The G-Word.

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RichardGarfinkle

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Okay, by "radical Pharisee" do you mean going against the standard teachings of the Jewish religious leaders of the day? Cuz that seems pretty accurate, from the Gospels.

However... I thought Paul was a Gentile? And I thought the religious leadership, such as the Pharisees, was limited to Jews? (One of Paul's main premises in his writings was that Jesus Christ had come for both Jews and Gentiles... and all that circumcision conflict and whatnot)

Also... I'm really bummed if you're saying that the Gospels were written after the Epistles. Because I'd much rather the Gospels had been written as (or close to when) the events were happening, not 70 years later relying on memory.

Paul (nee Saul of Tarsus) was Jewish. He was, however, responsible for expanding the early Christian church to include Gentiles.

The Pharisees in this context were the more liberal of the two major rabbinic parties (the Sadducees being the more conservative).

Authorship and dating for the various New Testament writings have been the subject of some pretty heavy duty scholarship. Here's a catholic source with probably overly exact dates.
http://www.beginningcatholic.com/when-was-the-bible-written.html
 

Chrissy

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Thanks for the link, Richard. :)
 

benbradley

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Excellent article by Philip Goldberg on Huff Post, reflecting my own opinion. This is why I don't answer the question Do You Believe in God. The word basically means nothing and everything.
A word meaning "nothing and everything" can come from overuse. I've seen that happen a lot in church basements.

But I disagree that the word God has no meaning. It DOES have many specific meanings. I've heard some attempts at catch-all synonyms, such as "higher power" or "higher authority," though of course these don't cover every belief.
This makes a mockery of the complexity and diversity of individual spiritual lives.
That sentence points out the main (only?) aspect of atheism to me: lack of a "spiritual life."
The invisibilty aspect may not have been abstract to begin with. A number of cultures (including various Indo-European ones) use a word connected with air or breath for spirit (including the word spirit). The idea of an invisible vital presence is not strange for an air breathing species like ours.
It's used that way in the KJV Bible:
http://bible.cc/james/2-26.htm
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Here, spirit literally means breath. If a body isn't breathing, it's dead, so "spirit" (breath) is an indication of life.

This brings up my fascination with language. Words get new meanings at a shocking rate, and the older meanings can be lost forgotten. I've heard living people claim they have been electrocuted...
 

Ken

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... @ Maxx.

Hi. I'm not religious, either, in the usual sense of the term at least. If I were to adopt a religion it probably would be the ancient Greek one. Zeus always appealed to me, due to his concreteness. Other conceptions of God are less defined, like you say, but are totally fine in their own way of course. Zeus lives up on a mountain, according to the belief. There are also other deities like Pallas Athene. I think she was mentioned in the Odyssey and helped out Odysseus in time of need. She disguised him as a vagabond so he could slip back into his kingdom unknown and avenge himself on the usurpers. My kind of story. My kind of religion! That's just me though: hopelessly outdated and out of sync ;-)

-----------------

ps Sorry for my first post, Mod. Won't happen again.
 

aruna

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Maxx, I have no idea what you are talking about. I can't follow your arguments. I don't know where you got the idea of God beating you up postmortem.
Possibly you are just too clever for me.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Maxx, I have no idea what you are talking about. I can't follow your arguments. I don't know where you got the idea of God beating you up postmortem.
Possibly you are just too clever for me.

I believe Maxx is referring to Hell as commonly conceived.
 

aruna

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Aha. Thanks for the clarification. To be honest, the concept of Hell has been so alien to me for so long (forever, actually!) it never even occurred to me.

A typical example of the kind of straw-man thinking referred to in the OP.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Aha. Thanks for the clarification. To be honest, the concept of Hell has been so alien to me for so long (forever, actually!) it never even occurred to me.

A typical example of the kind of straw-man thinking referred to in the OP.

In this case, I don't think it is a strawman. While the idea of Hell is a distraction from any useful awareness of the divine, it is used strongly in attempts at evangelism. Threat of Hell is part of the public face of some forms of Christianity and Islam.

So God as condemner to Hell is a popular conception largely popularized by people seeking to spread their religions and keep people from leaving.

The annoying thing, of course, is that Hell as a metaphor for a mind that considers only desire, fear, anger, ignorance etc and therefore suffers isn't inutile. But it lacks the immediacy of Samsara, for example.

The story "keep this up and you'll go to hell when you die" does not have the here and now qualities of "your attachments are creating suffering for you and others."
 

aruna

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It's a straw-man, in that Max immediately brought it into play as if it is part and parcel of non-atheist perception. It doesn't matter how widespread a teaching is; if it is not universal it has no place in an open-minded atheist's argument. On the hand, concepts such as omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, as well as all-lovingness etc, ARE pretty much universal, and so cannot be objected to.

Bringing hell into any argument is IMO no different from the usual cliches of Flying Spaghetti Monster, "fairy in the sky", and "turtles all the way down" I usually get when trying to trying to engage with atheists. (Not on AW, thanks goodness, and not to paint everyone with the same brush. But it IS my experience, unfortunately.)
 

RichardGarfinkle

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But being threatened with hell actually is part of atheist experience. Being told to repent or risk being cast into the pit is far more common than having sophisticated discussions of the godhead.

And again hell is part of the public face of some religions. It isn't a parody concept like the FSM.
 

aruna

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However, this particular discussion is focused on cliched definitions, and no matter how maligned atheists feel about the threats of hell ( and I'm sorry about that) it's still no reason to mock others by assuming they are condemning you to the hot place. The whole discussion is about doing away with such assumptions. Millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists and others have no perception of hell as an eternal place of burning for ones sins. And many Christians don't, either.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Maxx, I have no idea what you are talking about. I can't follow your arguments. I don't know where you got the idea of God beating you up postmortem.
Possibly you are just too clever for me.

It's a straw-man, in that Max immediately brought it into play as if it is part and parcel of non-atheist perception. It doesn't matter how widespread a teaching is; if it is not universal it has no place in an open-minded atheist's argument. On the hand, concepts such as omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, as well as all-lovingness etc, ARE pretty much universal, and so cannot be objected to.

Bringing hell into any argument is IMO no different from the usual cliches of Flying Spaghetti Monster, "fairy in the sky", and "turtles all the way down" I usually get when trying to trying to engage with atheists. (Not on AW, thanks goodness, and not to paint everyone with the same brush. But it IS my experience, unfortunately.)

However, this particular discussion is focused on cliched definitions, and no matter how maligned atheists feel about the threats of hell ( and I'm sorry about that) it's still no reason to mock others by assuming they are condemning you to the hot place. The whole discussion is about doing away with such assumptions. Millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists and others have no perception of hell as an eternal place of burning for ones sins. And many Christians don't, either.

The mockery does not belong.

But I think you are being too stringent, requiring that atheists only deal with universal concepts. Few concepts are religiously universal.

In order to have an open minded discussion, it can be necessary to look seriously at people's underlying assumptions and their causes. Hell is a part of a theist lexicon. You are, of course, correct that it is no part of many religions and should not be declared to be a universal.

But it is a strong presence in many theistic formulations, and has helped to shape many conceptions of God (God as judge and condemner). In order to overcome the dubious conceptions of God you expressed concern about, it could be considered necessary to overcome this one.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Everyone. There's an interesting and mutually enlightening discussion possible in this thread. But to get to that discussion we're all going to have to assume that we've all come to our individual views thoughtfully and through own experiences. So let's cut down the dismissive views on all sides and start digging in so we can all come out of this with greater understanding.
 

Maxx

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Okay, by "radical Pharisee" do you mean going against the standard teachings of the Jewish religious leaders of the day?


The region of Judea and its surroundings at about the time of the destruction of the Second Temple is pretty hard to reconstruct in terms of what people were thinking about the supernatural. I specify supernatural because Angels at the time were thought to have a certain amount of contact with people on a regular basis and it is quite possible that there was a belief that some people had angelic powers and also that angels were dangerous and contact with angels was not always a good thing.
There is plenty of evidence, but it is very hard to interpret. For example, the Qumran scrolls seem to be a geniza (something like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_Geniza) set up by the Temple so the texts in there were texts that the Temple wanted to take out of circulation for one reason or another -- wear and damage, also parts of the Torah on papyrus (not proper at the time) -- as well as teachings that the Temple did not want to see turning up all over.
But, did people focus on teachings per se at that time? Possibly not in the way we tend to think of such things. The best comparison I have heard of is that the Temple was like "Hollywood" in the sense that it had a certain aura and some major cultural authority but it was not a closed system at all. It was like a vast cinematic portal to regions of infinite ritual purity.
 

ColoradoGuy

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Yet -- strangely -- in the Greco-latin west at least, that is not how it happened. The definition of the divine was worked out pretty abstractly by a chain of philosophers from the pre-socratics to the Stoics and Neoplatonists and then re-elaborated by the scholastics.

I'm not sure that model applies to various of the mystery cults, such as Mithras and Isis. Most originated in the East and developed substantial Roman followings.
 

Maxx

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I'm not sure that model applies to various of the mystery cults, such as Mithras and Isis. Most originated in the East and developed substantial Roman followings.

The description doesn't apply at all to cults since the description is concerned with the abstract definition how supreme, divine powers function in an abstract cosmos.
Form the Pre-socratics to the Stoics and Neoplantonists, a pretty elaborate set of theological structures is worked out which eventually flows pretty directly into Christianity (eg via PseudoDionysius the PseudoAeropagite who is more or less an improved, Christianized version of Proclus' Neoplatonic schemas). Lucretius and other atomists managed to deal with the earlier version of all that but it took slightly deviant scholasticism to deal with full-blown Neoplatonism and even now echoes of the Neoplatonic system pop up pretty often.
 
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