A few things I’m thankful for

Bookworm is off to spend her holiday with family and my family will be coming to my house for the usual turkey dinner.   But I do want to take a moment to share a few things for which I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that I have the best wife in the world, who has brought me more joy that any man deserves for over 32 years.

I’m thankful for my two sons who didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned (never quite took the interest in education I’d hoped) but who have turned out to be fine young men even so.  They are honest and decent and hardworking.  One little example — both sons had to borrow my second car recently and both, without ever being asked, filled the gas tank before returning the car.  They’ve turned out all right.

I’m thankful I live in a country with the world’s best health care system, one which I’ll be using next Monday when I have arthroscopic surgery on my knee.  Wish me luck!

I’m thankful I live in the finest country in the world.  We may not always live up to our own ideals, but I treasure that we have those ideals and honestly aspire to reach them.   I fear sometimes we criticize ourselves too much and give our nation too little credit, both for its accomplishments and for its dreams.  I’m proud to be an American.

I know it’s selfish and sad, but I’m thankful I’m here in relative safety and not with our brave young men and women in Iraq.  I don’t believe in God, but I hope I’m wrong and I hope He keeps them safe.

I’m thankful I live in a society in which I can say I don’t believe without endangering myself and my family.

I’m thankful for the common decency and courtesy people show each other every day.  My son commented the other day how amazing it was that every day at rush hour we put our faith in the total strangers driving the cars flying by all around us.  He’s right.  We look out for each other and cooperate with each other in ways we never even think about.

I’m thankful for Bookworm, as fine a friend as I’ve ever known.  I’m thankful she allows me the privilege of sharing her forum here from time to time.  I’m thankful so many of you think enough of Bookworm to come and visit here from time to time.   

I hope each of you spends your holiday surrounded by your loved ones and I hope you, and they, will take a moment to share with each other what you are thankful for.   And, if you’d like also to share your thoughts with the other readers in the Bookwormroom, all the better. 

Happy Thanksgiving!       

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Comments

  1. Marguerite says

    I loved all of your heartfelt ‘thankfuls’ Don Quixote and especially relate to beloved offspring not turning out quite like we thought they would . . . who learns more in the process – we or them?

    To whom are you thankful?

  2. says

    Great question, Marguerite. I’m thankful to all the people I named and all the people whose names I will never know but who extend to me and others the the little courtesies that make our society function so well. I’m thankful to religious people who tolerate and respect people who disagree with them. I’m thankful to unreligious people who live by a moral code even without a religious justification for it. I wish I could say I’m thankful to a higher being, but I do not believe that any such being exists. Hard to be thankful to someone who doesn’t exist.

  3. John H says

    I’m baffled. If there is no God, then all is relative. Thankfulness is a mere sentiment when there is no One to whom to be thankful.

    It is not a question of whether or not you believe in God, as though you would somehow oblige God to prove himself to you.

    “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And he counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away. Isaiah 40:25-26

  4. says

    Hi John,

    I respect your beliefs and appreciate your comment, but I, too, am baffled. It is a question of belief in God, since, if God does not exist, there really is no higher being to be thankful to and what is the point of thanking something that doesn’t exist? I might as well be thankful to men from Mars (they don’t exist either). God is not obliged to prove himself to me or anyone else, but a loving God would surely not hide himself away or appear in a manner so vague and uncertain that it has led people to war against each other in His name for thousands of years. Better to not believe at all than to believe in a God like that.

    Why can we not be thankful to each other? Why is thankfulness a “mere sentiment” when we are thankful to friends and family, but, presumably, something greater than that if I thank a being that does not exist?

  5. says

    I believe in a God, because the orderliness of the universe and of the fabric of reality itself shows hints of divinity and perfection. To believe in a loving, personal God that acts with human motivations or motivations that is similar to such concepts as punishments and vengeance, requires believing in Revealed Truth. Revealed Truth being those Holy Books written by human beings and filtered through the prophets and minds of those times.

    Even the Greeks started off not totally right with their logic and science. I have no reason to believe that human beings could interpret with perfect clarifity the divine words of God or his son if he did in fact exist. It is true that many historical details have been verified in the Bible, but the Bible and Koran are not just a history text, it is a text claiming to Reveal Truth. The Greater Truth, whether of physicality or spiritualism.

    I don’t even trust scientists for revealed truths.

    John H is right that if you don’t believe in anything that exists on a non-empirical spiritual plane of existence, then you cannot also believe in the validity or longevity of love, valuing something greater than yourself, honor, duty, good or evil.

    It’s a deductive logic conflict. Certain concepts like God and honor exist in a realm outside of physical perception. It connects to our world through events and effects, but the senses does not affect the world of the spiritual, being out of phase with each other. One of the quirks of human belief. It isn’t true that belief makes into reality, but without belief, nothing much would occur. A paradox that connects directly with spiritualism.

    So if you believe in something that you yourself cannot directly affect because it is spiritual in essence instead of physical, then you must then believe that such a spiritual plane of existence does in fact exist. And if you believe such a spiritual plane of existence does in fact exist, then you cannot disbelieve in such things as God or anything else that cannot be proven empirically. It gives you only room enough to say that you do not have enough information to decide as to whether there is a heaven or hell, but you cannot disbelieve, not and still remain consistent with all the other myriad beliefs human beings hold for irrational and spiritual reasons.

    Such things as freedom, meta-physical concepts that are not manipulated like rocks or atoms, make up a more practical application of this process. If there is no God, then who decides who will get freedom. And if the Constitution does this, then if you rewrite the Constitution to make it support tyranncy, then does this not in fact make things right? As with computers, any data that you can read and write, can be changed into whatever you see fit. Therefore the validity of such datum cannot be trusted. You can only trust read only memory and data.

    This also segues nicely into Schrodinger’s Cat and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Empiricism and proof requires that you actively observe something in reality, to believe that it is what we claim it to be. However, Quantum Theory dictates that the very act of observation collapses the quantum wave front of an object/event. In essence, observation creates the effect you are observing. If you had not observed it, it would not have existed in the state that you saw it after observing it. So this raises the question, what do you call something when it has no state of existence in the physical world? And isn’t this the same as the plane from which God is on?

    John H’s point, although slightly different than mine, does lead up to what I’m saying. Which is if God does not exist or if one does not believe in God, then to that person the entire realm of human dreams and beliefs do not exist. It is dictated by deductive logic, there is no loophole. God can be the creator of the universe, the energy that created the universe, an all powerful and omniscient benevolent being, or just the roll of the dice. There are many manifold states from which God may in fact be percieved, if only in part. But that is different from what Don said, that God does not exist. He did not say that he believed in a higher power that was different from God, but only that it did not exist. That philosophy is incomplete and therefore has glaring holes in it.

    I wish I could say I’m thankful to a higher being, but I do not believe that any such being exists. Hard to be thankful to someone who doesn’t exist.

    The proof is in the pudding, or as I see it. People who do not believe in a higher being, cannot believe in any higher cause than themselves. Yet, they obviously do. So contradictions upon contradictions.

  6. says

    I might as well be thankful to men from Mars (they don’t exist either).

    If things don’t exist because you believe them not to be real, then if you were ignorant of the fact that humans had landed on mars and are now returning to earth, would this then make men from Mars non-existent simply based upon your belief that men from Mars do not exist? It is a metaphysical question, which truly gets to the guts of what you base your beliefs on, as opposed to what actually exists or does not exists.

  7. says

    Hi Ymarsakar,

    You’ve got it exactly backward. It’s not that things don’t exist because I believe them not to be real. I believe them not to be real because I have seen no evidence that they exist.

    That man created God rather than God created man is evidenced by the extraordinary lack of agreement among men as to what God is like. I don’t believe we are being visited by aliens, either, and for much the same reason — those who claim to have seen them cannot agree on what they look like. Surely a loving, caring God would not remain so distant from us that there would be no more concerte evidence of Him (and no greater concensus as to His attributes) than there is of the aliens.

    I can no more “prove” that God does not exist, than I can prove aliens do not exist. But the fact that humans can’t agree about what He is like (or even if He exists) is powerful evidence that He does not exist or, at least, if He exists He is nothing like the caring God I learned about in Sunday School.

    Every day people die at the hands of those claiming to act in His name. Mankind has proven over thousands of years of history that they cannot reach a concensus on religious issues on their own. Only the cruelest and most sadistic God would create such a flawed, self-destructive creation, put that creation in a setting in which it would fail time and again over the course of thousands of years of human suffering and yet do nothing to make Himself more manifest. God could settle all of our religious difference in 10 minutes by reveling Himself to us in no uncertain terms. He chooses not to do so.

    If I must believe something without evidence I’d rather believe there is no God than believe in a God so cruel.

  8. Trish Olsen says

    My two cents: Sometimes I think a belief in God is for OUR benefit, not The Almighty’s. (I happen to believe in a Supreme Being synonomous with Love from whom I frequently receive guidance, through prayer — as well as a deep sense of Peace.)
    As I ponder all philosophies, I’m becoming increasingly convinced if one lives a good, decent life with a certain degree of “humanity” thrown in — i.e. The Golden Rule, he/she will be duely rewarded (let in the gate) when this life comes to an end & one enters into the new realm. (Which does not translate into a “wimpy” existence, as there are times when the “right thing to do” is take a stand & fight.) Anyway, such a life, lived — can wear any or no organized religion. All the pain/warring that comes from “religion fighting religion” for example, is a man-made illness quite devoid of God.

  9. Trish Olsen says

    Y’s statement, “certain concepts like God exist in a realm OUTSIDE of physical perception” is right on. When science cuts-off all possibility of reality simply because it cannot yet be proven in a scientific sense — is it not, in the process, cutting itself off from a great opportunity to discover MORE? To venture into what might lie BEYOND that limited box (defined by what is currently known to be true in our physical world) well, I think that’s the stuff from which new discovery & “truth” is born.

    The “accepted” physical laws of nature are “true” becasue thay have been tested a thousand times in a controlled environment, always resulting in the same outcome — thus enabling scientists to label these results as “absolute physical laws.” Which is wonderful because that process has, among other things, helped physicians learn new ways of curing many cancers, given us the blessing of electricity, offered ways to get man into the wonders of space etc!

    Yet when scinece has the courage to THINK BEYOND physical laws as we currently know them, a whole NEW world of discovery could be waiting — a world of EXPANDED laws offering up amazing new potentials that would NOT NEGATE our current accepted, proven ones, but BUILD UPON THEM to create a whole new scientifiec environment compatible with brand new ways of thinking, testing & believing. Indeed, it is in this “expanded place” that I believe a non-physical, but very real, Supreme Being exists.

  10. jg says

    ” God could settle all of our religious difference in 10 minutes by reveling Himself to us in no uncertain terms. He chooses not to do so.” (from DQ)

    Ah, what ‘no uncertain terms,’ DQ? ONe of my older SF writers (Clifford Simak, perhaps; certainly an agnostic, if so) posited a time when the Sun–as it has before– ‘Stood Still.’

    And all men knew that fact.
    Days, weeks later, months, that had changed. The ‘fact’ had disappeared. The morass of human thinking had changed it.

    YOu are right that human thinking cannot produce God. (We will never agree on Him, as you observe.) You wander in your suppositions for that reason. It will take the supernatural to change that.

    The Left is rife with the question of why violence and killing occur. Their own blood guilt from the 20c haunts them. I suspect they have no desire to believe in their own evil, nor to acknowledge that monstrous heritage. Or the hells that are created when man assumes he is god.

    There are no man-made answers to the existence of evil, but I suspect the great Christian and Jewish thinkers are worth consulting.

    GOD will not change to be like us, you know. WE are the created, not the Creator.

    It seems to me (not being a rationalist, but positing as one) that the existence of God–as others may have indicated here– is the ONLY ANSWER that satisfies all the questions of Rationality. ..All of them.
    Not just the ones rationalists ask. But as well the ones rationalists can’t or won’t, but must, know.

    For what it’s worth: may I add to the discussion,
    a young homeschooler’s thought on the subject.. some of which I think I grasp!

    http://www.tc.umn.edu/~ssb/Family/Gabriel/

    (And best of luck on your surgery.)

  11. says

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Trish, I have a problem with a God outside of physical reality. If God created the universe it is unimaginable (at least to my limited imagination) that that He cannot make Himself manifest in the universe He created. It is also unimaginable (to my limited imagination) that He would create us to fail, allow us to fail and suffer by the millions over thousands of years, yet do nothing.

    Please understand, I’m not talking about controlling our action or denying our free will. But to hide so thoroughly that we have no better understanding of God that we do of flying saucers?

    Your comments on science are helpful, and I appreciate that you value science’s method and accomplishments. But science would happily go BEYOND its limited box, if there were a scientific way to get there. Science is all about proof (or, more precisely, the ability to test and disprove a theory). If by BEYOND you mean something that is not subject to proof, or disproof, then you are, by definition, talking about something science can never discover. But why should God be beyond proof? Why would a loving God hold Himself so aloof from mankind’s suffering that mankind cannot even detect Him? Why would He hold himself beyond discovery? Such an uncaring God is worse than no god at all.

    JG, why would God not be physically present in our world? Why rely on signs like making the sun stand still? Why present himself in a way so tenuous that even those who believe in him, like Trish, argue he is completely beyond our detection, especially when he knows how incapable we are of living peacefully and of finding God without Him being physically here. Perhaps mankind is so irredeemably evil that we would not choose peace and love and God even with constant, irrefutable physical proof of God in our midst. But if that is true, then God created us that way. Assuming God is good and not a sadist, why would he create us to fail? What is the point? I was raised in a sort of Calvinist belief system in which everything good is the world was God’s doing and every thing evil was the product of mankind. I never understood why a good God would create an evil creation, and ultimately came to not believe at all. I’m now much older, but no wiser. It still makes no sense to me. (Thanks for the good wishes regarding my surgery).

  12. says

    I believe them not to be real because I have seen no evidence that they exist.

    That is only a reason not to believe in their existence, not a reason to believe in their non-existence. If everything was in a state of non-existence because people did not know of any evidence to believe in such things, the world would be quite an empty thing.

    I already covered that part of your epistemology, Don. There are three positions in the epistemology heirarchy of belief. Justified belief based upon reasons to believe in something. Justified disbelief based upon reasons that support disbelief in a notion. And the middle ground of skepticism, neither believing nor disbelieving a notion.

    Various repetitions of you have not seen scientific evidence that proves this or that, is only a justification for the middle ground. It is not a justification for belief or disbelief.

    That man created God rather than God created man is evidenced by the extraordinary lack of agreement among men as to what God is like. I don’t believe we are being visited by aliens, either, and for much the same reason — those who claim to have seen them cannot agree on what they look like.

    But that is just the thing. When I look as to the truth or falsity of a belief, I trace its origins straight down to basic logical axioms of truth or untruth. I simply ask myself, if this is true, what else must be true and if this is false, what else does this demand to be false. You talk about what other people believe or disbelief as if it has anything to do with the truth. Inductive logic has never and can never find the truth, because inductive logic requires conclusions to be drawn from a random sample of data. Your data, right now, being people and folks. A scientist might find his data in surveys or measurement readings. This doesn’t find the truth, it finds things that are useful. Just because it works, doesn’t mean people can explain why it works correctly. That’s why science usually tries to avoid the philosophical questions of why and whether something exists or does not exist. Although Quantum Theory is making leaps into this foray into metaphysics simply because of the math, it does so using mathematics, which is deductive not inductive, rather than instrument measurements.

    Mankind has proven over thousands of years of history that they cannot reach a concensus on religious issues on their own.

    And if Mankind did reach a consensus, you would jump off the bridge with the rest of the believers? Come on, you are putting up strawmen now. It doesn’t matter how many people believe or disbelieve. Not least of all because of the logical fallacy of appealing to numbers.

    God would create such a flawed, self-destructive creation, put that creation in a setting in which it would fail time and again over the course of thousands of years of human suffering and yet do nothing to make Himself more manifest.

    It is a question of free will and tough love. As Bookworm has written before, she tries to show her kids certain principles and let them figure things out by themselves. Other parents use tough love, which is stop protecting children all the time or else they will become weak and dead when you are gone. While I don’t believe in a personal God or a human God, I can give the arguments for, quite well. If God is just like human beings with human motivations, then he acts like human parents more or less. The principle is not that hard to figure out and make consistent with teachings. What is hard is determining why an omniscient and omnipotent being would bother creating a race that is flawed and unable to do things perfectly right. I’m not God, I don’t know, but I think I suspect a reason. It has to do with quantum observation effects, of course.

    If I must believe something without evidence I’d rather believe there is no God than believe in a God so cruel.

    Then why don’t you believe in random luck as god or nature as god. These are higher powers. But you specifically said you don’t believe in any higher powers because they don’t exist, and it seems to you, what cannot be proven to exist, does not exist.

  13. says

    If God created the universe it is unimaginable (at least to my limited imagination) that that He cannot make Himself manifest in the universe He created.

    The thing is, why does God have to be a human with human motivations as well as his omniscience and omnipotent traits? Where is it written that they have to go together, that a God with power beyond comprehension and wisdom beyond the ages, has to “manifest” like some fantasy God with a voice that “speaks” to his followers like a general and commander?

    But why should God be beyond proof?

    That is like asking why is the exact thoughts in a murder’s mind unprovable in a court of law. It just is. It’s how the logical pathways result.

    Assuming God is good and not a sadist, why would he create us to fail? What is the point?

    As Confucius said, our glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we fall.

    And also Aristotle.

    “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
    We do not act rightly because we have virtue or
    excellence, but we rather have those because we have
    acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do.
    Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

    – Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

    Would a great booming from the sky telling us to do things in a certain way and believe in this but not that, creating virtue in humanity or is it simplying modifying human behavior through fear instead of habit? So if God sets down what people should do, he can’t enforce it without breaking free will. And even if God gets people to behave or believe in a certain way, it still does not inculcate virtue in the human race.

  14. says

    By the way. If you are curious as to why God with all that power doesn’t actually, you know, do anything to alleviate evil, which I do believe is a good thing to do, then ask yourself why the United States with all our vaunted power does not alleviate the evil in Darfur, the UN, and otherwhere.

    If God acts with human motivations, then by logic, you can figure out God by figuring out humans.

  15. says

    By the way. If you are curious as to why God with all that power doesn’t actually, you know, do anything to alleviate evil, which I do believe is a good thing to do, then ask yourself why the United States with all our vaunted power does not alleviate the evil in Darfur, the UN, and otherwhere.

    If God acts with human motivations, then by logic, you can figure out God by figuring out humans.xxxa

  16. says

    Thanks for the thorough analysis, Ymarsakar. I apologize my response won’t be as thorough, but I would like to comment on a few points:

    Lack of evidence supports more than a middle position. When I look for milk in the refrigerator and find a complete lack of evidence that there is any milk in the refrigerator, I reasonably conclude that there is no milk in the refrogerator. I do not take a middle stand, nor should I. Granted that does not address Helen’s possibility that God exists, but not in any way that is detectible in the physical world. I am in the middle ground as to such a God, but such a God is useless as a practical matter. He is most certainly not the loving, caring Judeo-Christian God. There is no practical difference between saying “God is dead” and saying God exists only in some alternate universe.

    The kid jg linked to made a brief, but sophisticated, argument that boiled down to asserting that since the world existed it must have been created. That may be, but such an impersonal creative force is far different from a God worthy of worship.

    As for your last comparison, the United States’ power is limited and its will even more so. God’s power is supposedly unlimited and His will absolute. If we really want to make such a comparison, consider the United States as God and Israel as mankind facing evil. Being less than perfect, the United States might turn its back on Israel, leaving it to fight evil on its on own, even knowing that Israel will fail without support. Being perfect, God would never leave mankind to fight evil on its own, knowing it will fail.

    You talk about tough love and I raised my sons with some pretty tough love. But I would never throw them off the bridge knowing they could not swim and would drown. This is not tough love, this is cruelty. I’m not suggesting that God should shout commandments from the heavens. I am suggesting there is no way that if He existed He would flee the field so thoroughly that even His believers talk about Him existing only in some other universe.

  17. Trish Olsen says

    Don, I understand your having a problem with conceiving God in a non-physical way. So do I. Yet, why couldn’t God be a non-physical Being? At least theoretically.

    Science, even as we understand it today, could project a very real model where I, Trish, could hypothetically become so non-physical, I could walk through a solid wall. Impossible? But what would happen if the atoms & molecules that make-up my physical body could somehow be energized so as to make them a foot apart form one another — vs. the tiny, minute distances they currenty are? I, Trish Olsen, could then be transformed from a solid to a gaseous state (no joke intended, here!)thus rendering me quite “floatable” through solid matter. It’s a logical hypothesis — science just hasn’t yet developed a vehicle with which to change my molecular distances.

    This scenario has been my attempt to give an example of how current scientific law could, one day, be EXPANDED to create NEW PHYSICAL LAWS, fully proven via classic scientific method (or they wouldn’t be “laws.”) And if I, Trish Olsen, could become a non-physical being, why couldn’t God have ALWAYS been such?

  18. jg says

    DQ, I empathise with your background. My own Presbyterian upbringing has familiarised me with Calvinism. But I’ve never felt completely evil, or that God had no connection with me, both things that Calvinism may promote. (You must know, too, that Calvinism comes in all brands, as witnessed in the diverse Protestant bodies in America.)

    Much of my own philosophy, such as it is, comes from personal observation and/or reading.
    That is, I am more persuaded by good people, beauty, music, art, nature, life, than I am by sophisticated theological argument.
    Man’s brain is not the measure of the universe. The universe is there to be felt, known, participated in. I am more convinced by what my being tells me that what abstruse argument offers.

    Christian belief has taught that Christ felt no need to argue that He was God.

    I have never felt creation to be evil, only us who make it that way. And, valuing art, I’ve never accepted the observor/object paradigm. Art circumscribes science, not vice versa. Below is a favorite defense of our world.

    I am aware of the awesome reaches of our universe–the small part I am, and others are. Yet, John Hay argues that we and all life, are backed by a dependable endurance that sustains and cares. (From “In Defense of Nature”)(1969)

    We moderns are lonely aliens who have lost: just being part.. not all, not master, not separate/ but ‘part’ of God’s world.
    Hay walks the New England seashore to see that bird and clams and children all share the same life, buoyed and conveyed into infinite distances by a greater-than-us universality.

    “We are still in the hands of a universality which is completely indifferent to any methods taken to circumscribe it.”

    His defense concludes, “Spring is an unparalleled happening, a manifestation of ancient levels and meanings freshly tried out, another throw at things..The light of spring comes to us in our puzzlement and self-concentrated agonies as if it could only be seen by the exemplary eye in every man, the witness to what is incomparable, an everlasting, sacred commitment running through all things.”

    I used the youngster’s website because my own conclusions should fit his age level (were he a typical student!). Beyond all the coarse commercialism of this time of year lies a simpler truth: The naive joy that the birth of a baby did change the existence of mankind.

  19. says

    Hi Trish,

    First, I apologize for calling you Helen. What a classy person you are to not even point out my mistake! Indeed, God could be a non-physical being and if there is a God there is every reason to think He has a non-physical element. But I do have a problem with the notion that an all-powerful God who obviously could choose to make Himself detectible by our senses and our science chooses not to do so. Why would He create us, then abandon us?

    Hi, jg. At that kid’s age, I planned on being a minister. I reasoned that, if God existed, the clergy would be the highest possible calling in life. But I was filled with questions, only a very small fraction of which I have shared here. I talked with everyone in sight — parents, teachers, clergypersons, friends, etc. No one had the answers and the most common answer in the end, that we should have faith in God even though he appeared to have deserted us, never made any sense to me. I ended up not believing it was possible that the Christian God I’d been told about all those years could possibly have deserted us. Since God supposedly gave us free will and the ability to judge it made no sense to say that God works in mysterious ways and it is not our place to judge Him. Right or wrong, I did judge Him when I concluded that no perfect, caring being could possible have created such an imperfect creation and then hidden away, leaving us so totally on our own. The God my church described to me would not have deserted us. Since He was not here with us, He must not exist at all. After all these years, I still don’t have a better explanation.

    Thank you both for your thoughtful, and thought provoking, comments.

  20. Danny Lemieux says

    Hello, DQ – Perhaps I can help out on this thread, here. For perspective, let me share that I am a scientist and I was an agnostic who came to Christianity relatively late in life. Frankly, when I ran out of questions and challenges to God’s existence, He spoke to me. So, here’s my quick stab at your questions: one – from a scientific perspective, mathematicians have estimated that there may be as many as 13 dimensions of existence, of which we only perceive 3-1/2 (we can only perceive time in the present and the part of the past that we happen to remember). We cannot “prove” HIS existance when we are incapable of even conceiving the complexity of His dimensions of existence. Is color “real” to those that are blind? Two – to the point of evidence – for those of us that are believers, we see evidence of God’s existence all around us, in small, daily miracles, through His creation, and through the power of prayer. It’s humbling. Others, I grant, do not see this – where we believers appreciate a rich field of flowers, others may only see a field of weeds. So, there are very complex dimensions of existence that we cannot perceive or that we perceive very differently. Third, from an argument of “good and evil” – the story of Genesis is about Mankind’s willful divorce from God through the acceptance of free will and its consequences. Yes, God allows evil to exist in Man’s affairs because, if He didn’t, there would be no free will. We are free to choose to be with and of Him…or not. However, for believers, this life on earth is only a transitional phase, it is not the end of existence. So, evil happens but it is not the end of the story. What matters is how we, as individuals, deal with it. Many (but not all) Christians believe that how we deal with evil is how we “earn” our way back into His fold. Others believe that we are given that choice at the end of our journey on earth when all becomes revealed to us. In addition, it is about “faith”. We are free to believe or not to believe in God – would we be so free if God made his presence obvious to us all by interfering in our daily lives without invitation? I think that many people’s view of a god is as a supreme nanny that should there to take care of us and make everything better-they are mad at Him because He “let’s” bad things happen (i.e., “lost Eden”). Finally, you seek “evidence” – let me suggest that it would be awfully coincidental that so many peoples around the earth, disconnected by geography and history (all the way back to the cavemen), evidenced an awareness of a life after death and a Supreme Being. From my own perspective, overlooking the many personal miracles and intercessions that I have experienced, I have found that people who believe are happier and more balanced in Life than those who do not. Have you ever met a happy existentialist? There must be some cause-and-effect to account for that, no? For me, anyway, I found plenty of evidence when I began to look for it. Finally, if you seek evidence or answers to your questions, why not just knock on His door and ask Him? If you are willing to listen, you might be very surprised by His reply.

  21. says

    Lack of evidence supports more than a middle position. When I look for milk in the refrigerator and find a complete lack of evidence that there is any milk in the refrigerator, I reasonably conclude that there is no milk in the refrogerator. I do not take a middle stand, nor should I. Granted that does not address Helen’s possibility that God exists, but not in any way that is detectible in the physical world. I am in the middle ground as to such a God, but such a God is useless as a practical matter. He is most certainly not the loving, caring Judeo-Christian God. There is no practical difference between saying “God is dead” and saying God exists only in some alternate universe.

    One of the reasons why I use the word “justified belief” and “reasons to believe” along with “justifications” is because there are many justifications to believe, disbelieve, or withold belief. Evidence, is only one kind of justification. Therefore it isn’t as clear cut as “seeing is believing” or “not seeing is disbelieving”.

    Science, with their focus on evidence, looks in the refrigerator and doesn’t see a milk carton. Therefore science concludes upon this data gathered through empirical means, that there is no milk cartoon that exists in this refrigerator, based upon the means of measurement at their disposal. But looking at the bigger picture, of course, science derives conclusions based upon what you see, correct. But it does not cover what you don’t see. That is why scientific theories usually rely upon proof positive hypothesis, things that must be positively proven, instead of saying, we know this to be true because we don’t see the opposite.

    Or your case being. God doesn’t exist, because I have not seen the proof of God’s existence. It is a different argument and belief, from believing that God exists because I have seen evidence of his existence. Rarely does science competently craft negative hypothesis. Science deals with the physical, with what they see and sense and feel. If they don’t sense or feel, then as Danny eloquently wrote, how can science make a judgement on what they cannot sense or feel? They cannot, and they should not. Which is why Epistemology, the Theory of Knowledge or in practical terms how to arrive at knowledge, deals with 3 different kinds of belief states. Because they are very different from each other, with different standards.

    When I look for milk in the refrigerator and find a complete lack of evidence that there is any milk in the refrigerator, I reasonably conclude that there is no milk in the refrogerator.

    Using the scientific method, I would have to say that based upon your data, the conclusion I would draw is that you cannot personally see the milk in the refrigerator with your eyes. I do not have any data that can determine whether you are blind or nearsighted or seeing things in a dim light, therefore I can only make conclusions based upon the observations that I know to be true. And what I know to be true, from a scientific perspective, that you yourself personally have not seen milk in the refrigerator using your own eyes. That’s the scientific method. Whether there is actually any milk or not in the refrigerator, is a belief that I am unwilling to affirm or reject because there is not enough data to make such a conclusion. For all I know, there is some secret compartment holding milk in the refrigerator covered over by a sheet of ice. That is how the 3 states of belief in Epistemology and science concur and work together in a consistent whole.

    Now that’s finishes my comment on your first point.

    As for your last comparison, the United States’ power is limited and its will even more so. God’s power is supposedly unlimited and His will absolute.

    Now your second point.

    Now ask yourself why the United States power and will is limited. What limits our willpower, is it because our power is limited? Or is our power limited by our lack of willpower? I tend to believe our power is limited by our lack of willpower, because you have seen many soldiers beat the odds after their doctors told them that they were not going to recover and/or die. Will becomes power, persistence becomes power, where there is life, there is hope. Then the question becomes, what determines will in human beings. Isn’t it human nature? Human beliefs and actions based upon human desires, goals, conflicts, emotions, and principles of behavior? I believe so.

    If you continue to believe that God has human motivations, then how is this consistent with the belief that God has infinite power and infinite will? What kind of human did you last see that had infinite power and infinite will? And if a human came unto that state, would he still be human? These are the questions which probe at the logical consistency between treating God as the omniscient and omnipotent being he is, and also blaming him for not doing anything because you attribute human motivations and emotions to him. I solve this problem by separating God from humanity and human ideals and concepts. You don’t do this, you maintain that if there is a God, he must have these human motivations and emotions and perspectives. Looking at it from your perspective, that would make God into a human, Bush for example when going into Iraq. And if God is omniscient and omnipotent, then how does he go about wiping out evil without destroying evil utterly? How does a perfect being, do a job imperfectly basically. And if you destroy evil utterly, wouldn’t you destroy human free will by making it impossible for humans to choose evil because evil no longer exists? Whichever logical argument you go down, Don, it all comes up in a way that you won’t like. You can’t have free will, God manifestation, human emotions in God, God being perfect and omnipotent, all at the same time. There are huge contradictions amongst these various goals and precepts you have described, Don.

    I have no problem accepting a conflicted God. After all, Quantum Theory itself is rather conflicted and paradoxical. However, if you believe in a conflicted God, then you would be required to believe that all these conflicts you see as God’s fault for not alleviating, isn’t God’s fault or proof of his non-existence, but proof of his divided and conflicted nature. Again, the logic makes the pathways clear to us. Not because it sets down one solution, but because it paints a picture for us, a picture from which we may see inconsistencies and wrongness, or rightness.

    I am suggesting there is no way that if He existed He would flee the field so thoroughly that even His believers talk about Him existing only in some other universe.

    I’m not a believer, which is why it is okay for me to talk about him in a scientific manner as existing in alternate universes. You want to talk to Believers, you would have to meet the US Marine Corps and front line combat troops. They believe in God, from many different orders and faiths and denominations. And there are also many things that work inexplicably, meaning it cannot explained because we don’t know what happens. Things like prayer. People dieing or not dieing. Luck. The history of the United States for example. Did you know that George Washington once had 3 gunshot wounds in his cloak as he charged on top of a horse upon an enemy position? If he had gotten shot in his early military career, he would probably have died or been crippled for life given medicine in those times. What was this except the hand of God and fortune or whatever higher power you call it?

    I do not claim to understand, comprehend, or accurately describe all that is and all that has gone past. But I do claim to know a part of the whole, whether that part is true or false, logical or illogical, consistent or inconsistent.

    The point at the end, is this. Believers do not claim that God has abandoned us. Only that what is God’s works, are mysterious and inexplicable, and no mortal can say or not say when it has occured. So when, Don, say that it has not occured. The burden of proof is on you to explain the unexplanable. The believers do not believe he has fled the field, you believe he has fled the field. Whatever reasons you have for your beliefs, will not come from the justifications of belief from Believers.

  22. Trish Olsen says

    DQ: I, too, had a Calvinist beginning (I think the Baptist church would qualify.) I grew up eventually thinking the eye of that needle was so small, who would even WANT to “go to Heaven” with so few people there — & most of THEM would be boring. Parrots. That’s how I began to perceive the whole “plan of salvation” thing. You say what I tell you to say & NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF PERSON YOU ARE, you’re in the club — with the payoff being eternal life. And if one did NOT parrot the required words( I believe in…), club-membership denied! — translating into eternal damnation. Eternal damnation? What? Just because I chose to THINK instead of become a parrot?

    Eventually, as fairly young adult, I was FORCED to “clean house” & let ALL of the dogma just go. That took courage because in the interim, I was a lost soul who, if I happened to die tomorrow, would be going to the hot place.

    I began to read & ponder & think & consider everything philosophical. I knew there was a void in my life but I didn’t know how to fill it (realizing it might NEVER be filled.) One thing was for certain: personal integrity & honesty had to be at the core of ANY possible renewed religion or philosophy; NO EXCEPTIONS. Yet, unlike my brother (9 years my senior) who acquired a Phd in physics from MIT, no less — & ended up throwing out not only the very dirty bathwater but the baby, as well — I knew I would somehow end-up KEEPING the baby because I sensed the baby was precious, rooted in “truth” & much too valuable to toss away. (FYI, the bathwater = all the manipulative religious dogma — while the baby = some kind of Loving deity & meaning to life.)

    Through many years of open-minded searching, I have found a “truth” that is honest & quite tailored to ME. I also believe one will find as many “religions” as there are people who THINK.

    Why all the pain, warring, deformed children born, illness, death? We come here to live a “mortal life” by our own choice. We CHOOSE the circumstances. This is “school” — we are here to learn certain lessons, the knowledge of which we take WITH us when we return to our real home which is with God. Above all, we are here to learn how to love.

    But what about all the sickness & pain most of us have to (at least eventuallly) endure? It helps me to think of it in terms like “the twinkling of an eye” in duration, especially when layed-up against all of eterninty, where time, as we know it, simply doesn’t even exist. PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING. Even the pain of a mortal existence serves us in the greater scheme of things, because it so strongly contributes to our ongoing “spiritual” growth process.

    Sounds pretty hokey, huh? Well, in order to ponder the meaning of life — God or no God, all the WHYS etc.– isn’t one FORCED to think in the abstract? Which is always difficult (& darned near impossibole to express.) I never received any “classic, clear-cut” answers, here — but rather a quiet “knowing” that DID come eventually, borne our of a lifetime of earnest homework.

    There are MANY paths to God & whereas I never really expected to return to any form of Christianity, I have. I decided it was my heritage &, after having given it a major personal revision, it is a good thing for my life. But my brand of WHAT THAT MEANS is quite different from the basic message of any church I’ve ever attended. Which is okay. We are all allowed our “private truths.”

    The sharing on this strain has been very thought-provoking. I went to sleep last night pondering some of it. (I even shared parts of it with my husband who also found it very interesting.) Many great & very personal thoughts shared from some pretty cool people, I’d say — not the least of which coming from YOU, DQ; I come away from this discussion believing all the wonderful attributes Bookworm has ever assigned to you! And I, too, wish you the best of luck on Monday. Arthroscopic surgery has come a long way in the past few years; we have several friends who have had it done & all results were totally successful.

    PS. A few years ago, my brother (whom I idolized not only becasue of his smarts but also because of his kind ways) died a premature death at 57. On the last, he shared with me some extrememly personal statements, one of which was, “Well, Trish, there are some things you just KNOW.”
    He had been doubting his “qualifications” for an afterlife, should there BE one & I told him “not to worry” — that he’d be a shoe-in due to his humanity, his loving ways towards his family & the significant contribution he’d made to the world of science (which was always so important to him.)

  23. says

    Being perfect, God would never leave mankind to fight evil on its own, knowing it will fail.

    One thing I don’t understand is why perfection is set as “God helping mankind fight evil”. That doesn’t seem like perfection, that seems like a human motivation for help.

    Using Israel and getting them in the picture, produces these views from me. I don’t think the US can help Israel, because if Israel won’t choose to fight for their own lives, what good can the US do for Israel? We are more powerful, therefore we can fight their battles for them, but what happens when the next war comes on?

    I don’t think you can have free will when you can rely upon a powerful benefactor for “help”. Help as meaning physical expressions of power, not spiritual inspiration or spiritual fortitude.

    I think these discussions on God and theology and what not, are of a very high quality. People have obviously given much thought and time to the subject. It is not just something they picked up at a moment’s notice. And of course, the various life experiences amongst the people talking, contribute much to the varied perspectives. I think that is a good thing. I see God from a military and natural law perspective, survival of the fittest combined with moral clarity. Others may see it from a clergy viewpoint or a scientific viewpoint.

    But at the end, these higher concepts require some basic foundation blocks. Which is why I think that when I see these subjects discussed on internet forums, I just see ignorance and incomprehension. They are too busy trying to get past the misunderstood vocabulary and semantics, to devote any energy to the bigger picture, the consistent whole. Learning is like building a building. Foundation has to come first, and it has to be done right. If people don’t already have a large source of knowledge from which to draw, then I think talking doesn’t get us anywhere. But when we do have large amounts of knowledge or wisdom to draw upon, then we can get somewhere by talking to each other.

  24. Marguerite says

    Wow! I asked DQ, from my aunt’s computer in Arizona, to whom he gave thanks and now have returned home to Oregon to find stunningly interesting and so thoughtful and respectful comments that I had to read all of them this a.m. before my poor husband got any matutinal coffee! No, he does not know how to make it . . . but could if he wanted to!

    I am probably not as educated as most of the readership of BW’s blog so I can’t give scientific arguments – but I am familiar with the work of Dr. Michael Behe and that gives me great hope that I have believed aright – the argument of irriducible complexity is elegant and points to a creator who designed the universe with a purpose. I believe that same creator is the God of the Bible. A far trip from my Unitarian beginnings.

    Throughout recorded history – including the carvings left to us from cave dwellers – mankind has shown in writings and art forms that there is inbred in humans the knowledge of a future beyond the grave. Into mankind – and only mankind – God breathed the breath of life and made him (male and female, do I have to say this?) capable of relating to Him and knowing Him. And has written a Book, amazing in its integrity throughout thousands of years, that tells anyone who is willing to search it, how He expects us to live in this life. If all we had to do is good deeds to be able to stand in the presence of a holy and righteous God, how would we know just how many are necessary to ‘balance out’ the bad stuff? What if you miss by one good deed to few? The unfathomable gift of love in Christ – God w/skin on – is the only thing that makes sense to me. Trouble is, if you beleive in God, that makes you accountable.

    There’s the rub.

  25. says

    This scenario has been my attempt to give an example of how current scientific law could, one day, be EXPANDED to create NEW PHYSICAL LAWS, fully proven via classic scientific method (or they wouldn’t be “laws.”) And if I, Trish Olsen, could become a non-physical being, why couldn’t God have ALWAYS been such?

    Trish, the thing about non-physical entities and the physical plane of existence is a rather tough onion to peel, in my view. In one way, I bring it up only because Don said he could not find any proof for God’s existence. By further defining existence as being both physical, meaning accessible through human senses like smell and taste, as well as spiritual, which is accessed by the human heart, mind, and soul.

    As I see it, the physical universe does include energy. The conservation of matter and energy, connects the two. I much prefer Quantum Theory and mathematics as a way to describe abstract theory and mathematical models of existence.

    Math, is to me, an deductive logic approach. Whereas scientists collecting data, measurements, and what not, are an inductive approach. Mathematical proofs are always correct. That is why it is very hard to just whip up a proof for any such thing. So, when Don says “proof”, I just don’t think of it in terms of scientific measurement proof.

    Your description, Trish, of this life being a proving ground shares similarities with my own, as well as with the battle philosophies of some other orders. There are some religions that believe that fighting in this life, paves the way for heavenly rewards in the next. Some Protestants believe hard work in this life, paves the way for the next life and its rewards. Similar in kind, I believe. Most people know of the jihad beliefs, but I’m thinking of the Nordic Viking beliefs. A belief in Ragnarok, the final battle. A belief in preparation for the Final Battle.

    I come away from this discussion believing all the wonderful attributes Bookworm has ever assigned to you!

    Why of course, Trish, Bookworm always speaks the truth ; )

    In summary. Here’s where I think we agree or disagree, concerning my beliefs with everyone’s elses. I believe Danny and I share a pretty high consistency in beliefs, concerning mathematics, science, and what not. Or at least, based upon what he wrote here. I don’t share Trish’s religious background, because I don’t have a religious background at all, and so cannot share in Trish’s Christianity nor in Trish’s beliefs in a private god. But all in all, I prefer the belief of the Protestants in a private god, rather than the Catholic Church dogma of a few centuries ago that only the Pope and the Cardinals heard the word of god because they could read the Bible. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m refering to the period in time in the Church’s history before Gutenberg, that the bible was written in Latin and only the church members knew Latin, everyone else spoke the vernacular language. French, German, English, etc. So they had to depend upon the church guys to “distill” the word of god upon them, via reading them the bible. All that changed with the printing press. That is why they say that with all of Germany’s sins in the Hundred Years Wars, they will be forgiven because of Gutenberg. Course that didn’t include the 20th century, but….

    I do share Trish’s belief in the metaphysics of God, a little bit about the nature of God and how God relates to the physical world as we know it. In principle, if not in detail.

    Now with Don. I think I share Don’s desire to have good triumph over evil, and to have all the help good should or can get to do so. I share Don’s logical statement that if a private god existed, and if he was all powerful, then that god should be helping. I just disagree concerning Don’s belief in how that god is NOT helping. I believe that god has helped, and others share this belief because their lives have been touched in ways I do not see but they do.

    I also disagree with how Don came about his beliefs. I believe he is limiting his justifications for his beliefs, too much. Limiting it to too much to scientific inductive data, and not using mathematical evidence or deductive logic. So this means, there are many different branches down this corridor of discussion, in which I will branch away from Don’s thesis and arguments. Which you should know, if you read my previous arguments.

    I also disagree with Don, more in how to accomplish things than in what should be accomplished, because I don’t depend too much on God. Because he is not a personal god to me, a benevolent father figure or mother figure, I mean. So, I depend upon myself, my reasoning abilities. Yet unlike atheists, I don’t say that there is nothing “higher” than myself or my own life. I don’t say the universe ends when I die, or the universe does no longer matter to me, if I die. If I die right here, right now, I would want the universe to continue, I would be interested in seeing the centuries unfold on this planet earth, as the human race struggles to improve ourselves. And I don’t believe just because God is not helping, that this means humanity will automatically fail. I have confidence in the human race, but not because I believe humans are inherently. Nor do I believe humans are inherently evil, as the Original Sin arguments puts forth. I simply believe we are what we are. Recruits in a war, that is still ongoing, and from which we have still much to learn from life’s lessons. As in war, ultimate victory is permanent, such should also be the model by which we look at humanity’s struggles.

    Does humanity need God or does God need humanity? I incline towards the latter, as outrageous as that may seem.

    The atheists I know, are rather selfish. There is no higher calling in their lives. I don’t believe humanity can become greater and win over evil, if we fear for our personal lives and misfortunes. Also, we are stronger as a team than separate, therefore if you don’t have a higher calling, then you won’t band together with other humans who share that higher calling. You won’t be able to pool resources from various philosophies, sects, and what not. Unity is better than strife, to me. Yet if strife comes to me, I will not flinch from its blade.

    If a person in America believed in other Americans, and that was just it. What would happen should he be betrayed by other Americans. What would he have left to believe in? The dreams and aspirations of humanity should not rest upon this physical plane of existence, beholden to physical urges and corruptions. It should be pristine, unviolable, up above in the skies of creation. Out of the reach of mankind, yet not out of reach of our dreams and aspirations.

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