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Posts posted by psychotrope

  1. I think what's not in the bible is just as interesting as what is. I would like to see an essay which argues that some of the key dogmas of Christianity were made up by medieval priests and modern pop-culture. In particular, while you're reading the bible, I'd like to know if these elements are explicit:
    • The devil/satan as a particular individual, and as being responsible for evil.
    • The modern concept of heaven/hell
    • The Christian conception of "salvation"
    • A "second coming" is mentioned that is not in the apostle's lifetime
    • The "Trinity"
    • Sin - is it ever defined?
    • According to Judaism, the old testament sets some pretty specific requirements for the messiah, that Jesus flunks

    What else?

    The devil is really only explored as an individual in the book of Job in the OT. It's obvious that he was a later invention. That's why, in the OT, it is usually God who is said to bring about evil intentions in people (such as King David's census), not Satan. Early OT authors held God responsible for good and evil it seems.

    Heaven and hell were also later additions. From what I understand, these concepts (especially hell) were embraced by the Jews after Babylon conquered Israel and there was an emotional need to invent some sort of paradigm of ultimate justice. The whole "eternal burning" metaphor came from a valley (Hinnom) that essentially served as a dump and trash incinerator just south of Jerusalem. This was associated with the entrance to the underworld (called "Gehenna" meaning "sons of the valley of Hinnom" or something like that) in Jewish mythology. You can see where the imagery of maggots and eternal fire came to be associated with Gehenna (translated as Hell). Note: the more often referenced "Sheol" referred to the grave, not an eternal place of punishment.

    The Trinity has a very interesting origin in my opinion. There was first just one God: Yahweh. But the Jews developed the concept of a feminine spirit called "Wisdom" which was a sort of intermediary that imparted knowledge from God to man. Wisdom corresponded somewhat to the Greek concept of the intermediary "Logos" which Christians adopted (see the "Logos Hymn" at the beginning of John's gospel as well as all of the gnostic gospels). The view that I tend to agree with---one that is held by some scholars who are willing to push the envelope---is that it was the Hellenistic idea of the Logos combined with Greek mystery religion ideas and soteriology, built upon an obtuse foundation of Jewish messianic expectation and tradition that eventually became anthropomorphised into the man Jesus. The distinct concept of Wisdom may have morphed into the Christians' Holy Spirit. At least that's the theory that makes the most sense to me.

    For the concept of salvation, you notice that the Jews' idea of atonement was very different from the Christians'. The Old Testament is much more interested in pleasing God with their works and sacrifices, almost as a way to pay him back for their bad deeds. There is no concept of a god or man taking their sins and bearing their punishment. I think Paul (and those who followed in his tradition) created the Christian soteriology by reinterpreting Judaism's rituals to fit with the mystery cults of the Hellenistic age. He didn't think that the idea of a God who demanded animal sacrifices and strict temple rituals made sense in the then "modern" world. So he came up with the idea that it was all a metaphor pointing forward to his cosmic Christ from the spirit realm who provided the ultimate sacrifice.

    Having said that, I recognize that the Jews did have a practice of placing their sins onto a scapegoat. There are references to the blood of sacrifices washing away their sins. But I see no reference to a savior providing an atonement a la Christ. So salvation, as understood by Christians, was largely a Pauline invention in the first century CE which was later attached to a literal human man/god.

    In Sabbath School, I always wondered what the point was of elaborate rituals for animal sacrifice that were supposed to point forward to a perfect Christ's atonement, when the people doing the rituals and sacrifices showed absolutely no knowledge of what it was all referring to.

  2. When I was in college, a lot of the guys in the dorm would take blank CDs (or lousy ones such as Brittany Spears), put them in the microwave to give them a cracked pattern, and then tape them over the keyhole on their door. So I am familiar with the practice of microwaving CDs for decorative purposes. Having never done it myself (I valued my microwave too much), I cannot relate to the mental state that leads one to choose to do such a strange thing, but nevertheless, it was fairly common in my dorm.

  3. I was impressed with how many of the presenters supported selfishness as a basis for morality in some sense. I heard terms like "enlightened selfishness" and "self-interest" thrown around quite a bit in discussion of ethics. In session 6, ethicist Susan Neiman attacks that idea saying that <paraphrase> eventually self-interest will come into conflict with morality </paraphrase>, which, of course, is begging the question by assuming a priori that morality is different than self-interest.

    Another note: Joan Roughgarden (session 3) is kind of crazy and, IMHO, a bad scientist. She really made a big point of saying that Darwinian theories of Sexual Selection were bad mainly because it amounted to <paraphrase> locker room bravado projected onto animals and then reflected back on to people </paraphrase>. As the discussion went on, I couldn't believe how much she stuck to the idea that Darwinian Sexual Selection was undesirable, therefore a theory that emphasized cooperation would be superior because of its desirability.

  4. I love it, Bold Standard. These tracks are great quality for being home recordings, too. I really like Otto. It reminds me of the Velvet Underground. Were they one of your influences? The instrumentals remind me a bit of Air 10,000 KHZ. Very "alternative", but not in that mid-90's "Everyone's alternative since alternative is the new rock mainstream", but "alternative" as in the pioneers such as the aforementioned Velvet Underground, REM, etc. Anyway, I think your guitar work is genius. What kind of guitar are you using on Otto?

    Is most of your stuff instrumental? I tried to click on the "lyrics" link for Otto but it didn't work. Can you post your lyrics?

    Sorry for all the questions, but what parts of the whole thing do you do yourself? Singing, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums?

    I'd love to get some MP3s of your stuff to put on my iPod, but if you're saving your content for an album to sell i would totally buy it.

  5. Thanks for that, Moose. That was a very interesting read and I must say you handled yourself amazingly on that forum.

    I have a good Christian friend who recently came to the conclusion that ultimately we just CHOOSE what we're going to believe. You can choose to believe what science says or you can choose to believe what the bible and the religious leaders say. That's what I see with Christians: they have chosen who and what they are going to believe, largely for arbitrary reasons, and that choice is all it takes.

    One thing I find incredibly frustrating is that faith, as defined in the bible is "... the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). It says "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). And the dictionary defines faith as "belief that is not based on proof." That's what Christians claim their salvation is based on: faith. Believing even though there's no evidence. So why is it that when you dare suggest to them that there's no evidence for god and no evidence to verify their religious beliefs they get so mad? :dough:

    They want it both ways: they want to be justified by their blind faith which requires no evidence, but they also want to pretend they live a rational life based on a provable reality. Which is why there's so much Christian pseudo-science out there. But they don't realize that either a.) they have true faith because there isn't any evidence for what they believe; or b.) there IS evidence for their beliefs and that means that faith wasn't required and they have no basis for their salvation.

    (Please let me know if you see any holes in that argument!) :confused:

  6. Since Jesus never existed, at least not in any form similar to the gospel descriptions, I'd say he was a man of no esteem at all. But the character named "Jesus" as described by the authors of the books we know as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, seemed to be very confident and assertive. But it's easy to make a character in a book confident and assertive when you as the author can endow him with godlike powers.

    It's humorous, however, that this character evidently vastly overestimated his own power. See Matthew 16:28, 23:36, 24:34, 26:64; Mark 9:1, 13:30, 14:62; Luke 9:27, 21:32. Matthew 16:28 says: "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." When you take all of Jesus' words about his return, it's obvious that he was promising to return very soon. That's what his words meant and that's what his listeners understood. There's no getting around that by claiming that he meant the end of the "age" and not "generation" etc. Two thousand years later and we're still waiting for his "soon return." It's obvious that Jesus made promises he couldn't keep, which means maybe he didn't have self-esteem as much as delusions of grandeur, as suggested by Bold Standard.

    I suppose one could argue that after returning to heaven he finally got some self esteem and decided not to waste any more time with the morons down below who were waiting for him to return and boss them around.

    Question: If you based an entire belief system on a charismatic leader's promise to return within the next hundred years (at least), how many years would the community of believers wait before accepting that said leader was a false messiah?

    On the flip side, I'd point out that Jesus whole message was dependent on the LACK of self-esteem in those who would accept him as their saviour.

  7. If you look at the history of Christianity, particularly the earliest writings, it seems like Paul is attempting to make sense of the outdated crap in the Old Testament. He infuses new meaning into the absurd by reinterpreting the sacrificial system as pointing forward to the ultimate sacrifice, the "Lamb of God." He was unwilling to abandon his Jewish heritage and accept that the whole religion was a sham and start over with a blank slate. Instead he creates a way of thinking about it that allows him to keep the "holiness" of the sacred Jewish texts while at the same time being free to ignore them in favor of his new theology. What it boils down to is that Christianity was a reinvention of Judaism for the more modern Greek and Roman world where the Pentateuch just didn't make sense anymore. Now we write off these pages and pages of explicit instructions for all kinds of barbaric animal mutilation in the OT as "just a way to point the Israelites toward Jesus and His sacrifice."

    It makes me wonder if one day someone will come along and, like Paul did for Judaism, reinvent Christianity for modern times, creating a new major religion. My guess would be no, since the NT is far more flexible than the OT. Every generation of Christians reinvents Christianity without having to abandon that ancient text. It took less than a thousand years from the writing of the OT before it had to be replaced. Meanwhile the NT is going on two thousand years.

  8. Excellent thread. When pointing to verses of the Bible that reveal its absurdity and underlying evil, it is important to differentiate between stories where God's people do insane things, and when God himself does or commands insane things. In an argument with a Christian who has actually read the Bible, they are more than happy to point out that God's people were human and made mistakes (like date-raping their father). And in most cases, the Bible doesn't say "go thou and do likewise" to stories like that.

    But on the other hand, we have stories where God directly does something evil, such as the fun "baldy" story about Elisha and the bears. I've NEVER heard a decent explanation why God did and said such ridiculous and evil things in the OT.

    "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." NIV.
    Exodus 21:20-21 (NIV)

    “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."
    Numbers 31:15-18 (NIV)

    The first is the direct words of God and the second is the command of God through Moses. Has anybody heard any decent explanations from Christians as to why God would command and do such evil things?

  9. Tell me if I'm wrong, but if we were to find a way to more efficiently harness solar power and we could use it to replace all coal/oil/nuclear power, wouldn't that result in massive cooling of the earth as a certain percentage of the sun's heat is converted into electricity, etc. instead of being absorbed into the earth?

  10. Well, the only side I think can gain from this debate is the religious one. So, I will play Devil's Advocate. :devil: Oops, I mean God's Advocate. :santa: Here's my argument:

    God created all things. God makes the rules. God can be contradictory, if He so wishes. :lol: So, don't be telling me no arguments about fallacies! :dough:


    And that's what makes a debate so difficult. God can do anything he wants. He could have planted dinosaur bones and Australopithecus remains just to test our faith. He could have created the stars 6,000 years ago with light already billions of years on its journey to earth. And who are we to question God and His "mysterious ways?"

  11. I thoroughly agree with this. While plenty of people hold incorrect premises, it's impossible to live without accepting, at least subconsciously, *some* correct principles about how to deal with reality. Thus we see productive men who believe in God and go to church, but who depend on only their own effort and mind when it comes to bringing home the bacon. They *think* their earnings are a gift from God, but at some level they know they have to go out and work, that help will not just fall from the sky. The extent to which a professing non-Objectivist *actually* accepts and practices good principles can determine whether he or she shares enough in common with you to establish a friendship (or even a romance), and who knows? The discussions you have may even lead to that person consciously adopting the principles they've been practicing all along.

    Thanks for that stellavision and khaight. You've helped me to better identify one of the reasons certain people rub me the wrong way. There's a big difference between a Christian who knows they have to work for a living and actively makes life happen by setting goals and working rationally to accomplish those goals, and a Christian who blames every misfortune on God ("I guess He's trying to teach me something...") and expects to be spoon fed their destiny. The former agrees with me on the nature of reality, at least on a subconscious level, while the latter I could never tolerate. I used to think it was just a matter of how religious a person is, but I see that my compatibility with people is more dependent on their acceptance or rejection of reality as demonstrated by their approach to life.

    It's sad that the type of person who rejects reality as in the example above is praised in Christian circles as the one with the most faith.

  12. You certainly are brave to take on a den of communists like that. I try to avoid debating people who disagree with me on such a fundamental level. There's virtually no chance that either of us will change the other's way of thinking, and the truth is I am usually overcome by such a wave of negative emotions when facing someone like that. I'm angry at them for presuming they (or "society") have the right to reduce my freedom to the whim of politicians. I'm depressed that someone can be so anti-life and anti-freedom. I end up feeling traumatized by the whole experience. I don't know if it's just cognitive dissonance or just an inability on my part to deal with conflict (I should really work on that).

    It seems that most people decide what they're going to believe, and then try to find "evidence" or reasoning to support the view they've already chosen. And by the time you get into a debate, people aren't rationally considering each point brought up. They're just trying to see that their point of view is the winner.

    In the end, this forum has been such a comfort for me since I can actually discuss things with people who agree with me on the fundamentals.

  13. Another problem with keeping him alive in jail for life, other than the possibility of a future release when a power shift occurs in the Iraq government, is that we'd have to see annual reports by Saddam-sympathizing reporters showing his poor conditions and how he's being mistreated. Then the UN would step in with human rights violation citations if Saddam isn't given a butt massage and a cigar every weekend.

  14. You've probably heard this classic scenario relating to (1) compassion and (2) socialism (i.e., that 1 does not have to lead to 2):

    You live in an apartment complex. In the corner apartment lives a single mother who barely has enough money to get by, for whatever reason. Your neighbor comes by and tells you that he wants to give some money to her so that she can pay her heating bill. You tell your neighbor that now is not a good time for you since you have two kids in college, car payments, and other financial concerns of your own, leaving nothing to give to a stranger. Your neighbor says, "sorry this isn't optional," and pulls out a gun, forcibly taking your money to give to the single mother.

    Did your neighbor act compassionately? Was what he did right? If it's wrong for him to rob you at gunpoint to serve his concern for charity, then why is it okay to do it on a nation-wide scale?

    Obviously this doesn't address the issue of what's wrong with altruism, but I find it DOES help a person to draw a line between having altruistic urges and needing to force altruism on others. In other words, you can be altruistic without being a fascist. Many altruists understand this, such as Christian capitalists, but this is something that socialists tend to overlook. They see no difference between feeling the need to help someone and forcing others to help.

  15. I've noticed that most people tend define greed as "wanting or having more than I have currently." And that's always how "excess" is defined too. People who earn $60,000 a year decry the "rich" for their "excess" when what they are really looking at is how much more the "rich" have than they do. By third-world standards the person who earns $60,000 could be decried for the same reasons.

    So I've concluded that when someone says "The rich are so greedy," what they really mean is "I'm jealous because the rich have more than I do."

  16. If you could scientifically establish a 1-to-1 corelation between activity A (which in and of itself does not violate anyone's rights) and activity B (which DOES violate other people's rights), would it ever be acceptable to use the force of law to prevent activity A from happening?

    If so, what about a 9-to-10 corelation? or a 7-to-10 corelation? At what point does a corelation between activity A and illegal activity B warrant a law against A?

    Take Meth for example. It's unlike other drugs in the extent to which it leads to other illegal activities. At least it seems that way. If you could establish a scientific link that showed that 90 percent of people who took meth went on to break laws that objectively protect other people's rights as a direct result of taking meth, would it be justifiable to ban taking meth? Would it be justifiable with a 100% ratio?

    I know the true ratio is not that high, but I'm curious how other objectivists would respond to this philosophically.

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