A phone conversation with a muslim missionary

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by rodgertutt, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    I guess I wasn't very clear there. I meant how does it help me — someone who doesn't believe in God — to believe that any choice that I make was the only choice I could have made. I would contend that there isn't anything that belief contributes to my life. I don't have to be a Christian to understand the Golden Rule. There are some aspects of Christian faith that make sense regardless of my acceptance of your God. But your philosophy depends on it, which gives it little or no value outside the sphere of your faith.
     
  2. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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    But you did make yourself very clear.
    And I thought I did too.

    You will choose whatever helps you the most, just like everyone else will.
    If what I have said doesn't help you, then you will find something else that does.

    Whatever has the strongest influence on you in the most helpful way is what you will always choose.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2010
  3. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    And with that, I give you the last word.
     
  4. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    I am not subject to your ORDERS. As I told you, I do not have regular access to a research library at this time, and such reading as I do will be on topics of my own choosing; a dear friend commends the works of Louise Hay, and that is what I will get around to before your assignments to me.
    I made no such claim. On the contrary, I emphasized that the introduction of agriculture vastly improved the food supply, and questioned why you did not consider this in itself evidence that such a thing as permanent improvement in the human condition has occurred.
    This time I do remember the author and title of the book I commend to you (but do not command you to look up this instant!): Keegan, War Before Civilization. He points out that palisades and moats are universal features of "towns" as soon as there even ARE towns, and that defense is the evident motive for the existence of towns in the first place. He laments the idyllic romanticism which commonly causes archaeologists to gloss over or outright deny the evidence of pervasive violence which is staring them in the face.
    Yes it could: the average lifespan in Sumer was ~35 years. Please try to get some realistic concept of ancient times. You have this notion that in the Stone Age, everybody was living like chimpanzees, and then after the Agricultural Revolution, miraculously within a single day they started living like Romans (and you imagine that Romans lived pretty much like modern-day people).
    You were defining the "Upper" level as the senatorial class, which you analogized to the 2% of the US which controls 90% of the wealth; for an overall picture of the wealth distribution, it might be more sensible to look at the size of the "Middle" (equestrian) class rather than focusing on the freakishly super-rich, but data on the size of the equestrian class is not nearly so complete. In the Acts of Augustus we get a roster of the old and new senatorial families (decaying patrician families who had been in the Senate "forever", augmented by families being promoted because they had worked their way into the ranks of the super-rich), so yes, we do have good data.
    A "decimal order of magnitude" would mean "ten times as many now as before" (I would consider that a "big" difference); actually it is more like "three decimal orders of magnitude" which means a thousand times as many rich people (in proportion to the population) as there used to be (the same result holds whether you compare Roman senators, as a fraction of Rome, to US super-rich, as a fraction of US; or Roman senators, as a fraction of the world at the time of Rome, to US super-rich, as a fraction of the world now; or super-rich anywhere in the world, as a fraction of the world, then vs. now).
    Comparing the Romans (the richest people in the world, back then) to present-day Africans (the poorest people in the world, now) is silly. Compare the Romans to present-day Americans; or the Africans back then to the Africans now.

    But even comparing the Romans (of the lower class) to present-day Africans, it is only when you talk about food supply that the Romans look better. It may seem silly to you that I consider it significant that most Africans have access to radios or pickup trucks (not that most individuals own such things, but in their extended families or village acquaintances somebody will), but this kind of basic difference between modern and ancient times is not trivial. And consider even more basic goods:

    I talked about clothing, how it wasn't until they met the Germans that Romans even learned how to make pants. And: in ancient times, the race to make new clothes faster than the old ones wore out was always nip-and-tuck; most people had one piece of outerwear to go over their loincloths, but sometimes not even that. In Proverbs, one of the praises for the "woman of substance" is that she weaves fast enough to be able to sell some surplus, and this was evidently rare (a woman who does that? her price is far above rubies). In Isaiah, the prophet goes naked for a year and a half as a "sign" of upcoming wars, in which (it is taken for granted) a consequence is that most of the losers won't have any clothes. In the Talmud, it is said that seeing a naked person is a shame, not to the naked, but to the one who sees him (a failure of the duty to be charitable). In the Gospels, Jesus says that if someone demands your outerwear (in payment for debt), give him your underwear also (to shame him, as the Talmud says; the reference is to a legal requirement that the creditor at least leave you with a loincloth). This situation, where a fair percentage of the population has not a single stitch of clothing, used to be common in Africa (recently; in a few places, still), but is not anymore (in most of the continent).
    I know that it's all the latest fashion to talk about how eebul the Western world is. I expect that this research will be attacked by people taking the extremely opposite point of view, and then there will be a lot of back and forth, and eventually a consensus will settle down that there is some truth to it but not nearly as much as the original proponents claimed. Isn't that the way these things go? So, I don't consider "the latest rage" to have some authoritative status. The thesis that James Watt could not have invented the steam engine except for the sugar plantations in Jamaica just strikes me as inherently silly, and inconsistent with the larger patterns.
    Don't you know that in 13th century Europe well over 90% of the population was formally owned (not just "in functional bondage") by their landlords? Yes, it is tragic that 0.5% of the world's population is in slavery, but are you trying to pretend that this is not an improvement over most of history?
    India and China ARE the people Portugal bested in the first wave.
    Portugal was not interested in taking the entirety of India and China; the manpower requirements for such an occupation are quite large (ask the Brits). Trading bases were profitable, occupation did not look so; they wanted to grab bits of territory from India and China, and showed that they could do so at will.

    Spain had a treaty with Portugal that they would go west, not east. They took on Mexico and Peru, which I acknowledge were second-tier powers, but not entirely "jokes" either. Your claim was that Europe didn't get anywhere until after they had conquered the absolute weakest peoples (North America, Africa), when actually those were left to last.
    Aren't you paying any attention to anything I say? "It is true that Europe could not take on Turkey at that time, which is why they sought global outreach to get around Turkey." They did, however, decisively check Turkey's expansion, even if reversing that would not be possible for a while.
    You started off claiming:
    "When colonialism started, Europe was still a backwater compared to the actual centers of cultural and technological power in the world. Colonialism began (in the 14th century) as a series of bottom-feeding raids on the most backward parts of the world (to fuel the struggles within the continent)... And it isn't like it took much effort to "conquer" them. North America, for example, was basically depopulated by small pox. It was after this run-amok bottom feeding that Europe shot ahead"
    On the contrary, colonialism only started because Europe had already shot ahead of every civilization in the world except Islam.
    Europe conquered the Americas, the islands, and chunks of Asia before all that. The conquest of Africa, I will grant you, depended crucially on the destabilization caused by major expansion of the slave trade.
    A trivial number, really; in any 20-year period you choose to name in prior history, nearly every nation would have experienced at least one war with its neighbors and/or high-death-toll internal upheaval. Go ahead and list the nations that have experienced such things: then list all the nations that haven't. Modern communications give us a distorted picture: in medieval times, if the shah of Persia was violently overthrown, Egypt wouldn't hear about it for a long time, and then only as a distant rumor, and England never would; and the chief of Bornu slaughtering the inhabitants of Baguirmi wouldn't get heard about anywhere.
    Don't you pay any attention to anything I say? How many times have I repeated, "things can either go in the right or go in the wrong direction, always. That's up to us."? I make no claims about the future.
    It's called "Earth". You should check it out. It's got its good points and its bad points, like anyplace, but I'm content with it.
    It is indeed "bashing" the West, both to pretend that the West is responsible for all kinds of ills which pre-dated the West's involvement, and to pretend that Europe was still in the Dark Ages when by some dumb luck they managed to conquer the world.
     
  5. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    They were FAR MORE miserable in Africa before, in many respects. It is only the pre-literate nature of the societies which makes it possible to back-project idyllic fantasies about how they were. I know that it is impolite to mention nowadays how sickeningly brutal the native African culture was, but Europeans did not teach them cannibalism, castration, clitoridectomy, kwashiorkor etc.; Europeans tried to shut down the worst of the native customs, but outsiders have limited power to change an ingrained culture. European did escalate the slave-trade, and cannot escape the blame for that tragedy, but they didn't create it; it had been going on among the Africans, and then between the Africans and the Arabs, for centuries: and in some places the African-Arab slave trade persisted until the Europeans shut it down (see Connell, Dar al-Kuti and the Last Years of the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade).

    Consider Dahomey, a rare case of a nation which the Europeans entered by invitation: the name means "on the belly of Da" because a chieftain named Da complained about their expansionism, "They want to put their throne on my belly," and this was taken literally, once Da was captured, and the name semi-officially adopted for the state. The regime turned totally Aztec, with large-scale sacrifices, the flesh eaten by the priests and nobles; until the populace asked the French to help overthrow the regime (Cortez, similarly, would never have taken Tenochtitlan without assistance by oppressed Mexicans).

    The superstitious attitude that every misfortune should be attributed to angry deities who need to be appeased with sacrificial rites, or to black sorcery by witches who need to be hunted and killed, was scarcely unique to Africa; it unfortunately has just persisted there longer, and in more virulent forms. Witch-hunts in Europe were sporadic outbreaks; in much of Africa, worrying about "Who's the witch?" is pervasive: "Most people believe that death is the consequence of ill will (sorcery). At traditional wakes, kin frequently charge each other with having killed the deceased"; the destructive effects on social cohesion are obvious.
    Gack! That kind of content-free deconstructionist bafflegab is a thief of time.
    I think you were meaning to say the opposite?
    Minor quibble: the date is "6000 years ago" (~4000 BCE) not 6000 BCE (8000 years ago; and that is for the start of the site's occupation, which must have continued for about a thousand years, since they report copper ore and seal stones-- metallurgy and literacy I think are unknown until ~3200 BCE.

    Note that the trade good before they started dealing in copper was obsidian: do you understand why "obsidian"? In the Stone Age, obsidian is what you made sharp blades out of. This gets replaced by copper, because metal lets you make even sharper blades. The territorially far-flung alliances among elite families were for one purpose only: to monopolize weaponry. Pottery was not a "trade good" yet, because it was not of interest to the armed class; and the unarmed did not travel, not if they wanted to live. And we don't find other kinds of goods, because there basically weren't any; people didn't yet know how to make much. I doubt they even sheared their sheep and goats to spin the wool and make cloth (textiles don't survive well, but loom parts, made of stone, do; I don't see such things reported); more likely, people were still just wearing rawhides. The flint cutters which common people would own, scarce improved over Paleolithic wares, were not adequate for shearing; only after metallurgy had gone from "innovative" to "commonplace" would it become normal for a lower-class person to own a decent knife (though this was still far from universal even by classical times: Jesus advises, "If you have no blade, sell your outerwear to buy one," while commanding the disciples to travel widely, in small parties, which was still not a safe thing to do unarmed).

    The replacement of obsidian blades with metal blades seriously increased the lethality of warfare, leading to the destruction of many towns. Often a good town-site would be quickly re-used by the survivors; but sometimes, as in the case your article describes, the site would never be inhabited again. Do you understand what that means? It means that there were no survivors, or very few, in a wide radius after this town was violently destroyed. Do you want to talk to me some more about how these "elites" had nothing to do with fighting, but were just prosperous businessmen, no doubt sleeping on feather-beds, driving around in gilded chariots, and eating stuffed pheasant just like Roman senators? Uh, beds had not yet been invented, nor the wheel; but birds were captured, in net traps (not yet by archery), and no doubt the elites monopolized all the best foods. Well-fed, yes, I am sure they were; but short-lived; a "life of luxury"? I think you need a reality check.
     
  6. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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    This isn't necessarily the last word from me.
    I would like to go back to the reason why I started this thread.

    I think that the use of the threat, by any religious sect, of everlasting suffering is the greatest evil in this world.

    The darkest doctrine ever devised by men was that of "eternal suffering" for billions of souls.

    Like wolves among the sheep, power-hungry, money-loving, preachers within the religious systems find it very effective to use the fear of an unending "hell" to control the masses that enter their religion.

    My greatest joy comes from trying to be part of the strongest influence that guides folk to evidence that God is not like that.

    I would rather live out my life as an agnostic, and try to treat others the same way that I would like to be treated by them, and hope for the best in the afterlife, than to pretend to love a god who would let anyone suffer forever.

    I repeat the following link for anyone who might be interested in believing in an infinitely different kind of God.

    THE PURPOSE OF EVIL
    evil.html
     
  7. c0de

    c0de Vassal

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    .


    NOTE: This will be my final post on this thread. This is not just
    because I am leaving tomorrow, but I have no interest in discussing
    anything with a person who has openly stated the following:



    In other words, you you don't consider the latest research to be valid,
    in favor of the old views which fit more with your paradigms.

    Here is just one example of this attitude:

    The paper I provided you is dated at 2007.
    The book you cited is dated at 1997.

    That is a difference of an entire DECADE.

    But you decide to accept the book you read
    and reject the current research in the field...
    (which claims a non militaristic expansion of the
    Ubaid culture in Mesopotamia)

    What am I supposed to say to that?

    ... There is just nothing to say.

    You are not here to have an actual discussion, sir, but just want to argue.
    And I just don't have time to deal with such neurosis anymore, sorry.
     
  8. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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    It was nice meeting you c0de!
    Lesser minds, like mine, are not able to see the relevance of your dialog with Bob to the title of my thread.
    But it was great to learn that there is at least one universalist Muslim in this world. :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  9. c0de

    c0de Vassal

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    There are no "lesser" minds man... All of us are basically stupid.

    In any case, it was nice to meet you 2.

    See you on the other side. ;)
     
  10. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    The relevance is that greater minds are able to retain and retrieve more information, thus allowing them to argue endlessly over more meaningless issues than lesser minds.

    It's like comparing a 4-wheel drive vehicle to a 2-wheel drive.

    Owning a 4-wheel drive just means you'll still get stuck... just further in.
     
  11. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    You'll be back ("you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!"). Have a nice trip!
    No, I don't give particular authority to something which has only been published the day before yesterday, and therefore has not yet been subjected to the "peer review" process of others publishing their objections, and the back-and-forth necessary to sorting out how much validity is in it. I will not apologize for preferring research which has stood the test of time over the latest fashion.
    Reading the Service paper with more care, I see that it is making a more subtle and defensible point than the reflexive romantic-pacifist view decried by Keegan. It is addressing this issue:

    How did agriculture spread?
    A) One ethnic group discovered it, multiplied rapidly, and spread out into the adjoining regions, massacring the neighboring ethnic groups and replacing them, building more towns in their own style.
    or B) One ethnic group discovered it, and neighboring ethnic groups heard about the idea, adopting it and building towns each in a somewhat different style, because of pre-existing cultural differences.

    The authors find evidence for B. This surely does indicate that there were a lot of non-violent interactions (not every non-agriculturalist who came down and saw what the farmers were doing was immediately killed as a "spy" before he could take the idea back to his homies) but it does not contradict the basic point that "towns" were built for defense against hostile raiding, and frequently came into violent conflict with each other. In deep antiquity it was taken for granted that every town would go out on a military campaign every year: the month of "March" in the Roman calendar was named for Mars because every March, they marched!

    What I seriously objected to you was your baseless claim that this paper supported your thesis of a "life of luxury" when there is nothing whatsoever like that in there. The elites were well-fed, certainly, but any other kinds of material goods were at that time either rare, or not yet even invented. Someone wrapped in animal hide and sleeping on the dirt floor of a mud hovel which is pierced by numerous holes that necessarily let in the rain, since otherwise the smoky, mostly dung-fueled, fire would be suffocating, who commandeers a lot of food because it is his job to fight off frequent raiders with clubs and obsidian knives, is not to my mind "leading a life of luxury".
    This is completely uncalled-for. I would tell you again to take a chill-pill, but maybe a little travel will calm you down anyway.
     
  12. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    I'm not denying that he frequently ate tasty lamb with well-seasoned yogurt wrapped in fluffy stone-baked pita bread washed down with wine, while his neighbor seldom tasted meat, didn't always get enough bread, and had to settle for weak beer... "Wealth" is relative to the time, I'm just saying the wealth back then was not the wealth of Bill Gates or even Senator Lucullus.

    And it does depend on which exact time you mean: the Ubaid period (agriculture to literacy) is over a thousand years long, the Uruk period (metallurgy to political unification) several centuries; we shouldn't speak of "Sumer" as if it were static; there was lots of technological advancement (yes, dependent on exploitation of under-compensated laborers, of course). The above quote describes the "elite" in the Neolithic beginnings. Besides the new resource of grain, the long-established stone tool-kits and domesticated sheep and goats, mud and clay is all that they had a "rich" supply of. Everybody had dishes, cups, and jugs, and lived in houses; there were less utilitarian forms of pottery, like figurines (religious?) and decorative studs (studs for holding the crude "clothes" together, of course, but also decorated beyond the merely practical-- to mark rank? or just to be "pretty"?) When the article speaks of "Ubaid material culture", note that these are the ONLY goods spoken of.

    As mastery of kiln fires advanced, we start to see glazed pottery with ornamental incisions-- principally for the elite of course; and the mud houses advance from simple adobe to fired bricks-- the elite houses were always bigger, and now start to be snugger as well. One by-product is that pieces of incised fired-clay are used for identification ("seals") to mark property, and for trade contracts as pictograms start to supplement the system. About simultaneous with this incipient literacy, another by-product was the discovery that certain rocks in hot kilns melt into oooh, shiny stuff. The upgrade from obsidian blades to copper sparked explosive violence: my presumption that the violence levels in Ubaid times were similar to what we see in Uruk times must, I confess, be admitted to be an exaggeration (though scarcely on the level of c0de's claim that "the elites did NO fighting"). But once blades became commonplace, they also gave rise to: better wood-carving ("furniture" begins to appear) and stone-carving (for small useful objects as well as grand masonry), aside from the textile industry I mentioned. The addition of cows to the list of domesticated animals made possible leather goods (sheep and goat skins are not as good for this), and with the invention of the wheel, ox-carts (horses and chariots were still well in the future) enabling bulk trade (earlier trade had been limited to what humans could carry).

    Was any of this "progress"? Or was the guy in my quote doing just as well as anybody today?
     
  13. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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    Since this is a thread that I started, I'm taking the liberty of repeating this post in case more than three people are viewing it.

    This isn't necessarily the last word from me.
    I would like to go back to the reason why I started this thread.

    I think that the use of the threat, by any religious sect, of everlasting suffering is the greatest evil in this world.

    The darkest doctrine ever devised by men was that of "eternal suffering" for billions of souls.

    Like wolves among the sheep, power-hungry, money-loving, preachers within the religious systems find it very effective to use the fear of an unending "hell" to control the masses that enter their religion.

    My greatest joy comes from trying to be part of the strongest influence that guides folk to evidence that God is not like that.

    I would rather live out my life as an agnostic, and try to treat others the same way that I would like to be treated by them, and hope for the best in the afterlife, than to pretend to love a god who would let anyone suffer forever.

    I repeat the following link for anyone who might be interested in believing in an infinitely different kind of God.

    THE PURPOSE OF EVIL
    evil.html
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  14. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    It is generally the case that more people follow a thread than the few who feel inclined to repeatedly contribute.
    How unreasonable of you :p
    Since the Muslim non-missionary is away for a while, I can certainly devote some time to your original topic. We have tended to talk past each other, since we don't quite share the same language, and to talk in circles, to citizenzen's alternate amusement and exasperation, but can we try and start afresh?
    Much of what you say I have to agree with. Really, we are all agnostic however much we pretend otherwise: we do not, and cannot, "know" anything beyond the material world we see; we may have strong reasons to feel persuaded that there must be something more, but we cannot "know" what it is, because we are not gods, and if pressed hard enough, even the most stubborn of us will admit it.

    It is irrational to think that God wants afterlife considerations to influence our decisions: else the afterlife would be plainly visible. What legal system in the world, just or unjust, does not make it perfectly visible to the population which behaviors will draw punishments? Courts are open to the public so that everybody can see, do this and you will be fined or imprisoned. Even psychotic dictatorships which drag people away in the middle of night to do horrible things in secret make it totally evident to everybody which kinds of people will be dragged away. But the afterlife is not visible on any Hell-o-vision showing us who gets tormented. Does someone who explodes a suicide bomb in a crowd of the enemy go straight to heaven, straight to hell, or neither? We hear from humans who give all three answers, and may claim that "God" has revealed those answers to them, but God does not tell me which of those humans has it right; and my belief is that, since they are all humans not better off than me, they are all just guessing. So don't let afterlife considerations enter into your moral calculations at all: God obviously doesn't want you to be influenced by such things; just, as you say, treat other people right and accept whatever comes.

    On the whole "free will" thing: when you are making a decision, say you want to buy your sweetheart the nicest possible present, but you also want to hang onto some money for other needs between now and payday, you want the different things in different ways which are not on the same scale. You do not pull out a desire-o-meter and find that you want this with 5.38 units of desirability, and want that with only 5.27, so you'll go with this. Before you make the decision, you would be hard pressed to say which you "wanted more": you want both, in different ways that are not on a common scale for comparison. You may be surprised yourself when you finally come up with "Heck, this one time I'll splurge" or "Meh, he'll be happy enough with this somewhat cheaper thing." You only know what you "want more" after you see what you decide, and did the prevailing influence even have a greater "strength" prior to that decision? All the talk about relative strengths "determining" the outcome only makes sense if there is some quasi-numerical comparison of which is "greater", existing beforehand.

    And while my talk of a "desire-o-meter" may sound silly, deep in the workings of the brain it must, actually, come down to something like that. We have a neuron firing or not firing based on the inputs from the synaptically connected neurons, with some numerical comparison of the electrical potentials inclining it this way or that way. The problem is that when you get down to that level, it is subject to the rules of quantum electrodynamics, which don't operate the way you think the world ought to: the influence which is "stronger" by every material, objectively-measurable criterion might have a 90% chance of prevailing, so that the "weaker" prevails rarely but not never. Your answer, that in cases where the influence that every material objective measurement says is "weaker" nonetheless prevails, it must really be the "stronger" in some way we cannot see, plunges you into very deep and chilly waters, something I don't think you have fully appreciated: this is what c0de and I were trying to thrash out, before we decided that first we had to settle The Grand Picture Of The Entire History (Plus Late Pre-History) Of The Whole Human Race.

    This issue of "hidden" determining factors, which are independent of everything in the material world, of anything that scientific instruments could ever measure, is right there at the very edge of what it is possible for us finite human beings to know anything, I mean ANYTHING AT ALL, about. Your answer amounts to: anything that the material world doesn't dictate, God dictates. If that works for you: fine, I guess; it's really at the level where neither of us can "prove" anything to the other. It doesn't work at all for me: I find the consequences of this picture of God rather distasteful.
     
  15. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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    ALL is of God
    2Corinthians 5:18

    God works ALL things according to the counsel of His own will
    Ephesians 1:11

    Yup, it "works" for me.

    And the practical outworking of it is expounded here
    THE PURPOSE OF EVIL
    evil.html

    I find the consequences of this picture of God rather awesome dude!
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2010
  16. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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    Every choice you ever made was the only choice you could have made, since, after due consideration, you chose what you wanted the MOST.

    You call that "free" will.

    I call it a will that is CAUSED to choose as it does by what you want MOST.
    It is not even possible that you could have chosen anything else at that particular point in time.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2010
  17. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    I'm still not sure that you understand what I'm saying. Words like "LESS, MORE, MOST" only apply to what I called "quasi-numerical" things: a "fully ordered set" in mathematical technical language, in which every option can be placed on a single line of relative rankings. But when you make choices, it doesn't feel like that: it feels like the options are off in different directions; how do you compare a point "a mile north" to a point "a mile east"? If it is only after the decision to choose A over B that A becomes the "most wanted", then you have the causation exactly backwards: the choice causes A to be most-wanted; it cannot be the most-wanted-ness of A that caused the choice, if no ranking of A and B existed prior to "that particular point in time".

    The only numerical rankings which we know to exist beforehand are the strengths of the electrodynamic forces at the micro-level, and those are not outcome-determinative, causing only greater probability for A than for B. Sometimes what, by any ranking we could make at that particular point in time, is "less wanted" nonetheless gets "chosen". Haven't you ever had that experience? Paul did: Romans 7:15, "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."
     
  18. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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    The apostle Paul's frustration was that, regretfully, he sometimes preferred sinning the MOST.
    Sometimes his sinful nature was the strongest influence in his life.

    Romans 7:14-25 makes it plain that in no way was Paul’s will “free.”
    But the Spirit of God taught Paul through experiences that in those times that “the sin that dwelt within him” (v20) preferred sinning; he could then reach out to Jesus for rescue. This God-taught attitude gradually, and no doubt reflexively, became the strongest influence on Paul’s will in his war with his sinful nature.

    No, I don't understand what you are saying.
    What I do understand though is that it is not even possible that you could have chosen anything else at any particular point in time.

    Therefore, in my opinion, there is no such a thing as "free" will.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2010
  19. rodgertutt

    rodgertutt Interfaith Forums

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  20. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    Maybe it's hopeless, but I keep trying.
    A being who has perfect, complete knowledge of the entire material universe at any particular time cannot tell, even with all that information, what choice is about to be made, can only shrug and say "all these outcomes remain possible." The laws of physics only narrow down the list of possibilities, do not determine a single outcome. So what does determine? It's a mystery. Do you understand that it's a mystery? We don't know how it works, and anybody who tells you they "know" is lying to you; we're just humans, and we're all just guessing. But let's set this aside, if we still cannot get anywhere except the same round-and-round.

    You take it as a given, which I do not, that everything is controlled by a personal God. Since this is at the core of our differences, let me elaborate. What I mean to say that we act personally is that we pre-calculate future outcomes; choose (somehow, let's set aside the question of how) among these possible outcomes; and take actions that we believe will lead to the chosen outcomes. We have a natural "anthropomorphizing" tendency to think that anything we don't understand acts personally, just like we do: lightning burns down our neighbor's house, so we think the Lightning God acted with the intention of bringing about that outcome. In reality, lightning is impersonal: it does not look ahead to future outcomes (it follows a path of least resistance at each point, without pre-calculating where that will lead); does not pick and choose among outcomes (the lightning really doesn't "care"); and so it really isn't "acting" at all.

    The usual concept of God is personal with these differences:
    Our pre-calculations of future outcomes are often erroneous; God's are always correct; when we call God "omniscient" we don't just mean that God sees everything that is happening now but also that He foresees the future.
    Our preferences among the possible outcomes are often muddled and confused; God's are always "good" in some absolute sense. Let us not try to define "good" right now; but when we call God "benevolent" we do mean, in some absolute sense.
    Our actions are not always adequate to achieve our preferred outcomes; God always has adequate actions available; let us define "omnipotent" so as to avoid any question of logical conundrums (can He create a rock He can't lift?) just to mean that God has the power to bring about what He prefers, always.

    SO: "If there exists a God who is omniscient, benevolent, and omnipotent, then everything must be good."
    That is: it is logically equivalent to say, "If not everything is good, then there does not exist a God who is omniscient, benevolent, and omnipotent."
    You see the argument as showing that all apparent "evil" MUST be ultimately, in some absolute sense, "good" since you take it as given that the personal God I defined above (any disagreements with how I defined things?) does indeed exist. Someone who, rather, takes it for granted that "evil" is "evil" and not everything is good will see the same argument as proving atheism.
    Who is this arrogant so-and-so presuming to tell me what I have the "right" to say??? I say: once something is past, it cannot be changed, and it is an absurdity to talk of any evil being "made right" ever: it is always what it is, and the fact that something else exists, no matter how good, doesn't change the evilness of the evil. It would seem then that either omniscience or benevolence or omnipotence would have to be lacking in God, and that I could only be influenced, by these arguments, combined with your anti-free-will arguments that everything is just a puppet show in which nobody really "acts" except God, to believe in a picture of God as omniscient and omnipotent, oh yes, but malicious.

    I do not really see things that way, because I reject the deeply-buried premise that God is personal in the first place. Let us look at the three headings under which I described the traits of "personality":
    I do not believe that God is in the business of pre-calculating future outcomes; I do not believe that there is any being now containing information about the future.
    I do not believe that God has any preferences; I do not believe that God "wants" some things and "doesn't want" others; God wants ALL OF IT.
    I believe therefore that God "acts" only creatively, not manipulatively; God does not force things toward any particular end, but creates an open space in which beings are free to act.
     

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