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Defeaters for (Christian) Theism

 
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Old 20-Feb-2010, 06:07 PM (18:07)     1        37148
logika
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Post Defeaters for (Christian) Theism

I don't know if this thread properly belongs in Philosophy or Religion/Atheism, but since I'd like the thread to be philosophical in nature I've plonked it here.

I am looking for a defeater for theism (in particular, Christian theism), i.e. a belief B such that:
  1. B is incompatible with (Christian) theistic belief, and
  2. a good argument or evidence for B exists.
I define theism as the belief in the existence of a transcendent personal agent who caused the universe to exist out of free choice.

Hopefully this can be a thread where we can discuss respectfully and tolerantly, and I look forward to wrestling with your ideas.
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Old 20-Feb-2010, 11:21 PM (23:21)     2        37159
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Most certainly this thread will be one where we discuss decently and tolerantly, since I or Never or a mod would split any nastiness off.

It really depends what kind of defeater argument you are looking for -- and above all why. You see, to run through a few possibilities (all for the sake of the argument, please bear with me, I am not imputing anything):
  • you may be wanting logical defeaters for Christianity
    .
  • you may be wanting emotional defeaters for Christianity
    .
  • you may be wanting factual defeaters for Christianity
    .
  • or you may be wanting "spiritual" defeaters for Christianity

You see what I mean? There are all sorts of possible answers to your question; and it helps if we know a bit more of what you're looking for, and why.

Now, various people here will have very different perspectives to offer. I can only speak for me. From my viewpoint, while I can think of logical and semi-factual defeaters for Christianity, and while they are mildly important, we all know Christianity can be re-written to encompass almost anything, we all know Christianity can be re-interpreted to fit most anything. So the logic and the factuality issues, for me, are not the crucial ones; for me, the most important issues are the moral ones, and these do not necessarily form a defeater for Christianity as a whole, though certainly when combined with logic they form defeaters for some forms of Christianity (Calvinism and Catholicism, for example). For me, the moral arguments are the most crucial, and while they do not IMvHO form a defeater, they do make Christianity irrelevant for me (me being an atheist) --- they make religion immaterial for me.

I can describe my own thoughts more, but perhaps others should reply with their opinions first.
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Old 20-Feb-2010, 11:53 PM (23:53)     3        37165
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I can't really speak for anyone else here; I can say I'm an ex-Christian till kingdom come, but the reality is that we were never the best bed-buddies. As far as defeaters go, really, I generally suggest research- Both Biblical and non-Biblical, up to an including reading the Bible with an open mind and a critical eye. I think if more people actually took a look at what they were calling the word of God and asking good questions, you wouldn't really need a "defeater". People would do it on their own.

I guess the question is, then, how do you stop getting people to think like cattle, and to start thinking more outside the box?
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 12:00 AM (00:00)     4        37168
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In my experience, incompatibility with reality is not a difficult hurdle for religions in general, nor Christianity specifically. They can reinterpret their way around it well enough.

This is part of what Gurdur said above, but this plasticity makes a defeater rather difficult. I do not know how plastic Christianity can be on moral issues, but I presume a defeater would be equally difficult here. Hell, difficult might be an understatement.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 12:15 AM (00:15)     5        37172
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gurdur View Post
Most certainly this thread will be one where we discuss decently and tolerantly, since I or Never or a mod would split any nastiness off.

It really depends what kind of defeater argument you are looking for -- and above all why. You see, to run through a few possibilities (all for the sake of the argument, please bear with me, I am not imputing anything):
  • you may be wanting logical defeaters for Christianity
    .
  • you may be wanting emotional defeaters for Christianity
    .
  • you may be wanting factual defeaters for Christianity
    .
  • or you may be wanting "spiritual" defeaters for Christianity

You see what I mean? There are all sorts of possible answers to your question; and it helps if we know a bit more of what you're looking for, and why.

Now, various people here will have very different perspectives to offer. I can only speak for me. From my viewpoint, while I can think of logical and semi-factual defeaters for Christianity, and while they are mildly important, we all know Christianity can be re-written to encompass almost anything, we all know Christianity can be re-interpreted to fit most anything. So the logic and the factuality issues, for me, are not the crucial ones; for me, the most important issues are the moral ones, and these do not necessarily form a defeater for Christianity as a whole, though certainly when combined with logic they form defeaters for some forms of Christianity (Calvinism and Catholicism, for example). For me, the moral arguments are the most crucial, and while they do not IMvHO form a defeater, they do make Christianity irrelevant for me (me being an atheist) --- they make religion immaterial for me.

I can describe my own thoughts more, but perhaps others should reply with their opinions first.
Thanks for your reply Gurdur; you make a number of important points that help me to make some clarifications.

First, I don't want to equivocate Christian theism with Christianity here. The thread is primarily about belief that God (as I attempted to define) exists and secondarily (and less importantly) about the generally Christian conception of God (Trinitarian, ontologically necessary, etc). The thread is not about Christianity as a system of beliefs (as you've pointed out, there is no adequate definition of Christianity that we can pin down).

Second, why I am looking for defeaters: because I feel it is my personal (you could say moral) responsibility to attempt to falsify my beliefs. Christian theism is fundamental to my worldview, and so it is natural to focus upon it. And the kind of defeaters I am looking for: really any belief which has any real bearing on theism (logical and factual beliefs immediately spring to mind as being most relevant; emotional/spiritual beliefs are most likely too subjective to override my own personal experiences; I cannot see how moral beliefs could have a bearing, but if they do I would be interested in investigating them).

I hope that makes things clearer - if not, I'll be happy to clarify some more.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 12:18 AM (00:18)     6        37173
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That plasticity doesn't work as well when you have someone who says "The Bible is the infallible word of God", and then you point out that it says it's okay to kill their children by stoning, or that it's alright to destroy cities, put the men, women, and young boys to the sword, and force the young women into marraige and rape...

Course, then you have to show them where it is.

Because once they say "Well, I don't believe that!" then you've got a solid basis for "If you don't believe it, either you're a shitty Christian, or the Bible isn't as infallible as you want to think it is."

I had a go-round with my Mom over Original Sin and the fall from grace a few months back. I about had her in tears because I could grab the bible and rip it to shreds starting with Genesis. I felt bad, but I think there won't be anymore "but it's okay because we're made to believe, and faith is a necessary thing..." arguments from her.

Like I told her, I don't much care what she believes... As long as it's not something that's going to encourage morally twisted results and a victim mentality.

Pointing out that the Bible doesn't -actually- allow for free will really took the wind out of her.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 12:34 AM (00:34)     7        37177
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Quote:
Originally Posted by logika View Post
... because I feel it is my personal (you could say moral) responsibility to attempt to falsify my beliefs.
Good on you. And as I kinda said, here at the Hub we try to be as constructive as possible. You will get different atheist answers here, and a range of pagan answers, and other answers. I can go on describing my own answers in a while, after others have had their say.

Quote:
And the kind of defeaters I am looking for: really any belief which has any real bearing on theism (logical and factual beliefs immediately spring to mind as being most relevant; emotional/spiritual beliefs are most likely too subjective to override my own personal experiences; I cannot see how moral beliefs could have a bearing, but if they do I would be interested in investigating them.
When I describe my own stance, I will try to show why I see moral arguments as being the most practical and convincing for me. And gradually you will show what is most important for you, and others will say what is most important for them.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 12:58 AM (00:58)     8        37180
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gurdur View Post
You will get different atheist answers here, and a range of pagan answers, and other answers. I can go on describing my own answers in a while, after others have had their say.
...
When I describe my own stance, I will try to show why I see moral arguments as being the most practical and convincing for me. And gradually you will show what is most important for you, and others will say what is most important for them.
The more answers I wrestle with the better, and I'd certainly be interested in your moral arguments.

Fizzle and Makbawehuh: It would good to engage with you about your views of the Bible, free will, etc, though these have to do with Christianity in general rather than theism. Feel free to start separate threads so we can discuss those issues; and perhaps you would like to offer defeaters for theistic belief here?
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 01:14 AM (01:14)     9        37184
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Defeater for the belief in God? I have none. I have a wide range of reasons why *I* don't believe in the Christian God, but I wouldn't call any of them defeaters.

Speaking as a Discordian, I can tell you truthfully that I know for an absolute fact one thing:

My goddess does not exist.

I know this because she told me so. Personally. Right outside the strip club in my mind.

*sagenod*

On a more serious note, my problem has never been with the idea of a higher power- My problem starts when people try to use said higher power as an excuse to subjugate their fellow human beings, and it ends... Actually, I have no idea where it ends. So theism isn't what bothers me: Theology is.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 01:22 AM (01:22)     10        37187
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I have always suspected that what really sways people in the end are the moral arguments -- even if hiddenly so (since even epistemology has a values side to it, and so has a morality of its own).

Logika, please bear in mind that this is a complex discussion, and it's going to take time for everyone to get their thoughts together and to jump into the water. I will make a couple of long posts (probably boring ones too) on my own views tomorrow on this thread, but I really do want to see what others say; and please do keep in mind it will take them several days to get good, deep replies up. Many thanks for opening this thread.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 01:30 AM (01:30)     11        37189
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gurdur View Post
I have always suspected that what really sways people in the end are the moral arguments -- even if hiddenly so (since even epistemology has a values side to it, and so has a morality of its own).

Logika, please bear in mind that this is a complex discussion, and it's going to take time for everyone to get their thoughts together and to jump into the water. I will make a couple of long posts (probably boring ones too) on my own views tomorrow on this thread, but I really do want to see what others say; and please do keep in mind it will take them several days to get good, deep replies up. Many thanks for opening this thread.
Thank you for being willing to dive deep into this topic (and also thank you in advance to everyone else who decides to invest their mental energies further). Please (everyone) take all the time you need to make your responses as constructive as possible.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 02:01 AM (02:01)     12        37197
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Quote:
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I have always suspected that what really sways people in the end are the moral arguments -- even if hiddenly so (since even epistemology has a values side to it, and so has a morality of its own).

[...]
I agree with that, but I also think that just being raised in that religion, with the accompanying social network, plays a big role in individual attachment to religion (i.e. it gets ya hooked and keeps ya hooked).
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 02:50 AM (02:50)     13        37203
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fizzle View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gurdur View Post
I have always suspected that what really sways people in the end are the moral arguments -- even if hiddenly so (since even epistemology has a values side to it, and so has a morality of its own).

[...]
I agree with that, but I also think that just being raised in that religion, with the accompanying social network, plays a big role in individual attachment to religion (i.e. it gets ya hooked and keeps ya hooked).

The social aspect often figures into joining a religion as well. If I had a nickel for every time my brother and I have heard "If you want a nice girlfriend/boyfriend, go to church", I'd probably be rich. How many times, also, have I heard of someone joining... Say... the Mormon church so that they could get married to a member? Personally, I think that's about the dumbest reason ever to join a religion, but it happens every day.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 03:02 AM (03:02)     14        37205
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Never heard that one, explicitly anyway. How weird.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 04:37 AM (04:37)     15        37206
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I have a friend who's brother is converting so he can date a Mormon girl. A fellow Discordian at work has a brother who converted so he could marry some Mormon chick. I've heard of other people doing it too.

Amusing sidenote- A Jewish friend of mine asked -me- to convert because he "thought my brains would be an asset to his future offspring". Oh, and because I make awesome chocolate chip and pecan cookies that he currently can't have because I make them with lard. *innocent look* Silly Jew, thinking I'd change the perfect recipe for him.

I asked him how he felt about raising his children atheist... For some -strange- reason, he's never asked again.

Last edited by Makbawehuh; 21-Feb-2010 at 04:38 AM (04:38). Reason: *should not type when cold*
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 02:28 PM (14:28)     16        37210
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I am looking for a defeater for theism
I think there are, at least, two successful approaches.
First; by consideration of the essential features of gods that might be relevant for humans, I think we can say that to be such a god, that thing must:
1) be the instigator, but distinct from, at least one natural phenomenon
2) display autonomous, volitional behaviour
3) be controllable or influenceable by human beings.
Under these considerations, gods are a testable hypothesis by condition three. Fortunately we can already draw the conclusion as millions of volunteers have been testing the hypothesis for thousands of years. Prayer doesn't work, and that's the end of it for gods relevant for human beings, if the above qualifications, to be a god, are accepted.
Second; anything that can be identified as part of the natural world can be uniquely named, and if that thing is useful, its exploitation can be described. If it ever becomes the case that god is such a thing, then the status of god is no different from that of static electricity, or any of the other things that used to be considered to be divine. So, in order to be a god, that thing must be immune to unique description or any form of measurement, exploitation, etc. In short, in order to be a god, that thing must be irreducibly imaginary. An imaginary god without a definite description can be imagined to the extent that human imagination allows, in other words, the form of god is unlimited, except by the limitation that it must not intrude within the domain of describable entities. In a word, the only essential property of god is non-existence.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 09:18 PM (21:18)     17        37214
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OK, logika,
you want a defeater to test your faith against.
What is your faith worth to you?
How do you see your faith operating in specific ways in your life?

In other words (IOW), what exactly does your personal faith mean?

I'll be back in a while with my promised long posts on the moral arguments etc., but I think your answers to those questions would be both of value to yourself and to others.
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Old 21-Feb-2010, 11:31 PM (23:31)     18        37222
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Righteo, here is the main moral argument that is most important to me.

Much of religion specifically calls for worship of some god or gods. Often, just why is never really explained. For those who think a god should be worshipped, the question, "Does God exist?", is for them involving a very necessary implication -- that being, if a god exists, then unconsciously for them that necessarily means the god must be worshipped.

But already, once you really look into it, you see the illogical jump. On the contrary to those people's assumption, a god may exist but not need to be worshipped.

Let's deal with a factual defeater at this moment. For those who both believe in a god and demand that that god be worshipped by others, there is a belief that that god will look after his or her followers, his or her believers. But no such intervention can be shown in world history. Life goes much the same -- good or bad -- for True Believers as for anyone else. The sun shines on the wicked and the good alike.

Much the same goes for intervention in one's psyche. Again, many believers believe their god will intervene in their psyche to help them. Whether that is true or not depends on each believer -- the gods help those who help themselves, and no especial help seems observable.

Now, a god may exist, but is that god worthy of being worshipped? In a way, it can be said of my parents that my parents created me. Should I then worship my parents merely because they brought me into being? I myself may well be an android created by humans. If I was such an android, should I then worship the humans who created me?

A god may -- or may not exist. Merely because a god exists, does not mean that god should necessarily be worshipped.

Now, I personally do not believe in any afterlife. Logically and above all practically, an afterlife raises too many hard questions -- what would you be resurrected as into the afterlife if there was one? Would you be resurrected as you were one minute before your death? That would make for a very ghastly afterlife for many. How would Alzheimer's Disease patients be resurrected? In Alzheimer's, the memory and then the psyche all disappear long before the person is killed by the Alzheimer's. How would a resurrected Alzheimer's look to others? To himself or herself?

I do not believe in any afterlife. I would like to, I would like there to be some really nice afterlife where I would be resurrected at the full height of my physical and mental powers. But I can't see that happening.

I would love it if there was genuine justice in an afterlife. If evildoers received just retribution, if the good received due recognition. I can't see that happening. The only justice I can see happening is what we make, the justice we ourselves implement, and that only in this life, not in any next one.

If I've gotten it all wrong and there is a god and an afterlife, then by my standards I have lost nothing. If the god is any worthwhile kind of god at all, I'm not going to have terrible things done to me in some afterlife hell merely because I refuse to believe in a god in this life. If the god is any kind of worthwhile being at all, and if any afterlife is any worth at all, then most likely I'll be OK. So I refuse to worry about it, and I refuse to let any concept of an afterlife or god dictate my life here in this life -- above all, my morality.

I try to do good because it is good, not in the greedy hope of reward in the afterlife, nor because of fear of punishment in any afterlife. Any act done out of greed or fear is not a moral act.

So, I build up and implement my morality as best as possible, I try to do good as best as possible, and like the rest of us, I muddle through life.

------

Logika, your thoughts?
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 03:07 AM (03:07)     19        37232
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If you want logical and factual then consider that creation story. Do you believe that's how it happened? Or maybe you can be a Christian and still believe in evolution. But what happens without that concept of original sin? Our species fell into a dummy trap for sinners and muddled around killing animals for centuries because we pissed god off and dead animals somehow made it better, then god got around to sending an aspect of himself to serve as a perfect sacrifice to himself and now we can be saved by faith. really? Also you might want to think about how some of the tenets of christianity made it a good "cattle" religion for the state during the late Roman Empire, medeival times etc.- be nice and humble, do as you're told, don't worry about earthly things, wait for glory in heaven.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 03:42 AM (03:42)     20        37233
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And does that communion ritual make sense to you? Symbolic cannabalism? Why would god want you tod o that? Is that really something passed down from a holy god or a barbaric relic of something? Maybe that's more of moral argument. Questions are better than answers, things you aren't supposed to question become dogma, dogma is not factual, keep asking why. Why these rules and traditions?
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 06:24 AM (06:24)     21        37238
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Well. Original Sin was what? Disobeying God, right?

What were Adam and Eve not supposed to partake of? The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Waitwaitwait...

Lets take this back a notch.

....God told them not to do something...

....He told them NOT to eat that fruit.

The fruit of what? The fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

Adam and Eve had never partaken of this fruit and had no idea of the difference between good and evil. They had no ability to discern right from wrong.

Disobeying God would be evil, right? And so Adam and Eve and the rest of humanity were punished and are still being punished for it, right?

So... How could God tell two people not to touch something when obeying him (or not) would require a moral judgment of good and evil that they had not yet acquired the ability to discern, and then punish them for it after the fact?

This is a rant I could get on a soap box about and stay on it, cause that just scratches the surface of the "God doesn't want us to use our minds" rant, but the underlying issues are already there: God expected humans to act beyond their capacity, and then was shocked and appalled when they could not make the expected moral judgment because he had created them to be incapable of making that judgment until after the damage was done. He has been punishing us for using that capacity ever since... God wants cattle, not people.

But it gets better.

You take out Original Sin as a "reasonable" or "just" thing to believe (which, I think my argument here demonstrates that it's a mindfuck and neither) and you remove... Sin as a viable source of human guilt and God as a perfect, loving, forgiving, all-knowing deity.

You suddenly have...

No reason for Jesus.

No reason to worship God.

No reason for Salvation.

No reason for Christianity.

Period.

My question is, now that I've killed any reason to believe, name a reason -to- believe that hasn't been steeped in the blood of millions?

Last edited by Makbawehuh; 22-Feb-2010 at 07:02 AM (07:02). Reason: Fixing stuff I thought I'd made clear. Second and third readthroughs are enlightening.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:50 AM (07:50)     22        37239
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And if anyone is wondering- Yes, this is the argument that made my mother cry.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 06:47 PM (18:47)     23        37244
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just a thought.. what if we are god? or the embodiment of that entity.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:13 PM (19:13)     24        37245
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It's not out of line with my view that Gods are created beings... Since we're all created by our parents. :P
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:16 PM (19:16)     25        37246
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Originally Posted by blackswordca View Post
just a thought.. what if we are god? or the embodiment of that entity.
Then we've fucked up somewhere along the way, if that's the case.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:16 PM (19:16)     26        37247
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I was sent a link a while ago, and it made some sense. We are approaching the third age of humanity. The first age was the creation of the gods/god the second was the worship of said gods/god and the third age was the realization that we infact are god.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:19 PM (19:19)     27        37248
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Originally Posted by blackswordca View Post
I was sent a link a while ago, and it made some sense. We are approaching the third age of humanity. The first age was the creation of the gods/god the second was the worship of said gods/god and the third age was the realization that we infact are god.
As humans, we're so-so *. As gods, we're major fuck-ups.


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* Though the humans of the Hub do better.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:19 PM (19:19)     28        37249
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Originally Posted by blackswordca View Post
just a thought.. what if we are god? or the embodiment of that entity.
Then we've fucked up somewhere along the way, if that's the case.
How so? There isn't any religion that says god is infallible. God(dess)(s) all have made mistakes. From the gods of the ancient greeks and romans, to the current god of the judeo-christian faiths and other similar faiths.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:21 PM (19:21)     29        37250
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... As humans, we're so-so *. As gods, we're major fuck-ups.
.....
Although, when I think about it, pretty much all gods are fuck-ups, so if we're gods too, at least we are not alone in being walking catastrophes.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:22 PM (19:22)     30        37251
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Originally Posted by blackswordca View Post
just a thought.. what if we are god? or the embodiment of that entity.
Then we've fucked up somewhere along the way, if that's the case.
How so? There isn't any religion that says god is infallible. God(dess)(s) all have made mistakes. .....
Cross-posted with you, see my post just above, came to the same realization as well.
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