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3/12/13 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 5:58 PM
1/12/13 questions and discussion

1-define love?5
2-do the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few?8
3-is the existence of a god relevant to modern religion?9
4-would greater citizen involvement result in better government?5
5-can we find a position between freedom and safety that most can accept?4
6-how does the feeling of neglect/underappreci­ation differ in the individual vs. the group?6
7-what does it mean to be a person of integrity?6
8-how important is mimicry?4
9-how do we resolve the "liar's paradox"?1
10-what ought we do about N. Korea?2


is the existence of a god relevant to modern religion?

Andrew: I am not agnostic or atheist, but wonder; does god's existence matter to religions as organizations and the faithful as individuals? Prayer can be effective and it does grant solace, but does god's existence/non-existe­nce really make a difference? I grew up in a religious family, went to a religious school. For a person of faith there's some benefit to having someone "on your side", someone to confide in. It's easy to bash Catholicism; their money, their religious declarations, and seeming insensitivity to suffering. An absence or presence of god is I think irrelevant to those issues. With other religions, if we ask the faithful "what would your god think of your decisions", I suspect this question would for them be novel. Religion, I think, has become independent of its god(s). It pretends to need god, but it's not really happening.

Jon: has there ever been a time when existent god(s) mattered in the life of the faithful?

Andrew: it depends.

Dan: are you also including what some call a "personal god"?

Andrew: it's hard for me to answer that, but then again what difference does it make?

Dan: most religions don't have a personal divinity.

Andrew: I am talking about organized religion, not necessarily the personal.

Geena:  I would like to see a poll of the faithful -- how often do they consciously think about god?

Jeff: what would you say the leaders of religion would say the purpose of religion is?

Andrew: that varies from one religion to the next. I know for some the goal is to spread the "word" (convert others/create a customer base/increase market share/"save" others). Other faiths are more insular, more about improving oneself.

Ron: 2 thoughts: 1) the church doesn't operate with a business model. They need that topmost figure/god. Without that how can there be a church?

Andrew: don't churches behave too much like a business already?

Ron: I don't know. The thought of belief, if we let go of it we can still enjoy the getting together/celebrating­. 2) but that represents a kind of loss so there has to be a god.

Steve: there's no simple answer. It depends on who we're asking. In Christian history there are obviously dark periods yet faith still exists with true believers. It's easy to be cynical nowadays but it's a mixed bag.

Jon: has this dynamic always been there?

Steve: yes. Faith is something not everybody can stick to. In early Christianity there were true believers, once it became a politically powerful the faith changed and became vulnerable to large scale abuses.

Shannon: people go for faith for many different reasons. Looking at it from the outside-in, for the followers, gods' reality is needed. In terms of our species' cultural evolution we used stories to explain things we found mysterious. Increasingly science has pushed out those religious answers to mysteries. But faith is still important if at least because there will likely always be mysteries of one sort or another.

Andrew: for a lot of people of faith the existence of god is almost secondary to the importance of Jesus. That human element is prevalent now as opposed to a god.

Steve: what about the trinity?

Andrew: no, it's usually it's just about Jesus.

Steve: is your impression largely about American religions?

Andrew: could be. 

Mike: to focus on the trinity vs. Jesus seems correct due to the Fundamentalists in America. Perhaps Jesus works better as a fundraising device. The Catholic church is made of 3 things: tradition, administration, and scripture. #2 -- administration -- works the same as any society works. If god is necessary, the answer to Andrew's question is "yes", because god and the scriptural material are inseparable.

Andrea: but what about the existence/non-existe­nce question?

Mike: god's existence is not necessary for either administrative or traditional reasons, but yes for scriptural reasons. As to aspiration I'm reminded of how today we learned that the Olympic Committee is removing wrestling from the Games. Removing wrestling from theOlympics, like removing god from religion, gives wrestlers/the faithful nothing ultimate to which to aspire.

Jeff: it sounds cynical to suggest god might not be needed. 

Andrew: I am cynical, but I don't paint all belief systems with a broad brush.

Jeff: many religious leaders really do have faith/assume god is there. It's their humanity that gets in the way of their efforts to live according to that faith. 

Andrew: but would religions still function if unequivocal evidence existed proving god's non-existence?

Jeff: a belief is critical. Without that any religion will fall apart. It motivates the most. An actual god is not necessary, just a belief in one.

Andrew: I agree. Churches do a lot of good. Community, outreach, charity work would still be good without god.

Jeff: but then it wouldn't be religion. Those goods would be lesser without a religious motivation.

Oren: in any discussion about god eventually we get to the question Is there a god or not. I think if it could be proven no god, churches/organized religions would still exist because people need to words to live by, ideals, philosophy.

Jeff: how similar would that be to what we have now?

Dan: I'm a utilitarian and a pragmatist. I'm not a believer.Tthe only way I can attend AA meetings is to address the AA group as a higher power. I feel our brains have been designed to accept hierarchies and rules. An organization needs someone/something in ultimate charge and an end or an ultimate goal. So yes, god is needed. That's what god is for. We must believe in something. 

Ron: to help Oren's point, if god didn't exist, religion would look cultlike or be  fragmented by charismatic leaders. 

Oren: if god did not exist, I still think there is a "power" in charge: nature, and it has all the answers.

Kevin: Andrew do you live with or without hope? That's what we all need. so no god or not, hope is what's important.

Andrew: I don't disagree. Taking god out would not change the evangelicals, and the Catholics would focus on the pope and their business interests. 

Dan: do you buy the hierarchy argument I made?

Andrew: no

Dan: what about that CEO you mentioned earlier?

Andrew: that's a godless thing, a provable thing. Faith is a deep conviction that can't be proven (nor does it need proof).

Shannon: with other people, with love, is there a faith component?

Andrew: I understand your point, but it's different because a wife, friend, even an enemy is not a relationship with an invisible being. At the end of the day my wife is living and breathing and I can physically interact with her. God(s) do not have this benefit.

Shannon: the faithful still consider god real.

Andrew: right. They don't even feel a need to prove god is there, just as I don't need to prove I have a wife. There will always be those who believe.

Mike: on hope do you live your life with hope?

Andrew: yes. But because I have no god, faith means something different to me. 

Mike: my hope is I'm not sure! There's the hope that it'll all be good in the end.

Steve: do you hope there is a higher power? 

Andrew: no. The nature/mother earth thing can work for me.

Dan: hope was all that was left in Pandora's box after all the other things had escaped.

Andrew: hope is different than faith. 

Jon: in the book The Year of Living Biblically the author listed for his research all the rules given in the Bible. He found about 700 specific requirements for his behavior. Then he spent the next 365 days trying to fulfill as many of those requirements as possible (note: he found it impossible). I consider his example to be one of a difference in the uses of faith. Those rules were largely generated in the Old Testament and are still the center of Judaism. My impression is that god's importance for Jews is about living life well, with integrity and skill. Their focus is less on god's existence, which they likely assume, and more on whether they're being good. I myself grew up in a mild version of Lutheranism. There were no hellfire speeches yet up to a certain age I assumed god would strike me dead if I ever cursed! So for me god's reality was essential to my religious experience. Lastly I'd like to mention a study of deliberate communities like the Shakers or hippie communes. The study lasted about 30 years and it was found that such groups that were religious in nature survived, even thrived much better than secular communes. They deduced from this that when your group is secular and the leaders make a change you are much more likely to ask for a cost benefit analysis than are the members of a god-based community. This makes adherence and coherence more likely to endure in religious organizations.

Steve: to the hierarchy point; my axiomatic worldview is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In a corporation the higher one goes the less integrity one finds in the people. This goes for government too. A church at the individual level is a good, healthy, useful thing. But the higher up one goes the less likely that is.

Shannon: why?

Steve: the larger the organizations are more likely to attract people seeking power.

Andrea: living with hope; I couldn't get out of bed without hope, but don't expect god to make it better. I hope to live the best life I can. As to hierarchy, I agree with Steve because I work in customer service and have witnessed that the farther from the customer one gets, the less humanity one seems to have. 

Julene: there are people not in organized religion who believe in god so organization and belief are somewhat separate. But I still think we wouldn't call it religion if there were no god.  

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