CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

I said last time that I was not trying to prove anything but just explecating my views. So angry atheists write and say "You don't back anything up, you can't prove anything." why should anyone get angry because of my opinion? I said point blank I wasn't trying to prove anything!

Meaning is a function of truth, and truth is the limit on meaning. In other words The only way that something is meaningful is in proportion to the extent to which it represents the truth of some situation or outlook. By the same token, meaning is limited by truth. A lie is not meaningful in terms of its falsehood, only in terms of what it tells us about the liar. Meaning is subjective, one cannot deduce meaning from the order of things as one might try to deduce a designer from the apparent design in the universe. For that matter, I don't think one can logically deduce a design in the universe. The fact that meaning is subject does not indicate that God can't bestow meaning. "Subjective" refers to an individual's perspective. Each individual has his/her own perspective and cannot know that of another. God, on the other hand, can know each and every individual perspective. God knows the heart, God knows the mind, God knows all hidden knowledge that no human can know. Therefore, God is the only perspective which sees from all view points at once. Thus God is both subjective and objective.

when I say "meaning in life" it should be clear that I'm talking about Meaning with a capital "M." That is higher meaning, meta narrative. The big picture.We can all have some kind of meaning in our lives, but the question is, do we have private, local, relative meaning or do we have "higher universal meaning?" Many people reacted angrily to the previous part 1 of this topic.It's odd that the sensibilities of changed so, because in the 60's that stuff would have been eaten up. The irony is these very people who take the attitude that they can find their own meaning and they don't need God, have that attitude because Sartre made it acceptable in the culture. But then turn around and lam bast Sartre for finding that meaning depends upon God. People today are at easy the existential aunxt. They don't fee it and they don't care. In any case, Sartre is only saying the most logical truth. Which would be more meaningful, if the inventor of a product said "I made this product to do X,Y, and Z." Or if someone who has never even seen the product said "I think this product is for X,Y, and Z?"

We live on a dust mote in a sea of random chance. There is no reason why we come to be. The galaxy, the solar system, planet, species and each individual in them is nothing more than an accident. If you don't believe in God you have to believe that no one designed you, no one created you for a purpose, you have o purpose, you weren't born for a reason, you are nothing than an organism, soulless, and devoid o any special reason for being. When you die, you die that's it no one cares no one remembers you and it wont matter one whit that you ever lived. If you have talent it is not a gift, its just a mistake. But if God created you then you are a creature of God's. You exist for a reason, and hat reason is o be loved by God. You exist to the object of love of the creator of the universe. What could give grand higher level meaning more than that? Yet, these people angered by that concept. That is hard for me to figure. I mean some of them actually said "this is evil." I certainly do not understand this. How could it be evil to think that each and every individual is an end in himself, a special being made for the express purpose of experiencing God's love? How in the hell can that be evil?

Each individual can find some basis of meaning that is personally satisfying. I get a kick out of thinking about that yellow garage, I don't expect that to be meaningful to anyone else. It gives me a sense of meaning in a way. But that's not higher meaning. it's not a purpose for living, it's just personally satisfying. You might not think higher meaning matters, but higher meaning gives the empitus to live for something and it makes our commitments worth dying for. Take for example the three civil rights works in Freedom summer, 1964. They were in Mississippi, registering voters. Their names where Goodman, Chainy, and Schwerner. These are the three civil rights workers murdered by the Klan and buried in a damn. This event was captured on the movie Mississippi Burning. Those guys were murdered in secret. They just diapered it took a huge search to find their bodies. If they had never been found, no one would have ever known of their sacrifice, would it be meaningful that they made it? Well each of us will die, and be forgotten and then it wont matter worth a hill of beans what sacrifices we made. By care about anything? Why help anyone or commit to anything because after you die peple forget you ever existed and it doesn't matter. It's not recorded in posterity, what dos it matter? What would it have mattered if the three workers had gone home and just didn't bother to work for civil rights? Why stand up for anything? In the end there's no consequence for cheating, no one sees.

Now I'm betting that most atheists out there will be thinking "I don't need God for it to matter." OF course without God it really doesn't matter because you just die nd then no one remembers and so who cares? You aren't around to think about it. But I bet that some where in your heart you are secretly thinking "it matters in the long run in some sense." But in the long run is not different from the short run, you exist for no reason, when you die you die and no one cares and it doesn't matter. But you are thinking there can be some way in which it does matter. But that's because you have the notion of God. In your hearts of hearts you know God is real and God is the one who sees. That makes things meaningful. Does that mean that atheists' lives are meaningless, or that atheists are of no value? No of course not, it means the opposite. Atheists are of inestemial value each and every individual because they are all creatures of God and their lives were created for a purpose. That purpose is to love and be loved in return. Atheists' lives have meaning even though they do know that they do have this meaning.

Now a lot of atheists try to make the argument that God doesn't know anything. God is no better than just any old bully in a bar. They try to make good on this idea by arguing that meaning is personal and private anyway. But the only kind of meaning they can have is personal and private so they have to make the best of it, and they have to pretend that that's as good as universal higher meaning; of course logically it can never be. You know there is universal logical meaning, you know it can only come from God.Finding a universal higher meaning is basic psychological need, and it's actually part of the definition of mental health. If these people understood the concept of God properly they would see how fallacious it is to think that God's view point is just one more opinion. Many atheists can only think of God as a big man in the sky. But is not a big man, God is the foundation of all that is. That means God is to you as your brain is the the thoughts in your head. You are a thought of God. How could we possibly compare the divine perspective to our own? We degrade it by even calling it a perspective. We should just say "how could the divine compare with a human perspective?" Because God is not just another perspective. God is all perspective. Some atheists try to say that meaning is bestowed by mind so they somehow think that God can't bestow meaning. I certainly don't understand that. The divine is the source of consciousness. The divine is the ultimate center of mind, thus the valuations that are bestowed by the divine are clearly more meaningful and carry more weight than any other.

Keep in mind, God is not a big guy in the sky. He's not the potentate on a throne with a white beard. That is just a cultural metaphor used by ancient people to make God relevant to their cultural understanding. God is not an individual being, for individual imply one of many. God is unique, God is the basis upon which all things exist, and has no category and is not comparable to anything. In my view God is the
Ground of Being or "being itself." This means that the divine is the basic foundation upon which things exist. This means the divine is the basis of the laws of the physics.I'm sure these ideas will anger many atheists. But this is because the modern sensibility cannot accept a will higher than its own. the mission of the modern is to be one's own God; we must never accept a will higher than our own. They are not use to thinking about placing their egos on a lower level than that of the divine. The modern sensibility is comfortable with local privatized meaning. But a huge body of empirical data shows that those who experience religious consciousness have a much deeper sense of meaning in life than those who do not. For thousands of years people have found meaning in the sense of the numinous.

In his amazing article "Spirituality and Well Being, An Overview" qualified clinical psychologist K. Krishna Mohan looks at a huge number of studies that demonstrate the link between self actualization and religious experience. He says that a vast number of studies prove that religious experince increases one's sense of the overall meaning in life, and that this is a major life long strength for those who experience it.

Numerous studies have found positive relationships between religious beliefs and practices and physical or mental health measures. Although it appears that religious belief and participation may possibly influence one’s subjective well-being, many questions need to be answered such as when and why religion is related to psychological well-being. A review by Worthington et al., (1996) offers some tentative answers as to why religion may sometimes have positive effects on individuals. Religion may (a) produce a sense of meaning, something worth living and dying for (Spilka, Shaves & Kirkpath, 1985); (b) stimulate hope (Scheier & Carver, 1987) and optimism (Seligman, 1991); (c) give religious people a sense of control by a beneficient God, which compensates for reduced personal control (Pargament et al., 1987); (d) prescribe a healthier lifestyle that yields positive health and mental health outcomes; (e) set positive social norms that elicit approval, nurturance, and acceptance from others; (f) provide a social support network; or (g) give the person a sense of the supernatural that is certainly a psychological boost-but may also be a spiritual boost that cannot be measured phenomenologically (Bergin & Payne, 1993). It is also reported by Myers and Diener (1995) that people who experience a sustained level of happiness are more likely to say that they have a meaningful religious faith than people who are not happy over a long period of time.


This article is on the website for the Indian Psychology Institute. Mohan looks at cross cultural studies in India and the West.

Sartre's attempt at making his own meaning failed, and this illustrates the fallacy. Sartre made the argument that sense it is up to us to create our own meaning, the meaning that we do create, as an amalgam, is the essence of humanity. In other words, humanity is as humanity does (or in this case, as humanity believes). But when asked what if humanity become fascist, then the essence of humanity will be fascist and we have to say our species is defined as fascist in essence. The only thing that Sartre could say was "this is unthinkable, we have to hope this doesn't happen." The fact that he could not find an effective answer is just a function of the problem that always dogged him. As Gabriel Marcel pointed out, Sartre never did develop a sense of ethics or a system of ethical thinking based upon his existentialism. This has always been understood as one of the great failings of humanist atheistic existentialism. This problem really points up the fact that localized meaning can backfire and make life even more meaningless. What if one is frustrated in obtaining the things that make one feel life is meaningful? For example how does a Hedonist cope with a life that is pure misery? Such a life must be meaningless a priori.

As I said meaning in life can't be deduced or proven. It has to come with the package of belief. Meaning is properly basic, however, and while it can present itself to people apart from any sort of proof, and thus taken on face value because suddenly things seem meaningful the proper basicality of meaning points o a higher truth. Since meaning is a function of truth, the sense of meaning can be understood as an indication of truth. There are certain hints at meaning:

(1)Love and the reverence for life.

Schweitzer tried to externalize the survival instinct in reverence for life, the desire to apply to all organisms the same fierce sense of survival that one applies to one's self. The sense of love and reverence for life gives one a sense of meaning in the grand universal sense.

(2) Morality

Positing a universal set of strictures that are true in all situations because they refer to duty and obligation gives a sense that there is a higher meaning behind it all.

(3) need for human dignity

Dignity is the root of the Christian sort of love. The Greek term for Christian love, or God's love, is Agape. A major aspect of the definition of Agape is "to be willing to accord the other the basic humanity dignity owed to a human being." Human dignity is a function of meaning. Because we are creatures of god we have this value in God's eyes. But human dignity is balanced by human responsibly, this is not an excuse to destroy the planet. Rather its a rationale for trying to save the planet. Fundamentalists who think "green" is a waste of time because we are headed for end already are not honoring the responsibility which comes from bearing the human dignity imparted by the image of God in which we are made.

(4)laws of physics.

That's a dilemma I use in my third God argument. If the laws of physics are prescriptive then who passed the law. Who is the law maker? Science cannot tell us where the laws of physics come from, but some scientists (such as Dr. Odenwald) recognize that the laws had to come first or nothing would happen. But where were the laws embodied when there was physical universe? If laws of physics are not prescriptive but merely generalizations drawn from tendencies of behavior that would mean the universe come to be against or without physical law, when other things happen without physical law or opposed to physical law we call it "miracle" and skeptics say it can't happen.

(5) Religious experince

as demonstrated above the studies show people who have religious experiences of the "mystical" or "peak" kind, tend to feel as part of the experince that there is an inherent overarching meta narratival meaning to life. Those who do not have such experiences are less likely to have this. This is would suggest that such a sense is part of a divine revelation that comes from contact with the divine.

It is tempting to try and make the need for meaning into an argument for the existence of God. The problem with this approach is it's too subjective to demonstrate that meaning exits. Yet since meaning is a function of truth, the need for overarching meaning, the sense that it is had in the nature of religious experince and the other hints may be indicative of a justification for faith. This is an argument from sign, but if meaning is a function of truth, then to find meaning might imply that we have found truth. It seems unthinkable that the sense of meaning that offers deep satisfaction and makes life work and gives us all the hope we need to face whatever trials may come, is just the product of a lie and a mistake. The sense of meaning the sense of the numinous gives to life is a priori indication of truth.

What is the connection to civilization? Schweitzer defined civilization as the organizing of living conditions in such a way that the individual is allowed to grain his/her full potential. Freeways and shopping malls are just the infrastructure of civilization. Just like the plumbing to a house is not the house, but merely part of the infrastructure of the house. Civilization is the ideas the enable us to pursue such living conditions as are conducive to human potential. Clearly the search for meaning in one's life is germane to the concept of civilization. If our ideas of civilization are not informed by that search then we are not pursuing civilization.

6 comments:

I was born the same year as you.

And I find that reading your own cogitations have sparked a few of my own, though perhaps less purely philosophical.

I'm an agnostic with friends of different sorts. I admire openness in the sense of reading widely the thoughts of others, I admire rationality, calmness, as well as humor/wit. I see a point to mysticism, not a strictly rational point, but a point none the less. I value feelings, not just rationality. I also admire my skeptic friends and acquaintances past and present (including the late great Martin Gardner, both skeptic and theist of an existential sort).

I sometimes relax and focus on all that is good, loving, kind, knowledgable, wise, and funny, and consider myself blessed. And sometimes note coincidences concerning how I may bump into a book, a line in a book, a person, or they may bump into me, or how something I write influences others positively. Again, I consider such moments blessings, and sometimes can't help but consider some of my own doings to be "mystically, perhaps divinely inspired." Though I am also aware that many many other people consider themselves likewise blessed, people whose writings and views about religion, God, holy scriptures etc., could not be further from my own.

I don't claim to know why everything is the way it is, why joys shared are doubled, or why sorrows shared are halved. Why we are born, why we die. Nor the secret of how to "inherit eternal life." I life each day in hope of a good day, and a better tomorrow, and beyond that, further hope after death. But I admit I have far less proof, aside from NDE stories, than I'd like.

As a Christian do you believe I have a high chance of being eternally damned for living and believing as I have outlined above? I honestly do not see how I could believe otherwise given my own particular life and learning.

I also understand how each person feels the same way concerning the honesty of their own beliefs.

And sometimes I mourn over the way each person's brain contains so much information in three dimensions and via intimate memories that they can only share with other via mere words, a thin linear stream of information compared with how each word and experience is related inside each person's brain in three dimensions.

And I mourn over the fact that people often believe they have "communicated" their thoughts to others, when they have not, when genuine full communication has not really occurred, if only because too many shared experiences, assumptions and readings are not shared between such people. But both sides imagine communication has occurred and that the other continues to disagree with them out of some fault the other possesses.

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE

So in sum, I have many suspicions, but not what I'd call beliefs, and certainly not dogmas and doctrines that are absolutely true. I may pray or not pray. I have done both and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. I was once quite certain of the inerrancy of the Bible, when I was in high school and college and for several years after college. I was elected president of my campus' Evangelical group. But I continued to debate and read and changed my mind. I respect the fact that you share the same year of birth as I, way back in 1956, and have an equally long story to tell concerning how and why you currently believe as you do, and any changes you've also undergone since your youth concerning your beliefs.

But here's a few more things I'd like to share.

It's often the books that contain ideas just a little further on down the road from those ideas we presently believe that have the most effect on us, rather than books containing ideas that lay across a vast ravine from our own.

Secondly, we often know less than we think we do about people, their lives and beliefs. I've been reading first hand stories of conversions back and forth from any number of beliefs, to and fro, in every direction. It's all quite fascinating. And I find less to condemn in such stories than one might expect, and wish people well and hope they continue to read widely and seek the best in every book and person, rather than getting in a position where they feel the need to cling to something's so tightly that they actually fear other books and people where goodness may also be found.

Life is tough, suffering and rejection of some sort is inevitable, so is being met with ignorance, volatile emotions or laughter from others. I don't think any religion or irreligion on earth can protect a person from those sorts of things in life. So part of life is learning to grow a bit thicker skin, but one doesn't want one's skin to grow so thick as to grow calloused towards others and miss the goodness around one just because one is so intent on avoiding the bad.

There's a lot of practical moral wisdom out there, in people, in books of religion and philosophy, in novels and movies and beautiful music that may inspire one toward a bit of teary eyed sentimentality rather than belligerence or fear. I find much to love in many people, many books, and many songs, past and present.

I was born the same year as you.

Meta: Cool. Remember Sean Hunt? Remember Rawhide? Remember Highway Patrol? That was already old when we were born.

You give me a lot to talk about. I don't really have time to do it all justice but I don't want to give it short shrift either.


And I find that reading your own cogitations have sparked a few of my own, though perhaps less purely philosophical.

I'm an agnostic with friends of different sorts. I admire openness in the sense of reading widely the thoughts of others, I admire rationality, calmness, as well as humor/wit. I see a point to mysticism, not a strictly rational point, but a point none the less. I value feelings, not just rationality. I also admire my skeptic friends and acquaintances past and present (including the late great Martin Gardner, both skeptic and theist of an existential sort).


Meta:That's good. I try to have an open attitude toward people and other ideas. I wasn't always that way, being raised in Texas. I've worked on it over the years.

I sometimes relax and focus on all that is good, loving, kind, knowledgable, wise, and funny, and consider myself blessed. And sometimes note coincidences concerning how I may bump into a book, a line in a book, a person, or they may bump into me, or how something I write influences others positively. Again, I consider such moments blessings, and sometimes can't help but consider some of my own doings to be "mystically, perhaps divinely inspired." Though I am also aware that many many other people consider themselves likewise blessed, people whose writings and views about religion, God, holy scriptures etc., could not be further from my own.

I don't claim to know why everything is the way it is, why joys shared are doubled, or why sorrows shared are halved. Why we are born, why we die. Nor the secret of how to "inherit eternal life." I life each day in hope of a good day, and a better tomorrow, and beyond that, further hope after death. But I admit I have far less proof, aside from NDE stories, than I'd like.


Meta: I don't claim to know why either.I must come across as someone who thinks he knows it all but I don't think that.I know I don't know most things, but that's not to going to stop me from flapping my gums about most things!;-)

As a Christian do you believe I have a high chance of being eternally damned for living and believing as I have outlined above? I honestly do not see how I could believe otherwise given my own particular life and learning.

Meta:first of all you didn't really mention anything that the Bible says is a sin, and you didn't really talk about beliefs so much as just attitudes, and I share many of them myself.

Secondly, I'm the unconventional black sheep of the CADRE: that is, the token liberal. Even though I started the group, I barely get in under wire because I accept the Nicene creed. Belief in inerrency of the Bible is not a requirement for membership.

So as a liberal theologically (and politically) I don't believe in hell. I don't believe n a eternal conscious torment in a literal fire pit. I believe that there's judgment for those who are at enmity with God, that those who set themselves against God and refuse to believe as a matter of the will. Not even refuse to believe, that's a misleading term. But those who refuse to open their hearts to the good.

I am not convinced that only those consciously identify themselves as members of the chruch will be saved. Not to excuse sin and not to excuse those who wish to be at enmity with God or give false hope but I take Paul at his word. When he says "to those who seek the good glory and honor in this life and in the next life eternal salvation" that's a lose paraphrase (Romans 2:5-6) I take that at it's word.

Here is my page on salvation and other faiths (counting atheists as "other faiths") please read.



I also understand how each person feels the same way concerning the honesty of their own beliefs.

Meta: I do too



And sometimes I mourn over the way each person's brain contains so much information in three dimensions and via intimate memories that they can only share with other via mere words, a thin linear stream of information compared with how each word and experience is related inside each person's brain in three dimensions.

Meta:that's the kind of existential stuff I think about a lot. You are very sensitive to notice those things, I agree and I think bout them too. I wonder if that's because of our age? Because we came up in the 60's?

And I mourn over the fact that people often believe they have "communicated" their thoughts to others, when they have not, when genuine full communication has not really occurred, if only because too many shared experiences, assumptions and readings are not shared between such people. But both sides imagine communication has occurred and that the other continues to disagree with them out of some fault the other possesses.

Meta: That is so true and quite profound. That's one of my major private themes. That's why mysticism makes sense to me. Yet there is inter-subjectivity. WE d apparently communicate at some level, hence all the books. Its' a conundrum.

So in sum, I have many suspicions, but not what I'd call beliefs, and certainly not dogmas and doctrines that are absolutely true. I may pray or not pray. I have done both and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. I was once quite certain of the inerrancy of the Bible, when I was in high school and college and for several years after college. I was elected president of my campus' Evangelical group. But I continued to debate and read and changed my mind.

Meta: I don't believe in inerreancy. It's the liberal thing. I might post on that some time.



I respect the fact that you share the same year of birth as I, way back in 1956, and have an equally long story to tell concerning how and why you currently believe as you do, and any changes you've also undergone since your youth concerning your beliefs.

Remember whirly birds? Route 66 and Man from Uncle?

On my website I talk about my conversion and how it happened and that gives a bit about my childhood and youth.

My Testimony

I was profoundly marked by the 60s. I was a leftist and anti-war protester (in 6th grade and up).I wrote a couple of blog pieces about my feelings on the 60s that you might enjoy. You might relate to them more than most.

Confessions of a Child of the 60s

I like all your comments. I don't mean to ignore the latter ones but really have nothing to ad to them. You said it all.

If you want to discuss more I have message boards. It's a great community in fact. I have really good group of atheists who are friendly, polite and very intelligent, and very intelligent friendly Christians, and a real brilliant Muslim. And others, it's a quite a unique community consider what message boards about discussion between atheists and theists have become.

we do not allow any of that bs no arrogance, no insults, no carping on "how stupid the other guys are."

only two rules: (1) be nice, (2) be interesting. most of them are.

Doxa Forums

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