Is belief a necessity?

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by emong, Dec 6, 2003.

  1. emong

    emong Well-Known Member

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    I have come to the self-knowledge that belief in a higher purpose is a necessity at least for me. Whether a longstanding, highly suspect dogma from the illiterate past, or a individual expression of my own views, a belief in something outside of myself is the only means I have for the maintaining a relatively "good" life. For me at least, the abhorrent view of the non-existance of a creative spirit is incomprehensable.
    It would mean that "good" and "evil" do not exist and that the outcome of either a "good" or "evil" life would be irrelevant.
    Perhaps in the past man has conjured up these fables, stories, what have you to attempt to bring an order out of chaos. As for as I can tell, there hasn't been a lasting culture founded on atheistic principals.
    The world's religions have been the moral constructs of society although they have in the past been misused and misrepresented for selfish and evil reasons. And still are. But they formed a culture in each of their centers that bound people together.
    That alone seems to indicate some intuative need for a god, or spirit, or hero to believe in.
    What would the world be now if the concept of religion had never sprung up?
     
  2. Nogodnomasters

    Nogodnomasters Well-Known Member

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    Ancient cultures grew up around the control of religion. There was no separation of church and state. I am confused as to what is an "atheistic principle." Being an atheist, I for one have never heard of such a thing. There are universal rights and wrongs recognized by all cultures, which have no religous bearing. Are these the atheistic principles?

    Could you please define your terms and list examples of a society built upon such principles?
     
  3. Chronicles

    Chronicles Well-Known Member

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    I actually have difficulty accepting that morality is anything but relative. An issue I am trying to explore elsewhere on this forum. :)

    I tend to reinterpret morality as "constructive vs unconstructive" use of self.

    For example, if I have Free Will, then at any time I choose I can therefore murder someone around me for no logical reason. Yet to do so would be to forfeit my life in society. I would likely spend a long time in prison for such an act. It would be an "unconstructive" use of my lifespan. And not much fun, probably.

    However, I could also choose to work towards bringing certain ideas to frutition. This may result in benefits for other people. This is a very constructive use of my lifespan.

    I would see no "afterlife judgement" for either action - I would simply return to the Oneness of the Source. However, the choice would determine how much fun I would have in this life. :)

    Whether there is anything after or not - that is a very good question to constantly face faith with. Ultimately, it becomes irrelevant. If we die and there is nothing, then we shall surely be not aware of it. If otherwise, of course - then there lays a great revelation of experience. :)
     
  4. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    brian, you seem to be using a modified form of Pascals Wager... but you are choosing the other choice :)

    i think that the philosopher Anthony Flew has effectively deconstructed Pascals Wager using Pascal's own conditions.

    i, of course, would agree that there is no after life judgement as that implies a judge.. which we specifically refute.
     
  5. Chronicles

    Chronicles Well-Known Member

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    No - not using Pascal's Wager - but I like playing with concepts in general. :)

    And acceptance of the opposite of belief seems a very good way of exploring personal belief. Do you see what I mean?

    In other words, I consider it necessary to accept the possibility that I may be wrong. That helps keep personal spiritual exploration a dynamic process, yes? :)
     
  6. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    indeed...

    i preceived it as a Pascals Wager in the sense of one choice being a "good" choice of belief in deity and the other choice a "bad" choice of belief in no deity.

    eh.. no matter though :)

    yes... i think that it is a fundamental quality to question our understanding and beliefs. i have a large sign that i made that hangs in my office and in my meditation room. it says "Are you sure?" i ask myself that before i answer any question... and sometimes, i find that i'm not sure.... and then i can learn :)

    hurray for self exploration and inquiry!
     
  7. Clive Staples

    Clive Staples Member

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    Pascal's wager is actually a fascinating and dauntingly correct way of approaching the idea of God. Some writings of a former professor of mine: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm

    Emong--I tend to agree with you. If there is no God, there is no right and wrong, and a Nietzschean anarchistic existence is necessary. If morality is a man-made construct it is absolutely insignificant. Essentially, the choice religion and God and life poses us with is this one: is there meaning? We can choose yes or no; if yes, we have some belief in something; if no, many people end up lying to themselves by prescribing to what are to them ultimately insignificant guidelines to life...liberalism, humanitarianism, psychology, etc. Not that these are bad in themselves, but there is a necessary fallacy in believing in something when you believe in nothing, if you get my meaning.
     
  8. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

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    But why would there be no right and wrong without a God? Is killing a person who is harming nobody else wrong only because God said "thou shalt not murder?"? I don't think so. I think that other than psychopaths, you're not going to find an atheist that thinks so.
     
  9. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Clive,

    thank you for the post.

    since we are talking about it... here is Pascals Wager:

    "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


    Pascal's argument sounds deceptively attractive. Many a religious person finds this argument decisive. After all, they say, if I believe and then it turns out to be true I get to enjoy heavenly bliss; but if my belief turns out to be false, and there is no God, then when I die, I lose nothing. An atheist, the religious person may continue, if he turns out to be wrong will suffer an eternity of torment. If the atheist turns out to be right then it is only equal to the believer's "worst case." Obviously then, the believer will say, you must wager on the side of belief.

    But Pascal's argument is seriously flawed. The religious environment that Pascal lived in was simple. Belief and disbelief only boiled down to two choices: Roman Catholicism and atheism. With a finite choice, his argument would be sound. But on Pascal's own premise that God is infinitely incomprehensible, then in theory, there would be an infinite amount of possible theologies about God, all of which are equally probable. For we cannot measure the probability of the correctness of each theology when the subject they teach is supposed to be infinitely incomprehensible.

    As the philosopher Antony Flew (b.1923) concluded: 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


    Furthermore, we see that Pascal had some other conditions that applied to his wager, one of which is that we can never "know" the truth about religious claims. however, this is not the case. when a religon makes testable predictions and statements, we can test them and see if they are correct.

    Pascals wager hinged on a few things... that we cannot know "true" or "false" in a religious claim, and as such, we are forced to make a "wager". this has been shown to be false.
     
  10. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Morality, relative or hardset, let us test it.

    You have a house and home, and on either side are neighbors with similar means, family numbers and genders to the family ranging from 2 years of age to 17. You have a mate you have lived with for 20 years, and there is love and mutual respect (there is no intent to divorce or leave). You and your family are comfortable in the way you live.

    Your neighbor and neighbor's family on one side treat you and your property, your family members everything about you with respect, so much so that in time you come to trust them to care for you and yours should you not be able to, or should you be absent. Their concept of morality is black and white, absolute right, or absolute wrong. They never change their way of thinking or behavior as the years go by.

    Your neighbor on the other side, seems different. This family seems a bit more loose in their life style. At first it is not uncomfortable, but rather a bit exciting (for the neighborhood), and perhaps considered eccentric. Then, you notice at neighborhood parties that, while one neighbor remains friendly, and warm, also remains absolutely above reproach when dealing with any member of your family, while the other neighbor seems to get a little too close, and too familiar, for your personal tastes. Approach him on the issue and you are called the stick in the mud, and you need to lighten up...everybody is doing it, so why not you?! What is YOUR PROBLEM?

    One neighbor's children play well with yours and should a problem arise that neighbor's children own up to their failings and apologize, then ensure that the same mistake is not repeated.

    The other neighbor's children cause grief and injury to yours, and insist it is not their fault, then blame you for the problems.

    One neigbor's mate wants a "fling" with your mate...nothing personal, just something to overcome boredom, put a little excitement into life. Your neighbor talks about your mate as though describing a piece of fine "MEAT".

    Relative morality is nothing more than refusing to be accountable for one's own actions, and demanding their rights to "everything entitled to them" are not infringed upon by your rights. It means that your needs and desires are irrelevent when it comes to their own.

    That is not the kind of world I want my family to be forced to live in, do you?
     
  11. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Quahom,

    thanks for the post.

    let's try a different qeustion.

    is eating pork immoral?

    this is an example of relative morality, for some eating pork is absolutely forbidden, for others it is not. which one of them is correct? they both are because it's relative.

    moreover, even if everyone in the world were to share the same opinion about something that does not mean that it is no longer relative.

    relative morality is each person being responsible for their actions and not able to pass the responsbility to others or some vaguely defined "objective moral standard". each person stands alone with their deeds.

    to claim to have an "objective standard" belies the subjective nature of language, almost to the point of nonsense.
     
  12. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Greetings go with you as well Vajradhara,

    You have a goot point. Permit me to expound a bit more on the theme.

    Eating pork is not immoral for me. However, should I attempt to coerce, or otherwise manipulate my neighbor into eating pork knowing it is against his beliefs, Am I not being immoral?

    In general terms if I do something deliberately to cause another to "stumble" in life then I am morally accountable. I knew it was wrong for them, yet I persist in causing them to do the very thing that is wrong for them, I am therefore morally suspect. I may even have a corrupt conscience.

    Also,

    I agree with you concerning each person being responsible for their actions and not able to pass the responsibility to others or some objective standard, and each stands alone with their deeds.

    However, when the individual in question refuses to accept responsiblity for self, at the expense of others, then that in and of itself is a violation of the absolute code of moral conduct.

    Morality of the day may be relative and fleeting, but adhering to the code of moral conduct is absolute and permanent.

    I am not attempting to convince you of this as an absolute for all, I just explained what I believe to be true, and provide insight as what drives me to live and conduct myself as I do.
     
  13. Godless Dave

    Godless Dave New Member

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    I don't see how that follows.

    Nor that.

    Why? Why is something insignificant because it is man-made?
     
  14. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Quahom,

    thanks for the post. sorry for the delayed answer.

    it doesn't matter if the person refuses to accept responsibility or not, they are still responsible for their actions. now, i should say that i speak on these things from a Buddhist perspective and as such, may not agree with some "common sense" things that are normally found in Western culture.

    i agree that there is an absolute moral code, though i do not agree that said moral code proceeds forth from some deity.... though i'm not sure if you're postulating that or not :)
     
  15. zenmonk_genryu

    zenmonk_genryu Active Member

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    Is belief a necessity?

    not in Buddhism no. Belief is seen as a hindrance in Buddhism.
     
  16. louis

    louis Well-Known Member

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    no religion ?

    What would the world be now if the concept of religion had never sprung up?

    From Louis....
    A question worthy of its own thread !!!
    Since I, personaly, have never practised ANY sort of religion, maybe
    such a world would have only people like ME in it.
    What would that be like ?
    well ... I have never killed anybody or deliberately tried to hurt anybody -
    I have never had an alcoholic drink or smoked a cigarette - I have never
    used a drug for any but medicinal purposes....
    I may have offended some believers, but that was before I realized
    there were people who actually took that stuff seriously...
    Since then, I have avoided criticising any church, whether I agreed
    with them or not - for all I know, one of them might actually be right...
    I don't know about others, but such a world would suit me just fine .
     
  17. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Perhaps - but have you ever tried to motivate an entire nation to a certain form of action?
     
  18. suanni

    suanni Confused

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    A very interesting question Louis.

    I know what we would be lacking now without organised religion being in existance, some of the finest examples of architecture known to man.
    We wouldn't be lacking wars. Homosapien is in his nature war-like. There would be another reason to go to war. For those wars that have pertained to be 'God-driven' were merely greed/politics dressed up as religion.
    As for the rest, who knows? Would we have the laws that we have today? Would we have the prejudices that we have today? That is debatable.
    Those people who have inspired major religions must have been exceedingly charismatic. Or were the people who drew the concept of the religion focused upon one particular particularly charismatic?
    It would merely be conjecture to philosophise upon the rest.
    How to get a body of people together? Threaten their freedom and they come to arms
     
  19. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    In most immediate instances I can think of, war is motivated truly by little more than possession of resources - a "land grab". It applies to Iraq, it applies, to the Crusades, it applies to WWII.

    Yes, it is a greatly simplified view, but the point I'm trying to illustrate is that religion is used as a justification, rather than a primary action - an excuse after the fact, rather than a true initiator, IMO.
     
  20. suanni

    suanni Confused

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    Agree. World War II was motivated by a little man who felt wholly inadequate, who wanted world wide power and the wealth that would go with it to appease his inadequacies and how did he whip up support? Using an anti-semetic stance.
    War regardless of how it is labelled is nothing more than the 'I want' syndrome. The people are whipped up in support by using god. We go to war to fight for god and country. I know in this country it is said monarch and country but the monarch is also the head of the church so it amounts to the same.
    How come the real war mongers are very good spokesmen?
     

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