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    • I think our perception is crucial and without it, it's not that Universe wouldn't exist, but who would be there to care about it. It's very tempting to hypothesize that we're creating it as a simulation, but that is only partially true. What we create is perception and distortion of perception. All the mind bending drugs and even a glass of wine or our own hormones are proof how that works. A mad man's view of the world isn't more or less "real" but it's allot further from measurable dimensions.

    • If you died and found out heaven was largely populated by atheists because of ____________ (fill in the blank), how would it affect your beliefs?

      Perhaps it’s because of all the people who died before the birth of Christ, Buddha or Mohamed?

      Genuinely curious as to how your religion assigns the afterlife to people who died before the religion existed.

    • I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We believe that those who didn't get a chance to hear the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this life will get a chance to learn about it in the next life and become converted over there. This is why we do temple work. We get baptized for the dead and perform other saving ordinances that the dead will be able to accept if they so choose.

      All things considered, I think it's a pretty fair and optimistic doctrine. It's all about giving souls the opportunity and freedom to choose for themselves.

    • In the first place, your first question contains a lot of assumptions about the role of humans in belief.

      Humans have absolutely no say whatsoever in who will dwell in heaven and who will not.

      I do not believe that churches can add a person's name to the book of life nor can churches blot a person's name out of the book of life.

      I believe that there have been TWO valid systems of belief prior to establishment of the current system of belief which began approximately 1990 years ago. This is what you would call a "religion" but that word in 21st century English contains connotations which are not congruent with my belief system.

      Unlike slamdunk406, I do not believe in a hierarchy or a system of sacramentalism or a priesthood or many of the things which the LDS shares in common with the RC.

      I don't believe that any human or group of humans stands between the individual and God except Jesus Christ who is a "go between" or mediator between God and humans.

    • I believe that there have been TWO valid systems of belief prior to establishment of the current system of belief which began approximately 1990 years ago. 

      Which two?

    • The first was the one under which people like Abraham, Balaam, Melchizedek, Noah, Job and others lived. During this time period, God selected someone out of an extended family (a clan) to be the individual through whom God spoke to that clan. For example, Abraham and Melchizedek both lived at the same time and only a few miles apart, but the instructions God gave to Abraham were intended for his clan, while the instructions which God gave to Melchizedek were intended for his clan.

      This system continued to be the one through which God was willing to work with those who would be submissive to His will for most people, but God chose to isolate one group of people and treat that group of people differently than He had other people, beginning with the events described in Exodus 19 and following, God offered to make Israel His people in a way that was more special than the way He dealt with other people.

      Many of the things which God had told Araham, Isaac, and Jacob to do were things which Israel was not allowed to do after the gathering at Mt. Sinai.

      Both those who were submissive to God under the system which predated the Mt. Sinai gathering and those who were submissive to God under the system given to Israel were considered by God to be faithful to Him.

    • Learning much from this conversation. It puts into perspective the change that occurs in the Bible from being asked to sacrifice a son to being asked to lead a people through the desert for fifty years. Does the Bible speak of how salvation is possible for those who haven’t heard the Word? I don’t mean in their hearts, but instead that the transmission of the Gospels to the rest of the Roman Empire would’ve taken decades if not centuries. Meaning that there would be parts of the world only knowing of the Old Testament and following it’s teachings at the same time that the Gospels were beginning to be heard in other parts of the world. I would think that some Biblical scholars would have pondered this dichotomy. I know your previous answer, as I understood it, was that God makes these decisions without man’s input, but I’m wondering if the Gospel speaks to this in Paul’s letters when he was chained to a Roman soldier.

    • @StephenL ,

      The Bible teaches that we are like those who have been bitten by snakes. Moses did not place a serpent of brass on a pole in order that people might be bitten, they had already been bitten and the purpose of the brass snake was in order that they might survive their bites.

      Christians believe that this even foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn people, they were already condemned both by the ways in which they had caused harm to their neighbor and by failing to hearken and submit to their inventor's instructions. (Humans are God's handiwork. He is our inventor and our creator.)

      God had no intention of letting Abram actually kill Isaac. You are evaluating that event based on the external aspects of the event without understanding why God told Abraham to take Isaac to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him. To your mind, this is like those religions which actually do kill their children. But God had a purpose for this command and it was not the killing of Isaac.

      God did not send people forth to evangelize those who were in a safe condition prior to evangelism. If you will recall, Israelite men were supposed to go to Jerusalem every year under the law. The events at the beginning of the gospel age occurred on days which God had set up about a millenium and a half previously.

      Leviticus 23:5-8 describes the week and day on which Jesus was crucified. In english, this is called "Passover" but that is not the Hebrew word.

      Leviticus 23:11 describes the day that Jesus was resurrected. "The day after the Sabbath" during the week of unleavened bread. This is also called the day of firstfruits because of what is written in verse 10.

      Leviticus 23:15-21 describes the day on which the events in Acts 2 occurred.

      The Israelite men were supposed to come to Jerusalem for the days described in these passages. That is the reason there were people from all over the map present on the day described in Acts 2. They were there for the feast of weeks which God had ordained in the days of Moses.

      Those present are described thus:

      Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs

      Those who were zealous Israelites were in the city on the day that the Gospel was first preached. But God also set things up so that the Gospel spread like wildfire.

      In addition to this, the Bible tells us of at least three people whose hearts God evaluated and He made special arrangements for them.

      There was a eunuch who was prohibited from entering the assembly of the male Israelites due to the command found in Deuteronomy 23:1. Yet in spite of this, he had traveled all the way to Jerusalem from Africa to stand in the courtyard provided for those who were not Israelites (although he may have been an Israelite yet because of the above law he had to stand in a separate place) because he desired to worship God. But not only this, on his way home to Ethiopia, he was reading from the prophecy of Isaiah at a time when there were no chapter breaks or verses and was trying to understand what the prophecy meant. God sent an angel to a preacher named Philip (not the apostle) and told him where he could intercept the chariot as it was traveling.

      There was a man who was fervently pursuing and arresting Christians because he thought hat this is what God would want him to do. God understood the heart of Saul and Jesus appeared to him and told him to go into Damascus and God sent a preacher named Ananias to tell Saul what he needed to know in order to receive salvation.

      There was a Roman army officer who believed in the God of the Israelites and who gave benevolent gifts to needy Israelites and also prayed to the God of the Israelites. God sent an angel to him and told him to send to Joppa for a man named Peter who would tell him what he need to know to receive salvation.

      (From Acts 2 onward, none of the heavenly visitors told the lost person what theyneeded to know. In each of these examples, a physical human taught the lost person the message of God.)

      The Bible also indicates that all the believers in the first century went around telling others. The idea of a "clergy-laity" distinction is an apostate idea which is not found in the Bible.

      Slamdunk406 told you about his religion's views regarding those who have not heard the message. But in that viewpoint, those who have never heard the message are btter off not hearing the message until the next life when they will not need to believe in life after death because they will already be alive after death.

      "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." and in another place "For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopes for that which he sees But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."

      In my viewpoint, the purpose of evangelism is analogous to why medical volunteers go to places where an epidemic has broken out. They don't go to make people need medicine, they go because the people are dying and already need the medicine.

    • Idea of right and wrong for a Hindu is different to the idea of a Christian, and different still to a Muslim.

      This is exactly where I am wrt religion. I spent years being a devout, believing Mormon, but years of living in the South among Southern Baptists and evangelicals, and extensive international work, finally made me realize how vastly different our religious and moral beliefs are. Even among Christians in the U.S., it's really hard to make sense of them.

      I think it's even harder if you are a scientist. It has been for me and for the few Mormon scientists I know, one of whom was excommunicated for his work in population DNA studies, which are highly regarded in the scientific community.

      In science we have our opposing beliefs too, but I can make more sense of them. I have two friends here in the Silicon Valley who have become deeply opposed to vaccines on moral, ethical, and scientific grounds. We couldn't be further apart. And yet I can take comfort in going to the science to make sense of it, which is harder for them because they have no scientific background. In religion I have to go to ancient texts which I no longer trust, and for which there are vastly different interpretations of the same passage.

    • If "right" and "wrong" are simply human concepts then what each human thinks on this point is qually valid.

      But if "right" and "wrong" are concepts which do not have a human origin, then each human's opinion is equally NOT valid.

      Science is three-dimensional and is limited to one moment at a time. As someone said we are time travellers travelling at the constant rate of 60 seconds per minute in a one-way direction. No one can change the past and we must wait for the future even though we can affect the future results.

      Suppose Tesseracts and Klein Bottles are not merely mathematical constructs. Suppose there really are more than three dimensions.

      No experiment conducted by Abbot's A Square could acquire information from the space in which A Sphere resided. A Sphere could enter A Square's space but not vice versa. We are like A Square. Sure, we have one dimension which he did not have, but we cannot know with true certainty anything about the dimensions which transcend our dimension.

      A scientist living in A Square's world might have as much "irrefutable" evidence as his two dimensional science could accumulate in ONE TRILLION years, yet that would still not give him insight into A Sphere's world.

    • But if "right" and "wrong" are concepts which do not have a human origin

      The thing is, the Gods have such vastly opposing views of right and wrong, which do you pick? And they change their minds so dramatically over the centuries. The same God tells his Catholic followers completely different things from his Mormon adherents, and very different things than he taught them a century ago.

      At least in science you can reach broad consensus across disciplines and cultures: knowledge is good, disease is bad, for example.

      If you disagree with leading scientists in your field that stomach acid causes ulcers, and you spend years trying to prove the cause is bacteria, you get a Nobel Prize if you can prove you’re right.

      If you disagree with your Mormon leaders who claim native Americans came from Israel, and you publish DNA studies as evidence that they came from Siberia, you get excommunicated.

    • There’s an old joke about a new recruit who joins a sailing vessel manned by a veteran crew who’ve worked together for many many years. The newbie sees the captain tell the crew,

      “20”

      and everyone laughs.

      A veteran explains to the newbie that they have sailed together for so long and know everyone’s jokes that all they have to say is a joke’s number and the crew will laugh at the well-remembered punchline.

      This strange habit continues over the first few weeks of the newbie’s tour. Finally, after he feels that he’s become one of the regulars, he gets up the courage and shouts during the evening meal

      “20”

      Dead silence

      The newbie tracks down his mentor and asks why no one laughed at his joke, to which the veteran replies,

      “It’s all in the delivery.”

    • I read those but this premise derails me:

      But (in my worldview) God has stated what His choices are and I abide by His choices.

      In my worldview God has stated his/her/their choices in so many opposing ways, the more I learn of all those ways, the less sense I can make of them all.

    • "Gods" ?

      Do you think that all "Gods" exist?

      If one God exists and people misrepresent Him does that change His reality?

      Was it really God who told the Catholics what the Catholics believe?

      Was it really God who told Joseph Smith, Jr. what he taught?

      If God did not tell Joseph Smith that the indigenous peoples of America came from Israel but rather Joseph Smith made it all up in his imagination, that is not God's fault.

    • Yes, but then this came after:

      “I believe that there have been TWO validsystems of belief prior to establishment of the current system of belief which began approximately 1990 years ago. This is what you would call a "religion" but that word in 21st century English contains connotations which are not congruent with my belief system.

      Unlike slamdunk406, I do not believe in a hierarchy or a system of sacramentalism or a priesthood or many of the things which the LDS shares in common with the RC.

      I don't believe that any human or group of humans stands between the individual and God except Jesus Christ who is a "go between" or mediator between God and humans.”

      Sorry, cross posted with the above.

    • Chris,

      Neither my worldview nor your worldview nor anyone else's worldview changes reality.

      If there is no God then the fact that I believe in God's existence does not change reality.

      If there is a God but He did not reveal His will through the Bible then the fact that I believe that the Bible is the word of God does not change reality

      Reality is what it is.

      It makes no logical sense to me that all religions are equally valid anymore than arguing that the humor theory of health and illness is equally valid with the germ theory. As a scientist you must recognize the difference between objectivity and subjectivity.

      My worldview is subjective. Every worldview is subjective. Reality is objective.

      I tell people over and over when I'm teaching the Bible, all that I am teaching is my perception of what the Bible says, you need to read it for yourself because I might be wrong. In point of fact over the years I have on numerous occasions discovered I was wrong as to what a passage was saying.

      Personal perception is not objective reality. If God exists, His reality is objective not subjective.

    • I should have written a little more on the subject mentioned in the first paragraph that you quoted. Melchizedek and Job lived prior to the law given at Mt. Sinai. Balaam lived at the time of the giving of the law but would not have need to be subject to its jurisdiction.

      These men did not live under the kind of organized religion that the Israelites lived under after Mt. Sinai. There ancestors such as Abraham had not lived under that system. For example, Abraham could build altars and offer sacrifices anywhere he chose. Abraham was required to only offer clean animals as sacrifices but unlike his later descendants Abraham was not restricted to eating only clean animals.

      I believe that the worship and lives of Abraham, Job, and Melchizedek were valid even though they lived and died prior to the establishment of the first system God established at Mt. Sinai. Balaam could have lived and died under the same terms that the other three had if he had not gotten greedy and taught Balak a method of casting a stumbling block into the path of Israel so that Israel transgressed against God.

      The main reason that I did not discuss the lives of these men is that I was writing to you about systems or "organized religion" and not about those who had lived before God set up an organized religion.

    • Isn’t that the question for every God? Even if they don’t exist many of them have good things to say.

      But even the God you believe exists has said very different things at different times and places, no? When I read the Quran, I was struck by some very significant differences from what He said in the Old and New Testaments. Is that because, like the New Testament versus the Old, centuries had passed? Or because we have a more reliable record in the case of the Quran? A different reason?

    • If a God does not exist, they have nothing to say.

      Now it may be that those who wrote the things which are alleged to be from a non-existent God would have had something good to say if they had published what they wrote as philosophy or an ethical text, but if anyone perpetuates a fraud that one has nothing good to say.

      If the Bible is a fraud then those Atheists who speak against it would be correct in the attacks which they make upon it.

    • I’m very familiar with Dawkins work as I’ve read many of his books. I was unable to read the whole article because of a pay wall but I don’t find it credible at all. Misleading religious article.