Jump to content
The Education Forum
John Simkin

Science or Religion

Recommended Posts

You seem to be saying that scientific 'faith' and religious faith are two different but equally valid things. That makes it very difficult for me to argue that religious faith is the better without sounding intolerant and/or silly!

Ooops! You're on to me! Seriously, I am arguing that scientific faith and religious faith are different, and are equally valuable.

Now, as to why I don't subscribe to the idea that Jesus is the only route to heaven - first let me state that I don't think heaven is a place we go to when we die. I think what we have here and now is IT. There is no after-life for me, except in the sense that my bodily composition will be used again by other critters, and again after that. And my family and friends may remember me for a couple of generations. So heaven is here and now. So is hell. Which it happens to be at this particular moment depends mostly on my own actions and attitude.

Even if I believed that there was an after-life, I still couldn't buy the idea that the only way to get there would be through one particular religious entity. Human culture is far too rich to allow me to entertain such an idea. If I believed that the only way to heaven was through Jesus, I would be relegating people like Gandhi to hell, or at least to purgatory. If there really is a heaven, I'm pretty sure Gandhi is there, and so is Chief Joseph, and Lao Tzu, and Buddha and.....you get the idea.

So it would seem, at the end of it all, your belief system is centred around yourself and you do not in fact have an 'external referent' (although I'm sure you would argue that you do not believe it possible to have such a referent). What you believe about the universe is how it must be.

It is difficult to think that 'good' and even 'great' people such as Gandhi are in Hell. The problem is that Christians believe we all fall short of what God expects, meaning we need to believe and trust in Jesus to save us from our sin. That's why I'm so concerned about showing people the truth of Christianity - eternity is at stake here! :huh:

Christians believe in God and what Jesus did on the cross as being at the centre of their belief system. I would argue that this makes for more objectivity... :tomatoes

:plane Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My opinions about heaven are anything but science and are therefore, as you note, entirely subjective and centered on me. My opinions about the Universe (it is expanding, natural selection produces organic diversity, etc.) are science and do have an external referent and are objective.

Your opinions about Jesus, though shared by many people, are not objective. If they were, you'd be able to demonstrate scientifically how he rose and went to heaven.

I understand and appreciate your concern about eternity - it's nice of you to worry about others salvation. However, my "salvation" is really up to me, not you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I understand and appreciate your concern about eternity - it's nice of you to worry about others salvation.  However, my "salvation" is really up to me, not you.

And there I shall leave it - I'm not going to try to evangelise through a message board, it really needs face-to-face contact to get to the heart of the matter. We're agreed that scientists must invoke an element of faith in their work, and I admit that the resurrection of Jesus cannot be 'scientifically' proven.

I wonder what it would take for you to abandon your belief system and notice God?

:tomatoes Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Doug -

I believe I stated early on that I do, in fact, notice God. I am not an atheist. However, my God is not a Christian God, so if you are asking what it would take to notice your God, I'd have to answer "I tried, but that God seemed too limiting." What I mean by that is, according to my understanding, only those who believe that Jesus was divine and accept him as their personal savior can expect to be with God. As I've stated before, I simply cannot accept that the many non-Christians who have had a profound positive impact on the world are denied by God.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I certainly believe in the historical Jesus and regard some of his teaching as incredibly profound.  I just can't believe that the only way to heaven is through him.

Even if I believed that there was an after-life, I still couldn't buy the idea that the only way to get there would be through one particular religious entity.  Human culture is far too rich to allow me to entertain such an idea.  If I believed that the only way to heaven was through Jesus, I would be relegating people like Gandhi to hell, or at least to purgatory.  If there really is a heaven, I'm pretty sure Gandhi is there, and so is Chief Joseph, and Lao Tzu, and Buddha and.....you get the idea.

I very much agree with the two statements above. I also have another problem with Christianity. God is presented as all-powerful. Christians also seem to believe that he can be persuaded to use this power to shape events. It not, why do they pray?

Tim has already posted details of how God has intervened in his life. I suspect most Christians have had similar experiences. It is, after all, a very good reason to believe in the existence of God. As I said earlier, my mother-in-law had several of these experiences. However, it did not stop her leaving the Roman Catholic Church in later life because God stopped answering her prayers. In fact, I would put in stronger than that, she felt betrayed by the Church. She felt so passionate about this that she insisted on her death that she should be cremated.

My mother-in-law is obviously an unusual case. My sister, who for many years worked as a nurse, tells me that most of her elderly patients tended to find their faith just before their death. I suppose it must be comforting to know there is a heaven to go to when you are just about to leave this life.

I don’t object to this. I have no problem with people getting psychological comfort at such a distressing time. A friend of mine became a committed Christian after the death of his young son. He was desperate to see him again. Becoming a Christian who believed in heaven became the only solution to this problem.

My objection to Christianity concerns the intellect. If God is all powerful, what is his criteria for intervention. Why did he save Tim but not a nun who is murdered while doing charity work in South America? Clearly it is not an issue of belief or the amount of times you say your prayers?

I am sure that Tim has done a lot of good things since his life was saved by God. But what about others? Why did God decide to protect Hitler, but not my grandfather, during the First World War? Maybe God cannot see into the future. Even so, he had plenty of opportunities to allow him to be killed when his true nature was revealed. However, God did not do so?

You also have the problem of God only saving Christians. What about non-Christians, don’t they need protection? Every day, thousands of non-Christian young children die in agony. What happens to them? Are they denied their place in heaven because they happened to be born in a poor, non-Christian country?

If God is all-powerful he does not seem to be a very nice person. He might exist, but if he does, I don’t want to be a member of his religion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If God is all-powerful he does not seem to be a very nice person. He might exist, but if he does, I don’t want to be a member of his religion.

John, you (as someone wonderfully created by God) are judging the Creator. As it says Romans 9:14-21 says,

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who will, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will? But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honour and another for dishonour?

Just because we don't understand God's motives for something doesn't mean that He doesn't exist!

:tomatoes Doug

Edited by Doug Belshaw

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re John's last post:

John, you raise very good questions. Good because they are difficult to answer. Why does God intervene in some cases and not in others? I can assure you that God did not save my life because I was the world's best Christian or even CLOSE to it! So why does not God save the life of Christians in third world countries who are murdered for their beliefs? Of course, if Christianity is true, the martyred Christians will receive great reward in Heaven, but what about loved ones left behind who may have lost a husband, wife or child?

And, as you put it, why did God not intervene to allow the success of the plots to kill Hitler, which would have saved millions of innocent people?

Of course, if God always intervened that would take away human free will and the consequences of evil. Why would God not simply destroy all truly evil people so the only humans on earth would be practicing Christians and moral non-believers?

There is an answer to your question of what happens to young children who die in on-Christian countries. I have been taught that there is an "age of accountability" and young children who die before that age will go to Heaven even if they have not accepted Jesus.

Let me bring it back to a personal level. I have had disappointments in my life and I have been praying ferevently for intervention in a personal situation and that prayer has not yet been answered, and I am very disappointed that prayer has not been answered. I cannot explain why God would intervene and save my life (as He clearly did since there seems to be no other explanation for the audible voice that woke me up only seconds before I would have crashed head-on into a post at 55 mph) but has not intervened in the other situation which is of great importance to me.

So there are very difficult questions, to be sure. But the fact that we have unanswered questions does not mean that God does not exist. In fact, the voice I heard is fairly clear evidence to me that He does exist. And I assume that some day I will be rewarded for continuing to believe in Him even when all my prayer requests are not immediately answered.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I very much agree with the two statements above. I also have another problem with Christianity. God is presented as all-powerful. Christians also seem to believe that he can be persuaded to use this power to shape events. It not, why do they pray? (...)

My objection to Christianity concerns the intellect. If God is all powerful, what is his criteria for intervention. Why did he save Tim but not a nun who is murdered while doing charity work in South America? Clearly it is not an issue of belief or the amount of times you say your prayers?

The real meaning of prayer is to thank God for giving us our lives (incredible for atheists). God does not intervene in our lives, he only created the world and showed us, by means of his son, the meaning of our living in this world.

I am sure our hell or heaven is already here on the earth, but, if there is a heaven after death, Gandhi and Buddha are there too with all the other good people who based their lives on loving the others.

Why did God decide to protect Hitler, but not my grandfather, during the First World War? Maybe God cannot see into the future. Even so, he had plenty of opportunities to allow him to be killed when his true nature was revealed. However, God did not do so?

Why did so many people decide to follow Hitler instead of fighting him?

Why do so many people in the world still prefer war to peace?

Why do we still live in a world of ignorance and complacency with all the wrong aspects of our lives?

Changing does not depend on God but on us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The real meaning of prayer is to thank God for giving us our lives (incredible for atheists). God does not intervene in our lives, he only created the world and showed us, by means of his son, the meaning of our living in this world.

I'm going to have to disagree with you here, Caterina. The position it would seem you are putting forward here is Deism - the idea that God left us alone to get on with it as soon as He created the world. I believe that God answers prayer, meaning that He does intervene in our lives. Often, however, this will be in ways which were not obvious at the time! B)

I am sure our hell or heaven is already here on the earth, but, if there is a heaven after death, Gandhi and Buddha are there too with all the other good people who based their lives on loving the others.

Although it sounds initially comforting that living a 'good' life gets you into heaven, I'm thankful that this is not the qualification God insists upon! The only person to ever live a perfect life on earth was Jesus Christ. He therefore set the standard of what a good life consisted in. We can never live up to this, meaning that no-one would end up in heaven. Thankfully, God sent his Son to die for us, meaning that in believing and trusting in Him, and asking for the forgiveness of our sin, Christians can guarantee that they will be in Heaven when we die.

This is a hard and worrying thing to get over - although my parents became Christians after I did, my sister is still agnostic/atheist. Knowing where she's headed when she dies concerns and upsets me greatly. :(

:plane Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The real meaning of prayer is to thank God for giving us our lives (incredible for atheists). God does not intervene in our lives, he only created the world and showed us, by means of his son, the meaning of our living in this world.

I'm going to have to disagree with you here, Caterina. The position it would seem you are putting forward here is Deism - the idea that God left us alone to get on with it as soon as He created the world. I believe that God answers prayer, meaning that He does intervene in our lives. Often, however, this will be in ways which were not obvious at the time! B)

Of course you are right, but the point I wanted to make is that man cannot expect God to do what man is expected to do, nor can man consider him responsible for all the evil which is present in the world. At the same time I agree that it is very difficult to accept events which may go beyond our understanding, in fact only faith can help us accept what we do not understand. It is the same for children, who have got to trust their parents till they are old enough to act on their own.

And God is also a Father.

Although it sounds initially comforting that living a 'good' life gets you into heaven, I'm thankful that this is not the qualification God insists upon! The only person to ever live a perfect life on earth was Jesus Christ. He therefore set the standard of what a good life consisted in. We can never live up to this, meaning that no-one would end up in heaven. Thankfully, God sent his Son to die for us, meaning that in believing and trusting in Him, and asking for the forgiveness of our sin, Christians can guarantee that they will be in Heaven when we die.

This is a hard and worrying thing to get over - although my parents became Christians after I did, my sister is still agnostic/atheist. Knowing where she's headed when she dies concerns and upsets me greatly.  :plane

You are right, and I can understand your concern. However, if someone is questioning God's existence, they are probably looking for him, otherwise they wouldn't be interested in the problem. Many people convert late in their lives, although conversion should not originate from fear of what comes after death. Anyway, what happens at the very last moment of one's life is a great mystery and, in his great mercy, God forgives and accepts much more than man is used to doing.

Happy Easter!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the March 27 New York Times "Week in Review" re the Schiavo case:

. . .[T]his idea that all life is sacred has exerted a powerful force in America, said Mark A. Noll, a professor of history at Wheaton College, a prestigious evangelical school in Illinois, and the author of "The Old Religion in a New World: The History of North American Christianity. " It fueled the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, which insisted on the humanity of slaves, against the prevailing views of social science. In the early 20th century, the same ideal stood up against eugenics, which advocated forced sterilization to prevent the weakest members of society from reproducing.

In both battles, Professor Noll said, people who held the sanctity of all human life as a religious conviction triumphed over an Enlightenment contention "that said 'No, we can qualify this value' " - meaning the value of a human life could be determined by scientific thought.

As late as 1927, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the government could sterilize mentally retarded people against their will. "Three generations of imbeciles are enough," Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in the court's decision involving a woman mistakenly deemed retarded.

In this context, Professor Noll said, "the preference for life has been a protection against the exploitation of little people by big people." The conflict as it exists now began to take shape with the emergence of modern medicine in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, said Gary M. Laderman, an associate professor of religion at Emory University and author of "The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

More on the Schiavo case.

I just heard two doctors on tv state that neither an EEG or an MRI has ever been done on Terry Schiavo. I had not heard this before. These are fairly fundamental procedures to determine brain status. It is no wonder some people are so upset that she is being deprived (or will soon be) without due process of law. The clear intent of Congress was to give her a de novo review before a federal judge. Clearly the federal judge did not grant that full-fledged review (that would have, for instance, considered the lack of basic neurological tests). One person who argues strongly that she was deprived this full consideration is Andrew McCarthy, who as a federal prosecutor, led the 1995 prosecution for the World Trade Center bombing. A reference to his opinion is below.

http://www.nationalreview.com/mccarthy/mcc...00503250823.asp

Is it any wonder some people are so upset that the judiciary rushes her case through? Of course, to sentence a murder to death will require at least five or six YEARS of judicial review! And let there be no mistake about it: without the objective medical tests there can be no certainty that she would not pull out of her state, particularly with aggressive medical intervention.

Her parents want her to live. What can it hurt her husband (already co-habitating and having children with another woman) to let them have her daughter? In her current state, it may not make any difference to her, but to imposer the least hurt on the least number of people would be to allow her to live. I have a daughter and my position would be the same as her father's in the very unfortunate chance this should ever happen to her.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that you need to have more faith in the basic workings of the US judicial branch, Tim. The reason most commonly cited for why even this Supreme Court won't take up the Schiavo case now is that all the medical, legal, and ethical questions have been exhaustively examined at every possible and conceivable level in the system.

It's time to stop experimenting on this poor woman and let her die in peace.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re David's post:

It was precisely my point that all the medical tests had not been completed.

I also heard that the court had appointed a guardiam ad litem for Terry. As many of you may know, in America a court can appoint a guardian of a person or a person's estate (essentially someone who acts in that person's behalf) for the life of the person. A guardian ad litem is appointed ad litem (for the litigation) solely to represent the person in the litigation. There was a guardian ad litem appointed for Terry who had OPPOSED removing the feeding tube. How many people knew that?

I submit that it matters not to Terry that she "dies in peace" and there is no articuable reason it should matter to her husband. No one should be concerned if she is not killed by the judicial system. But her parents will be beside themselves if their daughter dies. Re the people really involved in the case, the greatest happiness for those people result if she is kept alive. No one loses; her parents gain. Seems a rather elemental analysis. Regardless of the moral issues involved in starving someone to death who does not otherwise need life support systems, the fact that several people "win" and no one really loses if she is kept alive suggests the obvious solution.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I just heard two doctors on tv state that neither an EEG or an MRI has ever been done on Terry Schiavo.  I had not heard this before.  These are fairly fundamental procedures to determine brain status.  It is no wonder some people are so upset that she is being deprived (or will soon be) without due process of law.  The clear intent of Congress was to give her a de novo review before a federal judge.  Clearly the federal judge did not grant that full-fledged review (that would have, for instance, considered the lack of basic neurological tests).  One person who argues strongly that she was deprived this full consideration is Andrew McCarthy, who as a federal prosecutor, led the 1995 prosecution for the World Trade Center bombing.  A reference to his opinion is below.

This is an interesting case and probably deserves its own thread.

It is clear right-wing Christian fundamentalists are trying to exploit the case of Terri Schiavo to their advantage. In reality, it is the first stage of the religious right’s fight to determine the next Republican nominee. As one political commentator, Andrew Sullivan, has pointed out: “Those of us who have long worried that unleashing religious fundamentalism into the bloodstream of American politics would lead to disaster can feel only that our fears have now come true.” Sullivan, is of course a right-wing supporter of Bush.

Let me remind you of the background to this case. Fifteen years ago Schiavo suffered a heart stoppage that was caused by her bulimia. Her brain was temporarily starved of oxygen and scans showed that her cerebral cortex had stopped functioning.

For several years after this happened, her husband, Michael Schiavo, did all he could to find treatment for her, going from hospital to hospital trying new therapies. This included sending her to California to have experimental platinum electrodes implanted to get her brain going again.

Eventually, Michael Schiavo, accepted what he had been told all along, that his wife would never be revived. Her electroencephalogram readings was and is flat – she has no brain waves. She has no ability to think, feel or communicate. Her random eye movements can give the impression of some kind of awareness, but her doctors insist this is not the case.

Since entering the coma her body has suffered a wide variety of problems that has resulted in having organs removed and part of her foot amputated. The sight of a human being in a state of disintegration became too much for Michael Schiavo to bear. He decided to let her die with dignity.

Terri’s parents, for religious reasons, disagreed with this decision. However, state law makes it clear that as her legal guardian, Michael has the right to make this decision. For several years Terri’s parents have fought him in the courts. However, court after court acknowledged the overwhelming medical data and the fact that Terri’s legal guardian was her husband.

The religious right then decided to get involved. They saw this as a test of their influence over Republican politicians. First of all they resorted to historical analogies claiming that Michael’s behaviour was comparable to the Nazi atrocities committed against disabled Germans in the 1930s (history has never been the Christian right’s strong point). They have also used their power over the media to smear Michael’s character.

The Christian right asked their politicians what they were going to do about this situation. Congress responded by calling an emergency Sunday session to pass a law to delay the process of death. George Bush showed his support by rushing back to Washington to sign the bill in the middle of the night.

Bush explained his behaviour by saying that “it is wise to always err on the side of life”. This is the same man who signed countless death warrants as governor of Texas. He also signed a Texas law that gave next of kin discretion to remove life support from a terminally ill patient in the absence of a living will.

Bush and his cronies are of course challenging the US constitution. This means trying to undermine the power of individual states to determine their own legal actions. Understandably, the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case. It is clear to the Supreme Court, and all other rational views on the US legal system, that the Florida’s courts have acted within the law.

This of course has nothing to do with the “right to life”. Last week in Texas a 8 year old boy died after his feeding tube was removed because his parents could not afford treatment. The religious right appeared to be uninterested in this case. Why? Because this raises issues like the importance of wealth over life chances. In Europe we already have had this debate and we have chosen the route of socialized medicine. That of course, has been rejected by the right in America. Therefore they can only make a fuss about someone who has got a good insurance policy. It has of course nothing to do with morality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...