general religion belief disscussion

This being my first created thread, I feel I should introduce myself.

I am a 16 year old male. I am a theist, and was raised a Christian- but I do not believe in any set religion. I find that accepting all details most set religions would be like accepting “2 = 3” because of prevalent contradictions. Instead, I believe that any assertion made by a human being about religion is inherently wrong because there are so many conflicting viewpoints (oftentimes within different sects of the same religion), and because any figure having omnipotence must be infinitely complex and beyond mere human understanding.

That’s not to say I don’t believe in ANY specifics- just to say that I ALSO believe that I’m most likely wrong in any specifics I believe.

Your apparent dismay is common.

I believe that above all we should be skeptics/agnostics about any revealed religion, discounting all testimony for the supernatural or divine revelation due to lack of any evidence other than the word of the “witness(es)”.

So what rational positions are there on the existence of God? I believe there are two: non-dogmatic atheism and deism (God does not interfere in order to maintain our free will). There is little to no objective difference between the two, the hope offered by deism being the significant difference.

In any case, welcome to the board.

When discussing things like “rightness” and “wrongness”, I find this essay very useful:

I like your approach, especially at your age. It allows you a degree of openness as you introduce yourself through experience and learning to new ideas to examine. I’ve found that the sense of ‘rightness’ I feel about things should pretty much always be held as suspect, at least as far as I also need to figure out what the corresponding ‘wrongness’ is really about and why I find it ‘wrong’. Although one does have to firm up some positive principles of behavior (let’s call them ‘values’) in order to make it in the world. But keeping that flexibility is really important in a world where ‘truth’ is always relative and where ‘is’ often gets confused with ‘ought’. And it’s very hard to step out of one’s comfort zone, unless you decide to pursue life by doing that. Most people don’t live that way. You’re making a great start at such a life by deciding to challenge conventional wisdom – even your own. It’s not easy, but I think it’s the best way of going about it.

So you’re inherently wrong because other people disagree with you and because you are human and not a god yourself? So we’re always wrong?
That kinda sucks if you ask me. But I guess I’m wrong cuz I am not a god either.

Hi Insanity Is A Lie,

Welcome to the boards. Try not to be like me and only surface every couple of months or so!

Depends what religion you are talking about. The religion I am most familiar with (Orthodox/Catholic Christianity) has no prevalent contradictions that I am aware of, and has many very intelligent people examining said religion as a full time job. I’d say if there were prevalent, or at least obvious, contradictions or incoherence within this religion, it’s likely that they would have been well aware of them long ago. It is certainly possible that there are some logical contradictions within said religion, but I don’t think it would be easy to identify apparent contradictions that haven’t been dealt with before (possibly long before).

See this thread: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=165584/. Just because there are conflicting viewpoints does not necessarily entail that the religion is wrong, or does not contain some truth. There are conflicting viewpoints about certain things in science, does that mean we should abandon science? I think you’ll find that in any large set of beliefs, ideas etc. there will be conflicting viewpoints.

I don’t think that infinite complexity follows necessarily from omnipotence. In fact, God is generally thought to be quite a simple concept, in some respects. As for God being beyond our understanding, perhaps this would be the case in a deist perspective, where God is kind of “out there” somewhere, where we can have no knowledge of this behaviour or motivations. However, the major theistic religions are revealed religions i.e. they claim that God has revealed details of his nature to us. In Christianity there is perhaps the ultimate revelation of God to us, in the persona and suffering of Christ.

It’s good to be thinking about these things. Just be careful not to be caught up in the prevailing culture without examining the issues carefully. There is a lot of good and respected Christian/Theistic philosophy out there, I can direct you towards some (or towards Uccisore who is more familiar with it than I) if you like.

Welcome again to the boards, good luck

I would want to inquire what motivates you to investigate religion as a subject of study. If you are seeking answers, I would swear against it, as a religious answer in this day and age is tantamount to little more than a chess move: it can involve a whole lot of strategic positioning, but at the end of each game one is still left to question whether anything substantive has really been accomplished. If, on the other hand, you are seeking to know how to do good, then I would suggest you go volunteer at your nearest social agency (church or otherwise) and directly experience what doing good might involve. In short, I would suggest that the academic pursuit of religious perspective is an inherently flawed project in the 21st Century. It is better we do under a different name what we want a Religion to show us what to do. If you get my drift. On the third hand, though, if you’re looking for a good old fashioned mind game, then religion is definitely where it’s at.


:unamused: Yes, most religions do contain some Truth, but that doesn’t mean that their core dogmas aren’t superstitious demagoguery.

No, because science regularly rejects and replaces segments found to be erroneous. The same can’t be said for organized religion.

Of course. But are those facts based on objective evidence and other facts, or just accepting on faith the word of someone with a little charisma.

Does that mean He can’t communicate on our level?

Sure it can. Religions develop over time, just like science. Maybe not a quickly as you’d like them to, but they do develop. Isn’t Buddhism a development of Hinduism? The Western religions don’t stone people for committing adultry anymore and there haven’t been any witch hunts or inquisitions in a long time, either.

But the Western Religions’ text book still has printed on its pages that adulterers ought to be stoned, etc. The various bibles of the world don’t get revised… they may well get “rationalized” in most followers practices as social norms otherwise dictate, but the actual scripts don’t get rewritten… at least not for those religions which hold their antiquated scriptures to be the centerpieces of their sources of faith. Let society get a little chaotic for a while and you may very well see the religious revert to their old ways. The same couldn’t be said of the scientists. This is why Palin scares the bejesus out of so many; but the moderate religious followers out there shouldn’t discount the power of the Word they recite either, unless they’re prepared to rip some pages out of their own Bible. Somehow they don’t seem to be able to bring themselves to doing that. Science books get tossed without much sentiment.

Hi Paineful Truth,

Sorry, not too familiar with that argument.

Well clearly I don’t agree with you there.

See Knox’s reply. In any case, Insanity Is A Lie wasn’t arguing that religion was inherently wrong because there are conflicting viewpoints AND it doesn’t change, he was saying it was inherently wrong only because there were conflicting viewpoints. Hence my reply.

Do I really have to rebut that religious people accept “on faith the word of someone with a little charisma”? I think I have better things to do.

What Oughtist said, plus, religions don’t develop over time, they adopt dogmas and then employ expediency to acquire/maintain power and influence and to enable its survival. No, they haven’t had witch hunts or inquisitions in a while, but they did have them with church sanctions, and I think NAZI Germany showed that we aren’t as far removed from those things as we would like to think. The Southern Baptists didn’t finally reject the slavery it was founded to justify until the 1990’s, and then it wasn’t a slam dunk.

Such behavior is not developing or changing the founding dogmas over time. The bedrock Christian belief that Jesus died and rose from the dead in order to have the ability to repent for us is irrational and unchanged over time.

That statement is equivalent to saying nothing at all, and as we all know, silence is consent. No, you don’t have to rebut it, but then, how could you?

Hi Paineful Truth,

Well, in the usual way I suppose, with arguments and such. I’m not meaning to be arrogant here, but here’s my problem: I thought it would be pretty obvious that at least some theists (I won’t say most, to make things easier) have faith for reasons other than “the word of someone with a little charisma”. Just looking back at the history of philosophy it is littered with theists giving reasons for, or justifications of, their faith. Clearly then, at least some religious people (again, I’m using “some” to be conservative) have faith which doesn’t rely on “the word of someone with a little charisma”. Seeing as this is a philosophy board, which presumably hosts people with at least some knowledge of philosophy, I would assume that most posters on here would be aware of this.

So, when someone says something like you did (i.e. that religious people accept “on faith the word of someone with a little charisma”) I’m immediately skeptical of what good could come out of a discussion regarding this issue. Sure you could argue against the philosophical reasons that people present, or have presented, for their faith, and that would probably be a fruitful discussion. But when you come out and say these types of things, and then ask rhetorically how could I rebut such a statement (as if it was obvious that one couldn’t), then it seems to me you are instead just trying to pick a fight, or engage in some theist bashing just for the heck of it. I don’t really have the time or inclination for such activities. I could be wrong about your intentions of course, but I have seen a lot of discussions on ILP devolve into these types of exchanges and I am a bit cynical.

Hi NoelyG,

Fair enough, though things sort of get set up for that when one starts out pretty unequivocal about there not being contradictions in Judeo-Christianity (or any other subject of deep inquiry, for that matter)… surely you mean to say that YOU don’t acknowledge there being any, not that there aren’t in fact a great deal of contradictions under discussion by most of those involved in the field… For instance, again, why the contradiction between the printed page and the socially evolved practices of the parishoners, despite the professed sacredness of the text? I’m not implying there isn’t a response to that observation, but, well, what is it?

Hi Oughtist,

Well, I don’t think its fair to say it was unequivocal. First, I specifically stated that I was talking about Catholic Christianity, not the broad set of Judeo-Christian tradition. Second, I said that there weren’t any prevalent, i.e. obvious, contradictions, which is different from saying there were no contradictions at all. I’m sure it is very possible that there are contradictions in the more nuanced issues of the religion, but I think it’s pretty unlikely that there are obvious or commonly known logical contradictions that haven’t been addressed before.

I DID say “that I am aware of”.

You’d probably have to be more specific. If you’re talking about the old Jewish law of stoning an adulterer (which would only occur in very specific and rare cases, see the Talmud), well, the religion I was discussing is not Judaism, and is not obliged to follow Jewish social laws. Christianity is based on the new covenant, outlined in the New Testament, which it considers to be the culmination of divine revelation and therefore of primary authority (not secondary) over the old law. So in Christianity at least, there is no contradiction with parishioners not stoning adulterers to death.

Hi NoelyG,
Catholicism it is! Sorry to mix you in there with the others. Isn’t there a reading from the Old Testament at every mass? Why aren’t at least the most blatantly inexcusable passages of the Old Testament edited out of the Catholic Bible? Or for that matter, why aren’t the Jesuits given their due, and all the “magical” stuff removed from both testaments? Sorry to keep you on the defensive, but, well, I’m not the believer…

Oughtist- I don’t think the sort of contradiction where some practitioners believe one thing, and some other practitioners believe another (or even the opposite) is a ‘contradiction’ in a religion. Or if it is, it’s the most innocuous kind, and not a cause for concern or something that has to be defended from.

The Bible – and I include both testaments – contains numerous contradictory statements. However folks resolve that dilemma in their own minds is up to them…but the fact remains that the contradictions are in there…and when you decide to accept one as true, then you gotta accept that which contradicts it as false.

I suppose that depends on what we mean by “contradiction”. Since patterns are imposed/created, especially in human-created works, contradictions are likewise imposed/created. So when a Christian defines the Bible as being without contradiction, then in the relationship between the particular Christian and the Bible, any contradictions must be seen as arising from the Christian as opposed to the Bible. Non-Christians, not limited to such constraints, can choose to view the contradiction as arising from the Bible as opposed to from themselves. Right? That seems to be a pretty basic set of identities. That means the discussion boils down to whether or not Christianity is right (or at the very least, whether or not the Bible is infallible). Given that such a distinction is how we separate “Christians” from “non-Christians”, I’m not sure how fruitful such a discussion could be.

Well, sorta, Xunzian, but you can have Christians that acknowledge that there actually are contradictions in the Bible. The problem is we have to deal with the formalism of what a contradiction really is. For example,

Proverbs 26:4
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

Proverbs 26:5
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Not only does this seem like a contradiction, but they’re in neighboring verses! However, if this is the sort of contradiction that is truly problematic, then we should be able to point out which of the two is false, which of the two is bad advice, or which of the two is inconsistent with Jewish teachings elsewhere. I don’t think you can. Contradiction or no, both statements really do have a point, and really do seem to belong in the context of the faith. Most biblical contradictions are like this, I’ve found.

The other thing too, is, the Bible is not Christianity. There could conceivably be a real problematic contradiction in the Bible, and as long as the Church acknowledged it as such and treated it in a consistent way, I still don’t see what the problem would be.