Monday, November 5, 2007

What do you believe and what would change it?

I know we already had introductory post but I'd really like to know where everyone is coming from. I'm mostly interested in the religious perspective but I assume they would also like to hear what the non-believers and in-betweeners think. So as concisely as possible, if you're willing, I'd like to know exactly where you stand with respect to god, religion, christianity, etc. and an example of what would it take to change your mind?

I'm basically on board with Dawkins. I know it seems rather unimaginative not to have any ideas outside of what he's written but I feel it's rather simple. I believe things that are reasonable and verifiable and I don't believe things that contradict the existing evidence or that have no empirical evidence.

What would change my mind? Hmm...I thought this would be easy to answer but now I'm not so sure. My first thought was a conversation with god but the more I think about it that wouldn't do. I'd probably decide later down the road that I was hallucinating. How about this: consistent results proving the efficacy of prayer. I know there are all sorts of problems with testing the power of prayer (testing god, not part of god's plan, etc.) but I think it would convince me.


Ishmael said...

Sbowe-- I'll try to answer the questions you put together in th post, but first I'd like to briefly touch on your last comment in the "genesis" post. While you were right about me believing the christian witness, I must not have been exactly articulate about contradictions with reality. Please understand I'm not trying to argue with you, I'm just trying to get across what I'm thinking (which is a touch more complicated than simple witness vs. facts-- questions of faith are rarely that easy).

If you'll remember, I did state that in order for witness to be attractive (at least to me), it should not contradict reality as we experience it (i.e. the natural world). Now, I'm not a completely uninformed christian, but so far I have never come into contact with any fact or series of facts that demonstrate that my faith contradicts reason or the natural world in any irreconcilable way (once again, sorry for repeating myself).

Ok, on to your post question. As far as what I believe, I guess the most concise summary of what I believe would be in the Nicene Creed. However, please note also that the specifics of a christian's belief are usually as diverse as each christian is. Faith is (even though it is usually expressed communally) fairly personal, and its specifics even moreso. I don't say this to dodge the question-- just to keep from filling too much space.

What would change my belief? I think if I came to the conclusion that my reason and life experience were irreconcilably inconsistent with my christian faith (note that I did not say THE christian faith), my conscience would probably dictate that I change my belief.


John Kamman said...

Sorry... this got more long-winded than I thought it would. Seems to be a trend. My apologies.

I am agnostic when it comes to “something bigger than us”, 100% atheist when it comes to organized religions. For me, I think it would be easiest to identify potential reasons why I (or others) would be religious (christian, because it seems pertinent and I’m less familiar with other religions) and then explain why I find these reasons inadequate
Potential Reasons:

History- First, Christianity has existed for less than 1% of Homo sapiens history (even less if we consider other previous homonids). We have the privilege of hindsight in examining and discarding pre-Christian religions as “mythology” (be it greek, roman, pagan…etc). It seems likely to me that in several centuries or millennia Christian “mythology” will seem equally absurd. Second, Ishmaels previous argument that the historical history of “literally billions” subscribing is, to me, unconvincing. One’s belief in god and interpretation of his “will” is not and should not be a democratic, majority-wins decision. I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth, Ishmael, I imagine you would agree. I’m just trying to illustrate why number of subscribers throughout history is irrelevant to me. All religions have a “direct historical connection” extending from its birth to its extinction.

The Bible- the extent to which the bible is man-written and man-compiled amalgamation jam packed with moral misguidance, historical inaccuracy/inconsistency, and outright hypocrisy makes me doubt its legitimacy. I don’t mean for that to sound as harsh as it does, but I don’t know how else to phrase it; I know that there are many worthwhile “truths” as well. I realize, as Kelly stated earlier, that “divine revelation” is not airtight and is, therefore subject to flaw, but I don’t approve of the subjective “pick & choose” approach.

Upbringing- Unfortunately, I think this is the primary reason people align with a given religion, but it is also one of the most thoughtless and least adequate reasons to do so.

Church Doctrine- subject to the same problems as the Bible. Man-made and often changes to accommodate moral-majority shifts, or scientific discoveries. If God’s will is immutable, why is church doctrine not? Either divine revelation is failing miserably or no immutable will ever existed. Either way, I feel inclined not to subscribe.

Personal Experience – we’ve discussed this a bit already. I don’t believe personal experience, short of a direct godly encounter, could suffice for me. Experiencing certain transcendent feelings..etc while partaking in something “Christian” (mass, the bible, prayer) may seem convincing, but could and would be experienced, I believe, in any other organized religion (or Art, Music, Drugs…for me in Science).

What would change my mind? Palpable un-doctored evidence or a direct godly encounter.

KBowe said...

My name is Kayla. I'm an atheist who was raised Lutheran. Currently, I am working on my Master's in Biology at Bemidji State.

I won't comment on much. I agree with John in that our religiosity seems to have a lot to do with our upbringing. It is very easy to believe something because it's what we have always been told. It's a lot harder to divert from what you've been taught - especially when it's from people whom you love and respect (hopefully anyway). For me, I only began to seriously question religion about five years ago. The more I learned about science and the facts of evolution, the less I believed, until one day, I realized I was an atheist.

I don't have anything really profound to say. I am very new at actually discussing religion and lack a lot of the knowledge that so many of you seem to have.

As far as what would change my mind - that's a tough one. There really has to be something concrete, physical. I'm not exactly sure what that is at this point.

sbowe said...

John and Ishmael,

You guys make me feel very outclassed when it comes to writing. That's OK though. When I was a Marine and I wanted to become a better squad leader, I picked the best squad leaders and followed them like a lost puppy. I eventually excelled in that department, so maybe this will help me with my writing...and thinking.

Thanks for the response.

I hope this doesn't come off as abrasive but I'm getting the idea that you have developed a separate "christianity" that is impervious to reason based attacks. If you believed in creation vs. evolution, the power of prayer, the bible as the infallible word of god, or the earth being 6,000 years old it would be easy to show you that reason trumps your faith.

You said that "if I came to the conclusion that my reason and life experience were irreconcilably inconsistent with my christian faith" you would be forced to change your belief. Your wording seems very carefully selected and include the phrases "my reason" and "my christian faith" which you separate from THE christian faith.

First, I don't believe that there is such a thing as "my reason." Something is either reasonable or it isn't. Reason involves the use of facts and logic to explain phenomena. There is very little reason in classical christian beliefs. This leads to my next point.

Your version of christianity may not adhere to all of the unreasonable aspects of christianity. However, if the Nicene Creed is your belief statement, you do at least believe in the virgin birth of christ. I don't know the Nicene Creed but I think it is similar to the Apostle's Creed (If not I'm in trouble and this is a poor point to argue). This is not a reasonable belief. It cannot happen in nature (well maybe if christ were a Daphnia). It absolutely contradicts our current reality. If, in this case you believe that natural laws were able to be broken by a supernatural being then you are back to believing in something unreasonable except in the case of your own contrived definition of reason. What then, specifically, would ever convince you that your faith was trumped by reason? I'd like to hear a specific example.

I hope none of this comes off as offensive. It's always tough to capture the right tone in writing. Please just assume that anytime I'm posting I'm not being rude intentionally...unless I'm talking to John.

And Ishmael, by all means, argue with me. I enjoy it, even when I'm wrong. :)

Fitch said...

I agree with John, except I have more angst against the Bible, as I feel it is a hegemonic tool used to substantiate patriarchal ideology (among other things).

As for conversion, I often say I'll return to Catholicism if God were to smite some of my inept students as I'm reading their crap essays. But, I think I would still seek direct contact in order to give her a high five for the favor.

John Kamman said...

Joe (Fitch), I'm glad you agree with me. Its been several years since we debated these things, but if I recall, you identified yourself as an atheist with respect to not only organized religion, but also the metaphysics (in which case we did not, and do not agree). Is this still the case, or have you changed your views, or I am completely mistaken about our previous debates?

(How's this for staying on topic, Shane?....sorry.)

sbowe said...

I don't know, that seems pretty close to the topic.

I know this wasn't a question for me but I think I can chime in a bit as far as metaphysics is concerned. John, as you explained to me you are open to metaphysics and lean toward their existence (you just lean, you don't take a full step). I think that's what you determined after a drink or 7. I generally lean the other way. I'm not able to proclaim the idea of metaphysics a farce, but I lean (without stepping) toward nonexistence. I think I would need to see the natural world and metaphysical world collide in some way before I could subscribe to the idea that metaphysics actually exist. If they never do collide, then it probably doesn't matter if they exist since they could in no way impact the natural world. OK, I'm back to work now.

sbowe said...

Ishmael, What would be a specific example of something that would cause you to feel that your life experience and reason were irreconcilably inconsistent with your faith?