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07/03/2013 01:43:26 PM · #176
@' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', '/') + 1) . ' JH: I highly recommend Isaac Asimov's story "The Last Question" (yours is the condensed version) ... :-)
07/03/2013 01:57:00 PM · #177
Originally posted by GeneralE:

@' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', '/') + 1) . ' JH: I highly recommend Isaac Asimov's story "The Last Question" (yours is the condensed version) ... :-)

One of my fav short stories, and the inspiration for my post :)
07/03/2013 02:27:03 PM · #178
In that case, nice job with the abridgement. :-)
07/03/2013 04:05:15 PM · #179
Those are good questions, JH, but not ones that have immediate answers. One thing I think that is being done is conflating two worldviews. Your view of the future is consistent with our scientific idea of what will happen to our planet, our sun, our universe. In the religious worldview, however, we are The Main Event despite the vastness of the universe. If God comes and "mops up" us humans in some apocalyptic endgame, then the Universe no longer has a purpose and He may, in His sovereignty, cause it to cease to exist.

A more meta discussion is whether questions like this help us grapple with the existence of God. The reality is they do not. The universe is vast. We argue it is too much of a waste to be compatible with a God who cares about us. If it were very small we would conversely argue that a real God would create something much more magnificent. Questions can be raised given any scenario we might find ourselves in. Given this, the questions cease to provide reason to doubt His existence.
07/04/2013 09:35:01 AM · #180
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

Those are good questions, JH, but not ones that have immediate answers. One thing I think that is being done is conflating two worldviews. Your view of the future is consistent with our scientific idea of what will happen to our planet, our sun, our universe. In the religious worldview, however, we are The Main Event despite the vastness of the universe. If God comes and "mops up" us humans in some apocalyptic endgame, then the Universe no longer has a purpose and He may, in His sovereignty, cause it to cease to exist.


At the time the Bible was written everyone shared the same worldview; Earth was at the centre of everything and Humans were the 'most important' beings on this 'most important' planet. They didn't understand the vastness of the Universe, the stars were pretty patterns painted on the dome of the sky for our viewing pleasure.

Now science has revealed our true insignificance in the grand scheme of things. Us hairless apes are one evolved species on this planet amongst thousands of species, amongst trillions of other planets in this Universe existing in this small slice of time in the Universe's vast age. About as insignificant as you can get. This puts a serious dent in the religious worldview argument that God picked this tiny corner of his creation to locate and nurture his worshippers, and that we are the most important part of the Universe. If we stop existing then he'll destroy the Universe because there's no point to it anymore.

Expanding on this idea, if there's a mass extinction event in say the next thousand years with no hope of the human species ever existing again, then God will destroy the rest of his Universe? Seriously? (Not to mention if God did set the wheels of creation in motion, then why would he want his creation to be finite anyway? I mean, he's going to exist for a infinite time, wouldn't he want his creation to exist for as long as he does?)

Unless of course he created life in multiple places, and the vastness is just to keep us away from each other in case we start intergalactic warfare - But that would mean sending his only begotten son down to exist amongst each of these intelligent lifeforms at exactly the right time in their cultural development to have a lasting impact. Surely he'd have mentioned this in the Bible?

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

A more meta discussion is whether questions like this help us grapple with the existence of God. The reality is they do not.

The end-game questions are easier to debate, there's more common ground - Most rational people are accepting of the fact that this isn't a 'world without end', and that Mankind, Earth, and the Universe have a finite existence. Easier than the 'what caused the big bang' point that the creation debate gets stuck on.

Message edited by author 2013-07-04 09:35:14.
07/04/2013 01:51:54 PM · #181
You are making the mistake that the Judeo-Christian worldview was taken aback and surprised at our smallness (but not insignificance).

3When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?c
5You have made themd a little lower than the angelse
--Psalm 8

I can agree with you that the Psalmist might be surprised just how big it actually was, but what does it matter? The understanding is the same if you think you are 0.0000001% of the universe or 0.0000000000000001%? You get my drift.

I was only speaking off the cuff about the end of the universe. You, again, make a conflation error. If God exists, there will be no "mass extinction event" outside his sovereignty. The asteroid isn't going to catch Him by surprise. :)

07/04/2013 02:24:03 PM · #182
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

You are making the mistake that the Judeo-Christian worldview was taken aback and surprised at our smallness (but not insignificance).


Sure, they might have had some idea that the Universe was pretty big. But they were also under the impression that Earth was the 'centerpiece' created at more or less the same time as the rest of the Universe, created specifically to host us.

In the meantime not only has science come along and reinforced how insignificant we are in size, but also in terms of our species (we're not *that* special compared to the other animal species), our planet (there are billions of earth-like planets out there, possibly hosting other lifeforms), and our timescale; we weren't the whole reason all this was created but came 14 billion years after the main event, and we will probably exist only for a small fraction of time compared to the total age of the Universe.

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

I was only speaking off the cuff about the end of the universe. You, again, make a conflation error. If God exists, there will be no "mass extinction event" outside his sovereignty. The asteroid isn't going to catch Him by surprise. :)


If there's an asteroid floating around out there with our name on it, it'll hit us because of a combination of its orbit and our gravitational pull, not because God nudged it that way. Or it the case he'll stand by and watch it hit Earth, then he'll collect the last few souls, and then destroy the Universe?

Of course, it's easy to put forward that as an argument because we won't be around to witness it, much the same way as we didn't witness the big bang - Funny how god only enters the equation when it's something we can never directly witness.

I think we won't need God to destroy the Universe for us, it'll do perfectly fine by itself. And if we don't need God for the end of the Universe, why did we need him for the beginning?
07/04/2013 02:42:08 PM · #183
Sure. I understand your take on things. If you really think about what you are saying, however, we know that beginnings are much more important than endings. I don't think it's very rigorous logic to say that since we can postulate how things might go in the future without the intervention of God that he is, therefore, not needed at the beginning.

Message edited by author 2013-07-04 14:48:07.
07/04/2013 03:47:21 PM · #184
Originally posted by JH:



Of course, it's easy to put forward that as an argument because we won't be around to witness it, much the same way as we didn't witness the big bang - Funny how god only enters the equation when it's something we can never directly witness.



And there's the crux of the problem.

Let me give you a general idea of how this looks to me, through the use of an analogy, as through I were speaking directly to a Christian:

Imagine that I tell you there is an amazing island in the ocean which is made of nothing but all of the most wonderful things imaginable.

Now, you go searching for this island, wishing to prove to me I'm being silly by thinking it exists, now, you and I know the ocean to be far too big to search in it's entirety, but let's do say that I was able to give you some pointers about how this island spews smoke and fire. You WERE able to check all the islands that spew fire and smoke, and found nothing of this wonderful place. Of course, my explanation is that you either missed the hidden entrance, or that perhaps the fire and smoke are just metaphors, and that it's probably more like a campfire. Ok, so you go out again, and locate every island that has had a campfire on it. Still, nothing, no amazing stuff. Hrrmph. Ok, so you come back, and tell me of this. I laugh at your foolishness, thinking that I just meant man-made campfires, and failed to check on the islands that might have had a natural forest fire. Fine. You go look. Nothing. You come back, again I laugh, because, after all, even a small match can make fire and smoke. At this point, you simply strangle me, and you'd be right for doing so.

..

My point in the above analogy is that you have seen, in your lifetime, the continuing pattern of reevaluation, and every time the footprint of 'God' gets a bit smaller. Eventually you will find your position so reduced as to have to make the match argument as above, yet, I have no doubt that you would indeed be willing to make such an argument.

The whole thing is fractal in a sense, in that you don't care how many iterations of the pattern occur, you will still hold fast to your position. For the more reasonable though, it does seem that the trend is becoming quite clear, which of course indicates that there may yet be some real truth to be had, given that we've finally found a system which can give consistent answers that don't change according to whatever is convenient at the moment.

Message edited by author 2013-07-04 15:48:03.
07/04/2013 06:46:31 PM · #185
You're kind of oversimplifying what it means to "believe in God", Cory; and you do it over and over in this discussion. You are basically dumping all believers in the "literal bucket", as if somehow the idea of God requires an outdated perspective on the universe. I completely disagree with this. I think that the deeper science goes, the further into the core of "reality" we get, the more astonishing we find the whole of Creation to be, and the more awed we ought to be.

I don't think you have to buy into the paternalistic, control-freak, white-bearded god-caricature in order to "believe in God", and I don't think Doc is requiring that of us either. But he and I both believe, each in our disparate ways, in a Godhead, an unknown force of creation, and I don't think it's either unreasonable or harmful to do so.
07/04/2013 06:55:35 PM · #186
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

You're kind of oversimplifying what it means to "believe in God", Cory; and you do it over and over in this discussion. You are basically dumping all believers in the "literal bucket", as if somehow the idea of God requires an outdated perspective on the universe. I completely disagree with this. I think that the deeper science goes, the further into the core of "reality" we get, the more astonishing we find the whole of Creation to be, and the more awed we ought to be.

I don't think you have to buy into the paternalistic, control-freak, white-bearded god-caricature in order to "believe in God", and I don't think Doc is requiring that of us either. But he and I both believe, each in our disparate ways, in a Godhead, an unknown force of creation, and I don't think it's either unreasonable or harmful to do so.


I'm not sure that I did anything of the sort in my last post.

It certainly wasn't intentional.

My point was that there is a very clear trend where the island of god(s) gets smaller and smaller all the time, and that it continues to be true that the only realm it exists in is the immeasurable, and that every so often, we push the boundaries of what is measurable - thereby reducing the realm of God in a small way.

Now, lather, rinse, and repeat about a gazillion times.

This has done absolutely nothing to dissuade believers, and that alone disturbs me - the simple fact is that there is a very clear and observable trend, and yet seemingly, the majority of the population would find that either the trend does nothing to weaken the proposition of God, or alternatively, somehow miraculously strengthens the creditably of the entire system of religion.

So, to my eyes, we have a group of humans who don't care what feedback they are getting in the realm of reality, they would so strongly prefer to remain comfortable in their beliefs that they will take any measure, and make any mental leaps, necessary to maintain their position. It's quite fascinating and scary all at the same time.

Message edited by author 2013-07-04 18:56:09.
07/04/2013 07:31:48 PM · #187
We have raised the fact that, at least as far as cosmology goes, your "trend" does not hold. Between 1900 and 2013 our knowledge of the universe has expanded and, yet, the "island" (as you call it) has also expanded. Go back to post #77 and reread.

You do have it right that people tend to pay attention to facts that reinforce their preexisting worldview. That's human nature. However, you are just as susceptible as the theist and are, in fact, demonstrating such behavior in your post by ignoring the facts as laid out previously (in post #77).
07/04/2013 08:52:15 PM · #188
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

We have raised the fact that, at least as far as cosmology goes, your "trend" does not hold. Between 1900 and 2013 our knowledge of the universe has expanded and, yet, the "island" (as you call it) has also expanded. Go back to post #77 and reread.

You do have it right that people tend to pay attention to facts that reinforce their preexisting worldview. That's human nature. However, you are just as susceptible as the theist and are, in fact, demonstrating such behavior in your post by ignoring the facts as laid out previously (in post #77).


Which I thought I had dispelled quite thoroughly in post #85.
07/05/2013 08:36:49 AM · #189
Originally posted by Cory:

So, to my eyes, we have a group of humans who don't care what feedback they are getting in the realm of reality, they would so strongly prefer to remain comfortable in their beliefs that they will take any measure, and make any mental leaps, necessary to maintain their position. It's quite fascinating and scary all at the same time.

But they have to maintain their position, or at the very least maintain a position close enough to the original that they can get away with it. Otherwise it wouldn't be religion, it'd be science.

What was once taken as fact in the bible, is now taken as metaphor where convenient. I see this as the main difference between the non-theist and theist worldviews. Theists have an unchanging core set of beliefs that they have to fit everything around. If a core belief looks likely to be discredited by science, or if it doesn't fit with modern society then it's pushed into the 'metaphor' pile.

The opposing worldview is flexible and not afraid to consider new theories. They do have some core beliefs (laws of thermodynamics for example), but if someone came along with a theory that threatened the core beliefs, they would gladly re-write the book.
07/05/2013 08:55:18 AM · #190
Guys, GUYS...! You're still talking *Bible*! Get it through your heads: there's more to God than BIBLE! Bible, Koran, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, whatever, these are HUMAN surfaces laid on the primal armature that is God.

Message edited by author 2013-07-05 08:55:49.
07/05/2013 10:44:49 AM · #191
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Guys, GUYS...! You're still talking *Bible*! Get it through your heads: there's more to God than BIBLE! Bible, Koran, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, whatever, these are HUMAN surfaces laid on the primal armature that is God.

That would be deism, free of specifics but still an argument from ignorance (we don't know X, therefore God). The basic point is that literally every single assertion of God's possible existence necessarily rests within the unknown or unknowable, such as describing love, the nature of life or the origin of the universe; and every new piece of knowledge, from the natural cause of lightning and magnetism to germ theory, eliminates another hiding place once assumed to be the domain of this supernatural being. Yet despite a belief exclusively dependent upon what we don't know, followers will always declare with absolute conviction not only that God MUST exist (because we still don't know X), but also his specific likes, dislikes and demands for a favored group within a particular species of primate on a comically insignificant space rock in exchange for reward or punishment in an unknowable afterlife in other also-unknowable dimensions. Even if we managed to find rational answers to all the big questions, there would still be fervent believers in God, miracles and heaven, complete with detailed descriptions, without the slightest shred of evidence for any of it. As Cory said, "It's quite fascinating and scary all at the same time."

Message edited by author 2013-07-05 10:45:48.
07/05/2013 11:03:40 AM · #192
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Guys, GUYS...! You're still talking *Bible*! Get it through your heads: there's more to God than BIBLE! Bible, Koran, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, whatever, these are HUMAN surfaces laid on the primal armature that is God.

That's true, but in order to have religion, and to "save" the lost souls, you must have some kind of guidebook, story, or premise to grab onto and hold up as your basis for both your faith and your religion.

People who have faith, but believe it's personal, and individual, don't run around telling people they're heathens, offering up eternal light, 72 virgins, or whatever.

I have my own views, but I'm certainly not going to tell you you'll dance like a chicken hit by a Taser if you don't follow my lead. That's the problem with organized religion.......they have to have something concrete to back up their story......yet they don't. Hence, the island metaphor makes perfect sense. It also gives them a sense of cohesiveness to exert their will on the society they live within........regardless of ANY others' faith or beliefs.
07/05/2013 12:18:48 PM · #193
Originally posted by scalvert:

Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Guys, GUYS...! You're still talking *Bible*! Get it through your heads: there's more to God than BIBLE! Bible, Koran, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, whatever, these are HUMAN surfaces laid on the primal armature that is God.

That would be deism, free of specifics but still an argument from ignorance (we don't know X, therefore God). The basic point is that literally every single assertion of God's possible existence necessarily rests within the unknown or unknowable, such as describing love, the nature of life or the origin of the universe; and every new piece of knowledge, from the natural cause of lightning and magnetism to germ theory, eliminates another hiding place once assumed to be the domain of this supernatural being. Yet despite a belief exclusively dependent upon what we don't know, followers will always declare with absolute conviction not only that God MUST exist (because we still don't know X), but also his specific likes, dislikes and demands for a favored group within a particular species of primate on a comically insignificant space rock in exchange for reward or punishment in an unknowable afterlife in other also-unknowable dimensions. Even if we managed to find rational answers to all the big questions, there would still be fervent believers in God, miracles and heaven, complete with detailed descriptions, without the slightest shred of evidence for any of it. As Cory said, "It's quite fascinating and scary all at the same time."


Quite well worded.

Yes, in response to Robert, we do tend to pick on the Bible, as it is a well known standard and is useful in these conversations as an example.

With that being said, the actual concern isn't to do with what book, and what specifics, but rather that there are specifics and books at all.

What concerns me even more is that these beliefs are held by a good number of the people that I know, whom I consider to be intelligent, rational, and wise individuals.

I genuinely have great difficulty understanding how you cannot see what is so very clear to me. Of course, I suspect many of 'you' feel the same way about me.
07/05/2013 12:41:57 PM · #194
Originally posted by Cory:

Originally posted by scalvert:

Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Guys, GUYS...! You're still talking *Bible*! Get it through your heads: there's more to God than BIBLE! Bible, Koran, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, whatever, these are HUMAN surfaces laid on the primal armature that is God.

That would be deism, free of specifics but still an argument from ignorance (we don't know X, therefore God). The basic point is that literally every single assertion of God's possible existence necessarily rests within the unknown or unknowable, such as describing love, the nature of life or the origin of the universe; and every new piece of knowledge, from the natural cause of lightning and magnetism to germ theory, eliminates another hiding place once assumed to be the domain of this supernatural being. Yet despite a belief exclusively dependent upon what we don't know, followers will always declare with absolute conviction not only that God MUST exist (because we still don't know X), but also his specific likes, dislikes and demands for a favored group within a particular species of primate on a comically insignificant space rock in exchange for reward or punishment in an unknowable afterlife in other also-unknowable dimensions. Even if we managed to find rational answers to all the big questions, there would still be fervent believers in God, miracles and heaven, complete with detailed descriptions, without the slightest shred of evidence for any of it. As Cory said, "It's quite fascinating and scary all at the same time."


Quite well worded.

Yes, in response to Robert, we do tend to pick on the Bible, as it is a well known standard and is useful in these conversations as an example.

With that being said, the actual concern isn't to do with what book, and what specifics, but rather that there are specifics and books at all.

What concerns me even more is that these beliefs are held by a good number of the people that I know, whom I consider to be intelligent, rational, and wise individuals.

I genuinely have great difficulty understanding how you cannot see what is so very clear to me. Of course, I suspect many of 'you' feel the same way about me.


Of course this is how most of us feel. On both sides of the fence. We can beat our heads against the wall to understand, but that understanding is never truly going to come.

I lost a cousin (my first cousin's daughter) Wednesday to drugs. 21 years old. Her whole life in front of her. She had just found the "scene" courtesy of her boyfriend and they got a bad batch of heroin (which is apparently a "cool" drug again). I'm watching, horrified as person after person posts about her being in a better place. Going to be with God, going to see long lost relatives that will take care of her, how she'll be an angel (though most of them type angle). I'm truly horrified. I honestly can't understand how people think that being dead is a better place.
07/05/2013 12:51:34 PM · #195
Originally posted by Kelli:

I'm watching, horrified as person after person posts about her being in a better place. Going to be with God, going to see long lost relatives that will take care of her, how she'll be an angel (though most of them type angle). I'm truly horrified. I honestly can't understand how people think that being dead is a better place.

It's a tough one. People generally jump on the bandwagon with these comments because they think they're comforting someone. I highly doubt they're thinking of the theological implications of whatever random stuff they're posting on Facebook. And I'm certainly not going to show up to a relation's funeral to tell the bereaved that "he's dead now, game over, get over it" (much as I'm tempted to in some cases)

It's like the DPC personal life threads. You can spot people's religious views by the 'praying for you' posts versus the 'thinking of you' ones. ;-)
07/05/2013 01:12:07 PM · #196
Originally posted by JH:

Originally posted by Kelli:

I'm watching, horrified as person after person posts about her being in a better place. Going to be with God, going to see long lost relatives that will take care of her, how she'll be an angel (though most of them type angle). I'm truly horrified. I honestly can't understand how people think that being dead is a better place.

It's a tough one. People generally jump on the bandwagon with these comments because they think they're comforting someone. I highly doubt they're thinking of the theological implications of whatever random stuff they're posting on Facebook. And I'm certainly not going to show up to a relation's funeral to tell the bereaved that "he's dead now, game over, get over it" (much as I'm tempted to in some cases)

It's like the DPC personal life threads. You can spot people's religious views by the 'praying for you' posts versus the 'thinking of you' ones. ;-)


Of course, the real concern here to me is this:

Not only does this make some folks sadly look forward to death, but what's even more saddening is that the whole concept of an afterlife is almost certainly nothing more than a very compelling sales pitch. It's so attractive, and seems such a comforting idea, and of course, it's the payoff from a life well lived and a religion closely followed.

Think about it. It's just another tool in the bag, used to manipulate people. Really, in my opinion, this is probably the greatest atrocity in history - but my views on that are probably rather unpopular - even some of the secular are drawn in enough by this very seductive idea to have their own version of these beliefs.

Message edited by author 2013-07-05 13:14:16.
07/05/2013 01:32:36 PM · #197
Originally posted by Cory:

Originally posted by JH:

Originally posted by Kelli:

I'm watching, horrified as person after person posts about her being in a better place. Going to be with God, going to see long lost relatives that will take care of her, how she'll be an angel (though most of them type angle). I'm truly horrified. I honestly can't understand how people think that being dead is a better place.

It's a tough one. People generally jump on the bandwagon with these comments because they think they're comforting someone. I highly doubt they're thinking of the theological implications of whatever random stuff they're posting on Facebook. And I'm certainly not going to show up to a relation's funeral to tell the bereaved that "he's dead now, game over, get over it" (much as I'm tempted to in some cases)

It's like the DPC personal life threads. You can spot people's religious views by the 'praying for you' posts versus the 'thinking of you' ones. ;-)


Of course, the real concern here to me is this:

Not only does this make some folks sadly look forward to death, but what's even more saddening is that the whole concept of an afterlife is almost certainly nothing more than a very compelling sales pitch. It's so attractive, and seems such a comforting idea, and of course, it's the payoff from a life well lived and a religion closely followed.

Think about it. It's just another tool in the bag, used to manipulate people. Really, in my opinion, this is probably the greatest atrocity in history - but my views on that are probably rather unpopular - even some of the secular are drawn in enough by this very seductive idea to have their own version of these beliefs.


Agreed. I've had this argument with people in my extended family my whole life.

Someone actually had the gall to leave a comment to my cousin that went "God doesn't make mistakes, so he must have really needed your daughter in Heaven". I won't even tell you what that sentence converts to for me. Now, don't get me wrong, my cousin is a religious person. I can't count the number of religions she's joined over the years. She was raised Catholic, I know she joined the Mormon church, a baptist church, an Episcopalian church, and who know what else. Maybe these things really are comforting to her. But I can tell you, that if that shoe were ever on my foot and someone posted a message like that to me, I'd probably end up in jail.
07/05/2013 01:32:56 PM · #198
Originally posted by Cory:

Not only does this make some folks sadly look forward to death, but what's even more saddening is that the whole concept of an afterlife is almost certainly nothing more than a very compelling sales pitch.

Why? What makes an afterlife more compelling than 'nothing'? - Is it the case that 'nothingness' after death is a scarier thought to contemplate than the chances you'll end up in paradise for eternity?

For me, nothingness is a more logically compelling argument, I'm 100% sure that when I lose consciousness and die I will no longer exist as a person. It also means I make sure I make the most of my life and don't waste any of it.

I find comfort in knowing exactly what will happen to me when I die, rather than having to constantly assure myself that I'm worshiping the right God, obeying his rules etc., in the hope that I'll get to somewhere I know nothing about, and I'll have to stay there forever.

That sounds unbearable to me - the whole idea of it.
07/05/2013 01:39:57 PM · #199
Originally posted by JH:

Originally posted by Cory:

Not only does this make some folks sadly look forward to death, but what's even more saddening is that the whole concept of an afterlife is almost certainly nothing more than a very compelling sales pitch.

Why? What makes an afterlife more compelling than 'nothing'? - Is it the case that 'nothingness' after death is a scarier thought to contemplate than the chances you'll end up in paradise for eternity?

For me, nothingness is a more logically compelling argument, I'm 100% sure that when I lose consciousness and die I will no longer exist as a person. It also means I make sure I make the most of my life and don't waste any of it.

I find comfort in knowing exactly what will happen to me when I die, rather than having to constantly assure myself that I'm worshiping the right God, obeying his rules etc., in the hope that I'll get to somewhere I know nothing about, and I'll have to stay there forever.

That sounds unbearable to me - the whole idea of it.


You may not find it compelling, but I suspect that those who fear death do find it hugely compelling.

Message edited by author 2013-07-05 13:40:35.
07/05/2013 02:24:30 PM · #200
Originally posted by Cory:

...the whole concept of an afterlife is almost certainly nothing more than a very compelling sales pitch.

To be fair, there's a *bit* more to it than that. For one thing, the afterlife is a handy explanation for reports of visions or lights during some near-death experiences as Kelli alluded to earlier, although a far more plausible explanation is simply the brain going into desperate overdrive... not unlike dreams, and no more mystical (a remote Amazon tribesman will never experience a vision of Jesus or dream of snowboarding). It also offers a convenient gap for the supernatural soul, even if the whole notion of a soul was derived from a homunculus fallacy– the sensation that our identity is a separate person peering out through the window of physical eyes. Leaving aside the obvious problem this creates as an explanation for vision (another little person peering out through that window), there's also the little issue of explaining why a soul needs physical eyes and ears at all to perceive the universe if the same soul can be "watching over us" without them.

As with religion, only the general idea of an afterlife is common while the specifics vary wildly: ghosts, angels, purgatory, reuniting with loved ones, harps, wings, judgement, reincarnation and so on. These beliefs will be held with absolute conviction, yet must remain unprovable and unknowable in order to persist. Jesus supposedly promised physical resurrection, vividly demonstrated by his body disappearing from the tomb, and that has evolved over the centuries into a spiritual resurrection since disappearing bodies would be a cinch to test. Never mind that the spiritual approach renders the story of an empty tomb utterly pointless. It's fun to imagine awkward afterlife moments like meeting up with several divorced spouses, a repentant murderer meeting his victim(s), or maybe 40 virgins thinking "how did I wind up with this gig?"

Message edited by author 2013-07-05 15:26:53.
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