Why Believe????

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by mac1, Apr 16, 2003.

  1. mcedgy

    mcedgy Active Member

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    My own arguement explains why I do not agree with the Pascal Theory. I offered it as one explanation to the original question "why believe".

    More observation: Saint Anselm (? -1109 A.D.) described God with his definition, “God is that which nothing greater can be conceived”. Saint Anselm gave this definition as part of a metaphysical argument that states: “The real objective existence of God is necessarily involved in the existence of the very idea of God.”

    I disagree with that statement as well but only because I believe man’s idea and interpretation of God is conceptual and inadequate and that human limitation place God and Creation outside man’s ability to comprehend. Therefore I label myself Agnostic but being agnostic doesn't mean that I don't believe in a greater force.

    In my opinion the ONLY irrational belief is Atheism but I defend one's right to not believe. However, I've experienced too wonders to ever be able to defend the atheist doctrine.
     
  2. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    why believe

    [I put this first in the thread Is Belief Necessary, but it seems to fit better here]

    Being an amateur in religious studies, I was really surprised when I came across Pascal's wager for the first time not too long ago. I had gone through a similar kind of thinking as I grew from an agnostic into a believer, or I should say when I chose to become a believer.

    As a child I was a natural believer and I can remember moments of yearning for the day I would pass into the next realm and all the things I did not understand would become clear. My idea of heaven was knowledge and wisdom. But then I was "educated" in religion and this lead me into doubt. Spirituality, it seemed, was some kind of inborn faith in all kinds of fantastic and supernatural things and I was disappointed because I was skeptical of all that. I drifted into agnosticism.

    Interestingly, while my early religious training made me skeptical, the more I studied science the more amazed I was at the miracle of life and existence. Now, I don't believe God needed to somehow guide evolution for it to create life as we know it, but at the same time the intricacy and beauty of it all just puts me in awe. The day I learned how some genes in viruses can encode two different proteins, one in a forward-reading and the other in the reverse-reading direction, well, it was nearly a religious experience.

    As for Pascal's wager, well, I guess I thought through a very modified form of it. I was not choosing between Catholicism or Atheism, potential heaven or potential hell. First, I just chose to believe in Something More. Some Purpose to give meaning to life, to make the choices I make matter. Something to explain compassion and justice and thankfulness. Realizing that choosing to believe was absolutely as rational as choosing not to believe was the liberating point. Faith is just that and God can not be proven (although as many demonstrate here, God can be experienced!). Just choose. After that journey begins. It's better than just sitting on your thumbs until you die!

    I must confess to some envy of those of you who have tasted merging with the Godhead, or Ground of Being, or Ocean, or Nirvana, or whatever metaphor touches you in summing up the experience. Maybe someday I will experience something similar. But until then I will have to be content to stand on the shoulders of giants, giant thinkers, before me. In my very limited brain and heart I can not recreate the wisdom of all the sages and prophets and Messengers of the past. I will try to be content reading and meditating on their legacy, in the Bible, the Quran, the Sutras, the Kitab-i-Iqan, etc., in the light of science, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

    "...in every face, he seeketh the beauty of the Friend; in every country he looketh for the Beloved. He joineth every company, and seeketh fellowship with every soul, that haply in some mind he may uncover the secret of the Friend, or in some face he may behold the beauty of the Loved One." (Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys)

    Sorry for the long self-indulgent post!

    lunamoth

    "When our souls touch again in the Great What's Next, we'll have a good laugh over how wrong we both were."--me
    __________________
    lunamoth

    --in the dark but attracted to the light
     
  3. mcedgy

    mcedgy Active Member

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    Lunamoth: Your post is wonderful. I enjoyed reading it.

    In my opinion though we all believe in Something. Even an Atheist believes in Something although that Something is believing in Nothing. Of course, depending upon whose definition you use a state of “Nothingness” is considered the ultimate goal in some religions. Okay, before you or someone else throws down the gauntlet, I know that definition of “Nothingness” is arguable.

    You and I have very few differences of opinion yet you profess to be a faithful believer while I concede to be an Agnostic. I have all the faith in the world that Something exists but what that Something is continues to elude me and metaphors get me no closer. Beyond comprehension is Agnosticism and I don’t think in this lifetime I will ever understand that Something. I can only continue to search. Maybe your childhood ideas were more accurate than you know. Maybe only upon my demise will I understand. mcedgy
     
  4. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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  5. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste mcedgy,


    thank you for your posts...

    by the way.. you don't need to refute Pascals wager.. the refutation of the wager is included in the premises stated by Pascal :)

    though... since i do enjoy talking about it... i hope that you, and everyone else, will induldge me :)

    here's Pascal's wager as explained in his Pensees:

    If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having, neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is ... you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that he is.

    Popkin, Pascal: p257-258


    so.. there it is... philosopher Anthony Flew, quite correctly, points out one of the flaws in this wager in this fashion:

    The main but not the only fault of the argument is that Pascal assumes that there are only two alternative bets; become a Roman Catholic or not. But on his own basic premise of total ignorance, the set of conceivable alternative cosmic systems, all of the hypothesis is equally probable, must be infinite, as must be the subset of those promising eternal bliss, and threatening eternal torment, respectively, to reward, and to punish an infinite range of different favored and disfavored way of life. This refutation is, on Pascal's own assumptions, decisive.

    Flew, Philosophy: p146
     
  6. mcedgy

    mcedgy Active Member

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    Vajradhara: Thank you for all your posts. I’m always compelled to read each of your posts more than once.

    I’ve read theoretical, philosophical, mathematical and theological Pascal arguments for years and agree that Pascal unintentionally refutes his own case but I don’t think it is readily recognizable with a cursory reading of the theory. Maybe I should have just quoted the theory and left well enough alone. I decided to make a feeble attempt at what may have been an over simplified paraphrase and explanation. mcedgy
     
  7. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    blind faith

    Dear McEdgy, I quite enjoy reading your posts too. It is interesting to me that you consider yourself an Agnostic, and I am sorry if I seemed disrespectful of that choice in my last post. No disrespect intended.

    Dear Vaj, your posts always stimulate thought, and remind me that a little knowedge, in my hands anyway, can be a dangerous thing! In a way I am glad that I did not know the refutations of Pascal's Wager when I made my own bet, of course I was unaware of Pascal's Wager itself at the time.

    I came to a point in my life where deciding not to decide was very unsatisfactory. So, I decided to decide. This is the point of my blind faith. This is the thing I did that was illogical, but not without reason. The minister at my church calls it trust.

    Because my upbringing, or those feelings I had as a child, or whatever, I was predisposed to the idea of there being Something More, that I refer to as God but think that any appelation is inadequate and incorrect. Anyway, this part of the bet was not an even bet for me to begin with!

    Well, now that I've made my bet and been living with it for a number of years, I'm happy with the outcome. The thing that makes life so interesting is that there is no experimental control. Even if I wanted I could not repeat the experiment, choose the (an) other bet, and see what happens to compare because, well, the river is the same but the water has moved on. Maybe in another world of the multiverse I'm writing on this forum about how happy I am to be an Atheist!

    Anyway, the journey is very interesting and I feel that I am fulfilling more of my potential by walking on a path, rather than drifting. The things about religion that are uplifting uplift me, the things that are comforting comfort me, the things that are challenging challenge me. I try not to have blind faith in religion like I have chosen to have faith in God. It is a struggle but you can't grow a rose without tilling the earth and pruning the stems. I try to set my sights on compassion and justice. Most days I just try to be thankful.
     
  8. mcedgy

    mcedgy Active Member

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    lunamoth: no offense taken!
     
  9. louis

    louis Well-Known Member

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    ego not false

     
  10. louis

    louis Well-Known Member

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    no death

    From Louis...
    Would "no death" comfort me ? That depends ....
    The idea of no PAIN or HURT would comfort me - if death
    meant no more than going to sleep and never waking up,
    I could simply dismiss it and get on with enjoying life.
    What might happen AFTER I'm dead means nothing to me
    because I won't be around to experience it.
    ( Even if I DO have a "soul" that survives , it's supposed to be a non-material thing, so how can it experience ANY
    SENSATION - pleasant or unpleasant ? )
    But nobody can guarantee a way to avoid pain and hurt -
    Christians say even God's Son had to go through that.
    And NOBODY has the answer to that - all churhes do is
    advise you to how get by WITHOUT answers.
     
  11. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Hi All,

    samabudhi said: "The truth is that you are inseparably one with everything, and the cause of your suffering is the false ego which deludes you that you are otherwise."

    I missed this when I read your post the first time. Now, I like this better, or at least can grasp it a little better, than the emptiness doctrine. One question: If I am one with everything, and there is no me, but others in the everything still suffer (because they are still attached to the false self), then do I still suffer too? This is assuming I am able to let go of the illusion of "I."

    Here are two sayings from Caigentan, The Wisdom of the Root Vegetable:

    A vessel topples because it is too full.
    A piggy bank is saved from being shattered for its emptiness.
    So a true person prefers have-not to have.
    Rather be incomplete than to be complete.

    and

    Ture emptiness is not empty.
    Holding on to an image is not real, nor is abandoning it.
    Sir, please let me know what to do?
    While you may exist in this world, you can reach out beyond.
    Indulging in desire is a pain, so is abstention.
    My Friend, it is up to you to cultivate your own virtues.

    These sayings first help me try to understand the value of emptiness, and second remind me that it is dealing with contradictions that you can get closer to that which is beyond yourself. Perhaps even the contradictions in monotheistic scripture can be handled in this way. One says this, the other says that, so what do you do? Do the best you can.

    I guess this is my day for rambling...I'll try to get it out of my system and move on.
     
  12. louis

    louis Well-Known Member

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    apology

     
  13. louis

    louis Well-Known Member

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    being and nothingness

    Here are two sayings from Caigentan, The Wisdom of the Root Vegetable:

    A vessel topples because it is too full.
    A piggy bank is saved from being shattered for its emptiness.
    So a true person prefers have-not to have.
    Rather be incomplete than to be complete.

    and

    Ture emptiness is not empty.
    Holding on to an image is not real, nor is abandoning it.
    Sir, please let me know what to do?
    While you may exist in this world, you can reach out beyond.
    Indulging in desire is a pain, so is abstention.
    My Friend, it is up to you to cultivate your own virtues.

    From Louis...
    I missed this before - quite interesting.
    Sort of like ... "Desire nothing and you will not be disappointed".... "Less pressure on someone who is
    ONE of the best than on someone who THE best" .
    I'm someone who would like to learn about religion
    without actually participating in any of it .
    That should be possible, shouldn't it ?
    Does a Doctor have to CATCH a disease in order to
    learn about it ?
     
  14. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Hi Louis,

    Thank you for sharing your explorations here! We all learn from each other.

    Louis: I'm someone who would like to learn about religion
    without actually participating in any of it .
    That should be possible, shouldn't it ?

    lunamoth: I think so.

    Louis: Does a Doctor have to CATCH a disease in order to
    learn about it ?[/QUOTE]

    lunamoth: Now that is an interesting question!! Considering the Divine Physician: The Messengers always do seem to suffer while they are here on earth.

    cheers!
     
  15. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Hi again Louis,

    I'm not happy with the quick answers I gave above--got them in while putting dinner on the table.

    louis: Sort of like ... "Desire nothing and you will not be disappointed".... "Less pressure on someone who is
    ONE of the best than on someone who THE best" .


    me: You have grasped those sayings better than I. CaiGen Tan was written by a philosopher (Hong Ying Ming) in the Ming Dynasty era and combines ideas from Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. They are popular now in Japanese business and society, according to my internet write-up.


    louis: I'm someone who would like to learn about religion
    without actually participating in any of it .
    That should be possible, shouldn't it ?


    me: Before I said I think so, but I would also say "up to a point." You can certainly learn about a religion, but I think you need to dive in and experience a religion to go very deep, and that takes a good degree of commitment. For many "mainstream" religions I think it is possible to investigate deeply, including attending worship services and study classes, without going so far as "signing up." But if your heart is not in it, so to speak, all this may just fall flat. When I wanted my heart to change, I turned to prayer.


    louis: Does a Doctor have to CATCH a disease in order to
    learn about it ?[/QUOTE]

    me: I realize now that I addressed this question just thinking of my point of view, and not thinking about where you seem to be coming from. Apologies there. It is an interesting question, though. I tend to think of religion as the medicine, not the disease. But medicines are often abused.

    Cheers :)
     
  16. louis

    louis Well-Known Member

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    why, indeed ?

    - - - - please dont take this post the wrong way. I am merely curious to the reasons people believe what they do. I would never ever presume to judge or question anyone's belief system, but are you all simply going on "blind faith" - just seems strange to the likes of me - thats all.

    From Louis...
    When I first read your question, I thought you meant
    "Why adhere to any traditional belief system ?"
    Maybe your question is more like mine -
    "Why BELIEVE at all ?" Why not stay with something
    else - such as OBSERVE and EVALUATE ?
    "Believing" involves making an EMOTIONAL COMMITMENT before obtaining enough evidence to make an INFORMED
    JUDGEMENT. Why the rush to TRUST ideas when you KNOW there's no way to confirm their accuracy ?
    Why not just WAIT AND SEE ???
     
  17. barefootgal9

    barefootgal9 Baha'i

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    Louis, I don't find Obseving, Evaluating, or making Informed Judgments at all at odds with making an emotional commitment.

    There are some things which simply cannot be understood "from the outside in." For instance, you will never become a good swimmer if you never get into the water. We haven't become a swimmer, only someone well-read on the subject of swimming.

    More closely akin to the question of Faith (which need not be "blind" at all, BTW) would be an analogy to love. Can one "know" what a committed love relationship "IS" if one is ever hanging back, keeping the back door open and ready to make your escape? Just looking at research on successful vs unsuccessful marriages indicates that one of the major factors in marital failure is that one or both partners makes an "iffy" commitment, keeping that back door ajar, and runs from the first tough challenge, rather than learning through it. (Alas, all the person has learned from the experience is to hang back more, and run sooner!) How can a partial emotional commitment, or even more to the point, an "intellectual assessment," lead one to understand the depth and closeness of a full emotional commitment?

    I suggest it can't happen. You can read every book and study in existence on "love" -- you will not really comprehend it without experiencing it personally.

    Faith is a "love relationship." The parameters of that love and the experiences of that relationship are new every day, a constant process of discovering and rediscovering the "other," and confirmations that "this is good." Faith (as opposed to "doctrine") is not a fully scripted definitive statement of reality. It is much more like what you were saying about an engineering project. One must have a positive expectation that a solution is viable and out there "somewhere" to be found. But the model you start with may have little actual resemblence to the device that finally does the job. You hunt, try a number of approaches, and test along the way. As you discover things that work (as in religion, one receives "confirmations") you gain in knowledge, trust and confidence. The "tweaking" never ends.

    Faith is a journey towards an unknown goal, but with the positive expectation of ultimate arrival, it takes effort, assessment and reassessment, and you learn navigation along the way.
     
  18. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste louis,

    thank you for the post..
    if this is true.. why insist that it be called "I"? by what modality are you able to determine this "I" that is "just here"?
     
  19. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste mcedgy,

    thank you for the post and the kind words :)

    i'm but a bug.. if you find anything of value in what i write, it's due to your own good karma ripening.


     
  20. barefootgal9

    barefootgal9 Baha'i

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    Ah! but I thought you were a glinting diamond!

    oops. wrong thread. that should have been in the "what am I?" thread.

    tis after midnight and the bats are flying out of my belfry.

    'night all.

    bfg
     

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