Religion

Discuss anything interesting but not remotely Countdown-related here.

Moderator: Jon O'Neill

Do you believe?

Yes, I am very religious
13
16%
Yes, but not in a big way
7
9%
Unsure, I am agnostic
12
15%
No, I am an atheist
47
59%
 
Total votes: 79

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Rosemary Roberts
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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:56 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:Rosemary, it seems you have your mind made up and lack any desire to engage in a debate, so why bother posting?
Junaid, I expect I posted for the same reason you did - because I believe I'm right. And also because fanatical believers are responsible for a lot of the world's ills so that making them think again just might be a force for good. It's really a pity that Phelps and Bin Laden are not members of the forum.

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Re: Religion

Post by Ben Hunter » Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:01 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:
Ben Hunter wrote:Religion is still a problem in most of the modern conflicts in the world though, even if the primary reason for the conflicts is economic or political, for example how much easier would it be for the Israel-Palestine conflict to be solved if religious Zionist Jews didn't believe that Palestine was their homeland, or how many lives in Afghanistan would be better if the Taliban didn't subscribe to a radical version of Islam?
Zionism has its roots as an atheist ideology and simply uses religion to enhance its goals (stealing land) by propagating hate towards a defenceless people. Israel-Palestine has precious little to do with religion; ditto for Afghanistan. In these and many cases, religion is exploited to sell an idea and rally support, but that is the fault of the abuser, not the religion. The US has an appetite for war and it's clear the foundations are not embedded in religion, but a desire to control the world.
I didn't say that Zionism stems from theology (even though you have to admit it does a little bit), but the conflict as it stands today would, as I've already said, be easier to solve if it weren't for religious dogmatism. Jewish settlers in the West Bank aren't conniving secularists, they're religious fundamentalists. This is of course very handy for Netanyahu and co, but these Jewish settlers wouldn't be so easy to use as pawns if it weren't for religious fundamentalism. I'm not saying that religion is the sole cause of these conflicts, but that a lack of rational enquiry certainly colours the problem.

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Re: Religion

Post by Ian Volante » Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:35 pm

I think this subject is so difficult to argue simply because where someone has faith, what need is there of evidence? Any other relevant belief surely logically follows, and therefore it is nigh on impossible to construct a rationalist argument because you aren't trying to refute something that is rational per se in the first place.

And Jon, early in the thread I was deliberately misinterpreting you. Lighten up :P

EDIT: I forgot to mention that of course faith is sometimes borne of evidence.
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Re: Religion

Post by Kai Laddiman » Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:42 pm

I like religion, but only if it's in cubes.
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Re: Religion

Post by Matt Morrison » Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:49 pm

Kai Laddiman wrote:I like religion, but only if it's in cubes.
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Re: Religion

Post by Jon Corby » Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:38 pm

Rosemary Roberts wrote:Since I can't quote all the people who've gone before I won't quote any of them.

I get the impression that I am more extreme than any of you. I do not accept that there is any evidence whatsoever for any supernatural being. Visions and voices reported by other people - however ancient, however worthy, however long their beard and however many their followers - is not evidence. The only related observation of which there is any proof is that many people spend a lot of time praying to one or another god without there being any evidence that this has ever had any effect whatsoever.

Please do not cite any books at me: all so-called "holy" books were written by humans, generally people suffering from sleep disorders and/or delusions of grandeur. I do not doubt that there is a god. I deny it utterly. Hand me my copper helmet and copper boots.
This is pretty much exactly my viewpoint (and I think Ben's and several others) except I expressed in a slightly less confrontational way :) There's nothing even remotely approaching evidence, so I don't have the belief. The problem with being so "extreme" Rosemary is you can have the accusation levelled against you that your utter conviction that there is no god is akin to their religious belief - you kinda have to include the caveat that "if I can be proved wrong, I'll accept that and change my views according to the evidence [as with everything else in life]. But until then..."

I know exactly where you're coming from, but I've seen enough of these debates to know you have to tread carefully. Which in itself is kinda shit. For example, I don't particularly want to engage with Junaid in this subject because he clearly feels very passionately about it, and ultimately I will end up insulting him or something, which I don't want to do because he's a lovely guy. I kinda hate that religion has this protection, that it can't be questioned. I have no problem mocking Kirk (and now Sue) about his paranormal beliefs, for example :)

Oh, and no worries Ian - didn't get the tone of your message at all. I believe I'm the friend Derek mentioned in the OP, hence I'm not quite myself at the moment.

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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:07 pm

Jon Corby wrote: you kinda have to include the caveat that "if I can be proved wrong, I'll accept that and change my views according to the evidence [as with everything else in life]. But until then...".
Absolutely. But not until. And since no evidence has ever been offered I'm not holding my breath.

It is a pity that a reasoned debate is not possible, and it is not my intention to offend anybody, but I really don't think that it's my extreme views that are the barrier here.
Jon Corby wrote: your utter conviction that there is no god is akin to their religious belief
No, that assertion doesn't hold precisely because of the question of evidence. Bring it on! But don't anybody quote me holy books and ancient teachings and call that evidence.

Jon, if you are indeed the subject of the subject I'm very sorry to hear it. If I thought that praying would help, I would pray for you. I do sincerely hope that your problem resolves without it.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:12 pm

The fact that the universe's constants are so perfect for so many things to happen is a tad fishy, and a problem that we've never really been able to solve. But if you introduce god it turns the problem into a different one. It's an equally unsolvable problem, but it could quite possibly be a step towards the answer. To rule out that possible pathway is foolish.

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:20 pm

Jon Corby wrote:For example, I don't particularly want to engage with Junaid in this subject because he clearly feels very passionately about it, and ultimately I will end up insulting him or something, which I don't want to do because he's a lovely guy. I kinda hate that religion has this protection, that it can't be questioned.
On the contrary, I find it very hard to be insulted when talking about religion, unless someone maliciously attacks my belief system just for the sake of being mean. I don't think anyone has so far. I'm actually disheartened by the thought of religion being a taboo subject. I have friends from all backgrounds but can easily engage in dialogue with them without worrying about causing offence; it seems many people think this is near impossible. Indeed, my religion strongly encourages this dialogue with non believers so I'd have to be doing something wrong to be turning people away. I entered this thread because I thought it was a decent opportunity to present my perspective. My issue with Rosemary's post was that it doesn't seem to encourage a dicussion; rather "I think X. You think Y. X does not equal Y. So why bother?" Surely we can be more open minded than this?

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:25 pm

Jimmy Gough wrote:For me, the suffering of millions across the globe is proof enough that no benevolent God exists.
I believe suffering is rewarded in the next life (and I'm well aware of how much a cop out that sounds like). I'm taught that any suffering we endure is a gift, because it gives us an opportunity to show resolve and real belief in God. Which is why we should pray more when things are going good; God isn't testing us and the reward is harder to come by. I also believe that we are always tested within our limits, so however severe our suffering seems, there's always divine reasoning lurking beneath. If you can accept the existence of a divine being, then as mere mortals you would surely expect us not to always understand divine wisdom. This is where faith really kicks in; I've had many moments in life where I've just thought "screw it; I can't get my head around this but it's happening for a reason, even if I'll never understand it."

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Re: Religion

Post by Paul Howe » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:26 pm

Kieran Child wrote:The fact that the universe's constants are so perfect for so many things to happen is a tad fishy, and a problem that we've never really been able to solve. But if you introduce god it turns the problem into a different one. It's an equally unsolvable problem, but it could quite possibly be a step towards the answer. To rule out that possible pathway is foolish.
The most common explanation for this is that there are multiple universes, and the "constants" vary across universes. There's a familiar problem with this explanation though, as the hypothesised universes are supposedly completely disjoint from our own, so there's no way to empirically prove or disprove their existence.*

*Disclaimer: I know very little about advanced physics so take the above with a massive pinch of salt

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Re: Religion

Post by Ben Hunter » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:28 pm

Kieran Child wrote:The fact that the universe's constants are so perfect for so many things to happen is a tad fishy, and a problem that we've never really been able to solve.
This argument has never made sense to me. What makes the constants 'perfect'? It's like saying that Jackson Pollock's swishing movements were perfect, and had they been just slightly different then his paintings wouldn't have existed. If there were some other constants then the universe would have unfolded in some other way, no big deal.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:38 pm

Is a fairly big deal if the amount of other possibilities for stable, life-allowing universes is negligible.

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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:41 pm

Ben Hunter wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:The fact that the universe's constants are so perfect for so many things to happen is a tad fishy, and a problem that we've never really been able to solve.
This argument has never made sense to me. What makes the constants 'perfect'? It's like saying that Jackson Pollock's swishing movements were perfect, and had they been just slightly different then his paintings wouldn't have existed. If there were some other constants then the universe would have unfolded in some other way, no big deal.
I agree, Ben. The "perfect universe" argument is really no different from that of Douglas Adams' puddle: if this universe didn't suit us we would not be here - we would either be in some other universe or we would not exist at all.

However unlikely our universe is, if it is the only one we could have evolved in then - seen from the inside - it is in no way remarkable.

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Re: Religion

Post by Ben Hunter » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:44 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:
Jimmy Gough wrote:For me, the suffering of millions across the globe is proof enough that no benevolent God exists.
I believe suffering is rewarded in the next life (and I'm well aware of how much a cop out that sounds like). I'm taught that any suffering we endure is a gift, because it gives us an opportunity to show resolve and real belief in God. Which is why we should pray more when things are going good; God isn't testing us and the reward is harder to come by. I also believe that we are always tested within our limits, so however severe our suffering seems, there's always divine reasoning lurking beneath. If you can accept the existence of a divine being, then as mere mortals you would surely expect us not to always understand divine wisdom. This is where faith really kicks in; I've had many moments in life where I've just thought "screw it; I can't get my head around this but it's happening for a reason, even if I'll never understand it."
While I'm not one to say that human suffering is any sort of argument for or against the existence of God, I have to take issue with the notion that suffering is a gift. What sort of strange arrangement is it where God creates a universe, and in one tiny part of it he creates creatures with the capacity for suffering, then he places himself outside of this universe to make it extra hard for his creations to figure out if he exists or not, following which he makes them suffer for a few years before they die, all just so that they yield to him and make him feel glorious? If that truly is the arrangement of the universe then it betrays an extremely vain side to its creator. It would just seem easier for God to just do away with the universe all together and create nice things in the spirit world.

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Re: Religion

Post by Sue Sanders » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:47 pm

Jon Corby wrote:

I have no problem mocking Kirk (and now Sue) about his paranormal beliefs, for example :)

Oh, and no worries Ian - didn't get the tone of your message at all. I believe I'm the friend Derek mentioned in the OP, hence I'm not quite myself at the moment.
Fair enough but don't know what you think my 'paranormal' beliefs are. I'm a sceptic who happens to be able to get a pretty good result out of a ouija board. Beats me what the explanation is. As for my thought that maybe our life force hangs about then pops up elsewhere - I don't know ...Is that a paranormal belief? (But just to reiterate, it certainly isn't a religious belief - that concept of reward in another life. I don't buy into that one.)
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Re: Religion

Post by Sue Sanders » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:49 pm

Ben Hunter wrote: While I'm not one to say that human suffering is any sort of argument for or against the existence of God, I have to take issue with the notion that suffering is a gift. What sort of strange arrangement is it where God creates a universe, and in one tiny part of it he creates creatures with the capacity for suffering, then he places himself outside of this universe to make it extra hard for his creations to figure out if he exists or not, following which he makes them suffer for a few years before they die, all just so that they yield to him and make him feel glorious? If that truly is the arrangement of the universe then it betrays an extremely vain side to its creator. It would just seem easier for God to just do away with the universe all together and create nice things in the spirit world.
Well said, Ben . In the words of singer Roy Harper 'Where's the love we're all talking of if we can't stand man-to-man'
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Re: Religion

Post by Ben Hunter » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:52 pm

Kieran Child wrote:Is a fairly big deal if the amount of other possibilities for stable, life-allowing universes is negligible.
Firstly you're making assumptions on the unlikelihood of life occuring in any other possible universe (and even our own). Secondly it could also be that abiogenesis is as likely or unlikely to happen as some other phenomenon in the universe, but I can't imagine that the existence of this other phenomenon in the universe being used an argument to support the notion of constants being 'perfect'.

Either way, I don't see how you can use the fact that there's life in this universe as an argument that constants are perfect (and as a corollary that the universe was created by a supreme being), because you have to define perfection in anthropomorphic terms. It's an argument that stems from vanity, i.e. the constants in our universe are perfect because they created us, and we're so awesome that the constants must have been fine tuned by a creator who planned for us to be here.
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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:53 pm

Rosemary Roberts wrote:
Ben Hunter wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:The fact that the universe's constants are so perfect for so many things to happen is a tad fishy, and a problem that we've never really been able to solve.
This argument has never made sense to me. What makes the constants 'perfect'? It's like saying that Jackson Pollock's swishing movements were perfect, and had they been just slightly different then his paintings wouldn't have existed. If there were some other constants then the universe would have unfolded in some other way, no big deal.
I agree, Ben. The "perfect universe" argument is really no different from that of Douglas Adams' puddle: if this universe didn't suit us we would not be here - we would either be in some other universe or we would not exist at all.

However unlikely our universe is, if it is the only one we could have evolved in then - seen from the inside - it is in no way remarkable.
Well that made almost no sense. If this universe is the only one we could have evolved in, and it is the only one that exists, then it is NOT remarkable?

It's the same as betting on a 1/100,000,000 horse, only the odds are much worse with the universe.
There are a number of possibilities - that a number of horses won, that there were lots of races, that the odds weren't actually that bad.
But you cannot pick any possibility because you have no evidence for any of them, and so it remains remarkable and unsolved.

You said earlier that without evidence you weren't going to believe in anything, and now you've just stated that we would be in some other universe....

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:01 pm

Ben Hunter wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:Is a fairly big deal if the amount of other possibilities for stable, life-allowing universes is negligible.
Firstly you're making assumptions on the unlikelihood of life occuring in any other possible universe (and even our own). Secondly it could also be that abiogenesis is as likely or unlikely to happen as some other phenomenon in the universe, but I can't imagine that the existence of this other phenomenon in the universe being used an argument to support the notion of constants being 'perfect'.

Either way, I don't see how you can use the fact that there's life in this universe as an argument that constants are perfect (and as a corollary that the universe was created by a supreme being), because you have to define perfection in anthropomorphic terms. It's an argument that stems from vanity, i.e. the constants in our universe are perfect because they created us, and we're so awesome that the constants must have been fine tuned by a creator who planned for us to be here.
I'm not. I used the word 'if'. 'if' there is an unlikelihood of life occuring in any other possible universe, then it is a big deal.
It is possible that there is a likelihood of life in another universe.
The existence of life isn't the argument for the constants being perfect. Calculations about how much leeway we had with regards to the cosmological constant (for example) are how it is found to be declared 'perfect'. If certain forces change so that stars cannot come about, then the whole universe gets buggered before it even starts.
You are arguing that life isn't as unlikely to occur as the problem states. This is a possibility, and one commonly forwarded by Victor Stenger (I feel a load of you on this thread would like his book "god: the failed hypothesis") but be aware that you have no valid proof to say that it is so, or even a sufficient burden of evidence to say that it is likely.

I am not going down in favour of any possibility, but putting it forward as what I feel is the best argument concerning god there is going.

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Re: Religion

Post by Paul Howe » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:03 pm

Ben Hunter wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:The fact that the universe's constants are so perfect for so many things to happen is a tad fishy, and a problem that we've never really been able to solve.
This argument has never made sense to me. What makes the constants 'perfect'? It's like saying that Jackson Pollock's swishing movements were perfect, and had they been just slightly different then his paintings wouldn't have existed. If there were some other constants then the universe would have unfolded in some other way, no big deal.
They're not "perfect", but the idea is that to produce a universe conducive to life (at least as we know it, big caveat there), certain constants have to fall within a very narrow range. For example if you fiddled with the strength of the strong nuclear force by even a small amount you could really bugger up the process of fusion in stars, with presumably grim implications for the emergence of life.

Hence the parallel universes argument I mentioned above: it becomes less of a coincidence if the great majority of universes exhibit constants that cannot support life. This may be right, but it also sounds like an easy attempt to explain away the fact that we don't yet know a great deal about why the parameters takes the value they do, what range they're constrained to lie in, or even how many there are (some parameters could exhibit hidden dependence on others and may even depend on a single super parameter). It is, in short, definitely a puzzle in need of some explanation.

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:08 pm

Ben Hunter wrote:While I'm not one to say that human suffering is any sort of argument for or against the existence of God, I have to take issue with the notion that suffering is a gift. What sort of strange arrangement is it where God creates a universe, and in one tiny part of it he creates creatures with the capacity for suffering, then he places himself outside of this universe to make it extra hard for his creations to figure out if he exists or not, following which he makes them suffer for a few years before they die, all just so that they yield to him and make him feel glorious? If that truly is the arrangement of the universe then it betrays an extremely vain side to its creator. It would just seem easier for God to just do away with the universe all together and create nice things in the spirit world.
I didn't say God existed purely outside of our universe. If one was to believe in God, in the classical sense (omnipotent, benevolent and what have you) surely it's more reasonable not to expect to understand His reasoning and methodology than to be able to rationalise it. Humans ain't all that; we can barely grasp a drop of the ocean and now we expect to understand the workings of a divine being? I believe God has given us much opportunity to discover and embrace Him; the Qur'an and noble Prophet (pbuh) being the last and greatest of thousands of examples. Humans seem to have a tendency to reject the idea that we're not in total control of our destiny.
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Re: Religion

Post by Ben Hunter » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:10 pm

Kieran Child wrote:I'm not. I used the word 'if'. 'if' there is an unlikelihood of life occuring in any other possible universe, then it is a big deal.
I was more addressing the points in your post, it doesn't matter so much if that's not what you believe, we can debate hypotheticals.
It is possible that there is a likelihood of life in another universe.
The existence of life isn't the argument for the constants being perfect. Calculations about how much leeway we had with regards to the cosmological constant (for example) are how it is found to be declared 'perfect'. If certain forces change so that stars cannot come about, then the whole universe gets buggered before it even starts.
Unless the constants are such that the universe couldn't exist at all unless they were fine tuned then I really don't see how they can be defined as perfect in any objective sense. They're only perfect for this universe, but that's self-evident.
You are arguing that life isn't as unlikely to occur as the problem states. This is a possibility, and one commonly forwarded by Victor Stenger (I feel a load of you on this thread would like his book "god: the failed hypothesis") but be aware that you have no valid proof to say that it is so, or even a sufficient burden of evidence to say that it is likely.
Funny, I was about to recommend the same book :). And yes you're right I have no evidence to say that that's so, but it wasn't so much a claim I put forward than it was a challenge to the similarly unemperical position that the universe we live in is remarkable in a way that some other possible universe isn't.
I am not going down in favour of any possibility, but putting it forward as what I feel is the best argument concerning god there is going.
That's fine, it's always fun to talk about this stuff though.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:16 pm

scene from the film (I think) "Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IblzBerSFk
Jesus kicks ass. Thus God exists.

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon Corby » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:37 pm

Rosemary Roberts wrote:Jon, if you are indeed the subject of the subject I'm very sorry to hear it. If I thought that praying would help, I would pray for you. I do sincerely hope that your problem resolves without it.
Thank you, and
Junaid Mubeen wrote:On the contrary, I find it very hard to be insulted when talking about religion, unless someone maliciously attacks my belief system just for the sake of being mean.
good stuff :)

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Re: Religion

Post by Jimmy Gough » Fri Aug 28, 2009 11:20 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote: I believe suffering is rewarded in the next life (and I'm well aware of how much a cop out that sounds like). I'm taught that any suffering we endure is a gift, because it gives us an opportunity to show resolve and real belief in God. Which is why we should pray more when things are going good; God isn't testing us and the reward is harder to come by. I also believe that we are always tested within our limits, so however severe our suffering seems, there's always divine reasoning lurking beneath. If you can accept the existence of a divine being, then as mere mortals you would surely expect us not to always understand divine wisdom. This is where faith really kicks in; I've had many moments in life where I've just thought "screw it; I can't get my head around this but it's happening for a reason, even if I'll never understand it."
So with that belief, do you embrace all suffering? For example, if somebody close to you had been savagely beaten to death, would you accept it as God's divine judgement and rejoice in the fact that God is testing you? The holocaust: surely God's judgement should be embraced and celebrated. With that belief, surely there's little point in helping those people in abject poverty. You could even say that they have it far better than you or I do: they are being given greater tests to endure and this will give them a greater "opportunity to show resolve and real belief in God".

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Fri Aug 28, 2009 11:29 pm

Jimmy Gough wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote: I believe suffering is rewarded in the next life (and I'm well aware of how much a cop out that sounds like). I'm taught that any suffering we endure is a gift, because it gives us an opportunity to show resolve and real belief in God. Which is why we should pray more when things are going good; God isn't testing us and the reward is harder to come by. I also believe that we are always tested within our limits, so however severe our suffering seems, there's always divine reasoning lurking beneath. If you can accept the existence of a divine being, then as mere mortals you would surely expect us not to always understand divine wisdom. This is where faith really kicks in; I've had many moments in life where I've just thought "screw it; I can't get my head around this but it's happening for a reason, even if I'll never understand it."
So with that belief, do you embrace all suffering? For example, if somebody close to you had been savagely beaten to death, would you accept it as God's divine judgement and rejoice in the fact that God is testing you? With that belief, surely there's little point in helping those people in abject poverty. You could even say that they have it far better than you or I do: they are being given greater tests to endure and this will give them a greater "opportunity to show resolve and real belief in God".
I wouldn't say 'embrace'. Whenever I'm suffering a hardship, I'm not glad for it but rather what gives me the strength to prevail is the belief that I will prosper from the experience in the long run, even if it's not obvious how. That doesn't make it easy and one requires a lot of patience (and of course, faith). In terms of suffering of others; yes, I would accept it as God's judgement. That only elevates the need to help them; in Islam there is a huge emphasis on charity and helping those in need. Suffering isn't something to rejoice in, but does provide an opportunity to gain great reward. But in a sense, yes, wealth isn't defined by money or circumstamce, but rather what is within. I am envious of anyone who has suffered a lot more than myself and come out the other side with their belief in tack. It doesn't mean I want to suffer like they have, just that if I did, I'd be able to endure.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:49 am

apart from "never be help for the disbelievers" 28:86

The line that made zakat in too many countries restricted to muslims only.

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Re: Religion

Post by Chris Corby » Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:14 am

Forget politics, religion is the greatest subject for debate. We must agree there are hundreds of different religions, so by definition not all can be right, in fact many downright contradict one another. It would be good if, before choosing any religion, an individual studied them all before picking the one that was right for him/her. Does this happen? Rarely. Your religion is probably that of your parents and their parents before them. Your religion is also dictated by the country you happen to be born in, although England is one of the few places in the world that doesn't have a religious divide - Scotland and Ireland do for example. I worked with a bloke for ten years and didn't realise he was a Catholic until he told me where he was sending his daughter to school; would that indifference to religion happen in Scotland for example? I also worked with another who, whilst discussing religion, told me he believed every word of the Bible, including Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. For a basically intelligent guy I found this astonishing! I was amazed to read my son's views on religion because I have never knowingly lectured him on my beliefs - my attitude was to let my children choose their own religion - so much so that I refused to have them christened when they were young which upset both sets of grand-parents at the time! Yet his thoughts on the subject mirror mine precisely. I really want someone to convince me of the existence of God (upper case so as not to cause offence) but they repeatedly fail to do so. My concern is that, being an athiest, I am in a minority of the world as a whole - possibly only 4% of us don't believe in an afterlife at all - and it seems arrogant to say that I am right and the other 96% are wrong. Finally, I picked up a copy of the 'Evangelical Times' the other week and read various articles by people who had "found Jesus" after years of disbelieving, and all of them came across as people with mental health issues. An article by a minister told of how a member of his parish came to him and said, "I am having trouble believing that Mary could have given birth to Jesus whilst she was a virgin. It's impossible." His reply? "That's the whole point." And he left it at that. That answer doesn't satisfy me but presumably it does to some.

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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:18 am

Kieran Child wrote:
Rosemary Roberts wrote:However unlikely our universe is, if it is the only one we could have evolved in then - seen from the inside - it is in no way remarkable.
Well that made almost no sense. If this universe is the only one we could have evolved in, and it is the only one that exists, then it is NOT remarkable?

It's the same as betting on a 1/100,000,000 horse, only the odds are much worse with the universe.
There are a number of possibilities - that a number of horses won, that there were lots of races, that the odds weren't actually that bad.
But you cannot pick any possibility because you have no evidence for any of them, and so it remains remarkable and unsolved.

You said earlier that without evidence you weren't going to believe in anything, and now you've just stated that we would be in some other universe....
I said that if we existed, and were not here, we would be in a different universe. Is that so difficult to understand?

As a matter of simple semantics, if we were in an (in some sense) "different" universe, we would still call it "here".

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Re: Religion

Post by Ian Volante » Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:59 am

Since we've dipped a bit towards the anthropic principle and some physics concepts, here's a link to the synopsis of an interesting article by Lee Smolin on multiverses and related ideas. If you can have a look at June's Physics World, It's worth a look.

http://www.iop.org/News/jun09/news_35217.html
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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:06 pm

Rosemary Roberts wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:
Rosemary Roberts wrote:However unlikely our universe is, if it is the only one we could have evolved in then - seen from the inside - it is in no way remarkable.
Well that made almost no sense. If this universe is the only one we could have evolved in, and it is the only one that exists, then it is NOT remarkable?

It's the same as betting on a 1/100,000,000 horse, only the odds are much worse with the universe.
There are a number of possibilities - that a number of horses won, that there were lots of races, that the odds weren't actually that bad.
But you cannot pick any possibility because you have no evidence for any of them, and so it remains remarkable and unsolved.

You said earlier that without evidence you weren't going to believe in anything, and now you've just stated that we would be in some other universe....
I said that if we existed, and were not here, we would be in a different universe. Is that so difficult to understand?

As a matter of simple semantics, if we were in an (in some sense) "different" universe, we would still call it "here".
Do you believe in other universes?

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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:45 pm

Kieran Child wrote:Do you believe in other universes?
They come in very handy in fiction, and I understand the idea is useful in some arcane regions of maths and/or physics, but I don't see any evidence of their existence in either case, nor can I imagine what kind of evidence might be forthcoming for anything outside our universe.

In other words, no, but counting.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:58 pm

then the only universe which exists is one which allows life, despite the fact many many coincidences had to happen for that to be so.
If the force binding nucleons was just a tiny bit different then nothing would have come about.
If the gravitational force was a tiny bit different then nothing would have come about.
If the comsmological constant was a tiny bit different then nothing would have come about.

It's not that this is perfect because it's the only one we have. It's that it's perfect because it's the only one we could have.

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon O'Neill » Sat Aug 29, 2009 1:12 pm

Kieran Child wrote:then the only universe which exists is one which allows life, despite the fact many many coincidences had to happen for that to be so.
If the force binding nucleons was just a tiny bit different then nothing would have come about.
If the gravitational force was a tiny bit different then nothing would have come about.
If the comsmological constant was a tiny bit different then nothing would have come about.

It's not that this is perfect because it's the only one we have. It's that it's perfect because it's the only one we could have.
I'm not convinced that life is anything special.

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Re: Religion

Post by Derek Hazell » Sat Aug 29, 2009 1:29 pm

Chris Corby wrote:Forget politics, religion is the greatest subject for debate.
You're right there, Chris. The politics discussion only got 15 responses, whereas this is already nearing 100.
We must agree there are hundreds of different religions, so by definition not all can be right, in fact many downright contradict one another. It would be good if, before choosing any religion, an individual studied them all before picking the one that was right for him/her. Does this happen? Rarely.
I always thought I would like to do this when I first started questioning my christianity. But I didn't, so as I got older I lost interest altogether.
Your religion is probably that of your parents and their parents before them. Your religion is also dictated by the country you happen to be born in, although England is one of the few places in the world that doesn't have a religious divide - Scotland and Ireland do for example.
Perhaps you've hit on one of the main reasons why, despite all the negativity about this country in the media every day, most of us actually quite like living here.
I worked with a bloke for ten years and didn't realise he was a Catholic until he told me where he was sending his daughter to school; would that indifference to religion happen in Scotland for example? I also worked with another who, whilst discussing religion, told me he believed every word of the Bible, including Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. For a basically intelligent guy I found this astonishing!
I have never discussed religion with any of my colleagues, but it would certainly be an interesting thing for any of us to do. The worry is that it could cause divides between people you have to work with every day. :)
I was amazed to read my son's views on religion because I have never knowingly lectured him on my beliefs - my attitude was to let my children choose their own religion - so much so that I refused to have them christened when they were young which upset both sets of grand-parents at the time! Yet his thoughts on the subject mirror mine precisely. I really want someone to convince me of the existence of God (upper case so as not to cause offence) but they repeatedly fail to do so.
I really enjoyed reading your take on this, and I think it's so good that you didn't put any pressure at all on your children to follow your beliefs/nonbeliefs. My parents didn't exactly pressurize us, but they did take us to church when we were children, and my nan says she always prays at night. Funnily enough as I was growing up and developing my own mind and deciding not to go to church, my parents also stopped going. It seems, that in my family at least, people have become more sceptical with each generation. My brother did go on to get a theology degree, because it seemed interesting to him at the time though, so I may try to find out if that altered his views at all next time I see him.
My concern is that, being an athiest, I am in a minority of the world as a whole - possibly only 4% of us don't believe in an afterlife at all - and it seems arrogant to say that I am right and the other 96% are wrong.
Aparently more than 75% of the world's population consider themselves to follow a religion of some sort, whereas only 14% are nonreligious. This is certainly not reflected in the Countdown world so far, with a large majority having ticked the atheist box. So, yet more proof that the Countdown world is an unusual place. Unless, of course we are just being more honest here because we're only having to answer to each other.
Finally, I picked up a copy of the 'Evangelical Times' the other week and read various articles by people who had "found Jesus" after years of disbelieving, and all of them came across as people with mental health issues. An article by a minister told of how a member of his parish came to him and said, "I am having trouble believing that Mary could have given birth to Jesus whilst she was a virgin. It's impossible." His reply? "That's the whole point." And he left it at that. That answer doesn't satisfy me but presumably it does to some.
Questioning all the contradictions in the bible was one of the first things that got me thinking, when I was sent to confirmation classes at around 11. I have since heard people opine that they are christians who disregard the bible, so no wonder there is so much debate when even the same religion cannot agree on their main principles. As for baptism and confirmation, I don't really have a problem with baptism, as it is accepted that you are only a baby when that happens, so at least you are prepared if you do decide to follow your parents religion for life. I don't believe that anyone should be confirmed until the age of 18 though. I was far too young when I was sent to those classes, and it is therefore a fallacy to be confirming your belief system at that age.
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Re: Religion

Post by Innis Carson » Sat Aug 29, 2009 1:43 pm

Kieran Child wrote:then the only universe which exists is one which allows life, despite the fact many many coincidences had to happen for that to be so.
There's no reason to assume this is the only universe there ever was, saying you don't actively believe in other universes doesn't mean you actively believe there's only one. I think the universe being "perfect" (which is debatable anyway) is just as convincing a case for there being multiple universes as it is for there being a god, and also for any other possible explanation we don't yet have any evidence for. It's an interesting problem but I don't see how it can sway anyone in any particular direction.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 1:46 pm

the lack of evidence for other universes is reason to assume this is the only one, just as the lack of evidence for god is reason to assume that there is no god.

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Re: Religion

Post by Innis Carson » Sat Aug 29, 2009 1:51 pm

Not for actually assuming it in discussions like this, otherwise we might as well have assumed there was no god in the first place and not bothered having this discussion at all.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:00 pm

But you do assume there is no god, and then discuss the evidence for it.

In scientific expeceriments you start with the null assumption, but you still do the experiment and then discuss the findings afterwards.

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:09 pm

Just so I'm clear, is the point that our existence is so unlikely that that suggests it might have been created on purpose, rather than by chance?

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:10 pm

Kieran Child wrote:But you do assume there is no god, and then discuss the evidence for it.

In scientific expeceriments you start with the null assumption, but you still do the experiment and then discuss the findings afterwards.
That's not always true though. Often, one assumes the hypothesis to be true and seeks corollaries from it. If no contradiction arises, this suggests the hypothesis may be true. So I can just as easily argue that since the assumption that God exists yields many useful corollaries and no contradiction (that I'm aware of), this is evidence that God exists. In other words, your reasoning works both ways.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:10 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:In these and many cases, religion is exploited to sell an idea and rally support, but that is the fault of the abuser, not the religion.
Guns don't kill people, people kill people?
Well a lot of religions (including Islam and Christianity I understand) encourage violence in certain circumstances if you take their texts literally. I watched a programme a couple of weeks ago in which a Muslim acknowledged that the Koran had such things in it, but then decided that because of this some things aren't meant to be taken literally. But then it sounds like he's just deciding what he wants and using the Koran only when it suits him.

Also people normally follow the religion that they happen to have been brought up in? Was that the case with you Junaid? Leaving aside the question of whether there is a god, what makes you confident that it is the god of Islam?

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:13 pm

Innis Carson wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:then the only universe which exists is one which allows life, despite the fact many many coincidences had to happen for that to be so.
There's no reason to assume this is the only universe there ever was, saying you don't actively believe in other universes doesn't mean you actively believe there's only one. I think the universe being "perfect" (which is debatable anyway) is just as convincing a case for there being multiple universes as it is for there being a god, and also for any other possible explanation we don't yet have any evidence for. It's an interesting problem but I don't see how it can sway anyone in any particular direction.
I would say it's more "Ockham's Razor friendly" to suggest that there are more universes out there than it is to suggest a whole new level up of existence - i.e. an all-powerful god.

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:37 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Michael Wallace wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:In these and many cases, religion is exploited to sell an idea and rally support, but that is the fault of the abuser, not the religion.
Guns don't kill people, people kill people?
Well a lot of religions (including Islam and Christianity I understand) encourage violence in certain circumstances if you take their texts literally. I watched a programme a couple of weeks ago in which a Muslim acknowledged that the Koran had such things in it, but then decided that because of this some things aren't meant to be taken literally. But then it sounds like he's just deciding what he wants and using the Koran only when it suits him.
Which is precisely why we should leave it up to scholars who have dedicated their lives studying the Qur'an (or Koran if you prefer) to interpret points of ambiguity. Differences of opinion will always arise, and that's fine, but I've found that the fundamentals are agreed upon by those who pursue knowledge in this pure way. As opposed to those who interpret the text to suit their cause and ignore certain parts for convenience. I have little time for those who claim to believe in the divinity of the Qur'an, but then question the authenticity of certain parts. It's very much all or nothing.
Gavin Chipper wrote:Also people normally follow the religion that they happen to have been brought up in? Was that the case with you Junaid? Leaving aside the question of whether there is a god, what makes you confident that it is the god of Islam?
I was brought up in a religious household, but never considered myself to be particularly religious until I entered university life. It was here that I first started to meet Muslims from all sorts of backgrounds and really started to question my beliefs. My conclusion was that Islam isn't just a belief system or a fixed set of morals; it's a complete way of life. A practising Muslim bases their entire life on the teachings of the Qur'an and noble Prophet (pbuh). When I see how this manifests itself in their lives, I feel they must be onto something. I don't know of any other people with such love and compassion for their fellow (wo)man. Furthermore, university was really the first time I was faced with tough questions by non believers. Islam has not once failed to provide me a sufficient answer. Islam is very much a religion that welcomes its challengers: as an example, the Qur'an lays down the challenge of finding within it a single contradiction and challenges mankind to produce a single verse like any of the thousands therein. No-one has met either challenge yet. I live in a secular society but find my Islamic beliefs compatible; I'm a Mathematician and find that Islam welcomes Science rather than opposing it.

The fundamental Islamic belief system complements its predecessors and in many examples (like the Aborigines' of Australia), mankind has independently embraced these basic tenets (one God, no partners, no sons etc) before being influenced by Western settlers. Add to this the incredible diversity within Islam and it's spread across the world and I can only conclude that if there is a God, Muslims must have clocked on to something.

These thoughts are admittedly disjointed, but obviously there's never a straightforward answer to such fundamental questions.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:41 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:But you do assume there is no god, and then discuss the evidence for it.

In scientific expeceriments you start with the null assumption, but you still do the experiment and then discuss the findings afterwards.
That's not always true though. Often, one assumes the hypothesis to be true and seeks corollaries from it. If no contradiction arises, this suggests the hypothesis may be true. So I can just as easily argue that since the assumption that God exists yields many useful corollaries and no contradiction (that I'm aware of), this is evidence that God exists. In other words, your reasoning works both ways.
How was any of that my reasoning? You started off saying what I said wasn't true, and then ended up saying that it was my reasoning that disproved it. It is not logical to assume a hypothesis is true. Ever.

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Re: Religion

Post by Michael Wallace » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:41 pm

So what do muslims think of gays? (by the sounds of it Junaid will be a more reliable source on this than wikipedia)

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:50 pm

In the Koran, homosexuality is mostly ignored, but for 3 instances where it is called unnatural, and 1 instance where the biblical story of Lot is quoted and the same wording of 'abomination' and 'men who act senselessly' is used.

See the following surahs:
7-80
26-165
27-54
29-28

There will likely be more about it in the ahadith but I haven't read them. google "liwat" and "sihaq" for more.

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:02 pm

Kieran Child wrote:
Junaid Mubeen wrote:
Kieran Child wrote:But you do assume there is no god, and then discuss the evidence for it.

In scientific expeceriments you start with the null assumption, but you still do the experiment and then discuss the findings afterwards.
That's not always true though. Often, one assumes the hypothesis to be true and seeks corollaries from it. If no contradiction arises, this suggests the hypothesis may be true. So I can just as easily argue that since the assumption that God exists yields many useful corollaries and no contradiction (that I'm aware of), this is evidence that God exists. In other words, your reasoning works both ways.
How was any of that my reasoning? You started off saying what I said wasn't true, and then ended up saying that it was my reasoning that disproved it. It is not logical to assume a hypothesis is true. Ever.
You miss the point. I didn't claim to be proving anything, just that lack of contradiction can be considered as evidence in the same way that lack of evidence can be considered contradiction.

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:08 pm

lack of evidence isn't contradiction.
and neither is lack of contradiction evidence.

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:14 pm

Michael Wallace wrote:So what do muslims think of gays? (by the sounds of it Junaid will be a more reliable source on this than wikipedia)
Islam teaches that homosexuality is an abominable sin. The Qur'an cites the example (as Kieran mentions) of the people of Lot, who God destroyed for practising it. The ahadith (authenticated sayings and teachings of the Prphet (pbuh)) is in line with this, with some sayings likening it to the practise of adultery and many others equally damning.

I've not answered your question though. So Islam clearly thinks of gays as sinners. But in the same way, anyone who commits adultery, has pre-marital sex or drinks alcohol are sinners. That doesn't mean they are exempt from compassion. It is only for God to judge; I can acknowledge that someone is committing sin, but to then judge them for it I'd have to judge everyone (not least myself). I don't feel comfortable doing that and it's not my right to, but I will answer any questions openly and honestly, to the best of my ability, which I think too many Muslims refuse to do today.
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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:15 pm

Kieran Child wrote:lack of evidence isn't contradiction.
and neither is lack of contradiction evidence.
Agreed, but then why is lack of evidence of God reason to assume He doesn't exist?

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Re: Religion

Post by Kieran Child » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:29 pm

Because of ocham's razor. You cannot just believe stuff willy-nilly.

There is no evidence that the pavement you walk down has a trap door, so you assume there isn't one.
There is no evidence that your house is about to explode, so you assume it won't.
There is no evidence that unicorns exist, so you assume they don't.

With all of these things, there is no evidence, and so it is logical to assume the null case. The lack of evidence does not act to contradict the possibility. It is still possible, it is just not followed by assumption.

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Re: Religion

Post by Sue Sanders » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:32 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:
Michael Wallace wrote:So what do muslims think of gays? (by the sounds of it Junaid will be a more reliable source on this than wikipedia)
Islam teaches that homosexuality is an abominable sin. The Qur'an cites the example (as Kieran mentions) of the people of Lot, who God destroyed for practising it. The ahadith (authenticated sayings and teachings of the Prphet (pbuh)) is in line with this, with some sayings likening it to the practise of adultery and many others equally damning.

I've not answered your question though. So Islam clearly thinks of gays as sinners. But in the same way, anyone who commits adultery, has pre-marital sex or drinks alcohol are sinners. That doesn't mean they are exempt from compassion. It is only for God to judge; I can acknowledge that someone is committing sin, but to then judge them for it I'd have to judge everyone (not least myself). I don't feel comfortable doing that and it's not my right to, but I will answer any questions openly and honestly, to the best of my ability, which I think too many Muslims refuse to do today.

What I'm struggling with is the fact that, how you make your mind up, is based on what you're 'taught'. I just can't reconcile in my own mind that you are openly and honestly answering questions if it is not up to you to make your own mind up about them. And that's one of the fundamental problems I have with ALL ORGANISED RELIGION. I feel the same way about party politics - a whole party of individuals cannot possibly believe, wholeheartedly the same about every subject. But most religions have a doctrine that everyone should be made to believe the same thing based on some quite dodgy evidence.
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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:38 pm

Kieran Child wrote:Because of ocham's razor. You cannot just believe stuff willy-nilly.

There is no evidence that the pavement you walk down has a trap door, so you assume there isn't one.
There is no evidence that your house is about to explode, so you assume it won't.
There is no evidence that unicorns exist, so you assume they don't.

With all of these things, there is no evidence, and so it is logical to assume the null case. The lack of evidence does not act to contradict the possibility. It is still possible, it is just not followed by assumption.
In the first case, I'd only assume that I've not seen a trap door.
In the second, I'd assume the odds are in my favour but would be aware of the possibility that it might explode.
In the third, I'd only assume I've not yet seen a unicorn.

In all cases, there is no firm conclusion. Lack of evidence gives me no right to assume the null case. See this. Not for nothing, but all of this is scarecly relevant in this thread since there clearly is evidence for God's existence (even if you don't believe it to be strong enough).

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Re: Religion

Post by Junaid Mubeen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:45 pm

Sue Sanders wrote:What I'm struggling with is the fact that, how you make your mind up, is based on what you're 'taught'. I just can't reconcile in my own mind that you are openly and honestly answering questions if it is not up to you to make your own mind up about them. And that's one of the fundamental problems I have with organised religion. I feel the same way about party politics - a whole party of individuals cannot possibly believe, wholeheartedly the same about every subject. But most religions have a doctrine that everyone should be made to believe the same thing based on some quite dodgy evidence.
But my point of reference is God. Suppose you accept belief in God and you believe a certain text are the words of God himself. You believe God is all powerful; has infinite wisdom, far beyond our comprehension.

Given that, I'd say it's easy enough to then follow His teachings to the letter, however strange they seem. I'll admit that I've struggled with many teachings of the Qur'an in the first instance. But I believe in its sanctity beyond any reasonable doubt and I therefore acknowledge that my inability to comprehend is a shortcoming I have as a human. For what it's worth, I almost always find that I eventually see the wisdom in these teachings that at first seemed incomprehensible.

You can't compare it to politics since your point of reference is human and therefore has flawed character, so you shouldn't follow them without question.

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Re: Religion

Post by Sue Sanders » Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:55 pm

Junaid Mubeen wrote:
Sue Sanders wrote:What I'm struggling with is the fact that, how you make your mind up, is based on what you're 'taught'. I just can't reconcile in my own mind that you are openly and honestly answering questions if it is not up to you to make your own mind up about them. And that's one of the fundamental problems I have with organised religion. I feel the same way about party politics - a whole party of individuals cannot possibly believe, wholeheartedly the same about every subject. But most religions have a doctrine that everyone should be made to believe the same thing based on some quite dodgy evidence.
But my point of reference is God. Suppose you accept belief in God and you believe a certain text are the words of God himself. You believe God is all powerful; has infinite wisdom, far beyond our comprehension.

Given that, I'd say it's easy enough to then follow His teachings to the letter, however strange they seem. I'll admit that I've struggled with many teachings of the Qur'an in the first instance. But I believe in its sanctity beyond any reasonable doubt and I therefore acknowledge that my inability to comprehend is a shortcoming I have as a human. For what it's worth, I almost always find that I eventually see the wisdom in these teachings that at first seemed incomprehensible.

You can't compare it to politics since your point of reference is human and therefore has flawed character, so you shouldn't follow them without question.
Do you know what Junaid, and let me again reiterate, my view covers ALL religions - reading that just gives me such a heavy heart. We live on such an incredible planet. We don't need to look outside of it to live a fulfilling life on it.
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Dinos Sfyris
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Re: Religion

Post by Dinos Sfyris » Sat Aug 29, 2009 4:44 pm

Junaid thank you. I've found all of your contributions to this thread really enlightening. Respec' :)

...Also breaking news! On the tram home I saw a rather kooky girl with dreads sporting a t-shirt with the slogan "God doesn't believe in atheists."

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Ben Hunter
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Re: Religion

Post by Ben Hunter » Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:54 pm

Dinos Sfyris wrote:Junaid thank you. I've found all of your contributions to this thread really enlightening. Respec' :)
Does this mean you're going to become a Muslim?

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Jon Corby
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Re: Religion

Post by Jon Corby » Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:33 am

Junaid Mubeen wrote:[the Qur'an lays down the challenge of finding within it a single contradiction and challenges mankind to produce a single verse like any of the thousands therein. No-one has met either challenge yet.
I don't understand this second challenge. What if I took a verse and changed a word. Isn't that "a verse like any of the thousands therein"? Sounds kinda subjective to me. Can you elaborate please?

I also don't understand the reasoning that the universe is perfect so it must have a creator. Doesn't this just add an extra layer of complexity (i.e. where did the creator come from) rather than explain anything?!

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