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Author Topic:   Finding God In The Waves
Posts: 4708
Joined: 05-02-2006
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Message 76 of 105 (882800)
10-16-2020 6:43 PM
Reply to: Message 72 by Phat
10-16-2020 11:25 AM

Re: Basic Christian Philosophy
Absolute Truth vs Relative Truth

No such dichotomy actually exists except in the most extremely abstract.

The first third of my educational career was in foreign languages (BA German -- second third was technical with BS Computer Science and BA Applied Math, third third was upgrade and refresher training in computer tech (UNIX Certificate) and languages (Spanish and Italian)). Monoglots misunderstand how language works and the process of translation, apparently thinking that it's little more than substituting one language's word for something with the other languages word for that same thing. Believers' monoglot limitations have led to some very stupid arguments, such as "refuting" a theologian's hypothesis accounting for the Resurrection that Jesus had a twin brother (not a sound hypothesis) by pointing out that the Bible says that Mary was "with child", not "with children". First, that's not even how that expression works in English: even the Octo-Mom would never be described as being "with children", but rather as being "with child". Second and more important to the point, that's not what the Bible says! Instead, that passage says uses the expression "εχω εν γαστρι" ("ekho en gastri"), "have in belly".
No mention of child ("τεκνον") let alone number of children. Stupid oversimplistic substitution of English for the original language.

The way that language translation works is that you read and interpret what the original text says and then express your interpretation in the target language. Sometimes that's simple, but it can also get tricky and it is entirely possible to interpret the original text incorrectly. For example, you can change the interpretation to fit a political purpose, such as King James I commissioning his translation (KJV) to be biased towards supporting his ideas of the "Divine Right of Kings".

Therefore, what you read in your English bible has all been interpreted by fallible humans. Some of what is in that Bible had already gone through a chain of translations (and hence interpretations) from their original languages into the language of the "original" text. And that's not even considering the editing process in which fallible humans chose which one of several different versions of a verse to include.

So the Bible is constructed by fallible humans out of manuscripts written and translated and edited by fallible humans and, once compiled by fallible humans further translated into other languages by fallible humans and interpreted by fallible humans working with the end product (and most commonly with only that) of all that long chain of fallible human interpretation.

All that has a very strong effect on any kind of argument that what is in the Bible constitutes absolute truth. At every stage of its evolution, the Bible has been all Man-made, all Man-interpreted, all Man-modified. As Thomas Paine wrote:

Revelation then, so far as the term has relation between God and man, can only be applied to something which God reveals of his will to man; but though the power of the Almighty to make such a communication is necessarily admitted, because to that power all things are possible, yet the thing so revealed (if anything ever was revealed, and which, bye the bye, it is impossible to prove), is revelation to the person only to whom it is made. His account of it to another person is not revelation; and whoever puts faith in that account, puts it in the man from whom the account comes; and that man may have been deceived, or may have dreamed it, or he may be an impostor and may lie. There is no possible criterion whereby to judge of the truth of what he tells, for even the morality of it would be no proof of revelation. In all such cases the proper answer would be, "When it is revealed to me, I will believe it to be a revelation; but it is not, and cannot be incumbent upon me to believe it to be revelation before; neither is it proper that I should take the word of a man as the word of God, and put man in the place of God." This is the manner in which I have spoken of revelation in the former part of the Age of Reason; and which, while it reverentially admits revelation as a possible thing, because, as before said, to the Almighty all things are possible, it prevents the imposition of one man upon another, and precludes the wicked use of pretended revelation.

But though, speaking for myself, I thus admit the possibility of revelation, I totally disbelieve that the Almighty ever did communicate anything to man, by any mode of speech, in any language, or by any kind of vision, or appearance, or by any means which our senses are capable of receiving, otherwise than by the universal display of himself in the works of the creation, and by that repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions, and the disposition to do good ones.

Everything in the Bible has gone through that long chain of compounding hearsay. What you would call "Absolute Truth" turns out to be the same as "Relative Truth". Perhaps something abstract could exist in the abstract that could be "Absolute Truth", but even then neither it nor information about it could survive the passage through Man's hands.

But it is the final step which puts the last nail in the coffin of the notion of your dichotomy. In the end, in that final act of fallible human interpretation, you must determine just what that "Absolute Truth" means. And since most people would consider themselves incapable (which usually doesn't slow them down in the effort), they choose a fallible human authority to tell them authoritatively what it must mean. The ultimate farce in this entire evolution (the Navy definition).

And that is why I maintain that any attempt to base the government and our laws on the Bible can only result in the worst form of tyranny. Because most of what our laws need to deal with are not addressed in the Bible we need to engage in reinterpretation of Biblical laws to force them to fit the new occasion -- this same thing came up in the Barrett hearings as it was pointed out that originalism breaks down when we're confronted with things like tech companies that the Constitution simply has nothing to say about.

As a result, a Bible-based government with Bible-based laws must assign the task of interpreting the Bible to an authority, basically giving that fallible human the authority to speak for God. He could proclaim any law he wished and it would be the same as if God had handed it down Himself. In our current system, if a law proves to be wrong, then we can challenge it in the courts and/or petition to have the law changed or repealed through legislation. But a Bible-based law would be worse than Trump: it could never be wrong. You could never challenge it in any way without also challenging God Himself. Which would be blasphemy, which in such a government would undoubted be a capital crime. Nor, for the same reason, could you ever challenge God's Living Representative or seek to replace him.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 72 by Phat, posted 10-16-2020 11:25 AM Phat has not yet responded

Posts: 4708
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 5.1

Message 77 of 105 (882818)
10-18-2020 2:56 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Phat
09-26-2020 10:53 AM

Re: Leaarning From Others
What if I told you that he once was a believer in the traditional apologetic sense ... , became an atheist ... , then he became a Mystic and "found God in the Waves ... .

As you may recall, I have been an atheist for about 57 years now as a result of having started reading the Bible (made it much of the way through Genesis) and realizing that I simply could not believe what I was reading which was what I was supposed to believe (my naïve literalist approach as a teenager which ironically foreshadowed the Jesus Freak Movement a decade later). Further experience with Jesus Freaks, Dominionists, and creationists served to further define and develop my atheism.

One problem with any claim that a theist "used to be an atheist" is that the term "atheist" is overloaded with so many different definitions and positions, especially when it is a theist who is applying that label.

For example, it seems that most theists, especially the "born again" and other forms of converts, consider their pre-conversion period as being atheism, whereas in reality it was merely indifference. That would lead them to view atheists as just not having been taught their religious "truth", that they are just ignorant about Jesus. That leads to atheists being bombarded by extremely lame and irritating proselytizing attempts that they have heard far too many times before. Though to be honest, that is what I had thought of creationists at first, that they simply were ignorant of the truth behind their claims and that, since they follow The Truth, as soon as they learned their claims were lies they would drop them. Instead, I learned the hard way that their problems run far deeper. Similarly, there is a sickeningly long parade of creationists who claim that they used to be "evolutionists" whereas that was simply before they had become creationists and they had never learned anything about evolution.

In another more pernicious example, there is a local creationist who describes himself as a former atheist, but in his autobiographical sketch of that experience it turns out that he was only pretending to be an atheist as a teenager so that he could feel that he could avoid personal responsibility and service his bubbling hormones without guilt. I know that he was only pretending because elsewhere he adamantly insisted that throughout that entire period of his "atheism" he still believed in God prayed to God every night, which is not characteristic of actual atheists. But as a result of his false claim of having been an atheist, he insists that he knows what motivates all atheists; id est that [verb_mood=subjunctive] they know that God exists but they are fighting against Him and that they are motivated by the desire to sin freely without guilt or responsibility for their actions[/verb_mood].

Therefore, whenever a theist starts talking about "having been an atheist", our first order of business is to find out just what the hell he's talking about. And until we are able to get that answer, the most probable outcome will be that the theist making that claim just has no clue what he's talking about. Kind of like if Trump or his WH makes any kind of statement, the probability that that statement is false is far greater than that it might be true.


In many of our Indo-European languages, we normally use the indicative mood for making factual statements (eg, "My aunt's pen is on the table.") and the imperative mood for issuing commands (eg, "Run, Spot, run!"). The subjunctive mood is used to indicate subjectivity (hard to express in English), a wish (eg, "Long live the King!", "May the wind always be to your back."), a doubt (hard to express in English), indirect discourse (ie, reporting what somebody else said without quoting him directly such that you need to indicate that you are not attesting to the truth of his statements; this is a major use of the subjunctive in German, but it is difficult to indicate in English), contrary-to-fact statements (eg, "If I were a rich man ... ").

In the Romance languages (which make extensive use of the subjunctive including most of the examples I just gave above for uses of the subjunctive) and German the subjunctive verb forms are distinctive such that just from the verb's form you know which mood it's in; eg, the famous Puccini aria "Nessun dorma" ("May none sleep.") compared with the indicative "Nessun dorme." ("Nobody is sleeping."), the subjunctive, "¡Viva Zapata!" ("Long live Zapata!"), compared to the indicative, "Zapata vive." ("Zapata is alive."). In English, the verbal forms with which to distinguish between the indicative and subjunctive moods have been lost and what little remains is mostly vestigial. Hence I chose to invent the verb_mood markup tag to indicate which mood I was using.



In How did your Bible become demonic?, Message 17, FLRW write:

FLRW writes:

People should leave the mythology behind, and learn to think for themselves. Your intellect is a better instrument of spiritual growth than any religious teachings.

Now to surprise you, I agree with FLRW's statement and I feel that it supports the mystic's approach to religion. As a confirmed atheist for over half a century -- ("confirmed" since that was around the traditional age of religious confirmations, but also because all my subsequent experiences have only confirmed that I had made the right decision so long ago).

Out of Unitarian-Universalists' experiences in the 60's with civil rights and opposition to the Viet Nam War came a catch-phrase, "The Answer is to Question". While I'm sure that it was created in the sense of questioning authority, some of our minister's sermons revealed a deeper meaning. He would point out the true purpose of religion wasn't to simply supply answers, but rather to get us to ask the questions, the important questions.

As you familiar with the British sci-fi spoof, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"? The 1981 BBC TV adaptation is available on Hulu -- I recommend it very highly. A central plot point is that a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings (who manifest in our 4-space as white mice who conduct elaborate experiments on humans in human labs) wanted to finally find the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. After millennia of computation by the most power computer ever built, Deep Thought, they finally get the answer: 42. What was that supposed to mean? Well, to understand the Answer you would need to also know the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Which Deep Thought could not calculate, but instead it could create a much more powerful computer which includes organic life: "And it shall be called The Earth!" "Well, that sounds unnecessarily Messianic!" And since the Earth had just been destroyed to make way for a hyperspatial bypass (a freeway to us Yanks), that triggers much of the actions in the story.

But through humour, Douglas Adams pointed out a problem between answers and questions. We seek answers even though the questions are much more important.

At the lowest level, if you don't know what the question was, then you will not be able to make sense out of the answer. BTW, 42. Now you know why Fox Mulder's apartment number is 42 and why he stated that he has watched "Plan 9 From Outer Space" 42 times.

Going up to the next higher levels, we find that in science questions are much more important than answers, because with every answer we find that answer raises more questions and we need those new questions to know in what direction to direct our further research. That is why ID attempts to "answer" all questions with "goddidit" would not only quite literally answer nothing whatsoever, but it would also kill science. Please refer yet again to my 27 Nov 2007 topic in response to Beretta, So Just How is ID's Supernatural-based Science Supposed to Work? (SUM. MESSAGES ONLY), in which my opening message (Message 1) stated (leaving out a synopsis of how science basically works, which you can read by following the links):

DWise1 writes:

Now, an extremely valuable by-product of all this hypothesis building and testing is questions. In science, the really interesting and valuable discoveries are the ones that raise new questions. Because questions help to direct our research. Because by realizing what we don't know and what we need to find out, we know what to look for and we have some idea of where to find it. Without those questions, science loses its direction and gets stuck.

Science cannot use supernaturalistic explanations, because they don't explain anything. We cannot observe the supernatural either directly or indirectly; we cannot even determine whether the supernatural even exists. Supernaturalistic explanations cannot be tested and hence cannot be evaluated nor discarded nor refined. They cannot produce predictions. They cannot be developed into a conceptual model that could even begin to attempt to descibe a natural phenomena nor how it works. And supernaturalistic explanations raise absolutely no questions and so provide absolutely no direction for further research. "Goddidit" explains nothing and closes all paths of investigation. Supernaturalistic explanations bring science to a grinding halt.

So in science we find that questions are very important, possibly more important that answers. To be more specific, "ultimate" answers that cannot produce new questions are of no practical use.

Now what about that relationship between answers and questions within theism?

Far too often, we encounter theists who "have been given all the answers", but they have never ever spent any time working through the questions. If you have never worked through the questions, then you have gained nothing. For example, late in high school I once expressed the wish to have college degrees just given to me without all the work, whereupon I was sternly informed that the main benefit of a degree was what you learned as you put in the work to earn that degree. That piece of advice was given to me by a fundamentalist Christian. How's that for irony?

So many religions offer you all the "answers" without making you work through the questions. For that reason I consider such religions as worse than useless.

The benefit of mysticism is that it engages you in asking the questions and seeking your own answers. Of course, a mystic's answers are just as worthless as a doctrinaire's, but at the very least the mystic has worked his way through the questions whereas the doctrinaire has not and so has experienced far more spiritual growth as a result.

So to describe my view of religion in short, the only worthy approach to religion is one in which you are constantly thinking about religious questions. If all you do is unthinkingly accept answers, then you are no better than my old naïve wish of being given college degrees without ever having put in the work to earn them.



My junior college German teacher retired when I took German 4 from him. To commemorate his retirement, he gave us the "German final exam from Hell" that almost nobody could possibly pass. Mainly, it consisted of three or four pages of text that we were to put into indirect discourse, ie rewrite the entire thing in the subjunctive. I think I did pass it, but there's no telling.

Edited by dwise1, : ABE the German final exam from Hell

Edited by dwise1, : Indented my vital grammatical note

Edited by dwise1, : that Romance languages use the subjunctive in most of the ways that I had listed

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Phat, posted 09-26-2020 10:53 AM Phat has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 91 by Phat, posted 11-25-2020 2:31 PM dwise1 has not yet responded

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