Hell (for real this time)

Talk about anything under the sun or stars - but keep it civil. This is where we really get to know each other. Everyone is welcome, and invited!
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Eaquae Legit
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Postby Eaquae Legit » Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:28 am

Well, that's a bit stronger than I would have been, but I AM picky these days about who I talk religion with. Like history, chemistry, or computer science, you really ought to know what you're talking about before you enter a discussion - but people just assume that's not necessary when talking about religion. Believe me, just as much training goes into thinking as a religion scholar as it does to thinking like a programmer. Anyone can have an opinion, but it takes work to make it worth listening to. You wouldn't listen to me if I started on about how C++ is the best and you are obviously wrong. That's how it is for me, listening to discussions about religion. About 80% of the time, the experience ranges from "painful" to "ludicrous."

Zero, I don't see you in here a lot, which doesn't mean you don't read in here, it just means I've never noticed you. Have you seen the past threads where I got into a discussion on this exact topic? They went nowhere. Nowhere at all. That phrase is a signal to me that I'm headed down the same path of pain and frustration, and I just can't be bothered anymore. When you tell someone RTFM, they've probably asked you a question. "Non-belief is the default" isn't a question, it's a statement that anyone else is wrong. There's a difference.

If starfox wants to have an honest discussion - and his most recent post suggests that I may have judged too hastily - then I'd be happy to. He'd be bucking the trend, though. I do find the above statement risible, but I'm sorry if I've been excessively rude. The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful for me, and I may have taken it out in the wrong place.
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Postby surditate_vero » Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:47 am

Right.

Let's flip this discussion around for the sake of argument.

Rei does not exist. (Sorry, Rei! :P)

Because I believe that he does not exist, I don't have to respond to anyone's objections, because any objections put to the above statement will be based upon the assumption that he does exist, and since I believe he doesn't, I don't have to prove my position.

Well, it'd be quite silly of me to try to argue that Rei does not exist if I meet him on the street this afternoon simply because I don't believe that he exists, wouldn't it? He physically exists, right?

Now, however, if I were to say that Rei does not always physically exist for me - I don't see him 24/7 - then we would be getting somewhere because I would be qualifying my statement merely than saying he can't exist because I don't believe he does.

Or what if I said that the world doesn't exist? I think everyone here can agree that to argue this position would be quite difficult, particularly in the face of legitimate objections that you'd all bring up, I'm sure. I certainly couldn't say that since I don't believe in the world, it doesn't exist because if the world does not exist, I still have to account for what does exist - how do I explain the fact that I'm sitting in a room, at a desk, typing on a keyboard while looking at a computer screen, etc etc?.

Now, this is not the same as hell. Granted, the place called hell is not something that actually exists in this world. That doesn't excuse anyone from saying that hell does not exist simply because they don't believe in it.

Has anyone yet realised that if they say that hell does not exist, or does exist, that they also have to deal with heaven one way or another? Heaven is equally an intangible location in that it can't be accessed here on earth, ergo all arguments pertaining to the (non-)existence of hell are applicable to heaven as well.
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Postby Syphon the Sun » Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:50 pm

*rolls eyes*

I was raised Baptist and married the daughter of a Baptist minister. I've considered myself agnostic, a weak atheist (someone who does not deny the possibility of a higher power, but does not necessarily believe in one), and deist at various points in my life. Currently, I align myself more with deists than any of my previous groups.

That being said, I have a real problem with what EL and Rei are getting at, though I'm really not surprised they're in agreement. Because it's just another way to dismiss an argument without touching the content of it.

In general, positive premises are treated as false until proven true. (However, at the same time, I do not think it is wise to treat negative premises as true due to lack of positive evidence.) In science, hypotheses are considered false until proven true, not the other way around. In law (civil and criminal), claims and charges are considered false until proven true, not the other way around. It isn't up to other scientists to prove undetectable turtles aren't the foundation of gravity. It isn't up to a defendant to prove he or she didn't commit a crime or inflict a tort. And especially in cases absent any evidence that those events did happen, it would be silly to consider the premise true by default.

Regardless of that fact, it is (in my opinion) more than a little silly to simply blow off a premise as nonsense. If you think it is nonsense: by all means, say so. But don't be surprised when the person you're blowing off wants to know why. And don't be offended when he (and any observer) thinks you look ridiculous sitting atop your high horse and refusing to converse with the peasants. If you've talked about it before and don't feel like writing the same post, again: quote it, link it, whatever. Let the other person actually see your argument.

But making cute little caricatures of people based on an argument they raise is downright ridiculous. Vast generalizations of people who believe in the validity of said argument are just as ridiculous. One of the best theology professors I had happened to be atheist, though I didn't know it until after I graduated. She approached religion much the same way I do: it's a belief system. It isn't necessarily true, it isn't necessarily false. It just is. Believing in the logical soundness of considering positive premises as false (rather than vice versa) doesn't mean you haven't studied religion. It doesn't mean that you're not interested in discourse on the matter. It means only that you believe in the logical soundness of that idea, which is entirely up for challenge (most everything is up for challenge).

And, here's some anecdotal evidence that means little, as far as real evidence goes: I've met far more atheists and agnostics who have studied theology than Believers, particularly Christians. And I think there is a very sound reason for that: atheists and agnostics don't generally want to believe there is no God. They often seek out answers to questions because they very much want the existence of a deity to be true. And there is a reason that a good many Believers do not study theology: it's been instilled in them from such a young age that it's more cultural than religious. But, hey, that's just my experience. At any rate, I don't think it's particularly fair to assume nonbelievers have not studied theology any more than it is to assume believers haven't.

And my biggest problem with what Rei is saying is this: having a degree in theology does not give you the kind of credibility he loudly proclaims it does. It certainly gives you credibility in terms of what a particular belief system believes, but it most certainly does not lend any credibility about what is True. Because here's the thing: no amount of studying can provide you with that answer. Something may feel true to you, and that's fine. It may make sense to you, both through logic and faith. But at no point are you qualified to say that one belief is honest-to-goodness true and the other isn't, simply because you studied theology.

And, really, I'm sorry, but "I have a degree and you do not" doesn't quite cut it for why one premise is better than another, regardless of subject.

I have a degree in history; that doesn't mean I can go around proclaiming whatever the hell I want about Woodrow Wilson and simply say, "check the degree, bitch!" when serious, reasonable questions are raised about my claims.
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Postby Luet » Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:46 pm

Deleted because I *do* know EL better than that. :wink:
Last edited by Luet on Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Eaquae Legit » Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:03 pm

Sigh. I don't, Nomi. That honestly wasn't my intent in posting. I am not getting my point across very well, apparently.

I am, however, a bit disappointed by how poorly you'll seem to think of me. Poor writing on my part doesn't help, admittedly, but I'd hoped you knew me better.

I'll come back in here in a day or two when the dogpile's exhausted itself and see if Starfox is still interested.
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Postby zeroguy » Fri Nov 14, 2008 3:09 am

If anyone wants to get a reasonable response, they'd better damn well be reasonable themselves by accepting that just maybe having a degree in a subject might give a little credibility.
And if they don't, you refuse to talk to them? If you think they haven't given thought, show where.
But for some reason, the atheist who's never thought about it beyond a few catch phrases always seems to be treated as more credible than the religious person who has fervently studied the very topic of religion as a whole along with their own religion and other religions.
This seems quite the opposite in this forum, but perhaps I'm just mistaken. At least these days the winds seem to be blowing Christian-wise.
Well, that's a bit stronger than I would have been, but I AM picky these days about who I talk religion with.
This is quite fair. But, in my opinion, deciding not to talk about it should result in a lack of a response.
Like history, chemistry, or computer science, you really ought to know what you're talking about before you enter a discussion
No.
but people just assume that's not necessary when talking about religion.
Hypothetically were I to ask you about something involving religion, it would be because I would want to learn something; and I know you're educated and can probably explain things well in context, and thus it would be a lot faster and easier than me looking up everything myself.

And no, I sure as hell do not assume that. I have studied religion a little (very very little, compared to you, I'm sure), and I acknowledge that there's a ton of information -- historical, as well as just the dogma itself -- to be learned and understood.
Anyone can have an opinion, but it takes work to make it worth listening to.
Nyet.
You wouldn't listen to me if I started on about how C++ is the best and you are obviously wrong.
Wrong for two reasons. One is that this isn't about me. I did not at any point claim that I don't do the same thing; I am not perfect. But I recognize it as a fault and try to curtail it. Two is that no, no I would not (at least, these days). Bring me talking points, and I'll argue all day about it. The only time in recent memory I have claimed my rightness by authority rather than reason was to Mobius, and it wasn't really a serious argument (but I felt bad about it anyway).

(You picked the right side, too; I would certainly be arguing against C++, if anyone wants to start such an argument.)
Zero, I don't see you in here a lot, which doesn't mean you don't read in here, it just means I've never noticed you.
I read when I can; I don't post often because (unsurprisingly) Christian topics are almost exclusively discussed here, and I don't have anything to contribute.
Have you seen the past threads where I got into a discussion on this exact topic? They went nowhere. Nowhere at all. That phrase is a signal to me that I'm headed down the same path of pain and frustration, and I just can't be bothered anymore.
Giving up is fine (these arguments can be gigantic time sinks, I concur), but instead now you're just taking potshots and saying how the other side is stupid without saying anything (except "I've had this argument before, etc, etc"). You are essentially doing the same thing you claim the others are; now, your reasons may be entirely different, but you're still making claims without the intention to say anything more about them.
When you tell someone RTFM, they've probably asked you a question.
Now I wonder if you've completely missed the point of that other post. I was saying responding with RTFM is descpicable, low, immature. And that you're reminding me of it. Not, "here's a similar situation for me that's okay for me to do, but not okay for you to do".

Edit:
I have a degree in history; that doesn't mean I can go around proclaiming whatever the hell I want about Woodrow Wilson and simply say, "check the degree, bitch!"
I can totally envision someone carrying their degree around with them just to do this in meatspace arguments. :D
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Postby surditate_vero » Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:55 pm

Like history, chemistry, or computer science, you really ought to know what you're talking about before you enter a discussion
No.
but people just assume that's not necessary when talking about religion.
Hypothetically were I to ask you about something involving religion, it would be because I would want to learn something; and I know you're educated and can probably explain things well in context, and thus it would be a lot faster and easier than me looking up everything myself.

And no, I sure as hell do not assume that. I have studied religion a little (very very little, compared to you, I'm sure), and I acknowledge that there's a ton of information -- historical, as well as just the dogma itself -- to be learned and understood.
Anyone can have an opinion, but it takes work to make it worth listening to.
Nyet.
I think what EL's trying to say here is that there has to be some modicum of knowledge before one enters into a foray such as this, and that this modicum of knowledge has to be based on more than generalities.

You're strongly suggesting that it's eminently possible to have a thoughtful discussion on religion if only one person knows what he or she's talking about.

I couldn't hold a discussion regarding the Middle Ages with someone who knows very little about it, because I'd have to keep dealing in generalities rather than getting at specifics. More than anything, what I'd end up doing would be teaching that person about the Middle Ages, really.

What EL's trying to say, I think, is that she doesn't want to teach - she wants to discuss, and there has to be some knowledge of what's being discussed.

You noted that you've studied religion very little. If you want to engage EL in a discussion, it'll have to be on generalities because EL won't be able to discuss specific aspects in her discussion, as one of two things will happen: you won't know what she's talking about and it'll muddle up the discussion, or you'll want to know more about it and EL will have to stop and explain it to you, which, while it will edify you, it will stunt the pace of the discussion.

As for your nyet regarding EL's point about having to work at developing an opinion worth listening to, a lot of philosophers and theologians would be aghast at that. You're saying that faith is good enough to validate one's opinion.

There's a difference between faith and blind faith when engaging in a discussion regarding anything, be it religion or C++.
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Postby Syphon the Sun » Fri Nov 14, 2008 2:20 pm

You're saying that faith is good enough to validate one's opinion.
Generally speaking, isn't that what religion is all about?

It isn't about observable, empirical evidence. It is about faith. It's about believing in something that is not proven (and likely cannot be proven) in spite of that fact.
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Postby zeroguy » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:53 am

I think what EL's trying to say here is that there has to be some modicum of knowledge before one enters into a foray such as this, and that this modicum of knowledge has to be based on more than generalities.
Quite right. And I'm disagreeing with that notion.
You're strongly suggesting that it's eminently possible to have a thoughtful discussion on religion if only one person knows what he or she's talking about.
I don't know if you're just trying to summarize this argument... but yes. In fact, without anything at all to back this up, I'd potentially go so far to say that it's the most meaningful way to have a discussion.
I couldn't hold a discussion regarding the Middle Ages with someone who knows very little about it, because I'd have to keep dealing in generalities rather than getting at specifics. More than anything, what I'd end up doing would be teaching that person about the Middle Ages, really.
Yes, exactly. You're saying teaching/learning is not occurring in these other so-called worthwhile discussions? Or it's just too much to teach in that case; okay, again, that's your thing, but it's not a failing on the other person's part.
You're saying that faith is good enough to validate one's opinion.
There's a difference between an opinion being valid, sound, reasonable, and an opinion being worth listening to. It has nothing to do with faith, or whether their opinion could be defended at all or not (i.e. how "valid" it is).

Edit:
It isn't about observable, empirical evidence. It is about faith. It's about believing in something that is not proven (and likely cannot be proven) in spite of that fact.
Actually, I think I may disagree with this. Whilst someone's personal choice of religious views tends to be faith-based, we would seem to be talking about scholarly study of religion, which (as well as the study of anything) can be evaluated based on reasoning, such as tracing back to specific historical influences, sacred literature, demographics, etc etc.
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Postby Syphon the Sun » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:08 am

See, it doesn't look that way, to me.

It looks more like the topic is about personal belief. It's about philosophical concepts. It isn't an argument about who believed what when.

And that was my big problem with their responses (Rei in particular). When you're talking about your personal opinions based upon faith, a degree in the subject means diddly. If you were to say that the Gospel of Mark predated the other gospels, then sure, your degree might lend some credibility. I don't think you need it, as the evidence should stand on its own. (And I tend to not mention qualifications unless challenged on them.) But in that case, your degree is worth something. Or if you're establishing that Group A believed in whatever.

*shrugs* I just thought it was interesting that the side most frequent to invoke Faith is saying it's not enough.
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Postby zeroguy » Sun Nov 16, 2008 2:33 am

Okay, yeah, for this topic, that makes sense. I was speaking a bit more generally, because I seemed to forget that this thread had a topic before I started semi-derailing it.

But for the specific comment, "it exists to scare people", there's certainly some factual stuff you can look at to back that up.
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