that exists. This is a notion of "God" I just conjured which has nothing to do with experience. There's really no 're' defining, as everyone defines their own "God" (unless you just mean one redefines a definition of "God" they've already conjured). Are you implying "God" has a definitive identity? I disagree.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
The old Confucian principle of the rectification of names: a student is someone who studies, a teacher is someone who teaches, a Christian is someone who practices Christianity. A student might also teach, a teacher might also study, and a Christian might also use non-Christian practices.


If someone wasn't a teacher professionally, I wouldn't call that person a teacher, just as I wouldn't call someone who studies that isn't enrolled in any sort of school, a student. I mean, if we're going to apply a label to everything we've ever experienced or have done, we'd be here for days. I'm a showerer, a typist, a screen-looker, a masturbator, a car-driver, a thinker.. I don't see much clarity here as a whole here. Perhaps in their own right each of those things could bring some clarity (in some context), but they are needless. If you're saying everyone has the choice to read (and believe) any scriptures they choose, this I don't feel a label is needed for. Just as I think a 'showerer' is needless.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
Haha, what?! Boohoo, wallah, high-dee hoe?!


:lol:Watch it, there's an idol! :devilish:
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 10:44 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
You take the example of "Christ-like", illustrated in the scriptures, literally.


Are you somehow increasingly right in proportion to the number of times you restate this claim? I do not think so.

Zetherin wrote:
Idolatrous? You're sounding more Christian by the minute, now you're on the right track Very Happy


Hence my application of the term to myself.

Zetherin wrote:
Basically, I completely disagree with all you've said here: I don't believe any notion of "God" is idolatrous, for to assert idolatry in the first place is to assume there's a 'true' "God" (otherwise, an idol of what?). With an abstract notion such as this, 'truth' is completely relative, which means there are no idols -- everyone has fair say in their contemplation of "God". Again, there's no "wrong" or "right" answer in my eyes.


The truth is not relative: our perception of the truth is relative. Just as we can interpret the same poem in different ways, God can be described in different ways. But also just like the interpretation of poetry, some interpretations can be wrong.

Zetherin wrote:
I also don't think any of this is spiritually dangerous: Any contemplation of an abstract notion such as this is a positive thing in my eyes, and I would never limit someone by saying, "No, you can't think of your notion of "God" as effable, this is idolatry!". This sounds absolutely absurd, and well, rather fundamentalist.


Are you going to redefine fundamentalism as well?

People can, ie are free to, think of God however they like. But that does not mean that no matter how God is conceived of that the conception is accurate.

Zetherin wrote:
Through contemplation and expression, one can define "God", yes. If someone conjures a notion of "God" that doesn't require experience (like yours), a definition could be made easily. What if I just said "God" is all that exists. This is a notion of "God" I just conjured which has nothing to do with experience. There's really no 're' defining, as everyone defines their own "God" (unless you just mean one redefines a definition of "God" they've already conjured). Are you implying "God" has a definitive identity? I disagree.


Your conflating the whole issue. One can define God, figuratively and literally. A definition of God that doesn't require experience is possible, but that would be a definition of something that is not, in the vast majority of traditions, God.

I'm implying that God is a definitive experience. This is supported by nearly, and I mean all but a few outliers, every spiritual tradition man has known. If you are talking about something else, and calling that something else God, that is only incidental: it doesn't mean you are talking about the God of spiritual tradition.

Zetherin wrote:
If someone wasn't a teacher professionally, I wouldn't call that person a teacher, just as I wouldn't call someone who studies that isn't enrolled in any sort of school, a student. I mean, if we're going to apply a label to everything we've ever experienced or have done, we'd be here for days. I'm a showerer, a typist, a screen-looker, a masturbator, a car-driver, a thinker.. I don't see much clarity here.


Yes, you are those things as you do those things.

And you can define teacher and student however you like: this doesn't mean that your definition is the most accurate definition available. One can study without being enrolled in a school: imagine someone who studies scripture and goes to his spiritual teacher for lessons, this person is not enrolled in school yet is still a student. Your definitions of teacher and student are colloquial uses applicable to certain contexts, but apart from that, they exclude people who teach and people who study outside of an institution for those purposes.


Now, we've rolled around the subject for pages, and this has taken us nowhere. I'm trying to address theses issues and in response I get reassertions and little else.

If my definition of Christian is inaccurate, prove it. If your definition is accurate, respond to my criticisms.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 11:02 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Are you somehow increasingly right in proportion to the number of times you restate this claim? I do not think so.


I'll try again:

"Christ-like" was not just conjured from you out of thin air. You read of "Christ-like" behavior in the scriptures, you took something he said or did as literal, and then constructed, through a culmination of *things you should do* (being "Christ-like") a philosophy to live by.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
The truth is not relative: our perception of the truth is relative. Just as we can interpret the same poem in different ways, God can be described in different ways. But also just like the interpretation of poetry, some interpretations can be wrong.


We'll agree to disagree on this point then as I don't necessarily believe in objective truth, or some kind of 'ultimate' truth you seem to imply. I believe the truth of "God" is relative.

Didymos Thomas wrote:

People can, ie are free to, think of God however they like. But that does not mean that no matter how God is conceived of that the conception is accurate.


I feel "accuracy" is out of the realm of this discussion. This is where our beliefs differ, as noted above.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
A definition of God that doesn't require experience is possible, but that would be a definition of something that is not, in the vast majority of traditions, God.


So we should limit our own spiritual journey because of tradition? You're not really presenting me with appeal to tradition fallacy, are you?

I don't care what "tradition" tells me. If I want to define "God" as something, I can. I have just as much power as they do in conjuring an abstract notion. My spiritual journey may fly in the face of centuries of tradition, and I should avoid this why??

Didymos Thomas wrote:

If my definition of Christian is inaccurate, prove it. If your definition is accurate, respond to my criticisms.


I did respond to your criticisms. It's quite insulting you act as if I haven't attempted the same clarification.

If you have anything, specifically, to ask me, do so. I will do my best to further clarify.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 11:20 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
I'll try again:

"Christ-like" was not just conjured from you out of thin air. You read of "Christ-like" behavior in the scriptures, you took something he said or did as literal, and then constructed, through a culmination of *things you should do* (being "Christ-like") a philosophy to live by.


That's just restating your claim! Once again!

I get the claim, that's not the issue. The issue is whether or not you can back it up. So far, you have not even tried to support the claim.

Again, if I took the example as an example of what I should literally do, I would be trying to walk on water. Instead, I took the example as an example of what I should figuratively do, so I try to treat people nicely. Even the teaching "Love thy neighbor as thyself", which I apply, is not something that I apply literally: because literal application of a figure of speech (in this case it is a simile) is, by definition, impossible.

Zetherin wrote:
We'll agree to disagree on this point then as I don't necessarily believe in objective truth, or some kind of 'ultimate' truth you seem to imply. I believe the truth of "God" is relative.


Then you've misunderstood me: I'm not arguing for an objective truth, I'm arguing for a definitive experience. Everyone will experience this truth in a different way, but what they are experiencing is the same. It's no different than taking a drink of soda: the experience is the same for all of us, but we also all experience the drink in different ways; some might like the taste, others might not, but the taste in question is the same.

The experience of God is relative, but the truth is there for everyone to experience.

Zetherin wrote:
I feel "accuracy" is out of the realm of this discussion. This is where our beliefs differ, as noted above.


Accuracy seems to have been thrown out long ago, that's for sure. :sarcastic:

Zetherin wrote:
So we should limit our own spiritual journey because of tradition? You're not really presenting me with appeal to tradition fallacy, are you?


No, I'm not. Instead of trying to stroke your ego, perhaps you could try to understand what I'm saying.

I'm saying that if we are going to talk about the spiritual notion of God, redefining God as something non-spiritual is pointless.

Zetherin wrote:
I don't care what "tradition" tells me. If I want to define "God" as something, I can. I have just as much power as they do in conjuring an abstract notion. My spiritual journey may fly in the face of centuries of tradition, and I should avoid this why??


Yes, you care free to define God in any way you please. Just as I can define "car" as a water-borne mammal. But if I do this, when we use the term car, we are talking about entirely different things. The same is true of your redefinition of God: you can call whatever you like by the name God, but that does not mean that your use of God is germane to the use of God in spiritual contexts.

If you redefine God as something effable, it's not the your spiritual journey flies in the face of tradition, it's that your no longer talking about spirituality. Unless, of course, we want to redefine spirituality in the same spirit you suggest we can redefine God - which only recreates the problem: using the same word for two entirely different ideas.

Geroge Carlin made a joke about this. He decided to redefine God as Joe Pesci. Which is fine: but that doesn't mean that when other people use the word "God" that they are talking about Joe Pesci.

Zetherin wrote:
I did respond to your criticisms. It's quite insulting you act as I haven't attempted the same clarification.


Oh? Where? Seriously. If you feel insulted, I'm sorry: but consider how one might be insulted when, in response to serious discuourse, we get a "haha, What?!" Now, I was not insulted because I know you are getting beyond what you understand, but others might very well be insulted, and I wouldn't blame them.

Where did you explain to me the way in which your definition does not exclude people like Father Merton from being label "Christian"? Where did you explain to me that your definition can exclude people like Thomas Merton and still be accurate? You asked a bunch of questions, that you did, but that's all.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 12:13 am
@Didymos Thomas,
First off, I want to apologize if I come off as brash, I'm really not trying to attack you, just trying to understand. I think I probe questions in ways that can be interpreted as rude, but I'm really not trying to offend. I want you to know I appreciate the discussion.

Quote:
Again, if I took the example as an example of what I should literally do, I would be trying to walk on water. Instead, I took the example as an example of what I should figuratively do, so I try to treat people nicely. Even the teaching "Love thy neighbor as thyself", which I apply, is not something that I apply literally: because literal application of a figure of speech (in this case it is a simile) is, by definition, impossible.
I don't understand how you interpret "Love thy neighbor as thyself" to be a figure of speech. I can literally abide, the notion boiling down to: Love everyone, including oneself. To me, "Love thy neighbor as thyself" isn't a figure of speech, but a literal command. If you apply this to your life, you're reading it literally.

So, let me ask, specifically, how you apply "Love thy neighbor as thyself" without applying it literally?

Quote:

the experience is the same for all of us, but we also all experience the drink in different ways
If we are experiencing the soda in different ways, how is the experience the same for all of us? We can define the soda as "sweet", but we cannot be sure everyone is having the same experience (we even know this is not true because not everyone has the same spectrum of taste -- some can literally taste things others cannot)

This aside, I don't see how your analogy is relevant. The taste of soda is a sensory experience, specifically taste, feel. "God" is an abstract notion, open for interpretation: There's no definitive experience, in my opinion. We can measure the amount of sugar in the soda and can define it as X sweet (which is now what I think you're saying by "having the same experience"), but how can we measure an abstract notion?

Quote:
Geroge Carlin made a joke about this. He decided to redefine God as Joe Pesci. Which is fine: but that doesn't mean that when other people use the word "God" that they are talking about Joe Pesci
I believe George Carlin was making the distinction between what he worships and what he prays to, not focusing on the definition of "God", per se. He worshiped the sun, but prayed to Joe Pesci because "He looks like the kind of guy that can get **** done!".

But even if someone was using the word "God" in regards to Joe Pesci, that would be their notion of "God". I may think it's absurd, but who am I to judge?

Quote:

Where did you explain to me the way in which your definition does not exclude people like Father Merton from being label "Christian"? Where did you explain to me that your definition can exclude people like Thomas Merton and still be accurate?
We just disagree that the word should be liberally used. If we open up the door to everyone, we'll eventually run into a "showerer" problem. What if someone told you they were a "showerer", wouldn't you feel this is a needless inclusion in their description? Well, if you started advocating everyone should be dubbed "Christian", I feel this takes away from a once defined term, and will eventually term into something needless like "showerer". If it doesn't allow some in, then so be it. It doesn't matter if they're in or not, it's a ******* label to begin with. If they want to fight for it, I'd probably just let them win for sake of it (I contested you in order to delve into your psyche). If someone wanted to call themselves an artist simply because they had painted a picture in art class once, and they made a big fuss about it, "Go ahead, son!", I'd shout!

So: "Go ahead, son!", but don't expect not to be misleading...

Quote:
If you redefine God as something effable, it's not the your spiritual journey flies in the face of tradition, it's that your no longer talking about spirituality. Unless, of course, we want to redefine spirituality in the same spirit you suggest we can redefine God - which only recreates the problem: using the same word for two entirely different ideas.
Taken from wikipedia:

"In recent years, spirituality as opposed to religion often carries connotations of a believer having a faith more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the doctrinal/dogmatic faiths of mature religions"

As noted, "spirituality" does not have to be defined in any sense established by any mature religion. I disagree that defining God as something effable renders me not talking of something spiritual. The "spirit" is just as loosely defined as "God". I can redefine either on a whim, yes.

Quote:
Now, I was not insulted because I know you are getting beyond what you understand, but others might very well be insulted, and I wouldn't blame them.
I apologize for saying "haha".

And if you truly believe I'm getting beyond what I'm capable of understanding, then you're allowed to stop at any moment. I would enjoy the lesson, but if you're not willing to respond to a lessor mind, it's completely understandable (one you perceive was coming off as brash)

I appreciate your intelligent responses and I hope you'll continue,

Zetherin
0 Replies
 
Axis Austin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 02:29 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
To make that assertion you would have to first experience God.

But let's get to the heart of this problem: how can human notions be applied to God? Isn't that anthropomorphism? And therefore figurative?


"The core of earth is molten rock". I've never experienced the center of the earth. Yet I can talk about it. Similarly, I could say "God is all-powerful, based on what I've read in the Bible and through discussion, without actually experiencing him. So I disagree with your first statment.

Next, just because something is anthropomorphic doesn't mean it's wrong. You can say that something shares a common characteristic with humans (which is anthropomorphism) and be accurately describing it. And if you're accurately describing it, then it's not figurative, it's literal. When I say that monkeys have opposable thumbs, as do humans, I'm not speaking figuratively.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
We can/i] speak literally about God: and to do so would make us fundamentalists. Check out that quote in Boagie's signature, the Joseph Campbell line.

It's that to speak about God in literal terms is idolatry: it mistakes the finger for the moon. I can describe the moon all day, but my descriptions are not the moon. Only the moon is the moon. Now, the difference between the moon and God is that they are sensed in different ways: We can speak literally about the moon because the moon can be measured. Unless you can find a way to measure God, speaking literally about God is necessarily mistaken.


You are correct, description about a thing is not that thing. But if the description is correct, then we have a literal understanding of that thing. I don't get how measurement comes into it, but I don't think I'm ever going to get it either. Are you saying that anything metaphysical inherently can't be measured, and thus all language is necessarily metaphorical? If so, I simply disagree: I think we can speak literally about metaphysics.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
Ask yourself: why, in terms of spiritual practice, do we argue about and contemplate God? Is the answer 'so that we can better experience God'?


No, it is not the answer. It is so I can have a better understanding of God. This is simply different from experience. What about in other realms: is experience the only way we know anything?

Didymos Thomas wrote:
To better understand God is a step in better experiencing God, don't you think?

You say that the experience of God is not inherently important. But that is the aim of spirituality, in any tradition. If you are not on a path toward that experience, you are not on a spiritual path. If all you are looking for is an intellectual understanding, that's fine I suppose, but that is not spirituality: it's the academic study of spirituality rather than the practice of spirituality.

No, I do not experience God as I write on this forum: instead, I use this forum as an outlet for some of my contemplation, a sounding board for my intellectual studies. But I also know that God is not completely understood intellectually.


I think I agree, true spirituality requires experience. And to ignore this would turn religion into academic study. I am not saying that experience isn't important, only that it's not the ONLY important thing. Yes spirituality is part of religion, but so is academic study.
democritus
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 04:49 pm
@Axis Austin,
This Philosophy of Religion Forum is in danger of turning to a Theology Forum. I have argued it before and I am repeating [hopefully] for the last time.

Contributors to these pages should be able to distinguish the differences of these disciplines as briefly summarised below:

School:Theology - Wikiversity School of Theology, [part of Faculty for Humanities] is distinct from School of Philosophy

"The School of Theology is devoted to study of religion, spirituality, and deities. Participants here at this school may use rational analysis and argument to discuss, interpret, and teach on any of a myriad of religious topics. Within this school can be distinguished from the Division of Religious studies. The Division of Religious Studies is for multi-disciplinary and secular study of religion.

In contrast, studies within the School of Theology can be undertaken to help participants understand more truly one's own religious tradition or can be undertaken with the goal of preservation of religious traditions, reform of a particular tradition, or to apply the resources of a particular religious tradition to some present day problem, situation or need."

School:Philosophy - Wikiversity School of Philosophy, [part of Faculty for Humanities] is distinct from School of Theology

Topic:Philosophy of religion - Wikiversity The Philosophy of Religion Department, part of the School of Philosophy.


Philosophy of Religion is the rational study of the meaning and justification ( or rebuttal) of fundamental religious claims, particularly about the nature and existence of God (or gods, or the divine).

The "rationalism" - "practice of testing all religious beliefs and knowledge by reason and logic".

[I guess most universities have similar divisions - Wikiversity structure is just an example here]

Thanks
democritus
0 Replies
 
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 04:59 pm
@de Silentio,
Democritus, I'm not sure if I entirely agree with this. Why does it necessarily have to be "fundamental" religious claims? If I were to share something that I deemed spiritual with the forum, unrelated to religion, I would feel it would be appropriately placed here.

Rationalism should be a part of this forum, but why all? Surely some claims made will be out of the scope of reason and logic as you very well know (when discussing some theological handlings), so we should refrain from even speaking of any of this? I don't know if I agree with that. Again, I understand where you're coming from, but I feel Philosophy of Religion should encompass all that culminates to religion, and spirituality, whether it's evaluated under a scope of logic and reason or not.

I'm here for understanding, my friend, whether it be something I can rationalize at the moment or not, I enjoy being exposed to all sorts of information. Perhaps I'm just the only one that feels this way.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 06:58 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
First off, I want to apologize if I come off as brash, I'm really not trying to attack you, just trying to understand. I think I probe questions in ways that can be interpreted as rude, but I'm really not trying to offend. I want you to know I appreciate the discussion.


I know you are not trying to offend, which is why I have not taken offense and why I am happy to continue the conversation. I'm pretty thick skinned in these sorts of conversations, and having had discussions with you before I know your intentions are honest and good.

Zetherin wrote:
I don't understand how you interpret "Love thy neighbor as thyself" to be a figure of speech. I can literally abide, the notion boiling down to: Love everyone, including oneself. To me, "Love thy neighbor as thyself" isn't a figure of speech, but a literal command. If you apply this to your life, you're reading it literally.


Because it is, by definition, a figure of speech. It's a simile. It compares two distinct things, neighbor and self, with the word "as". We can boil down the figure of speech into something concrete but this process you call "boiling down" is the process of interpreting a figure of speech.

By interpreting the teaching, or boiling it down to 'love everyone', you are able to apply the meaning literally. But this is not to be confused with reading the figure of speech literally.

Notice the difference in practice: reading the teaching figuratively gives us the practice of loving everyone. Reading the figure of speech literally would mean that I love my neighbors as I love myself: and I very much doubt my neighbors would be happy if I tried to pleasure them in the evenings before they go to bed, eh?

Zetherin wrote:
So, let me ask, specifically, how you apply "Love thy neighbor as thyself" without applying it literally?


The difference in practice just above should answer this.

One more thing, though: I really do not like this subject because it is about me, personally. However, I've let this gone on, and will continue to carry the topic, because the subject is an important one. Mostly, this is a matter of understanding the difference between figurative and literal language.

Zetherin wrote:
If we are experiencing the soda in different ways, how is the experience the same for all of us? We can define the soda as "sweet", but we cannot be sure everyone is having the same experience (we even know this is not true because not everyone has the same spectrum of taste -- some can literally taste things others cannot)


The experience isn't the same for all of us, we are all having the experience of the same thing: drinking the soda. The way in which we experience the same experience differs due to our unique perspectives.

Zetherin wrote:
This aside, I don't see how your analogy is relevant. The taste of soda is a sensory experience, specifically taste, feel. "God" is an abstract notion, open for interpretation: There's no definitive experience, in my opinion. We can measure the amount of sugar in the soda and can define it as X sweet (which is now what I think you're saying by "having the same experience"), but how can we measure an abstract notion?


In your opinion there is no definite experience. In your opinion God is nothing more than an abstract notion. Okay, that's fine, and there is nothing much else to say.

On the other hand, I suggest that God is an experience. To back this up, I rely on the mystic experience of those from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim traditions. What supports your assertion? You see, I'm talking about the God of faith traditions. If you are talking about some other non-spiritual notion of God, then the whole conversation is futile. It's like I'm trying to talk about cars but you keep insisting that car is a word for book.

Zetherin wrote:
I believe George Carlin was making the distinction between what he worships and what he prays to, not focusing on the definition of "God", per se. He worshiped the sun, but prayed to Joe Pesci because "He looks like the kind of guy that can get **** done!".


Right, that's the joke.

Zetherin wrote:
But even if someone was using the word "God" in regards to Joe Pesci, that would be their notion of "God". I may think it's absurd, but who am I to judge?


And that's why I said if someone wants to call Joe Pesci God, that's fine. But if we are to talk about God in terms of spirituality, and one party keeps insisting that God is Joe Pesci, the Pesci party is not talking about the same thing the other interlocutors are discussing. It's like some teenager in the 70's at Sunday school calling Eric Clapton God: he can call EC God, but that doesn't mean that the Sunday School teacher is talking about EC when he says God.

Zetherin wrote:
We just disagree that the word should be liberally used. If we open up the door to everyone, we'll eventually run into a "showerer" problem. What if someone told you they were a "showerer", wouldn't you feel this is a needless inclusion in their description? Well, if you started advocating everyone should be dubbed "Christian", I feel this takes away from a once defined term, and will eventually term into something needless like "showerer". If it doesn't allow some in, then so be it. It doesn't matter if they're in or not, it's a ******* label to begin with. If they want to fight for it, I'd probably just let them win for sake of it (I contested you in order to delve into your psyche). If someone wanted to call themselves an artist simply because they had painted a picture in art class once, and they made a big fuss about it, "Go ahead, son!", I'd shout!


But my definition of Christian does not open up the door to everyone, but only to those who primarily turn to Christian scripture for scriptural guidance.

Zetherin wrote:
Taken from wikipedia:

"In recent years, spirituality as opposed to religion often carries connotations of a believer having a faith more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the doctrinal/dogmatic faiths of mature religions"


Yes, I am familiar with this distinction. But let's look at it: more personal, less dogmatic, and more open to new ideas and pluralistic. The problem with this distinction is that it assumes that mature religions cannot allow for such things. I'd argue that this is demonstrably false. For over one hundred years the Baha'i faith has made a point that there is wisdom in all faith traditions. We also find the same notion in Buddhism; I'm thinking specifically of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn who wrote a great book called Living Buddha, Living Christ where he demonstrates the openness and plurality of his Buddhist faith. Then in the Christian tradition, there is, to introduce him once again, the Catholic monk Thomas Merton who published a personal interplotation of Chuang Tzu, which is Taoist scripture.

It's not that spirituality cannot be opposed to some manifestations of religion; the problem is that spirituality cannot be seen as in opposition to certain other manifestations of religion (the examples of Merton, Thich Nhat Hahn, and the Baha'i faiths providing definitive evidence).

Zetherin wrote:
As noted, "spirituality" does not have to be defined in any sense established by any mature religion. I disagree that defining God as something effable renders me not talking of something spiritual. The "spirit" is just as loosely defined as "God". I can redefine either on a whim, yes.


Redefining God as something effable is to redefine God as something non-spiritual because to make God effable God is no longer transcendant, and is therefore not spiritual: except, perhaps, if we redefine spirituality in some liberal sense that destroys the very meaning of the term :cool:

You say that you can redefine God on a whim. I agree that you are capable of doing this, but to argue that you can accurately redefine God on a whim is nonsensical. Can I accurately redefine car as soda can? No. This is rectification of names.

Apply this argument to any other concept and it is obviously absurd. To say that God can be accurately redefined on a whim is to say that God is ultimately meaningless as God would then be a term that can be used to reference anything. If you want to argue that God is meaningless, do so: do not waste time trying to render God meaningless while also trying to assert that a meaningless God is spiritually relevant.

Zetherin wrote:
And if you truly believe I'm getting beyond what I'm capable of understanding, then you're allowed to stop at any moment. I would enjoy the lesson, but if you're not willing to respond to a lessor mind, it's completely understandable (one you perceive was coming off as brash)


It's not that I think you are a lesser mind, it's that I do not believe you have educated yourself very well about any of this. I'll be the first to admit that my understanding is severely limited; perhaps I should not be giving the lesson at all due to my own ignorance. But if you appreciate the conversation, I do not mind continuing.

You are capable of understanding: and that's an understatement! Smile

Axis Austin wrote:
"The core of earth is molten rock". I've never experienced the center of the earth. Yet I can talk about it. Similarly, I could say "God is all-powerful, based on what I've read in the Bible and through discussion, without actually experiencing him. So I disagree with your first statment.


The difference being that "the core of the earth is molten rock" is supported by scientific evidence. You have not experienced the core first hand, but others have collected empirical data on the core, and that experience provides the basis of the conversation.

To assert that "God is all-powerful" should be understood literally, you would have to have the experience of God. That you read such a thing in the Bible is no support for the statement as the language of God in the Bible, according to every serious theologian and religious scholar, should not be read literally. Without the experience, you are making an assertion about something you cannot know, an assertion which contradicts the Bible, your source, and which stands in opposition to spirituality as understood by nearly, and I mean all but a few outliers, every spiritual practitioner and teacher in history. Why should anyone buy into your assertion?

Axis Austin wrote:
Next, just because something is anthropomorphic doesn't mean it's wrong. You can say that something shares a common characteristic with humans (which is anthropomorphism) and be accurately describing it. And if you're accurately describing it, then it's not figurative, it's literal. When I say that monkeys have opposable thumbs, as do humans, I'm not speaking figuratively.


I did not say that an anthropomorphic description of God is wrong I said that an anthropomorphic description of God is figurative. An accurate description is not necessarily literal: maybe that's our disconnect, that you are not understanding the terms "literal" and "figurative".

Literal and figurative language - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Axis Austin wrote:
You are correct, description about a thing is not that thing. But if the description is correct, then we have a literal understanding of that thing. I don't get how measurement comes into it, but I don't think I'm ever going to get it either. Are you saying that anything metaphysical inherently can't be measured, and thus all language is necessarily metaphorical? If so, I simply disagree: I think we can speak literally about metaphysics.


That a description is accurate does not necessarily mean that the description is literal. I might say "oh, there are butterflies in my stomach" and be accurately describing the way I feel in figurative way.

Axis Austin wrote:
No, it is not the answer. It is so I can have a better understanding of God. This is simply different from experience. What about in other realms: is experience the only way we know anything?


Think carefully about the question: why, in terms of spiritual practice, do we argue about and contemplate God?

Academic understanding of God can be separated from spiritual practice, and that's fine: but spiritual practice is the practice of experiencing God.

Yes, experience is the only way we know anything. We can come up with tautologies that are logically valid and yet not true of reality.

Axis Austin wrote:
I think I agree, true spirituality requires experience. And to ignore this would turn religion into academic study. I am not saying that experience isn't important, only that it's not the ONLY important thing. Yes spirituality is part of religion, but so is academic study.


Experience is not the only important thing... I suppose. However, in terms of spiritual practice, experience is the most important thing: which you implicity admit when you say that spirituality requires experience, and that without spirituality one is engaging in academic study and not spirituality.

I do agree that academic study is an important part of spirituality for many people; it is important for me. But for others, academic study is of no importance. And this is important: we each have a unique path, some need academic study, others need community, and so forth: but the one unifying need is that experience. It is the experience which makes for spirituality.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 08:29 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:
Notice the difference in practice: reading the teaching figuratively gives us the practice of loving everyone. Reading the figure of speech literally would mean that I love my neighbors as I love myself: and I very much doubt my neighbors would be happy if I tried to pleasure them in the evenings before they go to bed, eh?
Fair enough, I stand corrected. I honestly was not aware that was considered a figure of speech. So, then, you basically interpret figures of speech and derive practices from such, contained within the scriptures, correct?

For those writings in the scriptures that aren't figures of speech: Do you abide by these? Is "Do not kill" also a figure of speech?

I understand this is personal, and I do apologize, but I'm very curious as to where one as educated and intelligent as yourself draws the line when abiding by a 2,000 year old scripture.

Quote:
On the other hand, I suggest that God is an experience. To back this up, I rely on the mystic experience of those from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim traditions. What supports your assertion? You see, I'm talking about the God of faith traditions. If you are talking about some other non-spiritual notion of God, then the whole conversation is futile. It's like I'm trying to talk about cars but you keep insisting that car is a word for book.
It's my fault for not clarifying beforehand -- my take on "spirituality" is much less defined, and much more personal. That is, it is not necessarily based on any tradition, of any religion; Whether it's in the form of an enlightened understanding from conversation, guided by introspection, from an experience, or from simply scriptures, I feel it's still part of one's spirituality. If it 'sits well' with one, it 'sits well' with one. It's contemplation, critical thinking on all levels, it's a process, one which I don't believe ever has an end, as every human can still learn, grow, and become more enlightened until death (whichever path they may choose). The only 'support' I have is my experience as a human thus far. All I can say is: This is how I feel.

Quote:
In your opinion there is no definite experience. In your opinion God is nothing more than an abstract notion. Okay, that's fine, and there is nothing much else to say.

On the other hand, I suggest that God is an experience. To back this up, I rely on the mystic experience of those from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim traditions. What supports your assertion? You see, I'm talking about the God of faith traditions. If you are talking about some other non-spiritual notion of God, then the whole conversation is futile. It's like I'm trying to talk about cars but you keep insisting that car is a word for book.
I feel "God" can be many things for many different people. In other words, I don't feel "God" necessarily has to be intertwined with experience, or any known mystic tradition. I understand your belief, however, and thank you for sharing.

Quote:

But my definition of Christian does not open up the door to everyone, but only to those who primarily turn to Christian scripture for scriptural guidance.
Fair enough, I still find that a bit vague, but then again, as you know, I don't have a definitive solution myself. It appears each case would just have to be subjectively evaluated.

Quote:
It's not that I think you are a lesser mind, it's that I do not believe you have educated yourself very well about any of this.
That's fair, but I would like you to know that I consistently contemplate many metaphysical concepts, such as "God", and do quite a bit of writing on the matter. Am I very educated? No, but then again, I don't really understand what I would be 'educated' concerning? I suppose you're speaking of Theological training, but I've made sure not to pick out any religions within this debate as I am very aware I am not that versed in any of them specifically: All I can go off is what I've learned thus far from my own personal journey. I understand you're seeking 'proof' and 'support' for my philosophical ramblings, but I don't really have much. The majority of this is conjured when I sit down and critically think 3-6 hours a day.

As required by my open-mind syndrome, however, I would like to ask you to recommend me some titles which you feel would educate me. Thanks.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 09:00 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
Fair enough, I stand corrected. I honestly was not aware that was considered a figure of speech. So, then, you basically interpret figures of speech and derive practices from such, contained within the scriptures, correct?


Something like that.

Zetherin wrote:
For those writings in the scriptures that aren't figures of speech: Do you abide by these? Is "Do not kill" also a figure of speech?


I imagine that you are reffering to either Exodus Chapter 20 or Deuteronomy Chapter 5. In both places, God commands "Thou shalt not murder." And that is no figure of speech when it stands alone; however, I would argue that these passages are figurative in that they are narrated by God to Moses. But the commandment not to murder is not a figure of speech and is as direct as can be imagined. Yes, I try to abide by them, not just because they are in scripture, but because they seem to be solid moral teachings.

Zetherin wrote:
I understand this is personal, and I do apologize, but I'm very curious as to where one as educated and intelligent as yourself draws the line when abiding by a 2,000 year old scripture.


People with far better educations than my own abide by that same scripture. You might look to their example for a better reference. Again, I can't say enough about Thomas Merton: checking up on his life might be a great place to start.

Zetherin wrote:
It's my fault for not clarifying beforehand -- my take on "spirituality" is much less defined, and much more personal. That is, it is not necessarily based on any tradition, of any religion; Whether it's in the form of an enlightened understanding from conversation, guided by introspection, from an experience, or from simply scriptures, I feel it's still part of one's spirituality. If it 'sits well' with one, it 'sits well' with one. It's contemplation, critical thinking on all levels, it's a process, one which I don't believe ever has an end, as every human can still learn, grow, and become more enlightened until death (whichever path they may choose). The only 'support' I have is my experience as a human thus far. All I can say is: This is how I feel.


Which is fine. But let's think about this: if someone defined God as Joe Pesci, would that understanding of God be spiritual? I do not see how.

I agree that spirituality need not be based on any religion or on any scripture.

Zetherin wrote:
I feel "God" can be many things for many different people. In other words, I don't feel "God" necessarily has to be intertwined with experience, or any known mystic tradition. I understand your belief, however, and thank you for sharing.


Sure, and God is many things to many people: we all have the experience in a unique way. My point is that to use the term God in such a way that it has nothing to do with a transcendant experience is to use the word in a way that spiritual people just do not use the word. At that point, you are talking about something else, no matter what you call it.

Zetherin wrote:
Fair enough, I still find that a bit vague, but then again, as you know, I don't have a definitive solution myself. It appears each case would just have to be subjectively evaluated.


It has to be broad enough to account for all Christians: that's where the apparent vagueness comes from. But how else do you account for a group that is as diverse as gnosticism and puritanism?

Zetherin wrote:
That's fair, but I would like you to know that I consistently contemplate many metaphysical concepts, such as "God", and do quite a bit of writing on the matter. Am I very educated? No, but then again, I don't really understand what I would be 'educated' concerning? I suppose you're speaking of Theological training, but I've made sure not to pick out any religions within this debate as I am very aware I am not that versed in any of them specifically: All I can go off is what I've learned thus far from my own personal journey. I understand you're seeking 'proof' and 'support' for my philosophical ramblings, but I don't really have much. The majority of this is conjured when I sit down and critically think 3-6 hours a day.


I'm not looking for proof, only support. An explanation as to why your assertions are more reasonable than mine. If you think about these things as much as you say you do, then you have those explanations.

As for education, it would be a knowledge of the material we have covered: the nature of the language of God, how to know God, how to apply teaching as practice, and so forth. Again, I do not know much, but I have managed to read through a few good books on these various subjects.

Zetherin wrote:
As required by my open-mind syndrome, however, I would like to ask you to recommend me some titles which you feel would educate me. Thanks.


Some books I have found useful:
Inner Revolution by Robert Thurman
Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hahn
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong
Make Your Mind an Ocean by Lama Yeshe
Becoming Your Own Therapist by Lama Yeshe (printed in a single volume with the aforementioned text, and can be ordered for free online)
Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

Texts that I do not know terribly well, but that I have sampled and was immensely impressed by them:
Enneads by Plotinus
The poetry of Rumi
The Foundations of World Unity by Abdul Baha
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 09:21 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:
I imagine that you are reffering to either Exodus Chapter 20 or Deuteronomy Chapter 5. In both places, God commands "Thou shalt not murder." And that is no figure of speech when it stands alone; however, I would argue that these passages are figurative in that they are narrated by God to Moses. But the commandment not to murder is not a figure of speech and is as direct as can be imagined. Yes, I try to abide by them, not just because they are in scripture, but because they seem to be solid moral teachings.
So, then, there are some things in the Bible you do read literally and abide by? Or, are these just like the "Thou shalt not kill"; you abide by them not only because they're in the scriptures, but because they are 'solid moral teachings'?

If you answer "yes" to the former, then that is what I was speaking about from the beginning.

Quote:
But let's think about this: if someone defined God as Joe Pesci, would that understanding of God be spiritual? I do not see how.
Well, the best example I can give is



This man believes he is Jesus Christ and the Antichrist, and supposedly has thousands of followers. These followers worship him, believing he is "God", just as one could worship Joe Pesci. Even though I find it ridiculous, I feel this could be a spiritual experience.

Quote:
Sure, and God is many things to many people: we all have the experience in a unique way. My point is that to use the term God in such a way that it has nothing to do with a transcendant experience is to use the word in a way that spiritual people just do not use the word. At that point, you are talking about something else, no matter what you call it.
Yes, as noted, we simply have different conceptions of "God". For the record, I wasn't trying to say either conception is more 'reasonable'.

---

Thank you for the book recommendations. Out of all you listed which I'm familiar with, I favor Rumi the most. Part of his well-known writing,

"Beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there"

nearly makes me cry every time I read it. It's one of the more beautiful pieces I've been exposed to.

Thanks once again,

Zetherin
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 09:37 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
So, then, there are some things in the Bible you do read literally and abide by? Or, are these just like the "Thou shalt not kill"; you abide by them not only because they're in the scriptures, but because they are 'solid moral teachings'?

If you answer "yes" to the former, then that is what I was speaking about from the beginning.


To say that I read them literally is misleading, I think. I do not read Exodus as literally true; however, when we taken certain phrases individually, like "Thou shall not commit murder", there is no need to boil-down the teaching into something that we can apply because it was not given as a figure of speech. Does that make any sense?

The whole debate became a bit clouded: at the very beginning, I referred to the Gospels, not scripture in general, but we both began to conflate the Gospels into scripture.

Zetherin wrote:
Well, the best example I can give is



This man believes he is Jesus Christ and the Antichrist, and supposedly has thousands of followers. These followers worship him, believing he is "God", just as one could worship Joe Pesci. Even though I find it ridiculous, I feel this could be a spiritual experience.


I'd refer you to the notion of "spiritual materialism" as something distinct from spirituality. There was a great article on the subject... let me see what I can find.

Spiritual materialism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism - excerpts

What these people are doing is something like spirituality, resembling spirituality at the first glance, but is ultimately the very reverse of spirituality. That's probably why you find th whole thing rediculous.

Zetherin wrote:
Yes, as noted, we simply have different conceptions of "God". For the record, I wasn't trying to say either conception is more 'reasonable'.


Ah, well we would disagree: I think some conceptions, if not more reasonable, are better suited for the spiritual life. It seems to me that when we begin to call God something other than this transcendent experience of spiritual tradition, we are leaving behind spirituality for spiritual materialism.

Zetherin wrote:
Thank you for the book recommendations. Out of all you listed which I'm familiar with, I favor Rumi the most. Part of his well-known writing,

"Beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there"

nearly makes me cry every time I read it. It's one of the more beautiful pieces I've been exposed to.


I've seen you quote that before, and the passage is also one of my favorites, from any source. But how do you interpret this passage? It seems to me that Rumi is suggesting that God is something to be experienced ("there is a field./I will meet you there.") and that academic discussion ("ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing") is not sufficient for spiritual practice: the spiritual seeker has to go to the field and meet God, experience God personally. At least that's how I've read it.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 10:43 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:
What these people are doing is something like spirituality, resembling spirituality at the first glance, but is ultimately the very reverse of spirituality. That's probably why you find th whole thing rediculous.

---

Ah, well we would disagree: I think some conceptions, if not more reasonable, are better suited for the spiritual life. It seems to me that when we begin to call God something other than this transcendent experience of spiritual tradition, we are leaving behind spirituality for spiritual materialism.


Thank you for educating me concerning this distinction, I wasn't aware.

But something about this just doesn't sit right with me. I understand how you've presented spirituality as this transcendent, traditional experience, and any deviation leaves spirituality for spiritual materialism, but I just cannot agree with this at this moment in time. I feel like I'm not being fair to those that may seek spirituality outside of this scope. Perhaps "spirituality" just isn't the right word for the concept I'm trying to express. I will seek other words.

Quote:

I've seen you quote that before, and the passage is also one of my favorites, from any source. But how do you interpret this passage? It seems to me that Rumi is suggesting that God is something to be experienced ("there is a field./I will meet you there.") and that academic discussion ("ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing") is not sufficient for spiritual practice: the spiritual seeker has to go to the field and meet God, experience God personally. At least that's how I've read it.


I must warn you, the interpretation I'm about to present is not taking into account Rumi as a person, his intentions as a poet/writer/mystic, or the context with which the quote was intended. It is only my third-party interpretation.

I interpreted "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing" as enlightenment, transcending all human application of reason, judgment, and emotion. Instead of anything being inherently "wrong" or "right" it is a reminder that things just are -- no existence is greater and any other, no judgment better or worse. "The field" is a figurative position where things just are, no judgment elicited, things just exist -- I find tremendous beauty in this. It's about placing everyone on the same 'grounds', no pedastals or floor caves, each experience as important as the next.

When he speaks,

"What can I do, Submitters to God? I do not know myself.
I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Zoroastrian nor Muslim,
I am not from east or west, not from land or sea,
not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament,
not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire.
I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world,
not from existence, not from being."

I get a sense of spirituality absent of any tradition -- and this is what I was trying to articulate above. One can journey their own spiritual path without any defined instruction. Again, I know you understand this, and I'm trying to figure a better word, and better way, to articulate this thought.
I think my position leans towards non-cognitivist, in that I don't believe there is objective truth in moral propositions, but this does not mean I don't feel morality and ethics are of value to humanity...

I find myself agnostic throughout many of my handlings, not even always metaphysically-inclined, as I try to consistently reevaluate why I've come to the conclusion I've come to. I come up for air in order to stay sane, but I feel I'm drowning most of the time. You could say I have little "Peace of Mind".
 

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