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Are You Religious?

Are you religious?  

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  1. 1. Are you religious?

    • Yes
      18
    • No
      15


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Well, I know it's not the orthodox view -- but is it any different than the way scientist date very old things?

 

Person: How old is this thing?

Scientist: Well, we can date it using scientific methods. First, can you tell me how old it is?

Person: WHAT??

Scientist: Well I have to know how old it is to determine which method to use to tell how old it is.

Person: That's scientific?

Scientist: Of course!

 

So, as you can see, we don't know anything about anything.

 

Anyway, I don't see it as "cherry-picking", just run-of-the-mill skepticism. (On a side note, anyone know where I can buy a cheap cherry-picker? I really need one to fix my roof.) There's some evidence that the first six books were edited anyway, so maybe the redacted pieces were more interesting? Even the stuff that's left in (like the references to genetic engineering and inter-species reproduction) is kinda weird, so no, I don't take it all literally. It's not that there COULDN'T have been a Tower of Babel, (there probably was some tower) but that doesn't mean that's where languages came from. [Was the tower of babel a rocket launch pad? Interesting theory, but I'm skeptical.]

 

Believing that there's a literal angel with a flaming sword guarding Eden is fine, if you want to believe that. I find it more logically satisfying to believe that Eden is under water near the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates. It's not that it didn't exist, it's just that the version we have of the story is not necessarily a technically accurate description of exactly what happened.

 

I know most people aren't comfortable with my hybrid view, where Jesus is historical but Noah might be allegorical, but honestly, a lot of this stuff is over 3000 years old. We're talking hieroglyphs and pyramids now. There is no definitive record from before, say, the time of Solomon (or maybe David.) We weren't there, and we don't know what happened. More importantly, in my view, it DOESN'T MATTER what's literal and what's allegorical. The point is the lesson, or the moral, or the point, of the story. This is just like the if-then statements being true or false even if you don't know the truth of the if or the then.

 

Should you be nice to other people? YES. Should you raise your children to be decent? YES. Should you steal? NO. These things are not dependent on Hebrew letters on some rocks, they are universal.

 

And before you ask, NO I am not a Universalist. I believe you cannot redeem yourself by yourself. You cannot pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. That is the whole point of Christianity.

 

Well, this got more in depth than I expected, but frankly, it's good to be up-front about myself. Too often I'm too coy, trying to play Socrates. I'm no Socrates.

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So, as you can see, we don't know anything about anything.

 

Precisely what I've been arguing throughout this whole thread. ;)

 

 

Anyway, I don't see it as "cherry-picking", just run-of-the-mill skepticism.

 

Then why not be skeptical of the whole thing? Usually, if you find that someone's wrong about a great many things, you tend to doubt the veracity of their claims in related areas. This, of course, doesn't prove or even necessarily suggest that EVERYTHING they're saying is wrong, but it does imply that you shouldn't blindly accept what they say in other areas simply because there's no obvious logical flaw.

 

 

There's some evidence that the first six books were edited anyway, so maybe the redacted pieces were more interesting?

 

Is this supposed to be a guide for life, a history text, or entertainment? If it's the latter, I can see your point, but if it's either of the first two, I would prefer the text without any human editing, thank you very much.

 

 

Even the stuff that's left in (like the references to genetic engineering and inter-species reproduction) is kinda weird, so no, I don't take it all literally.

 

So when Moses said not to kill...was he just being figurative?

 

 

It's not that there COULDN'T have been a Tower of Babel, (there probably was some tower) but that doesn't mean that's where languages came from.

 

 

It's not that there COULDN'T have been a God who shaped Eve from Adam's rib, but that doesn't mean that's where humans came from...once you've accepted that there was this guy who was the son of God who died and was raised from the dead, you really can't say, "Well, that whole Tower of Babel thing sort of seems improbable...perhaps it's figurative."

 

 

Believing that there's a literal angel with a flaming sword guarding Eden is fine, if you want to believe that. I find it more logically satisfying to believe that Eden is under water near the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates. It's not that it didn't exist, it's just that the version we have of the story is not necessarily a technically accurate description of exactly what happened.

 

Maybe Jesus didn't actually die. Maybe he faked his death. Or maybe he had a twin that was kept in hiding for 33 years and then wheeled out when he was needed.

 

 

We weren't there, and we don't know what happened.

 

 

 

Exactly.

 

More importantly, in my view, it DOESN'T MATTER what's literal and what's allegorical. The point is the lesson, or the moral, or the point, of the story. This is just like the if-then statements being true or false even if you don't know the truth of the if or the then.

 

See, I'd argue that it DOES matter. There's more to the Bible than just "oh, do unto others." And some of the "lessons" are somewhat dubious. The Tower Of Babel story, for instance, basically seems to guard against hubris and technological advancement. Well, where would we be now without those things?

 

BTW, I'm interested in hearing how you interpret the whole "before this generation perishes" thing.

 

 

Should you be nice to other people? YES. Should you raise your children to be decent? YES. Should you steal? NO. These things are not dependent on Hebrew letters on some rocks, they are universal.

 

...so why do we need the Bible?

 

 

Too often I'm too coy, trying to play Socrates. I'm no Socrates.

 

That's a good thing, from my POV. :)

 

Forget Socrates; the Sophists were where it was at!

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Well, these arguments have been going on for centuries -- we won't solve them here.

 

There is a difference between oral traditions written down hundreds of years later in a language like Hebrew, and eyewitness accounts written in Greek. One reason most of us scoff at the Gnostic gospels is because they are not eyewitness accounts, where as Acts, for example, IS. (Also Matthew and John. Mark and Luke were associates of Paul and probably never met Jesus.)

 

The "this generation" thing kills me. It's been interpreted and reinterpreted over and over and still it doesn't match the facts. The best I can figure is the dispensational-type argument that prophetic time basically has "stopped" during the Christian era, and will start up again at some point when the end is near.

 

Also, unless Jesus returns during my lifetime, it doesn't really matter to ME PERSONALLY if he ever returns. (Oh, I think he will, eventually, because I trust Luke's account.) The truths about how to live and how to treat people are the same for me as they are for a first-century Christian (who probably believed Jesus was coming back during HIS lifetime. After all, Nero was AN antichrist.)

 

Frankly, the world has been "ending" since I was born. Serious, honest people told me how it was going to end in 1978, 1982, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2001, 2009 and of course this year. Puh-lease. We don't know the hour or the time. Just because Israel is a country, that doesn't mean anything else will happen in the next 100 years. You need to take the long view -- we just don't live long enough to understand (thanks to that genetic engineering stuff.)

 

I'm surprised you haven't asked me about the 666 thing yet. I'll see if I can find a good reference (or I'll make one.)

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Well, yeah, we won't "solve" anything here...but is that what we're trying to do?

 

Re: eyewitness accounts, I just want to say that anyone who's studied psychology or the law in the slightest knows how unreliable eyewitness testimony is. :)

 

Again, I really don't think you need the Bible to lead a good, decent life. In fact, some of the things it teaches are ill-advised at best. A number of people have done deconstructions of the ten commandments, and I think the most obvious one is that you really shouldn't be expected to honour your parents if they abuse you.

 

The whole fascination with the "end of the world" is symptomatic of the human flair for melodrama, imo. Whether it's people claiming that Jesus is returning, or screaming about how the Commies are going to destroy our way of life...

 

The whole 666 thing doesn't really interest me. Maybe it reeks too much of superstition (I'll let someone else make the wise-*** comment about superstition as it relates to the main topic of this thread :)).

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I deal with barcodes pretty much non-stop at my job. Perhaps I should be seeking a different means of employment. Those darn libraries! So insidious.

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I'm not trying to disprove logic. I'm just saying that if we're saying that we "know" A or B because of logic, that presupposes that our system of logic is accurate/true/whatever.

 

 

But yeah, I suppose proving that it is inconsistent would show that it's flawed...I don't know, maybe I'm walking right into a paradox or contradiction here. :)

It would presuppose that, yes. Now, if you have your internally consistent system of logic, you can see how it compares with the world we observe. Perhaps it will accurately describe reality in some cases and not in others.

 

After all, even Moses didn't write the end of Deueteronomy, where Moses dies.

There is evidence that multiple authors wrote not just Deueteronomy, but all of the books. The bible seems to me to be a big game of telephone.

 

I'm a firm believer that myth doesn't come from nowhere. Do I think that Noah literally collected two of each species (and seven pairs of some)? Maybe. Is it possible that this is metaphorical? Yes. Did SOMETHING catastrophic happen the past involving a flood. PROBABLY.

Or, knowing that floods happen (and cause destruction), all it could have taken to start this story is the imagination of not just any ordinary flood, but a great floor that covered the whole world. No grand catastrophy required.

 

Well, I know it's not the orthodox view -- but is it any different than the way scientist date very old things?

 

Person: How old is this thing?

Scientist: Well, we can date it using scientific methods. First, can you tell me how old it is?

Person: WHAT??

Scientist: Well I have to know how old it is to determine which method to use to tell how old it is.

Person: That's scientific?

Scientist: Of course!

 

So, as you can see, we don't know anything about anything.

It's not like that. If you know an approximate age, which you must first determine using other means, you can choose the best radiometeric clock to use to find a more accurate date.

 

Here's one article on it, just for fun:

 

http://www.av1611.org/666/barcode.html

 

Until it's on my hand or forehead, I'm not worried.

I don't find number patterns to be very convincing, considering the affinity of our brains for patterns. You could find a number of other patterns and numbers in a barcode, or in anything really. You only see it as significant because the number 666 means something to you. What else could you find that number in?

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666 also showed up in the "double this number" thread. So does that mean anything?

 

And yes, I over-simplified the radiometric dating thing to make a point. Dating anything that old is ALWAYS a guess. We don't really know if any of those dating systems actually work.

 

And the big flood is NOT like ordinary floods (like the Nile). People run away from a normal flood, they don't build a boat.

 

And why are there big boats buried by the pyramids? What's up with that?

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New study: Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than are non-believers

(wish I had a subscription so I could read the actual paper, but oh well).

 

"This is rather interesting, and reinforces something we've been saying for a while. Religion gives people bad reasons to be good, and if your motivation for doing good is to score brownie points with God so you'll get into heaven, that's a *very* bad reason. Similarly, when Christians act baffled why atheists would ever perform any moral kindness without a belief in God, it's because they genuinely don't grasp empathy and compassion as motivators, as they haven't been taught such things are relevant. Certainly there are people both religious and compassionate, but once again we are able to confirm no necessary link between religiosity and morality." - Martin Wagner of The Atheist Experience, a pretty awesome show

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and if your motivation for doing good is to score brownie points with God so you'll get into heaven, that's a *very* bad reason.

 

It may be surprising to some, but Christians agree with this as well, perhaps the most strongly of anybody. Deeds done for the sake of reward or acclaim are quite roundly condemned as shallow and hypocritical by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and it is also explicit that people relying on those good deeds before God at judgment will find them meaningless as Pearly Gates credit. I still fall into the trap of seeking my own interests sometimes, but I always feel much better when doing good because I believe a Christian is called to do good, and I find goodness manifesting further in both my life and the person I assisted in some way. Every step brings me closer to God and other individuals. As James has stated in our conversations, eliminate the theistic parts and we're practically identical.

 

(oh, and thanks for resurrecting this thread...didn't want to think it had gone to hell, literally. ;) )

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Deeds done for the sake of reward or acclaim

 

Isn't this the motivation behind 99+% of all prayers?

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Isn't this the motivation behind 99+% of all prayers?

What you appear to be suggesting is that the chief motivation for many who declare "I'll pray for you" is to receive admiration from the person and anybody else witnessing this. I'm curious where you receive the 99% figure from, firstly, and even if that is true, certainly you're well aware that a plurality doesn't change the morality (wow, what a catchy tagline). I can also cite that declaring a prayer intention can make some people angrier. My first goal is to simply comfort and provide for somebody in need, which falls under the "just because" category of altruism; perhaps being admired does make me feel better, but it's only a pleasant side effect. I'm unclear what your argument is, James.

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Personally, I don't think there's such a thing as a "bad reason to be good." I'd prefer to have someone help out orphans, starving people, etc. even if it's for the "wrong reasons." Of course, if that person is then profiting at the expense of others because of this, then it's problematic, but hey, a dollar given to charity is a dollar given to charity, whether it's given altruistically or because of a more cynical reason.

 

I can see the utility in pointing out hypocrisies, but frankly, I don't think it's worth it, particularly if you're genuinely searching for answers. Like ManipulatorGeneral said, a plurality doesn't change the morality. I don't care if every single self-identified Christian is a raging hypocrite; it doesn't invalidate the religion itself.

 

That said, in my experience, many religious people tend to explain away serious problems by saying, "Oh, it's God's will," or "Pray, and it'll be better." That can be a problem, imo.

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I was in the middle of a long diatribe on this subject, and the window disappeared! I guess God didn't want me to say that :P

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I looked over James' study somewhat; we critiqued four social psychology research projects as part of our analyses on them in class, and so I'm applying that thought to this. I have found two major weaknesses:

  • The study only explores religiously motivated generosity in America, a nation famous for its stingy Christians (wish I could attach the article into a URL with imposed text, like I do in the song thread, but here: http://www.christian...calsstingy.html ) Honestly speaking as an American, we are overall a poor representative of the average self-proclaimed Christian's generosity, and it also remains to be questioned how many of these individuals have been born again, as so termed; though it's usually hard to measure authentic adherence to a religious faith, again with emphasis on Christianity, I'm becoming quite excellent at detecting it within others and (without trying to boast) receive feedback from individuals occupying all spectra of the God rainbow. Many of us have had our fair share of mean, pushy or even hateful Christians, and I can guarantee the proportion will be smaller in poorer countries, as more reliance on God (I think we can both safely assume this), and also each other, will be seen as desirable. How much of this generosity is caused by faith and how much by pure compassion (routinely seeing somebody in need because it happens so often) is difficult to measure, but it's simpler to examine the degree to which an American compared to, say, a Filipino, lives the faith preached; if this study is done in a poorer country, both religious and non-religious will be similarly affected by that same "need to share" and the religious population, with some emphasis on Christians, will be a more accurate representation of religious values. I believe that the more one is committed to Christ and His mission in heart rather than word, the more one's motives, as well as behaviors, will be changed; I find this occurring dramatically in my life over the course of 2012, but that's a digression...
  • Only monetary acts of altruism were considered. Most of us have experienced occasions where emotional, spiritual or other support has meant the world to us and, if we really have hearts, understand that there exist things worth more than money; sometimes I give monetarily, but it's far more valuable to me to lend emotional and spiritual support wherever it's needed. I could also wager that if there were a feasible test of non-material generosity, the results would differ.

In summation, I find that studying the ulterior and ultimate motives of the religious is difficult, if not impossible, and religiously related behavior and data is even harder, again if not impossible, to quantify and measure scientifically. Researchers have attempted prayer experiments in hospitals, but these have displayed their own weaknesses because introducing God also produces too many variables for a human-conducted experiment to detect. Perhaps the magnitude of experimenting with God may invalidate tests which indicate a positive skew towards the believers, but overall, like our own attitudes towards God, religion and faith, we have to experience and examine this ourselves. For me, a variety of personal experiences lead me to question the results of this research, the same types which have led me to choose God. James, you seem to have your own daily experiences, so let them hit the fan!

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What you appear to be suggesting is that the chief motivation for many who declare "I'll pray for you"

 

I meant prayer in general. "God, please help me do X" "God, please give me X" "God, please take care of X" "God, I need X" "God, make X happen" etc. Most people who pray tend to (appear to) use God almost as a shooting star or a genie lamp that can help them out. In fact, that concept can be extended to faith in general. It seems most religious people tend to use God as some kind of afterlife insurance.

 

If God didn't allow prayer for personal benefit, how many people would pray? If God didn't promise eternal salvation, how many people would be religious?

 

Personally, I don't think there's such a thing as a "bad reason to be good."

 

There are a surprising number of people out there who legitimately wonder why atheists aren't running around raping and killing others. The implication is that they see no reason not to do so and would be doing so themselves if not for their faith. That does disturb me. When you only do good because of X, what happens when X disappears/changes/becomes less of a motivator?

 

I can see the utility in pointing out hypocrisies, but frankly, I don't think it's worth it, particularly if you're genuinely searching for answers. Like ManipulatorGeneral said, a plurality doesn't change the morality. I don't care if every single self-identified Christian is a raging hypocrite; it doesn't invalidate the religion itself.

 

I was not trying to invalidate Christianity by posting that. It was just for general discussion.

 

That said, in my experience, many religious people tend to explain away serious problems by saying, "Oh, it's God's will," or "Pray, and it'll be better." That can be a problem, imo.

 

That too.

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If God didn't promise eternal salvation, how many people would be religious?

 

This.

 

There are a surprising number of people out there who legitimately wonder why atheists aren't running around raping and killing others. The implication is that they see no reason not to do so and would be doing so themselves if not for their faith. That does disturb me.

 

That's fair enough. However, I think it says more about the mindset of those people (i.e., that they personally would see nothing wrong with rape, etc. if it weren't for their faith) than it does about anything else. Frankly, I'm past the point where I'm willing to debate/argue/talk with such people.

 

I was not trying to invalidate Christianity by posting that. It was just for general discussion.

 

...but to what end? To reveal hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is everywhere. I'm not trying to be glib, just wondering what you're aiming for.

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...and I can guarantee the proportion will be smaller in poorer countries, as more reliance on God (I think we can both safely assume this), and also each other, will be seen as desirable. How much of this generosity is caused by faith and how much by pure compassion (routinely seeing somebody in need because it happens so often) is difficult to measure, but it's simpler to examine the degree to which an American compared to, say, a Filipino, lives the faith preached; if this study is done in a poorer country, both religious and non-religious will be similarly affected by that same "need to share" and the religious population, with some emphasis on Christians, will be a more accurate representation of religious values. I believe that the more one is committed to Christ and His mission in heart rather than word, the more one's motives, as well as behaviors, will be changed...

 

I'm interpreting this as:

 

* in poorer countries there is more reliance on God

* more reliance on God means more development of relationship with God

* ->...better Christian values e.g. altruism, philanthropy

* ->...more sharing

 

I disagree with this in two ways. First, philanthropy tends to be more present when the philanthropist has excess, such that they're able to give without harming themselves. Despite the increased understanding and sympathy that might come from experiencing hardships, I can't see increased philanthropy/sharing in such situations.

 

Second, I disagree that more reliance on God leads to the development of Christian values. My previous post (sry for the double, btw) touches on this. Reliance on God. Such relationships would not be 2-way streets. It's more of a "please God, I need help, please" than anything else. 2-way God relationships can only exist in situations where a believer turns towards faith willingly and not because of some need that they want God to meet. It is possible, you could argue, that God could steer "fake Christians" along the right path, but why would he not do that with "fake Christians" that are well off and need no reliance on God? And what about non-believers, why doesn't he lead them on the right path?

 

Additionally, there is a tie in here to what I said in my previous post. People in your hypothetical situation turn to God not because he is self-evident, not because he is guiding them in the right direction, not because they feel it is the right thing to do, but because God can help them.

 

But back to this, why can't Christians in the USA develop better religious values? Why are only those who desperately need God to exist the ones who show the greatest religious values? Another tie in, especially with faith in general. From my perspective, people believe in God for all sorts of reasons. They don't want to die, so God has an eternal paradise waiting. They feel unsafe or are in need, so God will always be there for them. They feel alone, so God loves them. They feel lost in a world of chaos, so God has a plan for them. It's all built around (at least on an unconscious level) a desire for it all to be true and not whether it's actually true, and this seems no different. Why would it take needing God to exist in order to experience a higher personal relationship and better religiosity? Why would it take a belief in X for X to become apparent? My explanation is a combo of wishful thinking and confirmation bias (among other biases).

 

The rest of your criticism seems quite valid, and I do wish I could read the study in its entirety to both point out flaws of my own and see if any deeper counter-flaw information is present. But the main thing to take out of this, IMO, is

 

"Certainly there are people both religious and compassionate, but once again we are able to confirm no necessary link between religiosity and morality."

 

For me, a variety of personal experiences lead me to question the results of this research, the same types which have led me to choose God. James, you seem to have your own daily experiences, so let them hit the fan!

 

Maybe another time ;)

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That's fair enough. However, I think it says more about the mindset of those people (i.e., that they personally would see nothing wrong with rape, etc. if it weren't for their faith) than it does about anything else. Frankly, I'm past the point where I'm willing to debate/argue/talk with such people.

 

That's true, but mindsets can be altered by religion.

 

There was a study I saw a while back involving two groups of kids raised in Judaism. The control group was asked to read some morally controversial passages from, I believe, the Book of Joshua. The experimental group was asked to read the same passages, but with "God" changed to "General Lin", "Jericho" changed to "An ancient Chinese kingdom 5,000 years ago", etc. The results were that the vast majority of the control group had no moral issues whatsoever with their passage, but the experimental group did, even though the content didn't change. (<insert criticism of the Bible here, even though that's not the point>)

 

...but to what end? To reveal hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is everywhere. I'm not trying to be glib, just wondering what you're aiming for.

 

Just general religious discussion. I thought it was an interesting article, although I'm a bit biased as "it is possible to be good without God" is a point I've stressfully tried to argue in the past.

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Well, I think we'd need to define "good" before we could embark upon that discussion, and that alone would be a never-ending discussion. ;)

 

It's true that mindsets can be altered by religion, but given that most religious people seem to have been born with their faith, I'm not sure how much changing of mindsets is actually going on...

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Well, I can't use myself, because I know where I got my sense of right and wrong, but C.S. Lewis -- one of the great modern doctors of the faith -- said that he found himself to be a hypocrite as an atheist, because he couldn't justify the existence of justice without an external definition of justice. That is, if there is no "supernatural" being to define justice, then there is no justice.

 

Now, that doesn't satisfy everyone, but it was at the heart of HIS conversion, so it worked at least once. Many people are convinced by the "design" argument. That wouldn't work for me if I were an atheist -- it's simple enough to contribute that to evolution. However, then you have a bigger problem -- why is there evolution? Why is there anything? This is basically the "first cause" argument. That might convince me.

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...even if you believe that there is a God, you still have the "why is there anything?" dilemma. You just have to take it back one more step...

 

Justice itself is somewhat subjective. I don't think that necessarily invalidates it.

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...even if you believe that there is a God, you still have the "why is there anything?" dilemma. You just have to take it back one more step...

 

That question should be considered, yes. The fact that anything does exist evidences that it stopped somewhere, and I find that God is the most plausible beginning because the nature of God offers the most possible reasons why He could be the first cause (such as eternality and, as sometimes argued, necessary existence); I also find God the most plausible explanation for why anything beyond the first cause both could and should begin to exist, and the more complex the course of time grows, the more I am hesitant to assign existence to mere contingency when it could simply be all intentional. Certainly it's valid to ask this about God in return, because He is an additional element, as to whether God is complex, contingent, etc, but even discounting the arguments offered by some apologetics that the concept of God is neither complex nor contingent, I am more willing to believe that the nature of God avoids these initial philosophical problems in some manner than the nature of whatever else could have been the first cause. It largely sums up the centrality of my choice for faith: that existence as it is appears markedly more plausible under theism than atheism, such that I couldn't imagine this universe arising without God, and even if it could (returning to earlier thoughts), God is more able and likely to cause this universe than anything else.

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It's reasonable to say that if there is no God, we created a God that would best fit all our unanswered questions. However, the things that actually happened in the bible (or quran, or vedic text), are not logical or reasonable to explain things. They are just weird. The old adage that fact is stranger than fiction may hold here, since I don't think we could make up some of this stuff ourselves.

 

I will mention here (in case I haven't yet) that my actual belief system is based on upbringing, experience and searching, and that I am always willing to discuss these things with an open mind.

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