Conspicuously Odd Beliefs

Geographical_Limit Bible Worship

As my previous post states, high investment in our beliefs obstruct us from seeing their conspicuously odd nature. It is easy to see the oddness of another’s beliefs, when we are not invested. If you are surprised by the odd beliefs of others, don’t jump to the conclusion that they are dumb, it may just be investment.

There are several conspicuously odd claims made by Christians which are easily obvious to nonbelievers.  Heck, even my kids have mentioned them without my prompting:

Local revelation: that in this vast world, the Christian and Jewish God only elected one culture, one people, to which to reveal himself. Inspired by  John Zande’s fine graphic here, I made my own illustration (expanding the area a bit for the sake of accuracy) of this conspicuously odd claim. Click on the graphic for a larger version.

Bibliolatry: many Christians believe that you can’t know their god without their handbook — their anthology. How bizarre is that? Above  right is my graphic for that. See my post here on Bibliolatry.

Bloody Sacrifices: That their god demands blood in order to forgive someone for wrong-doings is already bizarre, but to say that killing an innocent person for another’s wrong-doings is even more bizarre.  See this post for other atonement theologies.

I won’t go on about the bizarre, conspicuously odd stories inside the Bible, for I think it is easier to criticize obvious conspicuously odd points before diving into that mess. Yet I fool myself to think these points should cause a true believer to flinch because high invested may be the main obstacle. For I don’t really understand how religion and beliefs serve a person — they are rarely actual propositional assertions though the believer may confess otherwise.




Filed under Philosophy & Religion

74 responses to “Conspicuously Odd Beliefs

  1. Hey sabio. Not sure if you are following any comments on John’s post but i (helpfully i think ;-)) pointed out some factual errors in his post. Erros that anyone can verify. Do you think John will have the good grace to retract and make a better diagram? Lets see how open HE is to honest searching for the facts….

  2. Thanx, Clap, I responded. I think you made a good point. When I get a chance, if he doesn’t fix his map, I will make my own and fix it.
    I was disappointed by his argumentation style. You did well.

  3. Hi Sabio,

    Good to read questioning blogs.
    Is it not possible at this stage that challenging the old world dynamic of mass belief systems amounts to flogging a long- dead horse?These religions amounted largely to political machinations and anyone with an eye to historical research can soon discover his. But behind all these mass-control systems, there exist theses and propositions and experiential methods that move towards discovering the Truth behind all things (note my careful avoidance of the word ”belief” 🙂 ), such as Sufism, Esoteric Christianity, Advaitic Vedanta, Zen Buddhism and so on, which posit the existence of an eternal reality behind the manifest things, but yet force no-one to snuffle at the trough of beliefs…Does one have to be an atheist to have moved beyond belief? I propose not.

    Best Wishes.

  4. @ sabio. I commend you for your integrity there sabio. I hope i will show the same! I couldn’t reply directly to you at that post but you do appaear to be a rare breed!

  5. @ Bliss Girl (your name in Sanskrit),
    I don’t believe in “Truth” or “An Eternal Reality” — I can see the attraction of such beliefs, but I see no need for them. Your sentence was a run-on and a bit hard to untie. But I agree, you don’t have to be an Atheist if you are a non-theist. It is all a matter of terms.

  6. @ Clap,
    Nah, I am not a rare breed. Lots of us. Check out Ian, for example.

  7. Clap… you pointed out nothing. Angels aren’t Yhwh. I’m dealing with alleged actions of the god.

  8. clapham common tree:

    Why, Sabio makes a lot of sense. He has a refined sense of logic. Unfortunately, this logic is rare among many, especially Americans (who, by and large believe for the sake of believing and will not tolerate a Presidential candidate who is not a religious believer), but it is based on the simple rules of logic. If one follows them, then one is immediately led to the simple questions asked by Sabio. However, a religious person has shut off parts of his/her brain and is not willing to consider straightforward arguments, such as
    “t their religion occurred to a small number of people (only) and that they follow this religion because their parents and/or their neighbors do”.

    To a logical person, simple arguments like this disprove the whole religious edifice.

  9. Anandajyoti = Blissful Light. But Bliss girl will do at a push. 🙂 Don’t believe in ”Truth”? Any Truth? So if the quantum physicists untangled the strings and found some incontrovertible, mind-blowing, sacred geometry keeping the whole shebang together, you’re gonna doubt it? Or is there any truth you could shake your pom-poms for?
    (Excuse my run on’s how i think…But I’ll keep it in mind. I have a horrid addiction to ellipsis too…..)

  10. Sabio:
    For I don’t really understand how religion and beliefs serve a person — they are rarely actual propositional assertions though the believer may confess otherwise.

    Well said. A religious person, however, will have, for instance, convinces himself that his beliefs are due to some revelation. Born-again Christians have “met god” (some of them have met a con-man, an evangelist, whom they think of as god…) and they say “god told me so in my dream”. They violate logic. But they can’t see that. Look at my whole discussion with paarsurrey, for example. I told him, in the end, that his conclusion was correct. And I meant that. What I did not tell him was that his premise was false (and, as we know, a false statement can imply anything.)

    As I wrote above, “local revelation” should probably include the fact that one’s religion is very much correlated with the fact that his parents, neighbors, etc, also have the same religion.

  11. @ Bliss Girl,
    Yeah, I know the sanskrit — glad you like the unsacred language of English instead.

    I believe some theories or explanations are closer to an accurate explanation than others, but only approximations.

    Finding patterns that control explain billiard balls or quarks is a fascinating endeavor — I love it more than you can imagine. But to see patterns and jump to “TRUTH!” or ONE thing behind all appearances is a common mistaken monistic trap of the mind.

    Just sayin’ !

    But it is a long, long, long conversation.

    Go to this post “Homogenizing Reality with ‘God’” and check out the link at the very bottom to David Chapman’s post on Monism (he is a Vajrayana Buddhist — or sorts).

    And I may have written a post alluding to exactly what you are alluding to her: “The Amplituhedron”. Right?

    Sorry, but if you want dialogue, I have to share those first.

  12. @ Takis,
    Yeah, paarsurrey was clueless. Maybe a language thing, but I think it was an insight thing. I am now just ignoring him.

  13. anandajyoti:

    I laugh at the term “sacred geometry”. But, I suppose, you use it metaphorically.

    Perhaps you don’t know how theoretical physics and mathematics work. And perhaps you don’t understand how it is connected to experiments and reality. The process of discovering something new in physics is not that simple. If a theoretical physicist discovered something new, then, for it to be valid, it would have to be tested and verified and–what is more important–used to predict new phenomena. In the absence of these, all “findings” are merely speculations. Such is, for now (as an example) the so-called string theory. Although people who work in it would try to convince others that it is true, they do it because they want to defend their thesis. They will never say they have found the absolute truth. Maybe, at some point of time, we will be able to explain how Gravity and Electromagnetism work together. We haven’t done that yet. Or, maybe we will never be able to do so. At some point, we, humans and scientists, believed that there would be only one mathematical system which would describe everything in the world. Now, many of us, do not think so. Perhaps we are wrong.

    Discoveries are not revelations. (Although, sometimes, after hard work, many scientists have “revelations” in the sense that they find that the solution to their problem is so simple and so related to something else they already knew, that they feel it was revealed to them. But this only shows how our inquiring mind works. Darkness in the beginning, a bit of light here, a bit of light there, darkness again, a bit more light, frustration because of the maze in front of us, until, oh yes, light! And, at that point, we say, let us now go back and see if we are right and let us test what we have found by seeing if it explains special cases, if it agrees with observations and if it can predict something we don’t know, which, again has to be verified.)

    I chuckle at the word “sacred geometry”, a cute term which could be used by the old hippie walking down Telegraph Ave. at Berkeley, stopping at the Shambala bookstore, buying the latest book on Rinpoche’s views of the happiness and suffering, smoking a bit of pot, and talking about the truth. Kinda cute, of course, but, nooooo, this is not science. (Although there are many scientists who are so stupid that they might as well smoke pot instead of continuing their academic career.)

    Sorry, I can’t explain what I really mean when I’m talking about a scientist’s findings. But I had to stop and rant when I saw the phrase “incontrovertible, mind-blowing, sacred geometry keeping the whole shebang together”.

    By the way, chances are that even if a scientists finds this “incontrovertible, mind-blowing, sacred geometry keeping the whole shebang together”, lay people won’t be able to understand what the scientist did. Like, for instance, Einstein’s theory of relativity. Hardly anyone understands. (And there are many mathematicians who do not.) Or, as you mentioned, quantum mechanics. Who understands?

    Last but not least, some people do not believe that there is such a thing as the “ultimate (scientific) truth”. Maybe there isn’t any. Who told us that we can understand everything?
    (I am not concluding that, therefore, there is a truth, there is a tao, a god or something. That’s cheating.)

  14. @Takis…:) Funny that you should use the example of Einstein, who admitted to quirky metaphysical methods to arrive at his theories. And yes, i am aware of the testable theory process of science. And no, I’m not a pot-head, though I do miss those days every once in a while. I am not affiliated to any religion. I am not looking for an afterlife, which is the raison d’etre of most mass religions. I feel that infinity can be experienced in this moment.

    (I will read those blogs you mention, Sabio, if I get a minute tomorrow and get back if I want to parley. Best Wishes.)

  15. rautakyy

    A late Finnish author and an intelligence officer in WWII Olavi Paavolainen said that Nazism was a religion (he had had a first row seat to wittness it). In a sense it was, at least it evoked very strong investments from people as an extreme form of patriotism. When the Germans were fighting for Berlin and most people had to know that all their armies had been obliterated, they did not call that fight the battle for Berlin, but the fight for “Final Victory”. At times such strong investments even in very illogical ideals (like nazism, or patriotism) may pay off and as in the case of the Germans they might not. I suppose in that sort of sense of sacrificial spirit the evolution has found yet a nother form of the “survival of the fittest”. We are a bit like ants at times, that individuals are ready to put their lives on the line, to protect the whole. Perhaps religions are in that sense natural, in causing us to believe in culturally formed, but illogical suggestions…

  16. @ Bliss Girl,
    Great, looking forward to your return. I too feel that amazing feelings (awe, bliss, affection, absorption, …) can be experienced here and now — and like you, do not worry about an afterlife. Now is enough. It is just that I would not try to reduce all that to “infinity”, “the One”, “the Unity Crystal” or whatever. I am more than content with multitudes. Sure, T.O.E. is exciting but I feel no need to personify or anthropomorphize even if only in abstractions. See David Chapman’s blog for more. Later
    Be well

  17. anandajyot:
    Funny that you should use the example of Einstein, who admitted to quirky metaphysical methods to arrive at his theories.

    (By the way, Newton wrote more about theology than about science. He was probably a split personality, besides being obnoxious and vile. Nevertheless, he did great things for science and mathematics.)

  18. Sabio,
    First, sorry about my syntactical errors in the previous reply. I write from DC, using dubious devices and copy-paste doesn’t quite work.
    Second, I looked at one of your links, your posting on Atonement Theology. Interesting. You say

    You’d think this central doctrine in Christianity could have been resolved over 2000 years of theologizing.

    And, indeed, it has not. Is it not true that the more time passes, the more the diversity within a religion? Not just Christianity, but any religion.

    From the beginning, Christianity had many flavors. The person who decided what Christians ought to believe was emperor Constantine. (Thanks to him, I have the surname I have… 😦 ) Before the synod of Nicaea, there were many flavors of Christianity. At that synod, it was decided, by fiat, what the correct belief ought to be.

    Alas, people didn’t learn and Christianity has evolved into many branches. How should I pick the correct one? I guess, Orthodoxy is the best, because my ancestors believed so. Or should I toss a coin to decide? [OK, I’m being cynical–as you know.]

  19. Like all evolving systems — there is not direction, they become more diverse and less diverse depending on the vagaries of history.

  20. For accuracy sake (but still making the same point) I took down John’s graphic but still using his for inspiration made some corrections and put up my own diagram. Thanks again to John for the idea.

    Thanx to Clap’s feedback on John’s blog, I expand the area a bit for the sake of accuracy.

  21. @Takis ”Huh???”
    In response to your anecdotal use of Einstein as the consummate scinetist I used the anecdotal evidence that Einstein used lucid dreaming, and indeed possibly hallucination, to arrive at some of his theories. In response to which you used the anecdotal evidence of Newton being a nasty old git despite his religious leanings. LOL! We are both unscientific.

  22. @ Bliss Gal,
    I love your interactions here !! You give it to Takis — he definitely needs a firm shaking occasionally. Yesterday he seemed a bit manic, but his his flying around America on a trip and typing from airports, apparently. Perhaps it was just altitude sickness.
    Please do come back and play more — you play well.
    BTW, on your blog: scrolling transparent background, gray font on black — those are two of my most unfavorite blog settings — impossible for these old eyes to enjoy reading. Just thought I’d let you know the aesthetic tastes of one potential reader who will veer away for just such a simple reason.

  23. @Sabio.
    Unfortunately neither of your hyperlinks worked. I managed to summon up the Amplituhedron but i’m afraid Homogenizing Reality remains out of my grasp (and I hope that is not

    My original comment really meant that to go for the jugular with mass religions is possibly too easy. Shooting fish in a barrel? True investigators of existence are not interested in Quantum Jewels, or new metaphors, or indeed in adding anything to an armory to prove their truth. Theirs is an experiential process of existential enquiry that often has included atheists. Indeed Adi Shankaracharya, one of the foremost advaitic thinkers, was an avowed atheist.

    You mention Chapman, who you indicate may be a Buddhist. Perfect, for the theories of Anatta (no soul) and Anicca (Non-permanence) appeal very much to the atheist mind. And yet esoteric Buddhism also goes far beyond a purely materialistic appraisal of existence. The shoonyata or nothingness is ultimately the Void of Plenum, that which is empty, and yet that which is infinitely full.

    I sometimes wonder why some people have a disdain for poetic words like ‘cosmic’ and ‘wonder’, ”Oneness” and ‘infinity’ or so on, as if ‘awe’ and ‘affection’, and being ”content with multitudes’, though more prosaic, are not essentially pointing towards the same sophisticated experience.. I think far more unites us than divides us.

    I will be honest. I am a yogi, an advaitic seeker. But i feel no sense of exclusion or confusion towards people who have no desire for belief, because I too have no desire for belief. But whatever this existence is, however it is to be apprehended, it is undeniably awe-inspiring. The thought (for me) of how far more likely is Non-existence than Existence in such a vast cosmos makes me feel inclined to enquire into the nature of that existence. And matter is imbued undoubtedly with Energy ~ a force which we little understand, even scientifically. And no matter what that energy proves ultimately to be, there is one sure fact ~ we all share in it. The same fuse lights us all, from Mountains to humans to galaxies. And this underlying bond that unites us all, this shared energy, is for me the ”holiness”. .

    To bash believers of the mundane faiths is to ignore the difficulty it would be for many to make that leap into non-belief ~ emotionally it would be devastating for many. My husband does it too ~ the Catholic church which we were brought up in is to him the cause of so much evil. But yet, I feel, that time is past. it is already dead and gone. So why swat at flies?
    I think it is a vital leap, the leap into non-belief, but that is just my opinion. And likewise there are other leaps ~ they are not suitable for everyone, they are neither ”better” nor ”worse” than other leaps ~ but the experiential enquiry into the nature of existence does require courage too. Because if it is sincere and honest it rejects nothing as being impossible, including both divinity and meaninglessness.

    ”I am all pervasive.
    I am without any attributes
    and without any form.
    I have neither attachment to the world
    nor to liberation.
    I have no wishes for anything
    because I am everything,
    every time,
    always in equilibrium.
    I am indeed that eternal knowing and bliss,
    love and pure consciousness.”
    (Last verse of Nirvanam Shatakam by Shankaracharya)

    Here is a link to some of my continuously changing thoughts on the matter..

    Best Wishes.

  24. @Sabio. Thanks for the recommendations. i will look into that. i am newish at this sort of game. It is a miracle i am able to turn on the computer at all 🙂

  25. My comment was:
    (By the way, Newton wrote more about theology than about science. He was probably a split personality, besides being obnoxious and vile. Nevertheless, he did great things for science and mathematics.)
    I put it in parenthesis because I quoted from memory, from biographies of Newton. And I did not have time to expand. I do not think that what I wrote is incorrect, in the sense that, to the best of my recollection, it has been established. Definitely, one can compare the volume of theological vs scientific works of Newton. I won’t do that, but I trust that those who have are telling the truth.

    I was taken aback by the phrase “Einstein admitted to quirky metaphysical methods to arrive at his theories.” Did he? When?

  26. @Takis Konstantopoulos | 01/21/2014 at 12:43 pm

    “Look at my whole discussion with paarsurrey, for example. I told him, in the end, that his conclusion was correct. And I meant that. What I did not tell him was that his premise was false (and, as we know, a false statement can imply anything.)”

    I don’t get you. Please elaborate.


  27. @ takis. With the greatest respect to sabio, as you will know from his blog, his answers to the questions are that we are all delusional. Sure geography does pose a seemingly difficult problem for religion, but not as difficult as the problem of nothingness faced when you take it away.
    Religion is sometimes practiced by the seemingly brain dead, as is atheism. It’s a mistake to think that the the extremes on either side represent the totality of arguments for and against.
    If religion was that easily explained away the now embarrassing old reports of gods death would not be as horribly overstated as they are.

  28. @ sabio. Much better map! I commend you! Technically though the bible, (at least Romans) would disagree with that. And even on your reading we assume that because we have no record of it it didn’t happen. Again, not sure that conclusion is justified on the biblical text. I think you are reading it into it.
    But kudos for changing the map.

  29. Sure geography does pose a seemingly difficult problem for religion,

    It’s not a difficult problem, but an obvious defect of the whole edifice. If any religion had any merit then it should not be related to the place of one’s birth or to one’s family. Consider the following two statements:
    A: Religion is a human-made concept.
    B: The negation of A.
    The fact that one’s religion is strongly correlated to one’s geographical location and to one’s ancestry is strong evidence that B is wrong.

    but not as difficult as the problem of nothingness faced when you take it away.

    What is the problem of nothingness? Nothingness is much more natural than fairy tales. I honestly do not see any problem whatsoever with nothingness.

  30. paarsurrey: It doesn’t matter. I was only running a little experiment trying to get you to admit to your contradictions. Although I am fully aware that there are people who believe what they believe because some book says so, I’m always fascinated to hear them say it explicitly.

  31. @Clap,
    Went through the gauntlet over on that other site — lots of atheist think I am an accommodations, arrogant, ignorant fool. Oh well. I am alright with that. Almost laughable, if it weren’t so sad.

    BTW, the vast majority of atheists I know are nothing like that — bloggers can be a different breed, eh? Atheist, Christians and all.

    Concerning the revelation being local. I’m sure you could imagine an all powerful being doing it all very differently.

    Yahweh use to love the smell of blood in the OT, but in the NT he still wants blood — it is the only way he is satisfied. Damn, man, that is bizarre. And so he has his own boy, or himself (or some twist of theology) killed instead of the people he wants to kill as he did in the flood. Still doesn’t seem conspicuously odd to you.

    He could have appeared in the clouds all over the planet, told people in their own languages what he want and if they don’t do it they won’t live forever. He could have made it all so clear and still preserved free will.

    But no. God’s ways are above ours, who is a potter for doubting the potter. Those are some of the ways believers get around that blatantly obvious bizarreness. Paul was right, it is foolishness to those who will burn in hell. (1 Cor 4:18)
    As it should be. He got a few things right.

    So, since you don’t want to share the details of your investment (my life is an open book here Clap), don’t tell us any details, but from my last post, could you give me an estimate of your investment (what you would lose if you reconverted, or have threatened in terms of relationships, history, identity and such)?
    A huge amount
    A large amount
    A fair amount
    a little

    Because without understanding investment, we could go around and around the theological merry-go-rounds and tie knots for months on end.

  32. @ anadajyoti,
    sorry, you wrote too much, too tangled. Don’t want to untangle. You’ll find simple and focused work better for me. The less abstractions the better.
    PS – I won’t be reading your blog if it looks like that, sorry.

  33. @ takis: “If any religion had any merit then it should not be related to the place of one’s birth or to one’s family.”. Really? According to who? And what do you make of the 100m Chinese christians out there?

    nothingness far more common? in which corner of the universe are you suggesting nothing is common? As far as i can tell from the writing every corner of the observed, universe is teeming with “Stuff” sometimes matter,s sometimes forces, sometimes laws.

  34. @ sab. heres some detail. i’m 37, live in London. I trained and worked as a lawyer before moving to banking where i worked for a decade plus. now on a year out working at, you guessed it, a church. My investment is large, but not insurmountable. i think you know my beliefs but can elaborate more on that if needed. It would cost me to leave, buts its cost me decade of derision to stay. I know you live in an evangelical neck of the woods but i live in a decidedly post Christian part of the world.

    There is so much interesting stuff in your last comment. Just to pick up on one – people often refer to God picking on jesus as if he was some other person. Its god picking on god. Its the ultimate picture of how forgiveness,e ben in humans, works. I know you’re into psychology, check out brene browns clip if you haven’t yet seen it.

  35. @ Sabio
    I wrote 14 more words that Takis’s first reply to me.
    What you are dealing with are ”abstractions”…mental musings, your own and others. If you want simple and focused work, chop wood. We all have different writing and thinking styles. I have found others replies here to be tangled and confusing to me, but I was prepared to take the time to read and decipher.

    Never mind. It was a momentary diversion.
    All the best.

  36. @ Takis.
    I cannot find Einstein’s own account of visualising himself riding on a sunbeam to the end of the Universe to arrive at his theory of the |Universe being curved (and possibly finite) but it is held to be true that such were his methods. he also had an imaginary dream conversation with a farmer about cows when evolving his theory of relativity. these are the kind of things I mean when i referred to his quirky metaphysical methods.

    Quotes by Einstein….

    ”The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

    ”The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”

    ””The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

  37. @ Bliss Girl,
    I’m out chopping wood.

  38. Clapham,
    Thanx for sharing. You ought to consider putting that and more on your “About” page.
    So you retired from banking and lawyering, right? And am solely a Church employee? In what capacity?

    Were you born and raised Evangelical?

    Right, I know, England is must more post-Christian than the USA.

    Yes, I know the god picks on himself them. But only for 3 days. Pretty quick at self-forgiveness considering he still will have most human (his precious creation) burning in hell because they don’t believe a middle eastern story.

    I’ve heard Brene Brown’s TED talk — I don’t have her temperament, but she resonates with lots of folks. She is a progressive Christian (“God is Love”) who is an inclusivist —> far from being an Evangelical. Are you moving to become more inclusivist like her?

  39. I didn’t say there is a one-way causal relationship. I only said that there is strong correlation.

    And yes, there are millions of Christian Chinese (and Koreans and Africans) and that does not violate what I said. The correlation is still high. Besides, there has been a positive feedback effect started, and continued, by zealous Christian missionaries who spread the word of god because it’s part of what their priests and books tell them. (Jews, for instance, don’t do the same.)

    The most likely explanation of the origin of religion is that it is a biological quirk. Unfortunately, we (homo sapiens) are the only primate around these days and have no other species to test this hypothesis against. How neat would it be to have some cousin species around, like neanderthals, and see what religion, if any, they would have developed.

    Finally, when I said I have no problem with nothingness, I meant it in the sense a typical Christian uses it (nothingness in the soul). But if we are talking about physical nothingness, true, even the void is just a collection of harmonic oscillators. Laws are man-made ways to try to understand nature. What does all that have to do with religion? Nothing.

  40. Thanks for pointing out these sayings. I was not aware of them, although I’ve heard that Einstein was referring to “religion” in a metaphorical sense.

    But you also said that “Einstein admitted to quirky metaphysical methods to arrive at his theories.” His quotes do not show this. Even if he said that, I don’t believe it for a single moment, because, to arrive at his theories, he was based on the riddle that Maxwell’s equations were not invariant under Galilean transformations and the fact that Lorent’s had already found those modifications of the Galilean transformations which would render Maxwell’s equations invariant. Einstein took Lorentz’s work and interpreted then physically. He called that “special relativity.” Then he wondered what happens when stuff accelerate (e.g. due to gravity). And, based on Riemann’s mathematics (it was a very fortunate thing that Riemann had already created a theory for curved spaces in the 19th c.), and with the help of mathematicians (Einstein didn’t understand Riemann’s work), he arrived at what is called “general relativity.”

    The process is well-established and quite logical. Nothing to do with “quirky metaphysical methods.”

    By the way, if I were forced to choose a religion, then I would agree with:
    ”The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”
    Of course, like any other religion, Buddhists have also developed crazy beliefs and practices. And I would have to reject all that.

  41. The interesting thing about Chinese Christians (and even more so n Korean Christians) is that they endure real persecution to maintain their faith. I suspect if we saw the same level of persecution in the west, we would strip away much of the nominalism and probably find that there are more Christians remaining in the unlikely parts of the world than the likely ones…..

    You point on biological quirk has so many tantalising strands in there I’m scared to start on any particular one!

    Sorry, I should have been cleaner. But I’m surprised you say the issue of nothingness has nothing (oops!) to do with religion. The question of why there is something rather than nothing is one of the key points of engagement between theists and atheists. Krauss et al have taken us to the cusp of the very interesting point of what lies beyond the Big Bang. Is multi verses the best solution….?

    Re laws, I possibly agree with you depending on what you mean by man made. We do label things but we don’t make them. Gravity exists regardless of whether we label it or not. Now, where did gravity come from? That is an interesting question….

  42. Actually, let me say a couple of things so you can see where I stand at.

    First, based on personal experience and involvement with science and mathematics, I have a hunch that we may not be able to really understand nature. Ever. Unfortunately. When I was younger I thought that there was a single theory which would explain everything and so I did everything I could to learn it. No, I don’t think so any more. Meaning that I ascribe less probability to the existence of a single theory than to a collection of theories. (Although mathematics offers us a phenomenally great way of seeing things that we cannot perceive with naked eye (so-to-speak), it may never provide a complete picture. But I may be wrong. Nevertheless, I will keep working in order to satisfy my curiosity of understanding (through mathematics, because it is mathematics I do for living.)

    Second, the whys we ask as humans may not be the same as the whys that science can answer. Also, the human whys may be meaningless. To explain what I mean, let me refer to a silly argument used (all the time!!) by a certain John Lennox, a Christian apologist and ex-mathematician. He says: “My aunt Matilda bakes wonderful cakes. I ask a chemist friend what the composition of the cake is and he can tell me by analyzing it. I then ask him why did Auntie make the cake? And he can’t answer. The grin on Aunt Matilda’s face shows she knows the answer, for she made the cake, but no scientist in the world will be able to answer the question.” My stand on this is: why should science be able to answer this? And: why do we feel we always need to know why. Why was the world made? Why is there a universe? Why do we exist?

    Where did gravity come from? Yes, I know the question 🙂 Before modern physics was developed, a force was an end to itself. (And still is, depending at which level one works and uses mathematical models. For a mechanical engineer, friction is something that is and he has no need or interest or curiosity to explain it further. All he needs for his work is a macroscopic measure for it, a coefficient of friction.) But then quantum mechanics came along and particle physics came along and we explained some forces away as “exchange of particles”. And we can’t do that for gravity. All we have is a macroscopic theory (general relativity) and an attempt provided by string physics. (I am entering waters at which I am no expert so if you ask hard questions I will need to study hard in order to answer.) OK. So? We may or may not be able to find a single theory which explains away, in a common way, both gravity and electromagnetic force. But if we don’t, there are two things: Either that there is none or that we, as humans, will never be able to know perhaps because we reached our limits of understanding.

    I will stop here because Sabio will accuse me of being manic (or that I have wasted a lot of precious space in his blog–if I have, let me know and I will write less or nothing [sic].) But I want to say one thing: Where is religion in all of the above? I don’t see it anywhere.

  43. Nah, you can go on Takis. I’m done with my bit here — moving on to other posts.

  44. [@ Taki]
    Great comment. Great observations. And I agree with much of what you say about not being able to explain everything. I think (I’m sure you know) lennoxs cake is aimed at those who say science CAN explain everything, provide answers for all the questions of this life, which I think it just can’t ( as a lay person). But I think the question of why is a question many people ask in a non technical sense and that’s why I think it’s important. We do want to have some sense of purpose and for some at least we want to know what lies beyond death. I personally think these are reasonable questions.

    I have an amateur interest in maths so am looking forward to following your blog.

    Do you not think that the questions of where gravity came from, or perhaps where the laws of maths came from, at the very least suggest that there might be a creator?

  45. @ Clapham,
    Remember, adding “@” is important on non-hierarchy comment threads. I added yours in for you so that people receiving comments via e-mail know who the heck you are talking to. thanx. Takis is one of several resident Math folks here — I am extremely fortunate to have them.

  46. @ Clapham [following Sabio’s advice regarding the usage of the symbol @]:
    I think we agree on the possibility that science [as done by us, humans–I cannot exclude the possibility that science may have a more general meaning if there are other life forms elsewhere–a hypothesis we may never be able to test] may not be able to explain everything. Let me give a (perhaps) silly example. In mathematics we deal with differential equations of which very very very few have “explicit” solutions. What does “explicit” mean? It means a solution which we can express with elementary functions [like polynomials, cosines, and others] and which can be written in a relatively small amount of space [a page, say]. Now, suppose there is a computer or an alien species out there whose brain is 10^7 times bigger or better than ours. Then the concept of “elementary” for this beast should be much different than ours. I bet they would have a different way of seeing things through mathematics and science. Indeed, one of the things we do with mathematics are the so-called limit theorems and approximations. This is a very human-centric concept: we start from a “complicated” system (like the Carbon atom) and approximate it with a simpler model so that we can understand it. Many of us do this, including me, but most of us overlook the reason we do it and the possibility that this is done by us because we are human.

    This is offers a bit of evidence supporting my hunch that our science and mathematics may not be able to explain everything. After all, we probably have some limits too.

    As for a creator being responsible for the laws of nature, or for nature itself, for the universe, what can I say? The only honest answer is “I do not know”. There is nothing that suggests this or its negation. (And, by the way, as another commentator [paarsurrey] said, the fact that the Quran mentions that god exists and is perfect is not a proof for me.) Possibly, there is no explanation, in the sense that–no matter what–we may never be able to understand what the universe is and why it is there and how it was created and if it serves any purpose. We’d like to, no doubt, I’d love to, but what guarantees that I will ever be able to?

    By the way, the multiverse hypothesis (which you mentioned above) is, at the moment, a hypothesis only and does not explain anything, except that it facilitates the resolution of paradoxes. Delegating fundamental questions to the existence of multiverse is, I think, equivalent to delegating them to religion. There was a discussion, some time ago, between John Lennox and Ulf Danielsson (who is research rector at my university). If I remember correctly, Danielsson offered multiverse at some point as an explanation for something (sorry, no time to watch the video again now–and I don’t remember correctly). At that point, I thought that this explanation is silly, just as silly as Lennox’s. (I hope Danielsson is not reading this, because, in Sweden, people are “not allowed” to talk, argue or criticize, it’s a religious society without god; but I’m not Swedish, I’m Greek, I’m “rational”, and I do speak because I was brought up in this tradition.)

  47. @Takis Konstantopoulos 01/22/2014 at 10:52 pm

    What premises I took wrong and what contradictions you found out?

  48. What premises I took wrong and what contradictions you found out? Please

  49. It’s refreshing to hear your candour. I agree there are lots of things we can’t know for certain, but im think there are some things that we can know as close to certain as is humanly possible (not sure if you’d agree with that). And I think the universe does seem to beg some questions, and maybe supply some clues to the answers. It does seem to me to be a bit incongruous to have a moral and meaningful need in us, in an otherwise blind and uncaring universe. But maybe that’s just me….

  50. @clapham:
    I agree. We can (and will) always strive to understand as much as possible.
    But I’m not sure about the last sentence. To say that we are moral because of a caring universe or creator is like anthropomorphizing the whole structure. Also, more and more we can explain morality in natural terms. In my case, I would not dare to hurt someone willingly, not because of a god, but because I feel this way. And I don’t want to do things to others that I don’t like others to do to me. I really see no connection of morality to our attempts to understand nature and to the existence or not of a creator.

    Today, I visited the national archives building in DC, which was very interesting. But I smiled at the inscription saying that we build these edifices in order to store important documents, like the magna carta and the US constitution, for eternity. Eternity is meaningless. It probably means a few hundred or, say, a few thousand years. Still, this is nothing compared to the age of the universe or the earth. This immense time makes us evolve and change and develop lots of things, like our eye, or like our morality.

  51. @ takis; sure, I’m not for a moment suggesting that only those with a conception of god are moral (that’s a common assertion in some theistic circles which is simply wrong IMHO). I think the fact that we have a moral sense without any conception of god poses an interesting question. I’m not persuaded by the idea of moral evolution but am open to hearing more about it. For me the very idea of “should” in any sense of the word implies an appeal to a higher order of things which seems out of place in a naturalistic world. A naturalistic world is by definition exactly the way it should be, always and everywhere. Yet I don’t think we feel that way. At least that’s how I see it…! I’ve previously mentioned to sab that I think a naturalistic world order requires me to have too much “make believe” – that too many things that appear real to us (eg objective right and wrong) have to be out down to illusion (or delusion, as I think sab prefers it).

  52. @clapham:
    What we feel and what is true could be different things, right? This holds for everything. The origin of morality is a complicated question and, admittedly, I have not spent too much time thinking about it, other than the occasional reading of books, and articles. I never understood why morality should be related to religion. This is why I have a hunch that it is probably a natural process. (I’ve read Sam Harris’ book, “The Moral Landscape”, which makes a case, albeit not a perfect one.) I know that I, and others, do not need a god in order to be moral. In fact, as I probably mentioned again, I find it cheating to say that I’m acting morally because I’m afraid god will punish me. (I think several people do.) I act morally because this is the way I feel. I cannot explain it other than offer simple arguments like “If I hit someone then I expect that they will hit me back and I may be injured.”

    Now, about illusions and delusions in the naturalistic world. As I said, I think that we may never be able to understand everything, and, therefore, always have incomplete information about nature. We make models, e.g., mathematical models, which are toy versions of what reality is, in order to understand it. Models work because we can use them to predict and build. In a sense, whenever we use a model we are deluded. I know that. But that’s the best we have. And whenever a model doesn’t work, we revise it. We don’t necessarily make it more complicated (because this is a path that would lead, eventually, to an always increasing level of complexity, and this, as humans, we may not be able to handle.) We just tweak it to create a better fit and, hopefully, increase its explanatory power. Still, despite the illusions and delusions, I don’t see why should we bring in the god hypothesis.

  53. @ Takis. yip agree with you. The issue of morality is not whether we are moral (the Bible’s view is that we are all moral – not only those that beleive in God), the question is more one of a rational basis (or as you put it, a proper, logical model) for us being moral. The use of the word “should” implies that the world is not the way it should be, yet in a naturalistic world how can this be? Surely however things are is exactly the way they “should” be. In world where the only real good is the survival of the species, how do we tackle issues like homosexuality, which is, at least on the face of it, condusive to extinction rather than survival?
    One of the points of difference sab and i have had about models is that some of them require a lot of make beleive (by this i mean things that appear real are in fact illusions, or constructs of the human mind – e.g. morality is somethingw e came up with, the beleif in a divine something was simply a useful evolutionary tool, the will, the soul etc). Personally i find the Christian model provides a more coherent explanation of things thatn the naturalsitic one, but that’s just me…;-)

  54. Chapham:
    Is religious life-long celibacy also “conducive to extinction rather than survival”? Wow, watch your logic, man. Don’t just throw any old argument out there to support an anti-homosexual agenda. You should use your best one: “Because Yahweh said so.”

    Also, Chap, we just came up with rules about tax payments, living-wills, land contracts and such — you are up on that stuff — are you uncomfortable that we “just came up” with them? Do you wish there were spelled out in an ancient god-text instead so as to spare you existential angst?

    Sorry, had to jump in because my name was mentioned. Hope to see you on some of the recent posts, dude. Hope you are still reading.

  55. @ sabio: no problem! its your blog, you can always jump in. If life long celibacy was commanded in the Bible i might agree with you, but it isn’t. in fact, quite the opposite (e.g. 1 Tim 4v3). I can’t comment for those who somehow think it is – I suspect htey have a reading problem. Seems to be a lamentable, but all too common, problem amongst Christians in some circles these days. And in any event, centering morality around survival is not my idea, its my perception of what seems to be the central pillar of moral evolution. My argument is not about homosexuality per se, but simply that if we follow the logic of “survival is paramount” then it does seem to cause a porblem in some behavoiours.
    As for the spcific instances you mention, sure we do come up with laws. But who came up with the idea of law itself and on what basis (logically do we express a view that the world should be any different from the way it is. I’m not saying it shouldn;t be – I’m exmaining the basis for why we say that).

  56. Oh, Clapham, I was afraid you’d go off on the anti-Catholic celibacy thing. BTW, celibacy is practice by many religious types outside of Christianity too.

    But…. that was not the point — you are being distracted again.
    Catholics have had priests practicing celibacy for centuries and no worry about survival. Why? Because like homosexuals, it is only part of the population not making babies.

    So, if your argument is not based on survival, stay away from it, and certainly stop throwing in bad hackneyed argument hoping they will stick to the wall.

    Your only argument is: “Because Yahweh said it!”

  57. @ clapham:
    We started by talking about morality and how to explain it. Then you jumped into homosexuality. First of all, homosexuality has nothing to do with morality. Some people believe it has to do, but there are other people who also think that having heterosexual sex is also immoral. Why? It’s only a convention introduced, or promoted, by various religions. Apes (and lots of other animals!) also have heterosexual sex and they don’t consider it immoral. (When they become evolved into something else, in say, 1/2 million years, they may do.) Homosexuality has nothing to do with extinction. The percentage of homosexuals is small compared to those who have heterosexual sex, so we should not worry about that. Why does it exist? Probably because nothing is perfect in evolution. For example, why have we not evolved in a way to avoid back pain? One of the reasons we develop these pains is because our ancestors decided to stand upright at some point. But the spine and muscles have not evolved in a way that damage to the lower spine be avoided. A clever engineer would probably design something smarter. For now, however, we have to live with that. Likewise, in order to reproduce, sex was invented (evolved) at some point. Long time ago, life reproduced asexually. Then sex appeared and, as an incentive for practicing it, lust was “invented”. Humans take advantage of this to have all kinds of sex. It’s like sugar. Sugar is sweet because it’s an incentive for people to consume it and acquire energy. But the incentive is so strong that there is a large industry of sugar which has nothing to do with providing energy to humans. [Sweden, where I live, has (one of) the largest consumption of sugar per capita in the world: everyone, including adults, eat gummy bears all the time!]
    Evolution works in blind ways, it’s like a trial-and-error thing, with a tendency towards improvement. But only a tendency, not a deterministic process towards it.

    I do agree that there are hypotheses in scientific explanations and models–I admit it all the time, but I think that, despite that, we do try to get an understanding of the world, and this understanding is far better than the deus-ex-machina [sic] solution offered by a religion. For example, the little scenario I gave you above is much more plausible (and, to a large extent, tested and verified by observations and in the laboratory) than a religious explanation.

  58. @ takis: i seem to have opened a whol;e can of worms with homosexuality, which wasn;t really my intention. But picking on your point about morality, i fmorality is simply a label we give to whays we shoud and shouldn’t act, why isn’t it a question of morality? if prenting judgement of it is a question of ethics (morality really) then surely so is the practice,a s is the question of whether anyone should be killed. Murderers are also a very small percentage of population but aht is something we dicourage. If evolution is blind as you say, and is the wole and whole cuse and explanation of life, who is to say any type of sex is wrong, but moreimportnatnly who is to say any kind of judgment of it is wrong, and who is to say that any kind of killing is wrong?

    I would be really interested to here a detailed worked out explanation fo rhow sugar became weest SO THAT humans would eat it… how did inanimate sugar develop aninterest inbeing eaten. In fact how did inanimate anything develop an interest in anything. I love Daniel Dennets explanation in Elbow Room, which is basically the day that interests appeared is the day they were born. Brlliant. 😉


  59. @clapham:
    No, I don’t see it that you opened a can of worms. I apologize for the length of my response which is probably what made you think of saying this. I’m not sure I can parse the sentence

    But picking on your point about morality, i fmorality is simply a label we give to whays we shoud and shouldn’t act, why isn’t it a question of morality? if prenting judgement of it is a question of ethics (morality really) then surely so is the practice,a s is the question of whether anyone should be killed.

    I can tell you were typing fast, and I can correct the typos, but I don’t know what “prenting judgment” means. I’m not a stickler, I just don’t understand!
    I even looked it up!

    Back to work now….

  60. @ takis. my apologies! i was also busy at work. I meant “preventing judgement”. Also please don’t apologise for your comment,- i just meant that both you and san had picked up on that.

    @ sabio: I never mentioned Catholics – i simply pointed out that that is not the Bible’s view, and therefore not mine. What people choose to practice and what people are told they must practice are two different things. The issue of “minor parts of the population” is not really relevant – does it matter that only a minor portion of the population are murderers or rapists? We still discourage the behaviour. If we are to be rationally consistent AND we say survival of the species is paramount, then i think there is a real problem. LGBT is apparently yon the rise, what if it took over (obviously i’m just painting an argument)?

    At the risk of completely infuriating you (I apologise if i do) with Bible stuff, Jesus summary of what is required seems good to me – love God and love your neighbour (treat others the way you’d like to be treated).

  61. @ Clapham,
    Concerning Homosexuality:
    You argued that if those who argue morality from a survival perspective [which I don’t] then they should agree that Homosexuality is immoral because it can extinguish our species.

    This is a ridiculous argument.
    Yes, if everyone embraces it, it is true. But that is ridiculous and you know it.

    That was my point, clean and simple. Just admit it was a feeble argument and move on.

    Third time I will ask!!!
    Your answer for why homosexuality is wrong is because Yahweh said so, right?

  62. @ Clapham:
    Infuriating me? Why? “Love your neighbour (treat others the way you’d like to be treated)” is great message [see, I omitted the first part]. But it doesn’t require a god. It’s common sense and I live by it. What infuriates me is the “use” of science to “prove” that god exists. (And, vice versa, the “use” of religion to “prove” scientific things.) There are many great things in the Bible (and many horrible ones too.) But there are many great things in poetry, for instance.

    I still, honestly do not understand what is the connection of homosexuality and morality. I can see the connection of killing and morality, but not the former. Killing obviously harms. Homosexuality doesn’t. It can be practiced between two consenting adults without anyone noticing it even. There is no fear that its practice will lead to the extinction of our species. As I said, look at apes: they practice it without any morality issues and I don’t think this will contribute to their extinction. I am not homosexual neither do I understand why a man would be attracted to a man. It is totally alien to me. However, for many, it is not a choice. They were born this way. The sweetness of sugar is an evolutionary trick–I read it in one of Dennet’s books–and it seems plausible. Similarly, some people are attracted to homosexuality because they like it. But most are born this way.

    LGBT on the rise? Sure, it is. In Sweden, where I live, they are extremely powerful. Elementary schools even seek to get their approval and this is considered desirable. I don’t agree with this. Neither do I agree with schools for 13-19 years homo- trans- or bi-sexual children, only because (a) I don’t think they can decide at the age of 13, and (b) I don’t think they should be segregated. But, yes, LGBT is considered a virtue in Sweden, so much so that the parliament had a huge poster outside its building showing two male MPs kissing. I find that distasteful and pretentious, just as I would find the picture of a congressman and a congresswoman kissing posted outside the Capitol. But I have no say in their sexuality and don’t consider it a moral issue.

    Anyway, going back to the general morality issues, no, I don’t see how religion can help there. I really don’t. Yes, I agree that many religions contain lots of moral rules, but this is because any system according to which people live their lives must, despite any of its drawbacks, have some moral concepts (otherwise the system won’t survive too long.) In the human history, there have been well-established systems according to which people lived, they had moral rules, but had no god whatsoever. An example is Pythagoreanism. It stayed around for about 600 years. We know very little about it because it was vilified by the first Christian with its eventual demolish by the emperor Constantine in the 4th c. They had lots of moral rules, but no god. (They also had lots of silly beliefs.)

  63. @ takis. Apologies again for lack of clarity. that part was addressed to sabio who has sometimes find my references to the bible infuriating.
    I only link it to morality in the sense of “how we should live our lives”, and i used it to show that sometimes the “survival is paramount” argument leads to unexpected conclusions.
    Interesting comments you make on LGBT didm;t realise that was going on. I must say i think the topic needs very careful handling when it comes to young kids ho are still in a developmental stage.
    re morality and religion, its tough call when referring to religion in general. not all morality embodied in religion is good. i think you need to assess each candidate on its own merits. i think Christianity has some really thought provoking statements – like love your enemies. would be interesting to see what the world would look like if we did this.

  64. @clapham: Sure, no problem.

    As for LGBT, I made these remarks on purpose, so that you can see that I’m not someone who blindly follows one issue. When I find something wrong I talk about it. In the LGBT case, no problem, in general, but, yes, there is a problem when proselytism comes at a young age. Likewise, there is a problem when religious catechism occurs at an early age. (We were all subject to that in Greece.) I would also find it equally silly to have schools teach quantum mechanics to 13 year old kids.

    As for the “love your enemies” dictum, has there ever been a Christian society that has actually practiced this? I don’t think so. Rather, Christianity is used in order to sanctify attacks to enemies or “enemies”. It has been so for 2000 years. Constantine used it in the 4th c. G W Bush used it in the 21st c. I’m sure there are individuals who live by the “love your enemies” motto, but I don’t think there are too many.

  65. @takis. Point taken. I guess at some point though kids encounter issues and then something has to be said on whatever issue that is….god, sex, life etc. my uncle is in a same sex marriage and at some point if I have kids the question will be asked.

    Yip, it’s tough to work out what it means to love your enemy – is it loving to the nazi to let them simply go further and further down a road of hate? Sometimes the loving thing to do is fight. Of course you correctly point out that people will use whatever they can to justify their ends or means. Bad implementation of the rule doesn’t per se mean the rule is wrong. In some cases it arguably more clearly shows that the rule is right.

  66. Oh, I would not say “find[s your] references to the bible infuriating”:
    I make reference to the Bible and other texts all the time.

    But here on Triangulations, I get readers here who quote the Qur’an, Bhagavadgita, Diamond Sutra, Book of Mormon and the Bible. And when they quote their holy book to show what an author thought because someone said otherwise, or we are inquiring on that author or… or something actually pertinent to in a mere textual way, that is OK. But many times, book-believers read too much in-house stuff where their book is AUTHORITY, but with us nonbelievers it is just another old book like all the rest with NO authority. They forget that, and you can feel it. OR, they feel their is magic in writing the words. They could leave the passage and we could look it up if we want. To quote one’s favorite scriptures as if a nonbeliever should weigh it with any more weight than anyone else’s opinion is what is naive — an that naive is infuriating.

    Maybe you never did that. Paarsurrey was just here dropping Qur’an passages and quotes of his Messiah founder. Remember, to outsiders, such fondness looks silly. But when it is your own stuff, it seems really reasonable to you. How soon we forget the world outside.

  67. @Clapham
    Concerning the command to love your neighbor as yourself, you said,

    Sometimes the loving thing to do is fight.

    And that fits, “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” and “Turn the other cheek.”
    Your approach to morality seems to be to cherrypick the Bible in a middle-class Evangelical way to protect status quo: the state, good income, and such.

    Many Christians obey Jesus teaching to the tea on this issue: non-violent, anti-war etc — all the Peace Churches and more. But I guess they are all wrong. Maybe they are deriving their morals from cherrypicking.

    With Morals being so important for humans, you’d think if divine-command ethics were right, an all knowing god, all caring god would have made it much more clear to understand. And he clearly didn’t.

  68. Marc

    Given that we all live in a world were atheist, deist, and theist can be kind or cruel, there would be anarchy without laws, law enforcement, and courts.
    One could argue that the use of force to prevent cruel and harmful actions is an act of tough love. Having said that, I prefer living in a secular society where the powers of government are not reflective of a singular religious or ideological authority.

  69. @clapham: Actually, the more I think about the “love your enemies” motto, the more I dislike it, for many reasons. One is that it leads to slave mentality. The other is, as we agreed, that we cannot always do it. But then who is to decide? I think I did practice the “love your enemies” for a while, but it didn’t lead anywhere.

    Yes, there are some wonderful sayings in the Bible, but there are also anachronistic and outdated ones, there are cruel ones, there are all kinds of things. Also, there are ambiguous ones, lost in translation
    (e.g., in the beginning there was the word…; “word” is translation of “logos”. Now, “logos”, in Greek, has at least two distinct meanings. One is word, the other is proportion or ratio, the kind of ratios Greeks used in geometry. It’s not clear at all whether John intended one vs the other meaning. Perhaps he meant ratio, because ratio was important for Greeks because ratio also captures harmony, and he, maybe, wanted to make his document appealing to them — just as Paul invented lots of new things to lure Greeks with his preachings. Enough… I’m diverting…)

  70. @ takis. Sure, I’m not saying its neat and/or tidy, and there is plenty I struggle with. For me I’ve gone with it because it makes the most sense of the options out there. As i think we’ve agreed there si some stuff we just don’t (probably won’t ever) understand. For me some of those things are in the bible. But things like love your enemy, with all its difficulties of implementation, must be the way to cure the worlds problems. If everyone did that, the world would look very different (I think its really just an application of love your neighbour).

    I am quite jealous of your knowledge of Greek. I’m making small steps towards getting a working knowledge of it. I studied latin at uni but at least the characters where recognisable. I’ve done some maths so am recognising the thetas, delta’s etc, but its super slow going!

  71. @clapham: Don’t be jealous… It came for free to me, I’m Greek! And the nice thing with Greek is that it hasn’t changed that much the last 2000 years. So, a mild knowledge of “formal” Greek suffices for reading the NT in its original. On the other hand, I have no knowledge of Latin. I tried to avoid it when I was at school. I was only interested in math and physics (a nerd). Now, I’m interested in everything.

  72. @ Marc,
    First, may I suggest you add something to that name so as to make it more unique.
    Second, this thread has become unwieldy, so I make make a couple of short posts on morality to help focus the conversation. “The Rhetoric of ‘Tough Love’: salvaging a sound byte” would be a good title, but too long. I will have to think about it. Meanwhile, I have a large robot project I am working on my son with, and my daughter and I are watching an excellent Tamil film now. So more later.
    But before I leave, you didn’t think I’d be against laws, did you?

  73. Marc


    My last name would be more unique but I would rather not use it. Mark would probably be more common than Marc. I could pretend to be a hair lip dog and use Marc, Marc.

    Tough love is often required for those we love. This would include our enemies with whom we share a common humanity.

    I believe you a very good dad, so please spend as much time with the kids as possible.

    I don’t believe that you are against laws Sabio, but I am not clear on what you think they should be based upon. I would like to get your take on how they differ in all the countries that you have lived in.

  74. Use “MarcMe” or whatever your last name is or use a fake last name.

    I won’t talk on “Tough Love” here. It is a phrase, that is where I am going. No more chat here on it.

    Laws: they are unavoidable for a civil society, in my experience. I wish anarchy worked, because laws in the wrong hands, are deadly. But no more talk about Laws here for me either. This thread is too long. I leave it to Takis and Chapman to continue their themes. (no sarcasm — I hope you guys continue your chat.)

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