Author Topic: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?  (Read 2112 times)

Offline SGOS

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #30 on: May 12, 2018, 10:29:44 AM »
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I'm of the opinion that some ideas used by Christians, including "everything happens for a reason," are psychological defenses against despair. I don't think these ideas are strictly Christian...
I'm sure the Bible can be interpreted by some to prove that this is part of Christian doctrine.  I'm not sure if it's in the Bible or not, but I can see how it would be tempting to believe.  Unfortunately, I don't think this kind of intervention happens in an environment of free will, which Christians usually claim is true as well.  I also believe free will exists, but I arrive at that assumption by other means.

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #31 on: May 12, 2018, 12:17:29 PM »
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I'm sure the Bible can be interpreted by some to prove that this is part of Christian doctrine.  I'm not sure if it's in the Bible or not, but I can see how it would be tempting to believe.  Unfortunately, I don't think this kind of intervention happens in an environment of free will, which Christians usually claim is true as well.  I also believe free will exists, but I arrive at that assumption by other means.

Ehhhh... I don't believe there are any verses which directly address the "everything happens for a reason" thing, but there is a quote by Jesus which is relevant. "He (God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." God can't be bothered to reward good deeds or punish evil.

As for free will, it's not Biblical either. When I was a Christian, I compiled a list of verses for and against free will, and I asked other members of the Christian Forums to suggest their own verses. My only requirement was that the verse had to be self-relevant. That is, by reading the verses by themselves, I had to be able to see how that verse could possibly be in favor of one or the other. I quickly realized that while there were several verses which directly confirmed predestination, the verses on the free will side were implied at best. Most of the verses submitted in defense of free will were verses which said so and so chose to do this, which have nothing to say about whether or not that person chose by their own agency. One passage, Romans 9, even directly addresses the main complaint people have against predestination.

"One of you will say to me: 'Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?' But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?"

When presented with the argument that a lack of free will means a lack of responsibility on our part, Paul basically says, "God's in charge. Stop whining."

Depending on how you define it, free will isn't really logically possible either. There are causes for our actions. We do what we want to do, and we can't choose what we want. The only defensible definition of free will I can think of is, "Freedom to make ones own decisions without coercion." In such a case, the only time someone wouldn't have free will is when they had a gun to their head or something like that, where they wouldn't be free to do what they want to do. Otherwise, free will as a self-driven agency is illusory.
"Oh, wearisome condition of humanity,
Born under one law, to another bound;
Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity,
Created sick, commanded to be sound."
--Fulke Greville

Offline Baruch

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #32 on: May 12, 2018, 12:22:52 PM »
Different theologies for different Jews.  Usually the rabbis are pro-free-will (else guilt is impossible).  Paul the rabbi, is predestinate, all over his letters.  Each was trying to relate to the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job as best they could.  I would classify Paul as a lone sociopath.  Rabbinic circles were collegial, if ideological.
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Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #33 on: May 12, 2018, 01:47:31 PM »
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Interesting.  I have read the bible but not starting from Genesis and going forward.  Probably won't at this point.  But I did read it all.  Why did you decide to take on this task and how did you set it up?
A little over 2 years ago I had an epiphany of sorts and returned to the Catholic Church, after roughly 15-20 years of being an agnostic atheist.  I've been a practicing Catholic since.  I believe I mentioned it on these forums when I 'reverted'.

Offline SGOS

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #34 on: May 12, 2018, 02:02:30 PM »
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When I was a Christian, I compiled a list of verses for and against free will, and I asked other members of the Christian Forums to suggest their own verses. My only requirement was that the verse had to be self-relevant. That is, by reading the verses by themselves, I had to be able to see how that verse could possibly be in favor of one or the other.
Naughty Christian.  Critically reading the Bible.

During an AA meeting, we were having a discussion about free will.  I can't remember the context, but one of the most fundamental of the fundamentalists commented, "All Christian denominations allow for free in some way or another."  Of course, I disregarded this, as I did about almost everything else I heard in AA.  OK, there were some things I took to heart, the things that applied directly to my own sobriety.  But most of the stuff was just mysterious woo.

Offline Baruch

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #35 on: May 12, 2018, 03:32:27 PM »
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A little over 2 years ago I had an epiphany of sorts and returned to the Catholic Church, after roughly 15-20 years of being an agnostic atheist.  I've been a practicing Catholic since.  I believe I mentioned it on these forums when I 'reverted'.

I take the "cloud of witnesses" seriously .. and materialists can scoff.  I have a great many Catholic ancestors.  So I can't be overly critical ... without dismissing the lives of those ancestors.  Similarly I have a line of Jewish ancestors.  I can criticize institutions, traditions, clergy ... but it has to be positive not negative.

In a sense, I am not just an individual, I am just a currently living leaf on the end of the branch of a gigantic tree of life, and the day is coming soon when I will turn brown and drop off, as all leaves do, but the tree will live on.

Metaphorically, there are anxious leaves, who want to control their anxiety, by creating a botanic dictatorship over all the other leaves.  Such leaves don't realize they are part of the tree, which is life.  Separation from the tree is death.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2018, 03:40:04 PM by Baruch »
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Offline Baruch

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #36 on: May 12, 2018, 03:38:04 PM »
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Naughty Christian.  Critically reading the Bible.

During an AA meeting, we were having a discussion about free will.  I can't remember the context, but one of the most fundamental of the fundamentalists commented, "All Christian denominations allow for free in some way or another."  Of course, I disregarded this, as I did about almost everything else I heard in AA.  OK, there were some things I took to heart, the things that applied directly to my own sobriety.  But most of the stuff was just mysterious woo.

This is why in Christianity, it was necessary to prevent laity, and even most clergy, from reading scripture, it was fenced in by Church Fathers.  In Islam and Judaism it is the opposite on a superficial way.  In a sense, Protestantism came about as a Christian reaction to the freedom the other two Abrahamic faiths have.

You aren't free to interpret it however you want.  You have liberty in community, but not sociopathic freedom.  In the Middle Ages of course, Islam and Judaism was subject to the same tendencies ... Islam had commentary replace the Quran, and in Judaism the Talmud replaced the Tanakh.  Think of it as a clam making a pearl.
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Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #37 on: May 12, 2018, 06:07:33 PM »
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A little over 2 years ago I had an epiphany of sorts and returned to the Catholic Church, after roughly 15-20 years of being an agnostic atheist.  I've been a practicing Catholic since.  I believe I mentioned it on these forums when I 'reverted'.
Oh yes, I do sort of remember that.  When I tackled the bible, it was during a time I was searching for answers in spiritual terms.  The more I read of the bible, the less I thought of it.  In the end it encouraged me to conclude that organized christian religion was not for me.  So far in your bible reading journey, how has the bible impressed you?  Did you read it from start to finish as it is laid out in the Jerusalem Bible?   
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #38 on: May 13, 2018, 05:52:09 PM »
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So far in your bible reading journey, how has the bible impressed you?  Did you read it from start to finish as it is laid out in the Jerusalem Bible?   
I'm actually getting quite a bit out of it.  I have trouble understanding the relevance in some parts, but that may just be me and my frame of mind.  I think perspective and context matters. I've read the gospels more than once and get something new out of them each time.  I find the clarity of the CCC very helpful as well.

I'm reading the New American Bible and have roughly split it up into 3 readings a day, the OT, Psalms/Proverbs and the NT.

Don't want to highjack the thread though, this is shooting off on a different tangent.

Offline Baruch

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #39 on: May 13, 2018, 08:28:46 PM »
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I'm actually getting quite a bit out of it.  I have trouble understanding the relevance in some parts, but that may just be me and my frame of mind.  I think perspective and context matters. I've read the gospels more than once and get something new out of them each time.  I find the clarity of the CCC very helpful as well.

I'm reading the New American Bible and have roughly split it up into 3 readings a day, the OT, Psalms/Proverbs and the NT.

Don't want to highjack the thread though, this is shooting off on a different tangent.

You are having an interesting but common experience ... that some people have with writings, and the older and the more mysterious, the better.  The ideas in these old books are very basic memes (once called collective unconscious), that are deeply a part of what humans are, and what a culture is.  If you have a "resonance" with something, then you are "tuned into it".  Like a radio station.  This can happen with just about any cultural artifact or practice.  Going back to the early Middle Ages, the Benedictine order has "lectio divina" which is a systematic system of contemplation (originally of the Vulgate Bible).  Your practice of liturgical reading is very ancient.  Each time you experience something important to you, you change.  If you go back and experience it again (as we can with reading) you aren't the same person reading it you were the first time.  You are "neuro-linguistically" re-programming yourself.  In ancient times, with was with story telling rather than reading.
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Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #40 on: May 14, 2018, 01:40:37 PM »
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I'm actually getting quite a bit out of it.  I have trouble understanding the relevance in some parts, but that may just be me and my frame of mind.  I think perspective and context matters. I've read the gospels more than once and get something new out of them each time.  I find the clarity of the CCC very helpful as well.

I'm reading the New American Bible and have roughly split it up into 3 readings a day, the OT, Psalms/Proverbs and the NT.

Don't want to highjack the thread though, this is shooting off on a different tangent.

It helps when reading the Bible to have certain study materials close to hand, such as You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login.

There are many good study references on line, and many of them can be found here:

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If any of this  helps, as I hope it will, your Bible reading might be more enjoyable and interesting.
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"And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground." Jeremiah 25:33
But he's such a loving God

Offline Baruch

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #41 on: May 14, 2018, 06:06:08 PM »
Azimov's Guide was the first one I used.  Covers other books neglected by main line Protestants.  Material in it is fairly theology free.
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Offline Cavebear

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #42 on: May 17, 2018, 03:26:43 AM »
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A friend believed there was no such thing as a coincidence.  He used to expand on the theme of missing a meeting, which leads to an alternate life branch where you meet a stranger, who points out something or other, and introduces you to a friend who does something or other, that changes your direction again, where you end up meeting your soul mate, find God, or accomplish something or other.  He would conclude by pointing out there were too many variables that ended up putting you right where you needed to be.  This could not be coincidence, but could only be by the hand of a higher power.

One day he was enthusiastically telling me about a new TV series that Michael Landon was going to make, where all the episodes centered around the randomness of life that leads us here and there until we end up where we are.  He found great validation in his philosophy because a fellow spiritual traveler, from Hollywood no less, also recognized that spiritually based intercessions in life at specific times were there to guide you on your life's journey.  The fact that some people accidently become bank robbers through the randomness of life... well I don't know.  He never addressed that.  As it turned out, Michael Landon's series never made it to the airwaves, possibly due to a higher power's intercession... for a good reason.

But many years later, Matt Damon starred in a delightful feature film, The Adjustment Bureau, which explained exactly how these more or less invisible men in black hats manipulate the "coincidences" that make the necessary adjustments to our lives and keep the course of human history as well as our own lives going where the men in black hats want it to go.  Everything happens for a reason, except for when it doesn't.

But wasn't that show also fiction?  Just asking...
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline Cavebear

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #43 on: May 17, 2018, 03:29:47 AM »
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A little over 2 years ago I had an epiphany of sorts and returned to the Catholic Church, after roughly 15-20 years of being an agnostic atheist.  I've been a practicing Catholic since.  I believe I mentioned it on these forums when I 'reverted'.

I assume sort of "logic" induced you back to theism.  My I ask what?
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline Baruch

Re: When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
« Reply #44 on: May 17, 2018, 07:19:32 AM »
Most people here are very partisan about their fiction ... my fiction = reality, your fiction = BS.
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