Losing one's religion

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby tentative » Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:14 pm

Bob wrote:I destinctly get the impression that I am a heretic - at least I'm not off topic ;)

Bob, if you keep working at it, you can be a heathen like me! But I'll understand if you'd rather not... :wink:
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:55 am

tentative wrote:
Bob wrote:I destinctly get the impression that I am a heretic - at least I'm not off topic ;)

Bob, if you keep working at it, you can be a heathen like me! But I'll understand if you'd rather not... :wink:

I've knocked at that door in the past but I found that they didn't really want me ... thanks for the offer though :-"
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby felix dakat » Wed Oct 19, 2011 3:44 pm

I think it’s interesting to look at the Biblical answers to the problem of evil. The Biblical authors give a number of explanations for evil, but the free will defense that is so often argued today is not one of them.. In the early Hebrew religion there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the world. It is said of heaven and earth that “he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.” [Psalm 148:6 ] No need for apocalyptic judgment was envisioned.

When Israel was conquered, the vision of the cosmos changed. The protection and blessings of God could no longer be counted on for the faithful. The people accused God of being unjust. [Ezekiel 18:25] Into this mix entered the cosmic dualism of the Persians. God gained an enemy—the Devil. The two were locked in a battle for survival involving the whole creation. There were righteous angels on God’s side and wicked demons on Satan’s. The dead would be judged. Heaven and hell, the resurrection, eternal life, and the future apocalypse all became part of the cosmic drama.

Evil came to be understood in terms of the righteous suffering for the cause of God. The good suffer when they are tested by the devil like Job was. In new order a spiritual realm was felt to exist behind the material. Into this battle entered Jesus. He was king, but not of this world. He was a warrior against the devil and the world forces of darkness. If you were one of his, you were called to suffer like he did to defeat the devil for greater glory in the other world.

So this worldview explains evil, but it is incompatible with the idea of an omnipotent God. If God is all powerful, then spiritual warfare is just an illusion. It is as if God is shadow boxing, because God 1) didn’t have to create the world this way and 2) he could fix the world in a heartbeat.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Wed Oct 19, 2011 4:48 pm

felix dakat wrote:I think it’s interesting to look at the Biblical answers to the problem of evil. The Biblical authors give a number of explanations for evil, but the free will defense that is so often argued today is not one of them.. In the early Hebrew religion there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the world. It is said of heaven and earth that “he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.” [Psalm 148:6 ] No need for apocalyptic judgment was envisioned.

When Israel was conquered, the vision of the cosmos changed. The protection and blessings of God could no longer be counted on for the faithful. The people accused God of being unjust. [Ezekiel 18:25] Into this mix entered the cosmic dualism of the Persians. God gained an enemy—the Devil. The two were locked in a battle for survival involving the whole creation. There were righteous angels on God’s side and wicked demons on Satan’s. The dead would be judged. Heaven and hell, the resurrection, eternal life, and the future apocalypse all became part of the cosmic drama.

Evil came to be understood in terms of the righteous suffering for the cause of God. The good suffer when they are tested by the devil like Job was. In new order a spiritual realm was felt to exist behind the material. Into this battle entered Jesus. He was king, but not of this world. He was a warrior against the devil and the world forces of darkness. If you were one of his, you were called to suffer like he did to defeat the devil for greater glory in the other world.

So this worldview explains evil, but it is incompatible with the idea of an omnipotent God. If God is all powerful, then spiritual warfare is just an illusion. It is as if God is shadow boxing, because God 1) didn’t have to create the world this way and 2) he could fix the world in a heartbeat.

Interestingly, Karen Armstrong writes that Ezekiel was the prophetic beginning of what would later become a “book religion” because the temple cult, which was essential for the JHVH religion, could no longer be adhered to in the Babylonian exile. At the beginning of this exile, there was as yet no master narrative, just a jumbled up group of legends, passed on by word of mouth, about the heroes of the various tribes and various scriptures of varying origin. In Babylon, of course, they were confronted by numerous other myths and analogies, which they also incorporated into what would finally become a master narrative: The Torah.

Of course you're right that this was a changing point and the duality of the world became an issue which doesn't seem to have even been cleared up conclusively for most people. Evil still has today a position equal to Good, despite the theological acrobatics undertaken to explain that, yes there is evil, but it can only expand as far as God lets it expand, and good will win in the end. This has of course a taste of dramaturgy, which keeps the master narrative enthralling, and believers in suspense. We must however question whether this ancient portrayal still has relevance.

As I wrote in the other thread, speaking about the religious experience as the centre of religion, rather than scripture and literature, “In a way it is the holy of holies at the centre of the temple, surrounded by the court of the faithful and the outer court of the nations. We tend to talk in that outer court and speculate on what is in the middle. Those who enter the inner court have a better idea, but it is only when they enter the holy of holies that they have a glimpse of what it is all about. I think that this idea of a temple was a metaphor made out of bricks and mortar for the spiritual reality, just as we find elsewhere in other traditions.” The rise of scripture was the attempt to gain inspiration by other means – of which there are plenty of examples in the world – but to a great degree it transferred religion to the head and away from the soul.

It seems to have been chiefly Jesus, but also various Prophets, who envisioned a return to a soulful religion, in which scripture is “written on the heart” and God is in the midst of the faithful. This Realm of God or Realm of Heaven needed to be discovered, not invoked, as the Pharisees seemed to claim. Trying to force God to play his hand would seem sacrilege for someone who saw God in every tree, flower, bird, animal – and in the processes of nature and even politics.

The idea of an adversary seems to be more subtle, since the devil is an adversary and accuser of humankind. He serves to show the alternatives and present humankind with a choice, which, on selecting, proves the case for the prosecutor. Humankind is on trial in this narrative. It is a trial to decide whether humankind actually is the “image of God”, or rather the image of the beast. Is it flesh or spirit which rules humankind? Can humankind transcend his natural existence? It is a question which has had astounding actuality throughout the centuries and will finally decide the future of our species.

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Amorphos » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:47 pm

My religion isn’t threatened by evil [even where I may be], because I think evil is created purely by us collectively. Its our inability to adjust and be detached, whereby we think this temporary illusion of form is such that if the brain thinks something then that is who and what we are. Its being caught in the material rather than being in command of it ~ though in our defence the latter can seam impossible to achieve.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby felix dakat » Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:36 pm

We must however question whether this ancient portrayal still has relevance.


It was posited in the western society we were born into. We took it in with our mothers' milk. For some, it is the myth they continue to live by. For the rest of us, it is the black background in our gestalt.



As I wrote in the other thread, speaking about the religious experience as the centre of religion, rather than scripture and literature, “In a way it is the holy of holies at the centre of the temple, surrounded by the court of the faithful and the outer court of the nations. We tend to talk in that outer court and speculate on what is in the middle. Those who enter the inner court have a better idea, but it is only when they enter the holy of holies that they have a glimpse of what it is all about. I think that this idea of a temple was a metaphor made out of bricks and mortar for the spiritual reality, just as we find elsewhere in other traditions.” The rise of scripture was the attempt to gain inspiration by other means – of which there are plenty of examples in the world – but to a great degree it transferred religion to the head and away from the soul.


In the spiritual tradition of my past the tabernacle and the temple were taught as a metaphor for inner lspiritual life.

It seems to have been chiefly Jesus, but also various Prophets, who envisioned a return to a soulful religion, in which scripture is “written on the heart” and God is in the midst of the faithful. This Realm of God or Realm of Heaven needed to be discovered, not invoked, as the Pharisees seemed to claim. Trying to force God to play his hand would seem sacrilege for someone who saw God in every tree, flower, bird, animal – and in the processes of nature and even politics.


Yes, Jesus revealed a different concept of God.


The idea of an adversary seems to be more subtle, since the devil is an adversary and accuser of humankind. He serves to show the alternatives and present humankind with a choice, which, on selecting, proves the case for the prosecutor. Humankind is on trial in this narrative. It is a trial to decide whether humankind actually is the “image of God”, or rather the image of the beast. Is it flesh or spirit which rules humankind? Can humankind transcend his natural existence? It is a question which has had astounding actuality throughout the centuries and will finally decide the future of our species.


Yes. The human species seems to be poised on the knife edge. Let's hope that the prophesied mass detruction of humanity is not self-fufilled.

Take Care


You too, Bob.
Last edited by felix dakat on Thu Oct 20, 2011 7:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:03 pm

Bob wrote:Interesting that you say this, since many Christians tend to differ and consider me a heretic.


Not at all, at least not on this point! On your suggestion that we are all dust in the end, yes, I would call you a heretic or disbeliever, but not on this point. (But keep in mind I don't know how good a Christian I am. Most would balk at my proposals as well!)

Bob wrote:I see the confrontation with God as God confronting me, rather than the other way around, and the chamber experience (Mt. 6:6) as the opportunity for that.


Now I'm not an expert in the Hebrew, but in the case of Abraham (at least) I believe it is remarkable that the roles are reversed, that it is Abraham who confronts God, or who stands before God. I can't give this any detail at the moment but only that this is what I've been taught.

As for the confrontation, let me be clear about what I mean. It's not necessarily that God is wrong, and that we stand before God to strip God down, so to speak. Rather it's a standing against God where we're both struggling for the same goal (viz., wisdom). Not that we're both fighting for our own view and the winner of the fight is the one who wins, but that we're in this together and we need to figure this out together, you know?

We must throw our full weight against each other, which means our full arsenal of knowledge and belief. But as you say we must be just as ready to listen as speak. Indeed, fear of the Lord (of the weight of God's words and the value they hold) is paramount. It is the beginning and our foundation.

But we must also recognize the weight of our own words as well. Not that they are necessarily right but that God wants us to throw them against God. That it is in such a confrontation where wisdom is born/received. (I have to keep referring to Job, that God says that Job spoke truly against God (42:7), and that this 'against' is the same term used of the river Jordan rushing against Behemoth. That's the scene we have to envision: A great beast pushing against a mighty river, pushing forward, yes, but where the river throws all that it has against it in the confrontation.)

Bob wrote:I pray in as much as my ritual prepares me to listen rather than speak, although I do speak or chant at the beginning. After that I am more in meditation mode, watching and listening, concentrating on the breath, centred and relaxed. I would like to think that wisdom grows in that experience, but it is probably only to be found in a growing knowledge of myself.


I know the feeling. To be honest though, it sounds more Buddhist than Christian! Jews, for instance, don't strike me as the meditative type. Rather the virile, warrior type! I think this posture is critical though. It is essential that we listen. That we clear our mind. That we wipe it of our presuppositions so that we're in a space where we're open to new ideas that may outstrip our own. (Indeed, while Job threw all that he had against God he also listened. He discerned what God was saying and took it to heart rather than focusing on his own arguments in the effort to win a point against God.)

Bob wrote:I wasn't clear then, because I do not rule anything out, and like I say, I have listened to what other people have said about resurrection, but I can't decide how it is to be understood as yet. I have come across so many things that make full sense when I do not demand that they be literally true, but with the resurrection, I am inconclusive. I just haven't any reason to believe that the dead rise here and now, and bereavement always remains bereavement – whatever I believe.


I think it's easy to diminish the power of resurrection if we strip it of its literal truth. It has to be maintained in its fullest sense. Of restoration of bodily life some time in the future. So I think you are right to avoid such non-literal views. But yes, I don't think it will ever be understood. Science and technology may be involved in providing the answer. Who knows. But right now and up until now it has been an item of faith, and I don't think I need to tell you that faith requires no conclusiveness in the believer. (As such it would no longer be faith.)

Instead, we have to believe and commit our full selves to that belief. Not that "God gives and God takes away" but that God gives. That the gift (of life) is what God promises us, and that this promise was never meant to be (and never has been) annuled. While sin may have brought death into the world, not even sin is strong enough to annul this promise. And while a "gift economy" may require we not hold on to what we're given, that we be ready to have it taken back (or regiven as a gift), a gift economy also means that what we do give back will return. It will return and be even greater than before. (In truth it is "God gives and God takes away, but then God gives even more.")

Bob wrote:Words are human, and I believe that they block our ability to receive. Communication is more effective heart-to-heart and lovers and friends need few words in their communion, and they are often abstract, poetic, soul-language. I believe that it is this soul-language that we have lost in attempts to be overly rational – which is the trap for believers and non-believers alike, it seems. If the soul communicates or is communicated to, we feel the message more than we rationally understand it. This is also an experience that inspired scientists have in common with gurus and inspired spiritual people. Inspiration hits us and we make words or formulae out of it – and thereby immediately falsify the immediacy of that inspiration. But it is all we can do.

I think that we just need to keep a beginners mind alive but with reverence and awe. Everything else will sort itself out.


Who am I to argue? That is the beginning of wisdom. But I do think we need to learn to fear our own words as well, that they can carry the weight of God's (or can carry wisdom and truth in their own right). I can't trust that everything else will sort itself out. Fear of God is not enough.

And while I would agree with your critique, that we've lost touch with a certain pre-rational mode of communication, I would also add that the rational is an important mode, and it is just as necessary to speak to people's minds as it is to people's hearts. Where before the heart was cut off and the mind received full attention, the solution is not to turn all of our attention to the heart and to forget the mind. We must deal with the human person in its fullness: heart, body, and mind. I don't think you would disagree. I say this just to make sure we're on the same page.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:59 pm

Hi alyoshka,
Now I'm not an expert in the Hebrew, but in the case of Abraham (at least) I believe it is remarkable that the roles are reversed, that it is Abraham who confronts God, or who stands before God. I can't give this any detail at the moment but only that this is what I've been taught.

As for the confrontation, let me be clear about what I mean. It's not necessarily that God is wrong, and that we stand before God to strip God down, so to speak. Rather it's a standing against God where we're both struggling for the same goal (viz., wisdom). Not that we're both fighting for our own view and the winner of the fight is the one who wins, but that we're in this together and we need to figure this out together, you know?

Yes, I understand you and agree with you there. It is in the German word “Auseinandersetzung” which literally means sitting apart, refusing to merge until the issue is cleared up. With Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah it is a case of God looking for Abraham's recognition of the situation and his inclusion in decision about the final destiny of that city. Inclusion involves joint decisions and Abraham tests what he has trusted about JHVH in his intercession but is slowly whittled down to accept the reality of the situations. Yes, he interceded, but he had to come to realise the truth.

We must throw our full weight against each other, which means our full arsenal of knowledge and belief. But as you say we must be just as ready to listen as speak. Indeed, fear of the Lord (of the weight of God's words and the value they hold) is paramount. It is the beginning and our foundation.

Whilst I agree that we must wrestle, it must be clear that we are in fact wrestling for the truth of the matter. Jacob gains a new name, but his hip will always remind him of that struggle. In fact, it isn't really with God that we wrestle, but with truths which we often will not accept. Intercession also has this aspect about it, although we often understand it as petitionary, but rarely does God solve situations for us, but people are put in the position to sort it out themselves. People who pray are often people who give generously and in that prayerful community, their joint generosity often solves the problem. Ideally prayerful people are also mindful people who are aware of what is going on in their parish, so petition is fulfilled by people who are out listening.

But we must also recognize the weight of our own words as well. Not that they are necessarily right but that God wants us to throw them against God. That it is in such a confrontation where wisdom is born/received. (I have to keep referring to Job, that God says that Job spoke truly against God (42:7), and that this 'against' is the same term used of the river Jordan rushing against Behemoth. That's the scene we have to envision: A great beast pushing against a mighty river, pushing forward, yes, but where the river throws all that it has against it in the confrontation.)

I get the feeling that the impetus of our own words is dependent upon their direction and intention. We hear enough people complaining and meet enough depressed people, but really prayerful people complain less and are less depressive. Their constructive and considerate approach to problems is congruent with their prayer life, so that the wonders they wish would happen can come true by their own doing.

To be honest though, it sounds more Buddhist than Christian! Jews, for instance, don't strike me as the meditative type. Rather the virile, warrior type! I think this posture is critical though. It is essential that we listen. That we clear our mind. That we wipe it of our presuppositions so that we're in a space where we're open to new ideas that may outstrip our own. (Indeed, while Job threw all that he had against God he also listened. He discerned what God was saying and took it to heart rather than focusing on his own arguments in the effort to win a point against God.)

I think that the contrast between Buddhism and Christianity helps both, which is what I understand the Dalai Lama as having said (http://www.wccm.org/content/good-heart). I also believe that the Christianity does differ from Judaism, and that Buddhist spirituality has a lot to give Christians. (see http://ncronline.org/news/double-belong ... tian-faith & http://frimmin.com/faith/lotuscross.php)

I think it's easy to diminish the power of resurrection if we strip it of its literal truth. It has to be maintained in its fullest sense. Of restoration of bodily life some time in the future. So I think you are right to avoid such non-literal views. But yes, I don't think it will ever be understood. Science and technology may be involved in providing the answer. Who knows. But right now and up until now it has been an item of faith, and I don't think I need to tell you that faith requires no conclusiveness in the believer. (As such it would no longer be faith.)

Instead, we have to believe and commit our full selves to that belief. Not that "God gives and God takes away" but that God gives. That the gift (of life) is what God promises us, and that this promise was never meant to be (and never has been) annuled. While sin may have brought death into the world, not even sin is strong enough to annul this promise. And while a "gift economy" may require we not hold on to what we're given, that we be ready to have it taken back (or regiven as a gift), a gift economy also means that what we do give back will return. It will return and be even greater than before. (In truth it is "God gives and God takes away, but then God gives even more.")

I believe that the whole issue of Christianity is about “theosis” (see: http://frimmin.com/faith/theosis.php) and that this subject has been covered in differing degrees by several religions, if not all of them. The big problem about “God” is the elusiveness, like someone turning the far corner away from us as we come around the near corner, we get a shadow or we see a shoe-sole but they're gone. Or its like steam in a sunbeam that dances and floats in front of you, but fades as you get closer. Or it is like a star that catches our eyes in the telescope but which fades with the sunlight and we are left waiting for our next opportunity.

We associate all good things with God, and express our thanks, but we seem to be unthankful when those gifts are taken back. Really, nobody guaranteed how long we would have what has made our life a joy but, however short the joy lasts, we are better off for having experienced it. We also know that we learn more when life isn't so light and easy, and that the “good life” makes us fat, lethargic and clinging to the sweet things, but reason seems to leave us in times when we feel hard done by.

Resurrection seems to me to be the hope of an endless “good life” for many, and I just feel that life is more than ambrosia. The Greeks and the Buddhists make jokes about the gods in their “heaven”, because they are jealous of human beings for their possibilities. Whatever resurrection is, I just hope it isn't as boring as some theologians make it seem to be.

... while I would agree with your critique, that we've lost touch with a certain pre-rational mode of communication, I would also add that the rational is an important mode, and it is just as necessary to speak to people's minds as it is to people's hearts. Where before the heart was cut off and the mind received full attention, the solution is not to turn all of our attention to the heart and to forget the mind. We must deal with the human person in its fullness: heart, body, and mind. I don't think you would disagree. I say this just to make sure we're on the same page.

But that is a very important issue – we are very much “heart, body, and mind”, so much so that we can't locate our consciousness, even though we know where in the brain information is stored and called up, but one of the biggest mysteries today remains human conciousness, and the psyche is even more of a mystery. What I was talking about, however, is that this age of rationality has shown itself to be as erroneous as previous ages, despite our conviction that we have progressed. We have moved on, but our goal remains over that hill, and we don't know what it looks like. What we do know is that if we only concentrate on heart, body or mind, we will be restricting our awareness still further.

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby omar » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:28 pm

quetzalcoatl wrote:My religion isn’t threatened by evil [even where I may be], because I think evil is created purely by us collectively. Its our inability to adjust and be detached, whereby we think this temporary illusion of form is such that if the brain thinks something then that is who and what we are. Its being caught in the material rather than being in command of it ~ though in our defence the latter can seam impossible to achieve.


I guess that that fantasy is more real than the metaphysical construct you propose. We can't be detached. It is what makes us human. The POE is a distinctly human problem. This temporary illusion of form, as you call it, is who I am, be. There is no other existence beyond it other than that which I can arbitrarily postulate. I am as far as that brain takes me. It's hope to "command" the material? Well that is just another one of it's illusions. It suffers from illusion and calms itself through illusions.

The POE, as Ehrman has postulated it, seems to me an honest, logical, response to the perceptions of the world and the assumptions made beyond the world. The problem is not the world but our ideas of it, not the problem of God but the problem about our ideas about God. If we cannot admit ignorance, if we cannot let go of our preconceptions, then the world does present a problem.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:20 am

Hi Bob,

Had a message all written up awhile back, then closed the window. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Bob wrote:Inclusion involves joint decisions and Abraham tests what he has trusted about JHVH in his intercession but is slowly whittled down to accept the reality of the situations. Yes, he interceded, but he had to come to realise the truth.


I must admit it makes me a little uncomfortable, phrases like "Abraham tests" and "he had to come to realize the truth." This is gnit-picking mind. To be honest, I think God is right pissed in this scene. Emotionally unstable and perhaps not acting for the right reason. Abraham intercedes to make sure God doesn't do something God won't soon regret. "Are you sure you want to do this God? What if there are a hundred good people there? Would you hold off?" There is no test and instead of Abraham being the one who has to realize the truth it is God.

This becomes clearer when we compare this scene to the one with Moses and God, when God is pissed and Moses has to intercede, or cool God down, to stop God from descending upon Israel and decimating them. What's interesting, and what is often missed, is that Moses succeeds. God decides to spare Israel for its idolatry (God comes to realize the truth). But when Moses subsequently looks upon Israel he becomes enraged himself! The problem then is that Aaron fails to talk Moses down, and so Israel is decimated (at Moses' order!). (We have to keep the pairs in mind! Moses is to God as Aaron is to Moses. In this scene, Moses succeeds in his 'partnering/wife/voice of wisdom' role and Aaron fails. He fails to bring Moses to wisdom as Moses succeeded to bring God.)

(I didn't respond before to your previous comment on this scene with Moses. But since I've reraised it I should. To refresh, you said:

Moses does wield the sword against those he had freed, and some say that it was a whole new generation that finally occupied Canaan. The whole story of JHVH is full of this kind of stunning cruelty against those who misbehave, and it is finally a reason for many to turn away from Theism. The only answer, and it is in my view the answer, is to understand that these stories are archetypal myths for us to learn by. If we would take it literally, we would become schizo. But if we understand that life does confront us with situations which we would like to avoid, the ability to stand in the face of disaster and seek a path onwards is practical wisdom and the wailing of widows can only serve the ritual separation from the past.


Maybe from what I've said you'll see that there is another answer. God made the wise decision and spared Israel. There is no reason to see God as cruel, nor to decide against a literall reading. It's Moses who ordered the genocide (because Aaron failed as intercessor).

This gets to your next comment...

Bob wrote:In fact, it isn't really with God that we wrestle, but with truths which we often will not accept. Intercession also has this aspect about it, although we often understand it as petitionary, but rarely does God solve situations for us, but people are put in the position to sort it out themselves. People who pray are often people who give generously and in that prayerful community, their joint generosity often solves the problem. Ideally prayerful people are also mindful people who are aware of what is going on in their parish, so petition is fulfilled by people who are out listening.


I agree. It's on us. It is as much up to Aaron and Moses as it is Moses and God. I would also agree with you that it is God who we sometimes wrestle with. Job for instance is one of the rare ones who wrestles with God. But what is also clear is that the friends had their chance to do the job first, to console Job, but they failed. Thus God had to step up. (It would be great if God wasn't needed to step up like that, thus I agree with you. If we fulfilled that role.)

Bob wrote:Their constructive and considerate approach to problems is congruent with their prayer life, so that the wonders they wish would happen can come true by their own doing.


You'll have to teach me how to pray then!

Bob wrote:I believe that the whole issue of Christianity is about “theosis”


Absolutely. It's in relating how this happens that issues arise! To refer to the previous example, I would want to say that it's being like Moses. We see his Godlikeness if we look at him in his relationship with Aaron, where he plays the role of God and Aaron the role of wisdom or advisor. (But indeed, we quickly see that there's more to it than that. We also see Moses playing a subordinate role to God in his Godlikeness or theosis.)

Bob wrote:We associate all good things with God, and express our thanks, but we seem to be unthankful when those gifts are taken back. Really, nobody guaranteed how long we would have what has made our life a joy but, however short the joy lasts, we are better off for having experienced it. We also know that we learn more when life isn't so light and easy, and that the “good life” makes us fat, lethargic and clinging to the sweet things, but reason seems to leave us in times when we feel hard done by.

Resurrection seems to me to be the hope of an endless “good life” for many, and I just feel that life is more than ambrosia. The Greeks and the Buddhists make jokes about the gods in their “heaven”, because they are jealous of human beings for their possibilities. Whatever resurrection is, I just hope it isn't as boring as some theologians make it seem to be.


It's hard to believe that the good things we have taken away will ever return. Once we have them we want to keep them. We don't want to give them up. And when they're gone it's hard to stay positive.

But it's one thing to take joy in the time we had. It's another to learn a lesson from our hardship. But what is perhaps greatest of all is believing that the good things will return. That's an irrepressible hope and faith in the power and love of God. It doesn't preclude taking joy and learning from hardship, or even the possibility of hardship. Resurrection doesn't reduce life to ambrosia. In fact, it implies suffering and death. There can be no resurrection without these. No resurrection unless the good things we have are taken away, and no irrepressible hope and faith unless we're in a situation where these seem impossible.

(Which is not to say that we need the suffering and death mind, but only that these are realities in the world. Even without them I wouldn't say that life is ambrosia. Indeed, Adam and Eve were set a difficult task of subduing creation before these entered into the world.)
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:35 pm

Hi Alyoshka,

I must admit it makes me a little uncomfortable, phrases like "Abraham tests" and "he had to come to realize the truth." This is gnit-picking mind. To be honest, I think God is right pissed in this scene. Emotionally unstable and perhaps not acting for the right reason. Abraham intercedes to make sure God doesn't do something God won't soon regret. "Are you sure you want to do this God? What if there are a hundred good people there? Would you hold off?" There is no test and instead of Abraham being the one who has to realize the truth it is God.

This really does show JHVH up to be a bit despotic, doesn't it? The very thought that God could be “pissed” goes against the grain of the OT. In keeping with the storyline, Abraham is being prepared for his role as a “blessing for the nations”, which apparently is the role of a priest, but this story is being written to give Israel just that role in the world. That is why you find a similar development in the story of Moses, and finally in Joseph – who is an archetype of the Christ.

I have accepted these stories as archetypal myths for us to learn by, since it was in the Christian tradition I was brought up in, which I know isn't the Jewish reading – or at least not commonly. However, the fundamentalist will complain at my rejecting historicity and deny me my right to consider myself Christian, but it is the only way I can appreciate these stories.

I agree. It's on us. It is as much up to Aaron and Moses as it is Moses and God. I would also agree with you that it is God who we sometimes wrestle with. Job for instance is one of the rare ones who wrestles with God. But what is also clear is that the friends had their chance to do the job first, to console Job, but they failed. Thus Godhad to step up. (It would be great if God wasn't needed to step up like that, thus I agree with you. If we fulfilled that role.)

I think we have to learn to create communities where these stories are common guidelines amongst us in order that we understand the requirements of humanity in the face of a God/Reality that takes as it gives, that rains or shines on the good and bad in like manner, and presents us with the opportunity to live in abundance or equally to rot in poverty. The question is always what we make of what we are given, which way we choose to go and whether we choose cooperation or conflict. The Law is presented in that way: As a promise or as a curse.

It's hard to believe that the good things we have taken away will ever return. Once we have them we want to keep them. We don't want to give them up. And when they're gone it's hard to stay positive.

But it's one thing to take joy in the time we had. It's another to learn a lesson from our hardship. But what is perhaps greatest of all is believing that the good things willreturn. That's an irrepressible hope and faith in the power and love of God. It doesn't preclude taking joy and learning from hardship, or even the possibility of hardship. Resurrection doesn't reduce life to ambrosia. In fact, it implies suffering and death. There can be no resurrection without these. No resurrection unless the good things we have are taken away, and no irrepressible hope and faith unless we're in a situation where these seem impossible.

(Which is not to say that we need the suffering and death mind, but only that these are realities in the world. Even without them I wouldn't say that life is ambrosia. Indeed, Adam and Eve were set a difficult task of subduing creation before these entered into the world.)

I think one of the biggest problems we have with reality is that it isn't ours to keep and it seems to have a will of its own. We are often left trying to figure out why it happened the way it did. Equanimity in the face of loss is just one possibility – we could just as well complain, scream and shout. The question is whether it is worth the energy wasted. The way I understand resurrection is that, even if there may be hope of another life, if I learn from those people I highly rate, I will do what they told me to do, hold their words in esteem and tell stories about them. That way they live again in our midst regardless of whether we will see each other in an afterlife or not.

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:22 pm

Bob wrote:This really does show JHVH up to be a bit despotic, doesn't it?


Not at all! It shows that God respects Moses as an advisor. God listens to God's subjects. Typically you don't associate that kind of behaviour with a despot.

Bob wrote:The very thought that God could be “pissed” goes against the grain of the OT.


Really? What about the flood? What about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about all the passages about God's anger? I think there's a strong case to be made for ascribing the full range of emotions to God from jealousy to anger to regret to love and other more positive feelings.

Bob wrote:Abraham is being prepared for his role as a “blessing for the nations”, which apparently is the role of a priest, but this story is being written to give Israel just that role in the world. That is why you find a similar development in the story of Moses, and finally in Joseph – who is an archetype of the Christ.


I can't deny this. Abraham is set to do what humankind more broadly had so far failed to do. But I think it would be wrong to construe God's punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all of the scenes related to it, as a preparation of Abraham. This action on God's part has its own context, a broader context than the preparation of Abraham. So while Abraham may be involved by God because God likes Abraham, or because God wants to prepare him for his priestly duties, this is not the purpose of God's action nor is it the context we should read this scene, or associated scenes, in.

So to be clear, yes, I think Abraham is being prepared here for his priestly duties, in virtue of the fact that he is exercising his wisdom and participating in God's rule. But the true context is that God is angry with the Sodomites and delivering a vengeance upon them. (A vengeance that Abraham is making sure God has thoroughly thought through in the practicing of his priestly vocation.)

Bob wrote:However, the fundamentalist will complain at my rejecting historicity and deny me my right to consider myself Christian, but it is the only way I can appreciate these stories.


I could live with or without a strict historicity. Don't really care to be honest. In a similar vein as you, I see these stories as showing Abraham practicing his priestly role. In doing so it shows us what our responsibility is as human beings (whether or not the events actually occurred).

But these scenes do reveal more. They also show God angry, and hint at a deeper context. Or at least, they show that the priestly role is mediating between God and the rest. Our job is to intercede. Advocate. Advise. It is to make sure the wise course of action is always taken, even when it means questioning God. That's what's really going on. (It is not a lesson or preparation per se but a revelation of the live fulfillment of our humanity in Abraham.)

Bob wrote:I think we have to learn to create communities where these stories are common guidelines amongst us in order that we understand the requirements of humanity in the face of a God/Reality that takes as it gives, that rains or shines on the good and bad in like manner, and presents us with the opportunity to live in abundance or equally to rot in poverty. The question is always what we make of what we are given, which way we choose to go and whether we choose cooperation or conflict. The Law is presented in that way: As a promise or as a curse.


I think that's fair. We have to be careful to recognize, though, that they are guidelines. If we follow too rigidly, that's when the Law can become a curse.

Bob wrote:The way I understand resurrection is that, even if there may be hope of another life, if I learn from those people I highly rate, I will do what they told me to do, hold their words in esteem and tell stories about them. That way they live again in our midst regardless of whether we will see each other in an afterlife or not.


That's a perfect rationalization of resurrection. A way to take the miracle out of it and make it real, or realizable, or perfectly in accord with what we know is possible. It's very Greek of you, like Achilles, who wants to live forever in memory or story.

Again, it misses the extremity or 'beyond possibility' that resurrection is supposed to invoke. It misses what we are called by God to believe in. (That for God, all things are possible, as Job so proudly declares in the end.)
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:41 pm

Hi alyoshka,

Sorry about answering late, I haven't been well – but things are looking better now.
It shows that God respects Moses as an advisor. God listens to God's subjects. Typically you don't associate that kind of behaviour with a despot.

Whereas I would have agreed with you in Abraham’s dealings with JHVH, Moses is another kettle of fish, just as other parts of the Bible, which you have noted, show him to be a God that has to learn in his dealings with his subjects. Along the way, multitudes of people lose their lives, which is the despotic nature I am referring to. That is, if you take the Bible literally and not seriously.

I can't deny this. Abraham is set to do what humankind more broadly had so far failed to do. But I think it would be wrong to construe God's punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all of the scenes related to it, as a preparation of Abraham. This action on God's part has its own context, a broader context than the preparation of Abraham. So while Abraham may be involved by God because God likes Abraham, or because God wants to prepare him for his priestly duties, this is not the purpose of God's action nor is it the context we should read this scene, or associated scenes, in.

I read Genesis as a composition, describing how God grew to become the God of the Jews after the second homecoming, this time from the Babylonian captivity. It was a brave thing to do, and the scribes of Ezra did a fine job of collecting scriptures which supported this legend. The covenant with Abraham was to be one-sided, with God completing the ritual and Abraham looking on. It was always one-sided, if we could but see it. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was growing with every generation in the awareness of the faithful. Abraham tried to free himself of idols, Isaac realised, after making many mistakes that his father had made before him, that his faith gave him room to move, even when he was cornered by human beings. Jacob realised that he could struggle with God, and that despite wrongdoing, there was a way back to faith.

This ridding of idols, the gaining of spiritual infinitude and freedom from aspirations of perfection, are steps up a spiritual ladder for all human kind to go. We are unfortunately all still at the first step, because we haven't learnt the first lesson of Abraham. What is an idol really? Is it not an image? Is it not our imagination the very attribute which seeks out all of those things we cling to? And how narrow-minded we are! The grandness of the spirit is still a very foreign thing to us; the broadness, the height, the depth of the glory of God still evades us as we stick to our nitty-gritty duality of rights and wrongs, whereas reality is all of this. And how many people aspire to perfection and so hate themselves and others, whereas Jesus shows us that the love of God is linked with the love of ourselves and our neighbours? There is no room for perfection, except in the sense of finding completeness in God, who provides all of what I am lacking by grace.

It is by awareness of this that we bow down in humility, accepting the fact that we are what we are – there is no changing that, but if we can learn to stop climbing and clinging and let ourselves float in grace, in the spirit, we may achieve in non-doing, all we thought we have to do. Because it isn't in what we do, but in what we learn not to do, and surrender to the mercy of God, that we find redemption – a mystery for philosophers and priests alike through the centuries.

So to be clear, yes, I think Abraham is being prepared here for his priestly duties, in virtue of the fact that he is exercising his wisdom and participating in God's rule. But the true context is that God is angry with the Sodomites and delivering a vengeance upon them. (A vengeance that Abraham is making sure God has thoroughly thought through in the practicing of his priestly vocation.)

The fact that Abraham petitions for the smallest number of righteous reveals that his understanding of righteousness is as yet not matured. “All have sinned and fallen short” and would be waste to be burned, but for grace. A deep mystery indeed on which enough have blunted their astute minds. The fact is, that Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed. Even Lot's wife turns into a pillar of salt for looking back. This is a rough lesson to learn: “All have sinned and fallen short!”

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Sat Nov 05, 2011 5:07 pm

Hi Bob. Hope your health is continuing to improve.

Bob wrote:Whereas I would have agreed with you in Abraham’s dealings with JHVH, Moses is another kettle of fish, just as other parts of the Bible, which you have noted, show him to be a God that has to learn in his dealings with his subjects. Along the way, multitudes of people lose their lives, which is the despotic nature I am referring to. That is, if you take the Bible literally and not seriously.


I hear you. I've entertained the idea of a morally maturing God, that is, a God that is infantile but all powerful (i.e., despotic) and who has to grow up, so to speak, but who makes a lot of mistakes along the way. Jung for instance reads the book of Job in this way. Details aside, God is an immature tyrant and Job is the bigger man who has come to see this in the end ("now I see you") but remains faithful.

I guess I don't mind the idea of a God who makes mistakes, or who gets angry, and who doesn't always think things through and may act out of emotion rather than wisdom, etc. However I don't like the idea so much of a morally maturing God.

Or let me try to be more precise. I don't mind the idea of a morally maturing God (indeed, God is always confronting something new, and wisdom is an organic, growing thing, like a tree) but I think it would be wrong to ever see God as without wisdom, or as not beholden to wisdom (like a despot, who is beholden only to his own interests). No matter the violence we see committed, no matter the hastiness of some of God's decisions, we have to see wisdom operative in them nonetheless, or we have to recognize that God is always open to an intervention in the name of wisdom, and that God will always side with wisdom. (The first of God's ways...)

(There may very well be instances where that intervention failed to materialize and God did act out of something other than wisdom. There are many possibilities here. It would take a super close reading of the texts to say for certain however--I would refer again to Moses' decimation of Israel which is often pinned on God but which is clearly at Moses' command after God forgave Israel.)

Bob wrote:I read Genesis as a composition, describing how God grew to become the God of the Jews after the second homecoming, this time from the Babylonian captivity. It was a brave thing to do, and the scribes of Ezra did a fine job of collecting scriptures which supported this legend. The covenant with Abraham was to be one-sided, with God completing the ritual and Abraham looking on. It was always one-sided, if we could but see it. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was growing with every generation in the awareness of the faithful. Abraham tried to free himself of idols, Isaac realised, after making many mistakes that his father had made before him, that his faith gave him room to move, even when he was cornered by human beings. Jacob realised that he could struggle with God, and that despite wrongdoing, there was a way back to faith.

This ridding of idols, the gaining of spiritual infinitude and freedom from aspirations of perfection, are steps up a spiritual ladder for all human kind to go. We are unfortunately all still at the first step, because we haven't learnt the first lesson of Abraham. What is an idol really? Is it not an image? Is it not our imagination the very attribute which seeks out all of those things we cling to? And how narrow-minded we are! The grandness of the spirit is still a very foreign thing to us; the broadness, the height, the depth of the glory of God still evades us as we stick to our nitty-gritty duality of rights and wrongs, whereas reality is all of this. And how many people aspire to perfection and so hate themselves and others, whereas Jesus shows us that the love of God is linked with the love of ourselves and our neighbours? There is no room for perfection, except in the sense of finding completeness in God, who provides all of what I am lacking by grace.

It is by awareness of this that we bow down in humility, accepting the fact that we are what we are – there is no changing that, but if we can learn to stop climbing and clinging and let ourselves float in grace, in the spirit, we may achieve in non-doing, all we thought we have to do. Because it isn't in what we do, but in what we learn not to do, and surrender to the mercy of God, that we find redemption – a mystery for philosophers and priests alike through the centuries.


I don't know Bob. This strikes again to the very beginning or heart of this conversation. You're speaking in a way that affirms what I would call the 'fear of God' reading of the book of Job. That perhaps Job's "perfection" or "completeness" is what he needs to learn a lesson on, that without God's grace Job is of small account, and that in the end Job "repents in the dust and ashes" or, as you put it here, he "bows down in humility, accepting the fact that he is what he is," namely a small, ignorant thing before God. (What Job has restored in the end is his fear of God.)

It denies to Job (and humanity more broadly) the power and dignity that I believe we hold as tselem elohim. It turns more to humility and fear of God than to pride and fear of our own potential which I believe is the true lesson of the book (if not the Bible, which instantiates this theme in Genesis 1 and brings it to a close with the coming of the Son of Man in glory and honour).

To look more at Job in critique of your position, it is clear that Job's life was not just a "floating in grace" and his riches were not just "achieved in non-doing." Indeed, Job shunned evil, but he also recounts a number of things, Godlike things, that he did in his life. Job 31, for instance, offers a mixture of doings and non-doings that Job cites in defense of his innocence. ("Have I ever withheld from the poor their desire?", "Have I ever not shared my meal with the hungry?" In these instances it is the grace of Job, not God, that makes others complete..)

Bob wrote:This is a rough lesson to learn: “All have sinned and fallen short!”


Job? Jesus? Can you say where either of these have fallen short? Abraham, perhaps. Jacob, yes. Moses, undoubtedly. David, absolutely. But there are some cases of human perfection. And here's the thing: it is most evident when all the gifts (or graces) of God have been stripped away (not when God's grace at last completes!). (Indeed, Job and Jesus are more complete when the grace of God is removed, because they prove themselves true, to God and themselves, even when they have no reason to be true. They reveal themselves as true "for nothing" as the satan puts it.)

But yes, the Job's and Jesus' are few and far between, and we can declare with you that "All have sinned and fallen short." We live in a fallen world and amongst a fallen humanity. The grace of God (or Jesus or Job) is required to make us complete. To forgive us our sins. To make us worthy of resurrection. To help restore us to our original and intended dignity.

So I can agree with what you say. But at the same time I have to say that you are wrong. Your perspective takes for granted the fallenness of the world (and humankind). (In this context is where I can affirm what you say.) I think you need to step out of this context. You need to backup out of Genesis 3 (and beyond) and recall our original blessing and calling before things started to fall apart.

(Nowhere is it said in Genesis 1 that humankind is incapable of perfectly performing its role as tselem elohim without the further grace of God. Maybe this implies some naivety in God, or maybe I'm being naive, but I don't think God would make us and call us to do something we couldn't do. God certainly didn't say to the first human being "float now in grace and achieve through non-doing". No, God gave us a positive task of cultivation and care and subduing creation.)
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby north » Sat Nov 05, 2011 10:16 pm

quetzalcoatl wrote:My religion isn’t threatened by evil [even where I may be], because I think evil is created purely by us collectively. Its our inability to adjust and be detached, whereby we think this temporary illusion of form is such that if the brain thinks something then that is who and what we are. Its being caught in the material rather than being in command of it ~ though in our defence the latter can seam impossible to achieve.


I'm an atheist

I think religion attracts evil
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Sat Nov 05, 2011 11:04 pm

Hi alyoshka,

I guess I don't mind the idea of a God who makes mistakes, or who gets angry, and who doesn't always think things through and may act out of emotion rather than wisdom, etc. However I don't like the idea so much of a morally maturing God.

Or let me try to be more precise. I don't mind the idea of a morally maturing God (indeed, God is always confronting something new, and wisdom is an organic, growing thing, like a tree) but I think it would be wrong to ever see God as without wisdom, or as not beholden to wisdom (like a despot, who is beholden only to his own interests). No matter the violence we see committed, no matter the hastiness of some of God's decisions, we have to see wisdom operative in them nonetheless, or we have to recognize that God is always open to an intervention in the name of wisdom, and that God will always side with wisdom. (The first of God's ways...)

(There may very well be instances where that intervention failed to materialize and God did act out of something other than wisdom. There are many possibilities here. It would take a super close reading of the texts to say for certain however--I would refer again to Moses' decimation of Israel which is often pinned on God but which is clearly at Moses' command after God forgave Israel.)

Whatever the reality behind our metaphor “God” (which really only describes our relationship to that “Great Unknown”) it isn't the way we have perceived it to be, it isn't our conception, it isn't the images we use and, it isn't the “infant God” who grows up as time goes by. I feel that what is growing up is our perception or our conceptions – although that may be disproved at any time. It helps us to focus by using the image of an eternal almighty God, just as the Hindus have their deities as do the Greeks and many other traditions, but it does reality no more credit than our diary jottings do for what happened on a certain day.

Wisdom is associated with God but wisdom is more than all-knowing, it is the time-proven result of experience and the in depth knowing of reality. This idea is projected on to the deities in different ways, it just so happens that the Judeo-Christian God is one and so he has all of the attributes of wisdom, whereas in polytheism they may be spread about. This projection is a kind of forgoing a full perception of what God is since, as we know, no-one can see God and live. I think that this is all acceptable – as long as we are sure about what we are doing and don't dupe ourselves into believing that our image of God is God.

You're speaking in a way that affirms what I would call the 'fear of God' reading of the book of Job. That perhaps Job's "perfection" or "completeness" is what he needs to learn a lesson on, that without God's grace Job is of small account, and that in the end Job "repents in the dust and ashes" or, as you put it here, he "bows down in humility, accepting the fact that he is what he is," namely a small, ignorant thing before God. (What Job has restored in the end is his fear of God.)

It denies to Job (and humanity more broadly) the power and dignity that I believe we hold as tselem elohim. It turns more to humility and fear of God than to pride and fear of our own potential which I believe is the true lesson of the book (if not the Bible, which instantiates this theme in Genesis 1 and brings it to a close with the coming of the Son of Man in glory and honour).

To look more at Job in critique of your position, it is clear that Job's life was not just a "floating in grace" and his riches were not just "achieved in non-doing." Indeed, Job shunned evil, but he also recounts a number of things, Godlike things, that he did in his life. Job 31, for instance, offers a mixture of doings and non-doings that Job cites in defense of his innocence. ("Have I ever withheld from the poor their desire?", "Have I ever not shared my meal with the hungry?" In these instances it is the grace of Job, not God, that makes others complete..)

I can accept a certain role-play within the text, which is legend, but Job is arguing along the wrong lines. It isn't about his justice towards his fellow man, it is the hypothetical case about whether it could be acceptable in the eyes of God and man that a just man suffer. The argument of the adversary is that it isn't fair to let the faithful off. God shows that the faithful are not let off, but have support when confronted with suffering. “The lord gives and the Lord takes away” is an equivalent of the cause of suffering in Buddhism: Clinging to people and things is the cause of suffering, not the loss in itself.

However, although Job begins there, his wife and his friends tell him to give and die – his friends are sure that he must have sinned and Job argues that this is not the case. This appears to comply with the beginning of the story. But it isn't the point, and when Job finally does try to bring on his righteousness, he shows that he hasn't yet understood how much he relies on others, especially upon God in all things. In the storm, he is brought to realise this and remains silent.

Job? Jesus? Can you say where either of these have fallen short? Abraham, perhaps. Jacob, yes. Moses, undoubtedly. David, absolutely. But there are some cases of human perfection. And here's the thing: it is most evident when all the gifts (or graces) of God have been stripped away (not when God's grace at last completes!). (Indeed, Job and Jesus are more complete when the grace of God is removed, because they prove themselves true, to God and themselves, even when they have no reason to be true. They reveal themselves as true "for nothing" as the satan puts it.)

But yes, the Job's and Jesus' are few and far between, and we can declare with you that "All have sinned and fallen short." We live in a fallen world and amongst a fallen humanity. The grace of God (or Jesus or Job) is required to make us complete. To forgive us our sins. To make us worthy of resurrection. To help restore us to our original and intended dignity.

So I can agree with what you say. But at the same time I have to say that you are wrong. Your perspective takes for granted the fallenness of the world (and humankind). (In this context is where I can affirm what you say.) I think you need to step out of this context. You need to backup out of Genesis 3 (and beyond) and recall our original blessing and calling before things started to fall apart.

I have only quoted scripture, so it isn't my statement – but in the context of OT and NT theology, I think that it is right. However, floating on the grace of God was just another image which is contrary to the idea of having to do something (i.e. struggle) to work out our salvation. Trust or faith is like giving ourselves up to our buoyancy on water rather than trying to walk or even run out of the water. I think this would be a good lesson for us today.

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:44 pm

Bob wrote:Whatever the reality behind our metaphor “God” (which really only describes our relationship to that “Great Unknown”) it isn't the way we have perceived it to be, it isn't our conception, it isn't the images we use and, it isn't the “infant God” who grows up as time goes by. I feel that what is growing up is our perception or our conceptions – although that may be disproved at any time. It helps us to focus by using the image of an eternal almighty God, just as the Hindus have their deities as do the Greeks and many other traditions, but it does reality no more credit than our diary jottings do for what happened on a certain day.


Hi Bob, I have nothing against a maturing perception of God. I have nothing against a disconnect between our conception of God and reality either. (These going somewhat hand in hand.)

I do have issue with God as the "Great Unknown" though. I would recall our priestly vocation which requires some kind of unmediated access to God so that we can mediate between God and others.

As such I would hope that our maturing perception of God can, in fact, ring true. While it may not exhaust what God is it may give us what we need to get by, or to do what we need to do in God's name.

Bob wrote:Wisdom is associated with God but wisdom is more than all-knowing, it is the time-proven result of experience and the in depth knowing of reality. This idea is projected on to the deities in different ways, it just so happens that the Judeo-Christian God is one and so he has all of the attributes of wisdom, whereas in polytheism they may be spread about. This projection is a kind of forgoing a full perception of what God is since, as we know, no-one can see God and live. I think that this is all acceptable – as long as we are sure about what we are doing and don't dupe ourselves into believing that our image of God is God.


I agree with you that wisdom is more than all-knowing. It is discerning good and evil. It is making the wise judgment (that begets life) like Solomon issues in order to identify the true (not necessarily biological) mother of the child.

But one thing: when I say "image of God" I do not mean a conception of God. I mean that this is what we are made and called to be. (Conceiving God isn't so much of a concern for me, but rather discerning wisdom, which is something that God is just as involved in as we are.)

Another thing: I think we can see God and live. In two distinct ways even (which, surprise, surprise, the book of Job shows). One is when we fulfill our priestly vocation. When we ascend to God and have the wisdom to face God and live. Job has this vision in the end ("Now I see you when before I only heard of you.") The other is when we are at last resurrected. When, as Job says in 19:25-26, our saviour comes and restores our flesh, so that with our own eyes we see God and live because God is the one who gave us back our life.

The first of these "visions" is our vocation. It is the more important one. The one you don't want to test unless you have the power and authority to survive, i.e., the wisdom. The other is our hope and our end.

Bob wrote:“The lord gives and the Lord takes away” is an equivalent of the cause of suffering in Buddhism: Clinging to people and things is the cause of suffering, not the loss in itself.


Now maybe I take your (Buddhist) philosophy of non-attachment wrong, but I don't think I'd want to live in a world where we don't suffer our losses, or where losing something important to us, a loved one for instance, does not result in suffering.

I think it is terrible that such loss exists. But I think it would be even more terrible if we didn't cling and truly suffer the loss. Isn't this defined as one of the crucial markers of humankind, anthropologically at least? That we mourn and bury our dead? That we do cling and don't just walk away like an animal that lives in the moment?

I have to be careful though, because I've agreed with you before that we are not to cling, that we are to recognize our lives, and everything in our lives, as a gift, and to not withhold the gift from others. I think that's true. But it's true because of a deeper faith in God, that God will return what we give and that it will be even greater than before. (This is indeed what happens with Job, with both his wealth and his children.)

Because of this deeper faith/hope I think we are quite right to cling. Our faith/hope in God is the justification for our attachment to all things. (Even as we give them up freely in the name of grace.)

Bob wrote:However, although Job begins there, his wife and his friends tell him to give and die – his friends are sure that he must have sinned and Job argues that this is not the case. This appears to comply with the beginning of the story. But it isn't the point, and when Job finally does try to bring on his righteousness, he shows that he hasn't yet understood how much he relies on others, especially upon God in all things. In the storm, he is brought to realise this and remains silent.


So it is not just non-attachment that is required, but a recognition of a deep dependence. It is in fact the latter that Job needs to learn (according to you).

But what does this mean I wonder? Does it mean that Job, although he has lived a perfect life of non-attachment, he has failed to recognize that it is still up to God to determine his reward? Does it mean that the non-attachment itself is insufficient to determine prosperity? (As if God has the final say on retribution?)

I get that something like this is the traditional reading of the book. That strict divine retribution does not hold. That goodness does not guarantee reward. But if so, why would God want to make clear to Job this vetoing or sanctioning power? What's the point of teaching Job this lesson?

Or more broadly, why would God construct this situation where humankind's part is to simply "go with the flow" and not hinder anything through attachment? Completely dependent on God in the end? There is no meaning to human life with this view. At least not that I can see. It's all on God. All we have to do is nothing at all.

I would love to hear otherwise but right now my perception of your view pales to my own, where we are called to throw our full weight against God like the waters of the Jordan rush against Behemoth. It is more interdependence than dependence, and that small shift alone imbues life with so much more meaning (methinks).

But maybe there is an interdependence present in your thought. Maybe you see God somehow depending on humankind. That is what I would like to hear...

Bob wrote:I have only quoted scripture, so it isn't my statement – but in the context of OT and NT theology, I think that it is right.


Yes, scripture. But what would you say to a community of sinners but that "all have sinned and fallen short"? If there is no one like Jesus or Job in the crowd, and again, these are rare examples, then this statement is true.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Tue Nov 08, 2011 5:21 pm

Hi alyoshka,

I do have issue with God as the "Great Unknown" though. I would recall our priestly vocation which requires some kind of unmediated access to God so that we can mediate between God and others.

As such I would hope that our maturing perception of God can, in fact, ring true. While it may not exhaust what God is it may give us what we need to get by, or to do what we need to do in God's name.

The problem is that we do not really know what it is we are mediating, if it is anything above natural existence. God remains the shadow which we, like Moses, are permitted to witness, but a fleeting one. Our confrontation in Prayer is one-sided, as is anything we may wish to partake in – it is all down to the grace of God. If it isn't given, we can't have it. So what are we mediating? It is a fleeting experience, an insight, a perceptive breakthrough – or it is scripture.

I agree with you that wisdom is more than all-knowing. It is discerning good and evil. It is making the wise judgment (that begets life) like Solomon issues in order to identify the true (not necessarily biological) mother of the child.

But one thing: when I say "image of God" I do not mean a conception of God. I mean that this is what we are made and called to be. (Conceiving God isn't so much of a concern for me, but rather discerning wisdom, which is something that God is just as involved in as we are.)

I think that wisdom is more than discerning good and evil, it is understanding that both are two sides of a coin, which are mutually conditions for each other. You wouldn't know good without evil, or evil without good and wisdom finds equanimity and copes with both in a completely different manner to what is seen to be “normal”. There is an old story, I believe it is Chinese, that describes that well. I heard it first when listening to Robert Schuller:

A father had a son and a horse. They used the strength of the horse to till the land and pull heavy loads. One day his son fell off the horse and broke his leg. All of the villagers came around and said, “You poor man, what bad luck! Now you'll have to control the horse and do all of the work alone!”
The old man said, “Bad luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

The day after the horse ran away. All of the villagers came around and said, “You poor man, what bad luck! How will you till the land without your son or your horse?”
The old man said, “Bad luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

Then the Emperor sent troops out, looking for young men and horses for his army. And they came to the village. They saw the son and didn't take him because he had a broken leg. All of the villagers came around and said, “You lucky man, what good luck! They have taken our sons and we are alone here now and don't know what to do!”
The old man said, “Good luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

Soon after, as the leg of the son was beginning to heal, the horse came back over the hill and had three other horses with it, which the boy was able to catch in the enclosure. All of the villagers came around and said, “You lucky man, what good luck! Now you can sell three of the horses and buy a carriage!”
The old man said, “Good luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

The old man and his son were able to prosper and soon were wealthy grocers in the village.

Another thing: I think we can see God and live. In two distinct ways even (which, surprise, surprise, the book of Job shows). One is when we fulfill our priestly vocation. When we ascend to God and have the wisdom to face God and live. Job has this vision in the end ("Now I see you when before I only heard of you.") The other is when we are at last resurrected. When, as Job says in 19:25-26, our saviour comes and restores our flesh, so that with our own eyes we see God and live because God is the one who gave us back our life.

The first of these "visions" is our vocation. It is the more important one. The one you don't want to test unless you have the power and authority to survive, i.e., the wisdom. The other is our hope and our end.

The ascendency you are talking about is after death. Job “saw” God to be no-thing which he had envisioned, but far more awe-inspiring. We have to be careful of our use of language, which we can manipulate to say things which have nothing to do with reality.

Now maybe I take your (Buddhist) philosophy of non-attachment wrong, but I don't think I'd want to live in a world where we don't suffer our losses, or where losing something important to us, a loved one for instance, does not result in suffering.

I think it is terrible that such loss exists. But I think it would be even more terrible if we didn't cling and truly suffer the loss. Isn't this defined as one of the crucial markers of humankind, anthropologically at least? That we mourn and bury our dead? That we do cling and don't just walk away like an animal that lives in the moment?

That isn't the question at hand. Love and compassion are just as important to Buddhists, but the question is whether I will stop living after losing something or someone I have valued highly? If it is, you are committing suicide, which isn't looked well upon in Christianity or Buddhism. But clinging to something or someone means that I am unable to live on, unable to let go of the past and live in the present.

I have to be careful though, because I've agreed with you before that we are not to cling, that we are to recognize our lives, and everything in our lives, as a gift, and to not withhold the gift from others. I think that's true. But it's true because of a deeper faith in God, that God will return what we give and that it will be even greater than before. (This is indeed what happens with Job, with both his wealth and his children.)

Because of this deeper faith/hope I think we are quite right to cling. Our faith/hope in God is the justification for our attachment to all things. (Even as we give them up freely in the name of grace.)

I have come to appreciate Alan Watts (thanks to tentative!) who mentioned that belief clings but faith floats. Faith is like giving yourself to the natural buoyancy we possess in order to learn to swim. If we cling, we drown and can't swim. To swim, we must first of all trust this natural ability to float.

Too many Christians cling on to their “Rock of Ages” etc. and are just in free fall. It is when we learn to trust that we have faith.

So it is not just non-attachment that is required, but a recognition of a deep dependence. It is in fact the latter that Job needs to learn (according to you).

But what does this mean I wonder? Does it mean that Job, although he has lived a perfect life of non-attachment, he has failed to recognize that it is still up to God to determine his reward? Does it mean that the non-attachment itself is insufficient to determine prosperity? (As if God has the final say on retribution?)

No, it means that Job has, like Satan says, been doing good things because he thought he would profit from them. This isn't a problem in itself, but it does constitute clinging – in the storm he learnt to let go and float. In the end the story is about a man who thought he wasn't clinging, but unconsciously was, and who had to recognize that he had been calculating his deeds, and let them go.

I get that something like this is the traditional reading of the book. That strict divine retribution does not hold. That goodness does not guarantee reward. But if so, why would God want to make clear to Job this vetoing or sanctioning power? What's the point of teaching Job this lesson?

Or more broadly, why would God construct this situation where humankind's part is to simply "go with the flow" and not hinder anything through attachment? Completely dependent on God in the end? There is no meaning to human life with this view. At least not that I can see. It's all on God. All we have to do is nothing at all.

First of all, it is a composition – a construed story which may be legend but has become myth, so it isn't really a question of “why did Job ...” However, many people have gone through some of what is described here and went through the same doubts and questions. It is for these people that such a story is told.

Secondly, why should be attach ourselves to things or people in such a way, after all, we die, they die or are broken, so what is the point? Life is impermanent, that is why Jesus says that we should collect treasures which cannot rust and which will not be stolen.

I would love to hear otherwise but right now my perception of your view pales to my own, where we are called to throw our full weight against God like the waters of the Jordan rush against Behemoth. It is more interdependence than dependence, and that small shift alone imbues life with so much more meaning (methinks).

But maybe there is an interdependence present in your thought. Maybe you see God somehow depending on humankind. That is what I would like to hear...

I can see the God of the Bible including people in his deliberations, which is calling us to take a metaphysical approach to our existence and all experiences. It is necessary to reflect on what has happened and take a different perspective in order to learn from life.

Take Care
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:47 pm

Bob wrote:The problem is that we do not really know what it is we are mediating, if it is anything above natural existence. God remains the shadow which we, like Moses, are permitted to witness, but a fleeting one. Our confrontation in Prayer is one-sided, as is anything we may wish to partake in – it is all down to the grace of God. If it isn't given, we can't have it. So what are we mediating? It is a fleeting experience, an insight, a perceptive breakthrough – or it is scripture.


Suffice it to say that Moses did not have the wisdom or purity necessary to see God face to face and to live! He was no Job.

I'll come closer to your position though and say that mediating between God and others does not require an unmediated access to God, as I suggested before. Job's friends, for instance, would have been mediators if they had succeeded in consoling Job. If they had spoken the consoling words of truth that God would have spoken, and does speak. This does not require an unmediated access to God. More a recognition of what troubles Job and a deep understanding of God's ways (perhaps without even realizing that they are God's ways).

But the mediator position also goes the other way. It also involves speaking on behalf of humankind to God (as Abraham and Moses do in the instances we've discussed). Similarly this requres a recognition of what troubles God (if not unmediated access in this case).

Bob wrote:I think that wisdom is more than discerning good and evil, it is understanding that both are two sides of a coin, which are mutually conditions for each other. You wouldn't know good without evil, or evil without good and wisdom finds equanimity and copes with both in a completely different manner to what is seen to be “normal”. There is an old story, I believe it is Chinese, that describes that well. I heard it first when listening to Robert Schuller:

A father had a son and a horse. They used the strength of the horse to till the land and pull heavy loads. One day his son fell off the horse and broke his leg. All of the villagers came around and said, “You poor man, what bad luck! Now you'll have to control the horse and do all of the work alone!”
The old man said, “Bad luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

The day after the horse ran away. All of the villagers came around and said, “You poor man, what bad luck! How will you till the land without your son or your horse?”
The old man said, “Bad luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

Then the Emperor sent troops out, looking for young men and horses for his army. And they came to the village. They saw the son and didn't take him because he had a broken leg. All of the villagers came around and said, “You lucky man, what good luck! They have taken our sons and we are alone here now and don't know what to do!”
The old man said, “Good luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

Soon after, as the leg of the son was beginning to heal, the horse came back over the hill and had three other horses with it, which the boy was able to catch in the enclosure. All of the villagers came around and said, “You lucky man, what good luck! Now you can sell three of the horses and buy a carriage!”
The old man said, “Good luck? I don't know about that. It is as it is!”

The old man and his son were able to prosper and soon were wealthy grocers in the village.


Hard for me to accept this. I can't believe in a God that hates or shuns evil but that would condone it as a "condition" for recognizing good. Obviously this raises some deep faith issues. But when I look at the creation narrative, which I would see as a deep part of my faith, there is no evil conditioning God's recognition of the goodness of creation. There is no prior evil to speak of whatsoever. Just the recognition of goodness.

Instead of seeing them as two sides of the same coin I would see the context of a good creation and within this context the origin of evil, which starts to close down the conditions of possibility opened up by God's (ongoing) creative act. In other words, as something that introduces death into the world. An internal decay of sorts. Not irreversible, but spreading corruption from within.

Bob wrote:The ascendency you are talking about is after death. Job “saw” God to be no-thing which he had envisioned, but far more awe-inspiring. We have to be careful of our use of language, which we can manipulate to say things which have nothing to do with reality.


I would say that you are manipulating the language as much as me! You are right though. It's easy to stretch the verses to do our bidding. But in this particular case I'm unsure which vision of God you're referring to. I tried to demarcate two. Perhaps you are collapsing them together again? To reiterate, I see a priestly vision of God (since the priest's role, or at least part of it, is standing up to God, which may or may not entail a face to face encounter). I also see a "upon being saved" vision of God, when God restores our flesh (at resurrection) or heals our body. We see God here because it is God who does the saving (and thus it is God who we will see when we open our eyes).

Bob wrote:That isn't the question at hand. Love and compassion are just as important to Buddhists, but the question is whether I will stop living after losing something or someone I have valued highly? If it is, you are committing suicide, which isn't looked well upon in Christianity or Buddhism. But clinging to something or someone means that I am unable to live on, unable to let go of the past and live in the present.


I see your meaning better now. Although Job says "God gives and God takes" his subsequent speeches/laments say otherwise, and so Job has to really learn how to let go and trust God. Or as you put it, recognize his dependency. I can see how this reading could emerge.

Bob wrote:Too many Christians cling on to their “Rock of Ages” etc. and are just in free fall. It is when we learn to trust that we have faith


Yes. I've never wanted to deny this. I've always seen this as the bottom. The first (or innermost) layer of the onion so to speak. (Fear of God, as I would call this faith/trust, is the beginning of wisdom.)

My goal has always been to work out the next layer. And, while I believe the book of Job can be read convincingly in terms of the first, it's deeper meaning (methinks) is achieved when we take this next step. When instead of reading it as being about Job's fear of God, or learning to truly trust and depend on God (which is true), we read it as being about Job's fear of humankind, or learning to truly trust and depend on himself (a force capable of subduing creation and rising to the level of God).

Bob wrote:No, it means that Job has, like Satan says, been doing good things because he thought he would profit from them. This isn't a problem in itself, but it does constitute clinging – in the storm he learnt to let go and float. In the end the story is about a man who thought he wasn't clinging, but unconsciously was, and who had to recognize that he had been calculating his deeds, and let them go.


So could I ask how Job learns this in the storm? When I look at God's speeches they basically do two things: 1) the first speech calls Job to face God like a warrior (far from floating) and then proceeds to undermine Job's knowledge with the greatest and smallest details of creation. 2) the second speech again calls Job to face God like a warrior and then proceeds to describe Behemoth and Leviathan in what seems to be a comparison to Job (either to make him feel small or grand, that is the question).

Anyways. God's repeated call for Job to face him like a warrior seems hardest to reconcile. Unless you think God is being ironic. And that God's point is that Job can't, and shouldn't, be trying to do so. That the opposite of what God calls Job to do is God's lesson...

Bob wrote:Secondly, why should be attach ourselves to things or people in such a way, after all, we die, they die or are broken, so what is the point? Life is impermanent, that is why Jesus says that we should collect treasures which cannot rust and which will not be stolen.


That sounds again a bit too Buddhist. Jesus' core teaching was the resurrection of the dead, not the impermanence of creation and the finality of death. Indeed, the temple for instance will be destroyed and pass away. But it will also be rebuilt even grander than before.

As I tried to put it earlier in this conversation, for the Buddhist it might be God gives and God takes. But for the Christian it is God gives, God takes, and then God gives back even more than what was taken. (In his despair Job could no longer profess his faith in the third piece of this mystery.)

Bob wrote:I can see the God of the Bible including people in his deliberations, which is calling us to take a metaphysical approach to our existence and all experiences. It is necessary to reflect on what has happened and take a different perspective in order to learn from life.


I'm trying to figure out the full implications of this teaching. For starters, it undermines classical theology where God is absolute sovereign of creation. It also challenges the dominant worldview where man is master of his domain (an idea that some would say is rooted in Genesis 1). I would almost say that it adds a democratic flavour to theological politics (if I can call it that). But I certainly wouldn't call it a democracy as we know it.

What gets confusing is where or how wisdom is involved. Wisdom is the first of God's ways. She is the first of God's creatures. Jesus is also described as such (as is Behemoth in the book of Job for that matter). This makes me think that we are wisdom, or called to be God's wisdom. That is Israel's job: to be the voice of wisdom to God. To be God's partner/wife and to subdue the whole of creation with the power and authority natural to wisdom. (What a calling and dignity!)

The hope would be that at some point God could be removed. That a human king would emerge who could take God's place and rule with wisdom. It hearkens back to the parallel pairs I mentioned, God and Moses and Moses and Aaron. The hope is that Moses and Aaron could take over.

Anyways! I could probably go on all day about this. Thanks Bob. Hope your health has continued to improve.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:45 pm

Hi alyoshka,

Sorry for not answering so soon, I forgot to say that I have been living in a Hindu Ashram for the last six days – good to be home. The Yoga isn't good for old joints that aren't used to it, but thank you, my health is improving.

Suffice it to say that Moses did not have the wisdom or purity necessary to see God face to face and to live! He was no Job.

To me they are the same … they are figures in a cosmic drama with numerous acts, each holding a lesson for the audience. The point is that we enter the theatre and loose ourselves in the play, taking on the personae of the roles played, feeling what it is to be in that position, to argue the contention and receive the answers. To act out in our mind the roles' means to enter the reality and to live it – that is the way it becomes our reality and true. But to each of us the truth has our own blend, shade or facet, it is the truth about us and not absolute.

Every church service should contain this kind of enactment of the cosmic story of reconciliation and the Christ figure is the last one in a Christian version of the drama. Jesus or Yeshua or Jehoshua, or however he was called, seems to have played the drama out uniquely and left the world a new tragedy by which it should learn – which is exactly how Mark portrayed the Gospel. Each attempt of theologians to interpret the story takes away the role of the audience, which is to find their own interpretation. Just the same with Job or Moses, only these had a different audience.

I'll come closer to your position though and say that mediating between God and others does not require an unmediated access to God, as I suggested before. Job's friends, for instance, would have been mediators if they had succeeded in consoling Job. If they had spoken the consoling words of truth that God would have spoken, and does speak. This does not require an unmediated access to God. More a recognition of what troubles Job and a deep understanding of God's ways (perhaps without even realizing that they are God's ways). 

But the mediator position also goes the other way. It also involves speaking on behalf of humankind to God (as Abraham and Moses do in the instances we've discussed). Similarly this requres a recognition of what troubles God (if not unmediated access in this case).

I feel that the message of the Bible, as with all scriptures, is an answer to the question, “How shall we live?” It is only that the Bible is more like the Bhagavad Gita. All of our speculation in the third person takes our own interaction with the text away. That is why so many people have lost their religion – they have taken it too seriously and have been duped to reason whether it could be historically true. People start reasoning whether God could “exist” and if so, what does that mean? In fact, there is no doubt that life is mysterious and our minds are constantly looking for meaning and purpose in that mystery, therefore the God of the Bible, the great ineffable prime mover or whatever name you choose to use, is in existence – even if it is only in our minds.

The fact is that God is alive wherever people are interwoven in his mystery, being inspired and excited by the rituals of enactment in his name. Where two or three come together in his name, he is in their midst. His realm or kingdom is at hand, wherever his influence is. The pure in heart, who see God with their mind's eye, are those who obey the insight they are given and follow his words. This disappoints many believers, who need flesh and blood or something material, but reality is also personal. If you have an experience which changes you for the rest of your life, it doesn't matter whether you can't explain it or nobody was there to experience it with you, it is real because it has made a difference.

That is the way I see religion and perhaps I am missing out on something – I don't think I am. I've lost the other kind of religion – my sunday-school religion - it just didn't have the spirit in it.

Take Care
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Duality » Tue Nov 22, 2011 3:36 am

omar wrote:
quetzalcoatl wrote:My religion isn’t threatened by evil [even where I may be], because I think evil is created purely by us collectively. Its our inability to adjust and be detached, whereby we think this temporary illusion of form is such that if the brain thinks something then that is who and what we are. Its being caught in the material rather than being in command of it ~ though in our defence the latter can seam impossible to achieve.


I guess that that fantasy is more real than the metaphysical construct you propose. We can't be detached. It is what makes us human. The POE is a distinctly human problem. This temporary illusion of form, as you call it, is who I am, be. There is no other existence beyond it other than that which I can arbitrarily postulate. I am as far as that brain takes me. It's hope to "command" the material? Well that is just another one of it's illusions. It suffers from illusion and calms itself through illusions.

The POE, as Ehrman has postulated it, seems to me an honest, logical, response to the perceptions of the world and the assumptions made beyond the world. The problem is not the world but our ideas of it, not the problem of God but the problem about our ideas about God. If we cannot admit ignorance, if we cannot let go of our preconceptions, then the world does present a problem.

Sounds like its what you need to work on

I think there is a misconception here that human beings are supposed to enjoy material existence as it is

Without problems, no one would have to seek an alternative meaning/reason for their existence

Suffering is what creates atheists, but it is also what creates believers

The fact that we are called to make the world a better place is meant only to aid us and other members of the human race in our spiritual evolution. Not as an end in and of itself.

Like Buddha says, when you see each success as bound up with sufferings, you tend to gradually distance yourself from the entire thing completely.

People see evil, but they see it as an end in and of itself. This is a false conception

When you perform materialistically detached actions, you have destroyed your ego, and hence are completely selfless
"A truth is not necessary, because we negatively are not able to conceive the actual existence of the opposite thereof;but a truth is necessary when we positively are able to apprehend that the negation thereof includes an inevitable contradiction. It is not that that we can see how the opposite comes to be true, but it is that the opposite can not possibly be true." -R.L. Dabney

"Those then who know not wisdom and virtue, and are always busy with gluttony and sensuality, go down and up again as far as the mean; and in this region they move at random throughout life, but they never pass into the true upper world; thither they neither look, nor do they ever find their way, neither are they truly filled with true being, nor do they ever taste of pure and abiding pleasure." -Socrates
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