Religions Debate - Debating Religions

On Belief
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I think it's impossible to believe simply by choosing to do so. In a certain way, you don't have a choice in the matter. (The christian explanation for it is that only god can change your heart.)

I mean, you can perhaps make yourself believe by way of self-hypnosis and auto-suggestion, which is probably what actually happens in churches - but if you were to do that consciously, you'd still have the problem that you would KNOW that it was yourself who made yourself believe.

I think there is a certain confusion in the whole concept of religious belief. There are certain experiences, like a perceived miracle, altered states of mind, maybe meditation, or awe-inspiring natural phenomena, which trigger spiritual states. And then afterwards, we attach explanations to that, and if the only available explanation at that time is religious, we stick with that. Add confirmation bias and group-trance, and you got yourself a cult.

But inside christianity, or any faith-based (revealed) religion, it's often seen the other way around: FIRST you believe, THEN god does something in your life. Only it's simply not true.

And that, IMO, is also why evangelisation doesn't work the way it's often expected to - by convincing people logically. (It's why Jehova's Witnesses seem to be in a stalemate - they rely on logic and reason to convince people, and they don't appeal enough to emotions.) Evangelisation really only works by creating that altered state that is inducive to spiritual experiences. That's why they always try to pray with people on the spot.

ETA: That first sentence up there originally read "I think it's impossible to believe against your own will. ", which does not make any sense at all and was just a mistake on my part.

Christianity and Paganism
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Wow. Now, here's a site worth investigating!

It's about "Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth". It's (as far as I can judge) very, very well researched, has a distinct (if a bit weird) style, and a lot of humour in it. Heartily recommended literature.

The Apologetic And The Skeptic
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The story goes like this.

The apologetic had a religious experience. An intimate, honest, intensive experience. Most probably, this experience happened in a certain context - at a church or a mosque, alone in a cave at sunrise, with her bible in her hand alone at home... and probably, the apologetic had a specific, probably religious upbringing.

So, given the situation, it was just the obvious choice to interpret her experience in the terms of a certain religion. The words other members of this faith use, the words from a holy book, the words from the tradition of that faith.

From that moment on, the apologetic most certainly had lots of similar experiences. And of course, she interpreted those in the framework she got used to, as well. That's not bad. That's not a fallacy. That's just the way we human beings operate - an interpretation has worked in the past, why not use it from now on?

So... our happy apologetic meets our happy skeptic.

The skeptic, of course, has made his own experiences, and he has formed an opinion about what he believes is the apologetic's creed. Either he was once a believer himself, and has gotten skeptical because the words of this faith failed to convince him, or he has read the holy books without being a member of said faith.

So. The two meet, perhaps at some outreach. The start talking.

And almost by necessity, the apologetic will use the words of the holy book to convince the skeptic. She thinks those words are convincing - after all, they seem to match her experience perfectly! So she cannot grasp why the skeptic won't believe her.

The skeptic, on the other hand, will use the same holy scripture, pointing out logical flaws and inconsistencies, to show that this cannot be a good, qualified basis for a religious faith.

Well, it isn't. And it needn't be. The holy book consists of the experiences of other people, long dead, who were equally trying to express an experience that is, by definition, impossible to put into words.

But both our heroes fail to see that. They're talking about a whole lot of interesting, challenging intellectual questions - but they're not communicating about the one and only thing that can really create or destroy faith: personal experience.

They're like an old married couple who quarrels about whether that ship in her honeymoon was yellow or blue. They have talked about it for ages, never agreeing, never able to agree, and completely missing the point, namely how they loved each other then and love each other still.

It's kind of amusing, really, in a very, very sad way.

[xposted a bit]

Criticism of Buddhism
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In looking for criticisms of buddhism, I happened upon the following two (related) pages:

I think there are a few good rules of thumb – they’re not general rules, they’re not 100%, but I think they’re good guidelines what to be wary of:

* Religious leadership + political leadership = trouble. The two should not be combined, because political parties as well as religious organizations tend to rouse groupthink, us/them mentality and attachment to the organization instead of its ideas. The effect gets multiplied by combination.

* Hierarchy will always tend to create power struggles and power abuse, because people become attached to their power and try to defend it no matter what. That’s not to say that hierarchy is only bad (it’s necessary in many contexts), but we should always be wary of the leaders. Also, I doubt that the Indian or Tibetan ideas of religious leadership are applicable in today’s West. We are still traumatized by WWII and the nazis, in general I think most people here are not very good at dealing with religious authority figures.

* There is no need at all to accept the whole package. It is perfectly fine to practice meditation for health and calmness. It is perfectly fine to reject karma, rebirth, or even all of buddhism. As a buddhist practitioner, I would suggest to keep an open mind in those matters, and not to be surprised if the meditation led you to accepting karma, but that’s just my irrelevant opinion

* Your karma is none of my business. I think this is so important, I have to repeat it: Your karma is none of my business! It is said that only a buddha can grasp the exact mechanics of karma, so we shouldn’t dabble in “you’re a spastic diplegic, therefore you killed your wife in your last incarnation, you loser!”

* Never let yourself be tricked into abandoning critical thinking. Meditation does NOT mean to stop thinking! If you have the impression that something is going wrong and that the teachings in some community are somehow bad, don’t look for the fault in yourself and force yourself to keep going to that place – take your time, take a leave from that community to sort things out for yourself, and when you’ve calmed down and are ready to engage in rational thinking, do so, and come up with your own answers.

* And finally, buddhist doctrine is only useful inasmuch as it helps a person to practice lovingkindness towards themselves and others, and mindfulness.

Bible question: What exactly happened at resurrection time?
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Folks, it's that time of the year again! So, here we go...

When christ got resurrected - what exactly came to pass?

Were there one woman, two women, three women? No angels, one angel, two? Where did they sit/stand/do nothing at all?

Here are the relevant scriptures for your convenience:

* Mt 28
1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, **Mary Magdalene and the other Mary** went to look at the tomb.
2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
2There was a violent earthquake, for **an angel of the Lord came down from heaven** and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

* Mk 16
1When the Sabbath was over, **Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome** bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"
4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe **sitting on the right side**, and they were alarmed.

* Lk 24
1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, **the women** took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly **two men** in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them

*John 20
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, **Mary Magdalene** went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.


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