When They Stand at the Edge of Non-Belief It’s so Hard Not to Push

Once again we are visited by our good friend David Goza who lights our way regularly from the dark pits of YouTube

The questionnaire that I have my students fill out at the beginning of every semester includes questions designed with a view to getting to know who my students are. I always find the answers interesting and revealing, and occasionally alarming.

 

One of the questions I ask is, “What is the biggest idea you’ve ever had to come to terms with?” As you can no doubt imagine, I see quite a range of answers to this one: everything from “what goes on inside a black hole?” to “I’ll soon have to move out of my parents’ basement,” with a smattering of references to mortality and religion in between. A few students leave that one blank – just don’t care to touch it. (Have they never wrestled with a big idea?) A few semesters ago, one student responded with, “fucking magnets – how do they work?

 

Among last semester’s crop of students was a young woman from a small Oklahoma town who wrote the following in response to my nosy question: “Everyone does not believe what I do from a religious perspective. It’s hard for me to understand why others believe what they do. I am Southern Baptist.”

 

Believe it or not, I understand her predicament and sympathize. I’ve been there.

 

What I wish I could have said to her, and of course didn’t and never will on principle, is something like the following:
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What Does “God” Mean to You?

©Fueling Your Consciousness

I have smart friends.

Like, really smart friends. And I tend to save things they say in response to my prompts on Facebook because they truly blow my mind.

Here, my buddy sets the record straight about online religious debates.

Enjoy. 🙂

 

“As an igtheist, I have to say that I think this back and forth is pointless and fruitless. Until there is a solid agreed upon definition of god that can be empirically measured, there is no point in claiming to believe and/or not believe. The word is so loosely used that it always surprises me how really smart people can pretend to have a discussion about something so ill-defined.

 

The Judeo-Christian-Islamic god is defined as the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-benevolent, creator of the universe. There are many problems with accepting this as definition. The first is that it’s a contradiction. Epicurus proved this in the 3rd century BC. The mere existence of evil in the world means that god can be any two of the three but not all three (omniscient, omnipotent, or omnibenevolent). Google the “Problem of Evil” for more.

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Simplicity As Confirmation Bias

For More from David, Click HERE

 

For those philosophically minded, William Ockham will immediately engender various degrees of analytic glee, the name synonymous with logical parsimony or simple explanation. The more user-friendly phrase concerning parsimony is: “Don’t multiply entities beyond necessity.” Then again, perhaps the phrase isn’t as friendly as it may be to some. Thankfully that’s rather the point here, simplicity being, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Consider a rose possessed of a particular color and a certain number of petals arising out of a stem. To the average person it is a thing of beauty. To a botanist there will be an entire history of breeding involved. To a chemist there will be a litany of compounds and scents included. Which one is more simple? Is that even the right question? For Ockham, the answer to the latter is most certainly not.

 

As human beings, possessed of a surplus of intelligence and imagination, the need to offer explanations is not only a seeming necessity, but the source of a great deal of social fracas. Some of the earliest childhood memories are related to giving explanations for behavior in a manner to deflect guilt, as when explaining a broken window or why there’s chocolate on fingertips despite being told not to eat dessert before dinner. Such stories certainly continue into adulthood, though the ramifications of our explanations become exponentially more. Issues of social policy will take into account explanations for human behavior, the American justice system being predicated on the offering of behavior being intrinsically free. Matters of geopolitics rest on explanations of human interaction and the role force plays in building and maintaining countries. Environmental concerns run through the sieve of explanations concerning biological diversity and origins, including the age of the earth and the cosmos. None of the offered explanations for these matters come without consequences, often beginning during the battle of determining which explanation is better than another.
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God Isn’t Real but the Devil Is: Childhood’s End and Five Years of Hell

Warning: The Following is a true story with names changed for privacy and safety.  This is a trigger warning so please be careful if you have a history of abuse as this story could cause a recurrence.

Hi, my name is Josephine and I am 12 years old; I’m in the sixth grade, and my life is pretty good. I live with my grandparents and my younger brother. My sister Nicole, her husband and their two children live down the road. I like to visit and spend time with my sister, so I usually walk to her house and we clean or watch television or something like that.

 

Today was different though.

 

Today, I walked there and my sister was not there. He was, though. He said that Nicole would be back soon. He sat down beside me on the couch. Then He started tickling me. At first it was kind of fun, but then He started touching places that my grandma said no one was supposed to touch. I thought maybe it was just an accident. Nicole came home soon after that.

 

I went back to Nicole’s house about a week later. My nephew was the only one who was there. I sat down in the living room and he went back to his bedroom. Not long after I got there, He came home. I got up to walk to my nephew’s room, but while I was walking down the hall, He grabbed me from behind. His hands cupped around my still developing breasts. I tried to squirm away, but His arms are stronger than I am. He leans over and whispers in my ear “You know you can’t tell anyone that we play like this.” I didn’t like this game. This game made me feel dirty, like I needed to shower. Maybe I am just overreacting. Maybe He will stop this soon, He is like my brother. He and my sister got married when I was only four years old. Maybe He really is just playing.
Continue reading “God Isn’t Real but the Devil Is: Childhood’s End and Five Years of Hell”

Letter from the Editor: I’m Just Tired

As the title says, I’m just tired, exhausted, worn down, exasperated… Does anyone else feel it?

 

Wait, let me elaborate before you sigh and cast your weary gaze to the back button, expecting this to be nothing but a series of complaints from a millennial who actually has to work for his money. You would be quite wrong, of course, as I rarely give people exactly what they expect.

 

As an activist, blogger, podcast host, engineer, homeowner, small business owner, husband, responsible pet owner, and soon to be father of a tiny human female I accept the weariness this will dispel. I understand that life can be filled with siestas and 40 hour cog in the machine workweeks if one can willingly submit. I understand all of these things but that is not the reason for my fatigue, it is the repetition.

 

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Repetition in argumentation, repetition in political idiocy, repetition in online bigotry, repetition in financial irresponsibility, repetition of traditional oppression, and the list goes on and on…

 

I am so tired of the same arguments from the right wing arch conservatives: gay marriage will destroy all moral structure ending in malicious bestiality, deregulation of the economy will create more jobs not slave wages and serfdom, tax breaks-school funding / social programming cuts will force the poor to actually work, and Obama is a Muslim Nazi.

 

I am so tired of reading stories of political leaders announcing their intentions to take big money out of politics when we can see the list of their campaign contributors are the top wall street mega corporations. I am tired of politicians charged with protecting the American people putting “Freedom”, “Patriot”, or “Religious Freedom” at the beginning of some of the most subversive legislation to ever attack our basic human rights. And, I am tired of a two party system that uses unethical financial bullying to prevent decent discourse and the diversity of the people from being represented in our “Democratic Republic” election cycles.
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Personal Journey Series – Reflections on the Passing of a Father

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Sometimes life has a funny way of kicking you in the ass, and death has a way of helping you remember memories you once had forgotten. I don’t know where to begin or why this should even bother me the way it does. For this connection has been one that was long lost, drifted away on a sea of time and space only to be brought to my mind with the passing of a common acquaintance.

 

This week I received an email from an old friend. One that used to share life and happiness with me as we journeyed through love, loss, and friendship. His life was one no one would envy but his hard and honest work has always won out. This friend left for another state years ago, and we slowly started to lose touch. His favorite saying was, “We have said it all before. What more can we say?” This used to bother me, as I was feeling the distance of his path leaving mine and as the winding roads started to split apart until little to no contact was made. This friend had a hard life. I got to share some of his struggles and learn with him through many a trial as we gathered our belongings and hiked the road of life.
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If I were god

If I were god, I would have set the universe in motion from an easily discoverable point of creation. I wouldn’t have told primitive beings through mental meditation techniques the importance of the origins story. To proclaim the beginning of life I would have created a pillar indestructible and visible to all those who wanted to view it

 

If I were god, I would have created one language that humans could all speak. It would be easily understood and without nuisance to learn. I would have enlightened man to garner the power of this language in order to prevent the division of language barriers quite unlike the biblical story of the tower of Babel where I purposely confused mankind

 

If I were god, the world would not have natural disasters that kill millions of people. If I felt the need to end the lives of millions I would proclaim aloud why; I would not take the innocent, but focus on those that went against my commands. I would write it in the sky or appear simultaneously to everyone to make this proclamation to allow time for repentance and redemption.

 

If I were god, I would I would make it known to man every time he asked me. There wouldn’t be individual visions but one consolidated vision give to those who ask where I am. Humans would know that I am real, not by having to develop and retool old philosophies, but by establishing one never changing philosophy. There would be no need for churches of varying types because everyone would know what I stood for and who I am.
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A Loss of Structure: Is Faith A Valid Epistemic Tool?

Q: I’ve cornered my good friend through reductionist logic before and he’s often ended the discussion with “Well to an extent it is a matter of faith…but I know these things to be true, yada yada.” I would like you to expand on the idea of ‘faith’ being an unreliable rubric for truth. To me it is apparent why faith can be misleading if not wholly incorrect, but why can it not be used to justify an entire theology that seemingly makes sense?

 

My Response: The simplest way of putting it is that I take the believer at his word, i.e. that faith is a means of ascertaining knowledge.

 

The mistake of many is to look at faith as some kind of childish attempt at giving a glib justification for believing anything one wants. While certainly this may be the case for some religious believers of various dogmatic persuasions, it is not the issue for the more learned of religious intellectuals, notably Augustine and Aquinas or more recently Gordon Clark and Carl Henry. For these men, faith is an epistemic tool, a necessary one due to the innate problems that empirical knowledge supposedly has, based on the critical observation that numerous times in history the scientific method has led to wrong conclusions.
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Moving the Values of Myth: A Reflection on Easter

© David Teachout

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From moment to moment, our lives can embody any of the multiplicity of purposes that we can identify with. The stories we tell, from socially created myths to benign exaggerations expressed to friends and colleagues, project the particular purpose we want to make front and center. This can be due to a desire to express an idea to another or to make sure we’re on the same track we first set out upon. Whatever that purpose is, the values that come along for the ride, both in the telling and the type of story chosen, do so in the form the story takes. Thankfully stories are more than single-use thought-devices, else we would never be able to reuse them or get something new regardless of repetition. Because of a shared human experience, we are able to remember lessons imparted through literature or voice because they continue to resonate with new situations. Importantly, this allows us to determine whether the form the value took before is how we’d like it to continue. Take the example of a father telling a joke, a form of story, about how he’d scare his daughter’s date with shotgun in hand. The value on hand is paternal care, a value most of us hold in some fashion and have no problem promoting. However, the form it takes in the joke makes that value so prominent that it overshadows any other, for instance respect and personal integrity. As time has gone on the joke is no longer the best form to express paternal care, precisely because the values of respect and integrity have increased in significance in association with that situation. Consider it like a movable hierarchy, where the original story form presented paternal care at the top of the pyramid and respect and integrity being derived and below it. It’s not that respect and integrity didn’t exist, it’s just that rather than being equal, they were subservient to the form of paternal care being presented.

 

I know of no situation where a person’s values have utterly disappeared, though certainly they will rise and fall in conscious consideration as time and experience go by. I grew up with stories, my father sending me and my siblings to sleep with short made-up stories that imparted humor or whatever lesson he’d considered that day. I am also a voracious reader and, like the bed-time stories the form they take has changed over the years. There came a point when the bedtime stories stopped and simplistic fiction no longer sufficed. I still held the same values of honesty and valor, dedication to an ideal and perseverance in the face of adversity, but the way those values stood in form had become more complicated. For others the original form no longer made any sense.
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Being Anti-Religious Gets Us Nowhere

© David Teachout

When faced with the question of “Do you believe in God?” the immediate response should be “Which one?” This query goes to the heart of the inherent ego-centrism of the initial question. Let’s face it, the person uttering it is not at all interested in getting into a long and winding philosophical discussion about metaphysics, the nature of knowledge and the degree to which personal experience is relevant to claims about reality. No, they’re asking whether you belong with them, and by them of course is meant those who believe in their particular deity. The quizzical look that passes at the response is an indication of just how myopic their vision of human experience is, that of course when that funny three-letter word is used, particularly when capitalized, it can only mean the god they believe in. Any others are but pale human-made facsimiles.

 

The term “god” has no inherent content, it’s like a Platonic form waiting to be filled in by actual experience. At best, “god” can allude to some transcendent principle or being or experience, but beyond that there’s no details as to what any of those actually entails. As when we hear the term “chair” or “table” or “car,” we have an immediate framework for what such means and our minds supply images. Utilizing the proximity principle of cognitive heuristics, the images that come up are often what we saw last or are most often interacting with. Similar occurs then when we hear the term “god.” The mere ability to come up with an immediate image or idea in no way proves the legitimacy of that image or idea, it just points to the tendency of our minds to fill in the gaps of uncertainty. As such we can utilize god to mean anything from a transcendent principle like love or purpose (“god is love”), to a panoply of deities (Hinduism, pagan traditions, etc.), a monolithic supernatural person (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) and as synonymous with the holistic quality of being in the universe (Ernest Holmes, Jerry Goldsmith, Ralph Waldo Emerson).
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