Hello Bob, I wonder would you mind elucidating these points a little further which you made here:

Similarly, for me, God is a useful idea.  There are communities of people who study and talk about God.  Just like with energy, there's a whole, vast literature about God, some of it pretty firm, some of it more speculative, a lot of it hard for outsiders to understand without extensive study.

We had recently mentioned opening a separate discussion on what your understanding of God is. I am an ex-Catholic and having grown up in Ireland and lived here for over 40 years I thought I knew all about what a Catholic believed. However I have no understanding of what your definition of God is. I have no problem understanding what you mean when discussing Physics but I am lost when it comes to figuring out what you mean by “God”. Anytime we have asked you to explain you appear to avoid the question by the use of analogies as to how Science works. That might not be as you see it but it does appear that way to me.

 “God is a useful idea” is the same (to my ears) as saying “God is a concept”. An idea is abstract and subjective. The idea of God is an idea. The concept of God is a concept. To me, it does not seem that you belief in a “real” God but rather in the idea of one. This also seems strange to me as you have a very clear understanding of scientific concepts and I cannot “get” how you can and also maintain that “God” is still useful to answer the bigger questions.

I understand all the ontological arguments from Anselm to WL Craig on one hand and Big Bang Cosmology to Quantum Mechanics (which nobody understands :-)) on the other but I don’t want to go down the road of Science vs. Religion until we get to grips with what your actual beliefs are, if that's ok with you.

So would you mind defining what (or who) God is to you and what your basic beliefs are?

Note: anyone can join this discussion but let’s aim to stay focused on the nature of belief.

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Enjoyable talk, @Belle.

I'm confused, though.  The speaker is a Buddhist monk, one of us darned religious people.  He's not making the same claims you are; in fact he even states that his religious/monastic life is central... "I go back to my heritage to find the inner resources to be able to help others [with a picture of a monastery on the screen]".  He's even advocating a program of regular prayer/meditation and religious indoctrination for children on the grounds that it improves cooperative outcomes.

I agree with much of what he says.  My question is why do you (or at least I assume you do)?

Buddhism is non-theistic, natural philosophy as opposed to a theistic religion.  We don't need gods to meditate, especially if one is trying to reach rational conclusions via meditation.

True. There's a huge difference between "I'm in touch with myself because I meditate" versus "I know what you should do because God commands it".

That is true for the original Buddhism as propounded by Gautama, but as Buddhism spread, it co-opted local gods and practices, the way Christianity grew by making the conversion a relatively soft landing, though Christianity adopted practices (e.g., feasts, festivals, etc.) rather than gods and goddesses.

One has only to look at Tibetan Buddhism to see how (poly)theistic Buddhism can be.

Dr Bob, I agree with absolutely every single word he said. He is not preaching Buddhism. He is not saying that he has a personal relationship with the one true God and that I too might have a relationship with him if I pray to him and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. 
What he is advocating for is so much richer....

I'm so glad that you liked it Dr. Bob. I liked it too because he is really talking about the balance of life and how we are going to go into the future and create harmony and sustainability in our world. He is not advocating religion. He is advocating meditation, mindfulness, altruism, cooperation, love and social relationships. These are things that I very very much agree with and this is the kind of world I want to live in. It is not based on "Christian" principles. It is based on Altruistic principles. Allow me to illustrate one of my favorite parts of his speech below:

But on the more global level, what can we do? We need three things. Enhancing cooperation:Cooperative learning in the school instead of competitive learning, Unconditional cooperation within corporations -- there can be some competition between corporations, but not within. We need sustainable harmony. I love this term. Not sustainable growth anymore. Sustainable harmony means now we will reduce inequality. In the future, we do more with less, and we continue to grow qualitatively, not quantitatively. We need caring economics. The Homo economicus cannot deal with poverty in the midst of plenty, cannot deal with the problem of the common goods of the atmosphere, of the oceans. We need a caring economics. If you say economics should be compassionate, they say, "That's not our job."But if you say they don't care, that looks bad. We need local commitment, global responsibility. We need to extend altruism to the other 1.6 million species. Sentient beings are co-citizens in this world. and we need to dare altruism.

So, long live the altruistic revolution. Viva la revolución de altruismo.

Dr Bob, he is not talking about God. He is talking about a vision of how we might come together as a species to solve the looming reality of what Climate Change has in store for us. That was the crux of his message.... Earlier in his speech he is advocating that altruism is the answer. He is not claiming that God is the answer. In fact if you read his entire transcript, God was not mentioned. 

The answers never come from praying to God, they come from real tangible efforts made by real people to come up with real solutions that was based on real facts derived from real scientific evidence to make real, sound decisions. When you think of evidence to support the God you believe in, the evidence comes from ancient literature driven by the culture of the people, the same way all religions are born. It is a way to feel secure in an unsure world. We can pray and pray all day long, but both you and I know Dr. Bob that unless the human species begins to take ACTION in the form of changing our behaviors so that we are not emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, we WILL face the consequences, one of which may be our own demise, and the demise of entire ecosystems along with it. This is not a matter of "God's will" it is a matter of our own stupidity and inability to coordinate and see long term collectively. He is talking about us changing that perspective AND QUICKLY. No God will fix the problems we face, only our decisions will fix it. 

Hi @Belle,

I think if you find Buddhism like this attractive then you should pursue it.  Buddhism, or at least some Buddhism, is a second cousin to my faith.  Buddhist monasticism in particular shares much common ground with Catholic monasticism, if you read folks like Merton. 

Hello Dr. Bob,
I appreciate the thought, however, Buddhism has its own set of dogma. I cannot fathom how you could even come close to likening Catholicism to Buddhism. Perhaps you could enlighten me? No pun intended.

As far as what is relevant to the discussion, about the video, I get the impression that just because he was dressed in his traditional Buddhist clothing that you are categorizing the message as a "Buddhist message." He was not discussing Buddhism. He was not discussing God. This is the beauty of being a "freethinker" (aka Atheist.) For me personally, I can decipher a message based on content, veracity, and authenticity without caring who says it. There are many things we are "told" that can be discarded as invalid no matter what authority speaks them. Authority that seeks to "know" the Truth is always attempting to trump reality with charisma, and underscore evidence with emotional manipulation. This is what religion does to people. It inhibits one's ability to think critically.

I do not need to become a "Buddhist." I prefer to think for myself, and be willing to change my mind if provided with evidence to support a claim. This is why it is a major bone of contention that we've been asking for a substantial reason we can really sink out teeth into as to what you believe. I would become a Catholic if you showed me reason to do so. Can you do that?

I can decipher a message based on content, veracity, and authenticity without caring who says it.

Really?  How do you do that, exactly? 

I ask because most people who make that claim do not proceed at all rationally.  Rather, they are responding to sentiment and emotion, and the extent to which the message comports with their own biases and those of their tribe/community.  This TED talk is largely sentiment and emotion, after all.  The fellow is giving a TED talk, not a research report at a scientific conference.

As another example, you have on several occasions claimed things about my faith that are completely and utterly false.  I suspect you did so because in fact you badly overrated your own ability to decipher veracity and authenticity, and instead adopted notions based on sentiment, emotion, and the biases of those with whom you associate.

So from my perspective, I'm afraid it's quite possible that it's your atheism which is inhibiting your ability to think and analyze critically.

I would become a Catholic if you showed me reason to do so.

Why should I be interested in converting you to Catholicism?

Besides, aren't statements like that a bit silly?  We wouldn't even accept you as a convert if you came for a reason like that.

Aren't you really saying that you would become Catholic if you really learned and accepted that the Catholic way of looking at things was better than your own?  You would need your own "reasons" (plural!), built up in your own mind, not Dr. Bob's reasons.

I do not need to become a "Buddhist." I prefer to think for myself, and be willing to change my mind if provided with evidence to support a claim.

Why do you believe that becoming a Buddhist means not thinking for yourself, or giving up freedom to change your mind?  That doesn't make any sense to me.  Buddhism wouldn't tell you not to think for yourself.  That's again your bias about Buddhism talking.

I can decipher a message based on content, veracity, and authenticity without caring who says it.

Really? How do you do that, exactly?

It’s called critical thinking skills :)

As another example, you have on several occasions claimed things about my faith that are completely and utterly false.

Can you provide me an example of something I have said about Catholicism that is utterly false?

Why should I be interested in converting you to Catholicism?

Aren’t you really saying that you would become Catholic if you really learned and accepted that the Catholic way of looking at things was better than your own?

You might be surprised to know that I would love nothing more than to become Catholic. I was adopted as a baby and the case worker told my parent that they were “chosen” because they marked down on their paperwork that they would raise me Catholic. For me, to become a Catholic would mean that in some small way I’m honoring the wishes of my biological parents, even though I do not know them. You don’t have to be interested in converting me to Catholicism, but for the sake of educating me on what I might discover, what can you offer me about the Catholic religion that I might consider for myself? I am open to learning…

Why do you believe that becoming a Buddhist means not thinking for yourself, or giving up freedom to change your mind? Buddhism wouldn’t bell you not to think for yourself. That’s again your bias about Buddhism talking.

I don’t suppose you’ve studied Buddhism? The Noble Eightfold Path is not something that allows you to think for yourself (as one of many examples…) Let’s look at them shall we?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

Grant it, there may be some elements I can learn from and take away from the teachings, but I will not live my life based in part on a 8 point check list of what something tells me is “Right.” That IS in essence taking away my freedom to decipher for myself what is True.

When you say “Truth” what do  you mean by it? On what basis can any human idea ever be True?

I intentionally capitalized Truth, and hoped that would jump out at you like it did.You’ll have to forgive me, I was on the bus writing that and now I realize I made some pretty big errors in communication…allow me to edit..****re-do***** lol

“Authority that claims to “know” the Truth is always attempting to trump reality with charisma, and undermine evidence with emotional manipulation.

What a huge difference one word and a few letters makes!!! YIKES!!!! So to be clear, I am not claiming to know Truth. I do however seek it. Those who claim to know it as fact must show me why it is true. Does that make sense?

“Energy” however is just a human word, describing a human idea or explanation which originated in a human culture and literature, and is pretty much perpetuated only by that particular culture and literature.

Is it “True?”

In the contexts that we are discussing "Energy" and "Truth" we cannot say that energy is "true" That makes no grammatical or conceptual sense. So no, "Energy is not True"...But we can say separately that energy exists, and truth exists. I hope that answers the crux of your question.

@Belle. +1
:-) Thanks Strega

Hello @Belle,

There's quite a bit there, and each item seems to merit some response, but it seems awfully hard to do that in the space provided.  Perhaps we can pick one or two?  Let me seed that with a few pithy comments.

These ideas of Christendom of which I assume being things like charity

Incorrect assumption.  Still, I'm a bit perplexed by your claim that charity, etc. are derived from evolution and sociobiology (whatever that is).  Can you explain that?  Evolution does not support charity toward those (non-genetically related) with whom you are competing for resources.  Sociologically, humanity engaged in slavery for almost all of its recorded history.  Your argument does not seem compelling.

But going on a "quest" means following a process of experimentation using the scientific theory, not the Bible.

Well no, actually.  New theories are a creative endeavor, not a process of experimentation, and there's no such thing as "the scientific theory."  One need only spend a little bit of time with Cosmologists to discover that each tends to pursue theories for personal philosophical reasons.  That is the nature of theorizing, especially about grand ideas.

 Am I right to presume then that you attend church for the community and social aspect, but do not infact believe literally in the doctrine?

No, that's not right at all.  Church communities I find both supportive and cloying, inspired and obnoxious.  They're like family members.  Some you definitely do not want to attend anything with.   I am a Roman Catholic because I believe.  "Literally" I cannot parse because we Catholics are not fundamentalist, so I'm not sure what you mean by it.

This is why I believe in the separation of church and state.

So do I, and so does my faith to a fair degree.  For example, the Vatican has several times remonstrated with clerics in Latin America who served as elected leaders.  That is not generally acceptable.  I think if you live in a democracy, however, it's unreasonable to expect people will not consider their beliefs when voting, or not expect their elected representatives to represent their beliefs.

Lawmakers should not be allowed to push their religious agenda into the lives of people who do not share their views. And yet we see religious lawmakers take away the rights of women, allow parents to deny their children medical care as they "pray for a miracle"

Now I'm really confused.  If it's bad for lawmakers to take away rights based on their beliefs, why do you want them to take away the rights of parents based on their beliefs?  If it's OK to take away the rights of parents in order to protect children, why should late-term abortion be allowed?

There becomes a greater need to take action, and a greater empathy that could never be understood if you have your eyes on the prize of eternity

I accept that that's your personal experience.  The problem you need to consider is that religious folks (in the U.S. at least) give both more money and more time to charity, so it seems hard to make a case for "greater empathy" on a broader basis.   In my faith many give up all their possessions to join communities just to care for the poor, the sick, or the dying.  Can you point to an equivalent among atheists? 

I think you have an odd notion that we religious folks are somehow spending our time thinking only about what we can get out of charity or some other silliness like that.  That's completely wrong.  That's not the teaching, nor the practice.

but again, these "sentiments" are shared within the animal kingdom

Again, in the animal kingdom, it is completely normative for males of most species to rape females so as to spread their seed far and wide.  Genghis Khan is a much better example of normative animal kingdom behavior than modern western culture.  I don't think your claim holds water.

What I think you have to face is that the way these values that you find noble and good got developed, get taught and are perpetuated on a societal basis is through religious argument.  People are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights and all the rest.   In fact, in atheistic lands like the old Soviet Union and Communist China, people are not endowed with inalienable rights at all.  Absent the counterweight of religion, the State becomes all-powerful. 


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