The Promise of Immortality in a Tech-Enhanced Heaven

"Singularité à l'orée du Bois": Photo by flickr user Fabrice Gillet via Creative Commons

Immortality, resurrection, the human place in the order of the things: these themes are generally claimed for religion, but they might just as easily be questions posed to science. Can a human being live forever? Can life exist beyond the body? What’s next in the evolution of the human species

Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity is a new book by cyberculture icon R.U. Sirius and co-author Jay Cornell—the perfect guides for this deeply informative (and wildly entertaining) trip across the transhumanist universe. I talked to both of them via email recently about God and sci-fi, synthetic children, Mormon futurists, and more.

Lisa Webster: The use of “transcendence” in your title is a great way to break the “religion” frame when thinking about immortality, the nature of the human being, ethics, the planet. But I’ll start by asking: what caused you to realize there was a need for an encyclopedia of transhumanism? And remind us of the implications of the term “disinformation”…

transcendencecoverR.U. Sirius: I’ll answer the first part, since it was my idea. I did an A-Z User’s Guide to the New Edge back in 1993, introducing the then-novel ideas of a cyberculture or cyberpunk — the idea that the digital revolution was changing everything. We’ve seen that happen. The entire world and its economy has moved online, speeding things up, “disrupting” industries, increasing our vulnerability to hackers and spies.

Now we’re at the beginnings of feeling the impact of robotics; 3D home production and the printing of body parts; nano-medicine, virtual reality (finally!) and so on. There’s even some talk about a longevity pill on the near future horizon. Even if that doesn’t happen, the potential for something along these lines needs to be on our agendas. So it seemed like a good time to inform people, in a very readable, playful way, about some of the technologies and ideas that are likely to impact our future.

Jay Cornell: Don’t be confused by the word “disinformation.” The publisher is Disinformation Books, which publishes various kinds of edgy content, and their use of the term is tongue-in-cheek. We assure you that our book includes no disinformation.

LW: Transcendence has been the province of religion, historically — the whole promising-of-immortality thing. What about the idea that transhumanism, the hope for tech-assisted transcendence of the human, is a whole lot of hubris?

Jay: I think the hubris charge has some sting, but first let’s look at history. There are many examples of humans over-reaching and thinking they can do things that they can’t. One of the big questions of 20th century economics was whether centrally-planned economies are better. As it turns out, no, they are much worse. I’d consider central economic planning a form of hubris.

However, there have also been many charges of hubris directed at people who ended up making valuable progress. “If God had meant man to fly, He’d have given him wings.”

I think transhumanism contains both elements: there will be real progress that, in retrospect, won’t look like hubris. Few will complain if medical nanobots cure cancer or dementia. At the same time, there are some starry-eyed predictions that cause me to raise an eyebrow. I think claims that the Singularity will “end scarcity” are naive, and I think the human mind is so complex and subtle, and so rooted in our meat bodies, that successful mind uploading will be far more difficult than many think, and perhaps impossible.

R.U.: Well, I don’t personally think that there is some ultimate seat of judgment — a God or what have you — that sets limits on what we should pursue or how we should behave or anything like that. But hubris is a real thing in the sense that we make our plans and we (some of us) think, “Hey this is going to go well” and we wind up in another fine mess. But we do need to resolve problems like disease and death, potable water, clean energy and, yes, scarcity.

I’ve got to also say that I think the most dangerous form of quasi-political hubris isn’t economic planning, although the totalist version of that certainly has led to a lot of death and destruction, but the assumption that we can do almost anything in the environment that sustains us and it’ll be OK.

LW: It’s true the idea of hubris or human overreaching implies that there’s a God, or gods, deciding how far is too far to reach. And, as you mention in the book, there’s a powerful dystopian sci-fi legacy that takes that equation to heart: we create artificial intelligence and it ends up taking over. One of the takeaways from transhumanism, though, if I understand it, is that (if we drop the mythology) the very idea of “natural” is not all that meaningful.

Would it be fair to say, though, that it is part of the nature of the human being, that urge toward transcendence?

Jay: I think there is something like a human urge toward transcendence. Humans evolved from animals and at some point went from simply perceiving the world to thinking about it. Many animals sense the difference between another animal being alive or dead, but only humans think about what life and death mean. Animals may perceive the stars, but only humans wonder about them. Add that to the mammalian motives and ambitions we’ve inherited, and I think you have an urge toward transcendence.

As for the idea of “natural,” you’ve put your finger on one of the central philosophical issues in transhumanism. Certainly all transhumanists at least want to stretch the concept of what is natural. Being healthy for 150 years is unnatural. But I believe the concept has a valuable meaning, if only as a check on hubris (supernatural enforcement or not).

People who believe in progress often fall prey to human limits of knowledge and rationality. Good ideas often fail because factors were missed or ignored or underestimated. Even the most enthusiastic transhumanists should remember that the reason anything is “natural” in the first place is because it works, however imperfectly.

R.U.:  What Jay said about transcendence. The fact that humans have brains that can envision or think about something that abstract probably inevitably means that we will. We also seem to have various chemicals in our mind that when activated give us visions of and/or feelings of transcendence.

And transhumanism is certainly all about transcending the natural, although it’s not because [transhumanists] believe in a force greater than physical and biological reality. A lot of people in the transhumanist world lean pretty heavily towards evolutionary psychology with its concordant ideas of biological determinism. But in a way, that may be a source of their optimism. If human tendencies are systemic in a fundamental, biological sense, then it’s a system, and a system can be hacked.

LW: In a recent-ish piece in UK Telegraph, fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana were quoted saying: “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” Also: “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.” 

This really became news when Elton John (who has two children with husband David Furnish who were carried by surrogate) was livid via Instagram: “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic.'”

This notion of “synthetic children” reminded me of our conversation — and I’m intrigued by the discursive weirdness of all of this intra-gay argument about what’s natural. Does transhumanism offer a way out of this cultural quicksand?

R.U.: Just from reading your question, I thought maybe D&G were trying to be cool and hip and playful and futuristic with language and this was a linguistic tussle over the use of the word “synthetic.” I’d prefer that.

Unfortunately, it seems that D&G are being trad and Elton is being his usual huffy self. Yawn.

Still, there’s some content in this. As you implied, transhumanists would like to pretty much wipe out the last vestiges of the boundary between the supposed natural and the synthetic or artificial. Calling someone synthetic would not be seen as demeaning. In fact, people will be more likely to be bigoted against the non-designed — the unenhanced — which would be just as shameful.

But I’d like to step back from this futurist perspective and explore the whole notion of authenticity versus the synthetic or the artificial in terms of gay culture.  Because there’s long been this discussion of authenticity versus artifice in art… and then in rock and roll… and a lot of gay artists — and gay culture in general — have been aligned with the idea that artifice is a good thing.  This was eloquently explored by Susan Sontag in her famous 1964 “Notes on Camp.” The artificial or synthetic or synthesized or hybridized creates a zone of play in which the solid boundaries of authenticity are elided and anything can happen.

And let’s not forget that Elton made his leap to superstardom during the glitter/glam rock movement of the mid-‘70s, which was all about artifice and campiness and which was a challenge to the prevailing (boring) blue denim authenticity of your Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, and that sort of thing.

You can, perhaps, trace a line from the synthetic or artificial in culture to the notion that our entire lives have succumbed to the artificial — Jean Baudrillard talked about living in the simulacrum even before the popularization of the internet.

And then, some people feel their food is artificial — from weird chemically enhanced junk food to GMOs. And then, we’re into the era of test-tube babies, three-parent babies, genetic choice regarding gender. And finally, we’re entering the age of designer children, which promises and threatens to add more genetic choices regarding temperament, intelligence, health and so on.

Anyway, the attitudes displayed by D&G against the synthetic and for tradition will undergo an unceasing series of shocks. Still, as long as people are allowed to have their own minds, there will be reactions. I don’t like the reactions, but I like that people can still have them. And, Elton, dear, there’s no need to get our panties all in a bunch every time someone says something regressive.

There’s a whiff of the mob in these Twitter storms…”

Jay: D&G’s position does seem rather old-fashioned, and even though I don’t agree, I’m a believer in diversity of opinion. I’m glad they have the guts to say what they believe, especially because it doesn’t fit with what they are “supposed to” believe. They are counteracting a certain form of stereotyping that’s increasingly pervasive, one that says people of various ethnicities or gender orientations or whatever are all supposed to think alike. So kudos to them for that.

As for Elton John and the boycotters, I wish people would calm down and not turn every disagreement into a political and economic battle. John Stuart Mill warned of the “tyranny of prevailing opinion,” which can be a restrictive, conformist force that isn’t officially censorship, but which can be just as damaging. Too often these fights move beyond the perfectly valid countervailing speech of “I disagree,” into efforts to drive people out of business for saying the wrong thing. There’s a whiff of the mob in these Twitter storms, and I don’t think many of the participants grasp that their actions are legitimizing countervailing mobs who might use the same tactics to go after the livelihoods of people they agree with.

Our transhumanist future will inevitably have major debates about what new technologies and enhancements are considered acceptable. I’m fine with that, but I’d rather they stayed as debates, and did not escalate into competing mobs trying to make unpopular opinions inexpressible, and trying to drive people out of their careers.

LW: So, regarding religion and transhumanism: we’re always reminding people that “religion” and “belief” are not the same thing. I’m certain there are scholars of religion who would say that transhumanism has some features of a religion: a cosmology, a set of practices.

You do confirm in the book that many (most) transhumanists are atheists–but does that mean a simple refusal of God or gods? Or is it something more complicated?

R.U.:  I’ll start my response by quoting myself in the book:

“The transhuman future does indeed seem to make many of the same promises as most religions: an immortality in a sort of heavenly place (a technologically improved world, real or digital, where most or all of the ordinary difficulties of biological life are transcended).”

However, I don’t think transhumanism has a singular cosmology. Ask a dozen transhumanists for a cosmology or a cosmogony and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers, particularly since the big bang seems to be turning into a whimper. And there isn’t a set of practices at all.

Some people eat whatever they want, exercise little and wait for the technology to do it all. Some people take hundreds of nutrients; eat almost nothing; quantify their lives; do all kinds of exercises and on and on. And there are all sorts of points in-between. That’s why I have to laugh at people who refer to transhumanism as a cult. There are certainly more than a few people in transhumanism who would turn it into a cult if they could (although they wouldn’t acknowledge this), but most participants are too slippery.

I would say that some transhumanists and singularitarians are sort of religious about it in the sense that they have faith. If they are certain that humans can live 1,000 years (or forever); that we can make [artificial intelligences] that far exceed human intelligence; that we can upload our minds into another medium – then they are involved in faith. If, however, they look at the science and technology and think that these things are likely to be possible but they lack certainty, then they are just science-based optimists or commoners deciding to accept someone else’s science-based optimism.

Jay: I agree with what R.U. said. I do see some of what could be called cultish or religious energy in transhumanism, but that doesn’t make it a cult or a religion. That sort of energy manifests in many human endeavors: partisan politics, followers of boy bands, the seemingly eternal questions of Microsoft vs. Apple vs. Android.

As for transhumanists and their ideas of God, it’s something about which I have limited knowledge. Certainly transhumanism can be considered another attempt to “immanentize the eschaton,” and a hubristic attempt to give humans godlike powers. Advocacy of those things seems to fit better with atheism and agnosticism than with many forms of religious belief, but there are religious transhumanists.

I also think that if Pierre Teilhard de Chardin were still alive, he’d read about the Singularity and say: “That sounds like what I called the Omega Point!”

LW: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about what you say in the book regarding Mormons. Intriguing the idea that Mormon theology might have some kinship with transhumanist thinking. Is there something particularly American in both, maybe?

R.U.: It does seem that the idea that anything might be possible tends to be peculiarly (but not exclusively) American.The Mormons themselves seem to have a unique view among most offshoots of Christianity, at least according to the Mormon transhumanists. They seem to believe in a sort of heaven in the phenomenal world. Who knew?

Jay: Transhumanism does have an American flavor: a dissatisfaction with tradition and the status quo, a restless urge to improve. As for Mormons, I’m no scholar of religion but I’ve read that all religions start as cults, and it usually takes quite a long time for them to develop into full-blown religions. Mormons went from being a cult to a respectable religion quickly, which seems very American.

  • Jim Reed

    Things are changing, or at least they will soon. It is fun to think about what happens when future possibilities are applied. If you want it to be accurate, keep in mind what is important, and that is money. What is profitable will be what we end up doing. There might be come common thinking between religion and futurists, but theoretical theology will lose out to what really works when people start investing the big dollars.

    Artificial intelligence has potential, especially if it is linked to the brain. An early version has been demonstrated. There was a program on 60 minutes about mind reading through MRI. They put you in a machine, and show you a series of pictures, and feed your brain responses into a computer, and the computer can tell what picture you are looking at. The incredible thing is this is not different for different people. They all have similar responses to the pictures, and the computer can do this low level mind reading the first time it sees a person. That opens up an interesting possibility. If the computer can distinguish different thoughts, then your brain can talk directly to the computer. Think of different letters, and the computer can follow what you are spelling. In the other direction, the computer could stimulate your brain, possibly through an implant, and feed data back into your brain. In a very low res version, this could be Morse Code. With some work the link can be more effecient. This means it is definitely possible to link your thoughts directly to a computer, and from there you are linked to the internet, and everything. It is possible for man to be a link of the human brain and electronics right now. It will only become more possible, and the link more powerful. Your brain can be linked through the computers directly to other brains, and your thoughts can be combined with supercoputer calculations received from the internet. As soon as people come up with ways to make money off of this design, it will be done.

  • advancedatheist

    I don’t know about the “immortality,” part, but transhumanists can start by picking a more feasible goal in the here and now. Some neuroscientists and cryobiologists think that cryonics deserves a second look as a way to turn death from a permanent off-state into a temporary and reversible off-state by approaching the problem as a challenge in applied neuroscience. Recent advances in organ cryopreservation can now vitrify tissues into a glasslike state, with practically no ice crystals, so doing this to a human brain could dramatically reduce disruption to the fine structure of the brain’s synapses, and it has the potential to become a game-changer for the practice of cryonics. These scientists have set up the Brain Preservation Foundation (easily findable online) to educate the public about this idea and raise money for incentive prizes to encourage scientists to push hard on the envelope of current and reachable brain preservation techniques. Two prominent figures in the skeptic community – Susan Blackmore (UK) and Michael Shermer (USA) – have signed on to this foundation as advisers, so they apparently consider the idea scientifically defensible.

  • Jim Reed

    Things are changing, maybe soon. We are spending years in space, and are now working on designs to get us to Mars, to live there. If we can establish ourselves on Mars, then we will start to spread across the solar system, and down the road farther. By we, I mean whatever we will be at that time. The moment we make the switch from earth to living in space or on Mars, we will start our split into two and then many more different species. The initial factor driving this will be gravity. When we are free of earth level gravity, we will start to discover the benefits of smaller gravity, like on Mars. Evolution will take hold and drive us much faster than it ever could on earth, and the speed of change will likely be multiplied even more because of what we will learn to do in the lab. The Elton John problem might seem like nothing. What if something turns up on Mars, and only the rare person has the genetic makeup to survive? Those few will inherit Mars. If there is not enough of them, they can make 1000 more in the lab. They will do what they have to to survive. They will be unpredictably different from us. Maybe it will turn out people can survive in micro gravity of an in orbit design. Maybe those people will be 10 times smaller than us, but with even smarter brains. As we spread light years away, it will be unknowable how many differences we will evolve to. Earth religions won’t work, so we will either be beyond religion, or we will believe in religions that are as different from what we know today as our evolved children will be.

  • Jim Reed

    Some people like Hawking and Musk are concerned that artificial intelligence, once it gets advanced enough, will take over the world and create a world where people like us are no longer needed. I think you have to look more closely at what supercomputers with artificial intelligence actually are. In a way they are the same as other computers. They are financed and built by rich people with the goal of making the rich richer. I don’t think we need to directly fear artificial intelligence. We only need to fear the owners who want to design a world where they are getting more rich, and that will be what the computers are set up to do. The computers might ultimately be 1000 times smarter than us, and take over, but the problems that result won’t be their fault. They will be the fault of those rich people who started the computers down that path in the first place.

  • Jim Reed

    Religious immortality never works, and cryogenic immortality will probably just lead to 100 unknowable problems, and even if it ever does work, it might not be judged to be worth it. People might rather spend their money on a personal immortal internet bot. The iibot will be a simulation of your thoughts and conversation patterns, capable of answering questions from your memory and holding a conversation, and talking through an animation of your face with your expressions. It will be on the internet forever, so your great great great grandkids can see you and talk to you, although they might find it a little boring and prefer to talk to their own iibots because they will be so much more advanced than the one you set up.

  • pennyroyal

    With all the problems in the world, I think this is self-indulgent and a waste. Just accept that people die and that you, too will die. There’s a morbid fear of death in our society that can ruin the lives we are living. Read “Staring at the Sun” by Irvin Yalom. Let’s face reality and stop the boondoggle. Millions of people die with dignity every year, reconciled with death. How unseemly (and how UnChristian) to want more time on earth.

  • PapayaSF

    Thanks to technology, we live longer and healthier lives than we used to. Why not keep trying to improve that? Immortality is only part of transhumanism.

  • pennyroyal

    Just being human is enough for me. I don’t need more or better (stuff) to be happy.

  • nightgaunt

    The point is to transcend our mistakes, our errors and build a better world. How selfish is that?
    However it isn’t our capacity, it is our collective will to do so for not just the individual, but our species. Until we can do that we doom ourselves to ultimate failure.

  • Jim Reed

    The point of humanity has always been the next generation. After we have established it, we are done. We long ago doomed ourselves to ultimate failure when we invented religion.

  • Northern_Witness

    This article is Atheist Lite. It is short on content, short on ideas and short on evidence of thoughtfulness – by the article writer, the transhumanist author and his co-author.

    It isn’t even convincing enough to serve as an effective blurb for promotion of the book being touted.

    Just one example:
    The co-author of this book, Jay Cornell, about Transhumanism says, “As for transhumanists and their ideas of God, it’s something about which I have limited knowledge.” It is not a good
    idea to write a book about that which one has limited knowledge.

    Another example:
    The main author, R.U. Sirius (get it?), claims that Transhumanist Atheism is not a religion nor
    a cult because its adherents do not share a common view on astronomy issues. He
    conveniently forgets that religionists can have different opinions about elements of their religion but agree on the deeper core of that religion. In addition he deliberately confuses “faith” with some examples of Transhuman experimental objectives. He ignores the underlying faith or creed that gives rise to those goals.

    Sirius is anything but. He is superficial in thought and merely a huckster promoting his book.

    One wonders why someone who has a Ph.D. in religion as the article writer/interviewer does would not ask more penetrating questions. Another example of journalism lite.

    But good luck with the book. I hope all three of you make some money from it.

  • CitizenWhy

    The three real issues for humanity are: … 1. How can we build communities of good will and fair practice towards each other, and towards outsiders? … 2. Is there life after death? … 3. How can we keep this earth environmentally healthy? … The concepts of God, a Creator, sacred books, and doctrines are distractions from these three issues.

  • Jim Reed

    1. Progressive society
    2. No
    3. Laws to control big business is step one here.
    A better question might be is there life before death?

  • Jim Reed

    Actually when it comes to God, limited knowledge can be a big benefit because too much knowledge might make you too religious. The deeper people get into understanding of God, the less understanding they have of reality. Case in point, consider the Trinity.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Unless you’ve actually been dead,a dogmatic”no” to question #2 is nonsensical,Mr.Reed.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Just because the notion of God as Triune can’t be made to fit into man’s finite grasp of the concept makes it no less real,Mr.Reed.You’ve never seen gravity,but the reality of its existence will manifest itself if you step off the ledge of a 20-story building,won’t it?

  • Northern_Witness

    “Knowledge” is linear and an outside view. It is inadequate to understand God. It can take one to the door of transcendent wisdom but it cannot take the aspirant through the door. There are other means of acquiring deeper wisdom and equipping people with those means is the purpose of religion except for the religion of Atheism. Also, the deeper the understanding of God, the more people recognize everyday reality as illusion. The Trinity, whether Christian or Hindu, is merely an attempt to break God down into bite-sized chunks on the theory it will be helpful to the ordinary human. Apparently that didn’t work in your case.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess you are right, the 20 story fall would demonstrate gravity. But the only reason people believe the trinity story is a billion other people believe it, and have been pushing the belief from one generation to the next for hundreds of years. If you step off a 20 story trinity construction, you find out it is just an illusion.

  • Jim Reed

    The bite sized Trinity pieces do help some with understanding. God is a concept, Jesus is a myth, and the Holy Ghost is a mystery.

    So we are in agreement here. The deeper the understanding of God, the more reality is seen as an illusion.

  • Jim Reed

    The evidence is everyone who ever died.

  • Craptacular

    “Just because the notion of God as Triune can’t be made to fit into man’s
    finite grasp of the concept makes it no less real,Mr.Reed.” – LCR

    Then what does make it less real? Because it is not demonstrably “real” at any level, despite yours and others assertions.

  • Northern_Witness

    The bite-sized Trinity pieces were framed mechanistically – cause, effect, and agency – to help the more literal minded people stuck in a logical/mathematical/scientific/ego-centric mode, such as yourself, to understand something that lay beyond the limits of logic and, I might add, language. But it didn’t work. You are a good example of that.

    Yes, God is a concept but it is what God is a concept of that is important.
    Similarly with Jesus. It makes zero difference whether Jesus was a historical person or not. What he taught and how he taught it are the truths that should be the focus. Incidentally, your use of “myth” is a bit cowardly. You probably use “myth” in the sense of false but “myth” is more accurately seen as a story that presents truths in non-literal forms because literalness is inadequate.
    And lastly, the Holy Spirit is a mystery only to those who do not understand it.

    Our words may seem to be in agreement, but your meaning attaching to those words is certainly not mine.

    Such linguistic legerdemain is a typical Atheist device to avoid taking responsibility for their inability to explain their Atheism clearly, to avoid having to admit their lack of knowledge about other religions, and to admit their intentional misrepresenting religions.

  • Northern_Witness

    Actually, if you understand that 20-story Trinity construction and take that leap of faith you defy the gravity of conventional wisdom and enter the Kingdom of God at will while simultaneously discharging your mundane duties.

  • Northern_Witness

    Here’s a tip: “man’s finite grasp of the concept” = “demonstrably real.

    Stop depending on the illusionary solace of logical, language and mathematics and find other means of gaining wisdom. A demand for proof means only that you stuck on measuring illusion.

  • Northern_Witness

    Religion arose as a response to a subconscious/instinctive awareness that the core of one’s being is the divine mystery. Religion is a collection of methods for making that subconscious/instinctive awareness of the sacred more conscious

  • Northern_Witness

    Hawking is an avowed Atheist whom according to his first wife, thinks that he is God.
    ( reference: Adams, Tim (4 April 2004). “Brief History of a first wife”. The Observer (London) and Ferguson, Kitty (2011). Stephen Hawking: His Life and Work. Transworld. ISBN 978-1-4481-1047-6, pp. 80–81.)

  • Northern_Witness

    Earth religions do “work” but you don’t understand those religions, their methods, or their goals.

  • Northern_Witness

    Two oxymorons: neuroscience and advanced atheist.

  • Jim Reed

    I have to agree with Northern Witness’ response here. You aren’t taking good measurements of the illusion.

  • Jim Reed

    I think most religions are an attempt to exploit Man’s instinctive search for awareness. The goal of religion is monetary or political gain, or both.

  • Jim Reed

    He does seem to be the only human who is immortal.

  • Jim Reed

    That’s the way I see it.

  • Northern_Witness

    Wrong on both counts.

    FYI: Elementary logic item – Just because some people misunderstand or misuse religion for personal gain, their doing so does not invalidate their professed religion.

  • Jim Reed

    The only way a religion can have significant monetary gain is by convincing a large pool of converts to provide that gain.

  • Northern_Witness

    “God” does not equal “immortal” To think so is merely evidence of an Atheist’s misunderstanding of religion. That conflation implies that God is an individualized entity which, of course, is not true.

  • Northern_Witness

    Significant monetary gain is not an objective of religion.

  • Jim Reed

    I didn’t say he was. I just said he seems to be.

  • Jim Reed

    When the religions grow big enough, it just happens.

  • Frank

    Well said!

  • Jim Reed

    Jesus is false in the sense that he is a collection of stories made up when they wrote the gospels, and the earlier written record of Christianity is different and doesn’t have those stories.

    God is a concept by which we measure stuff.

    I believe it is the church who pronounced the Holy Spirit to be a mystery. I think it was their way to explain what they couldn’t explain.

  • Northern_Witness

    More linguistic legerdemain to cover up mistakes. Your arguments/comments don’t have much going for them logic-wise or fact-wise.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Since Almighty God has revealed Himself to be Triune to the satisfaction of all who trust that revelation,”Craptacular”,it is at THAT level that it is demostrably real.The issue it not human assertions,but God’s revelations of His Nature,which is far,far beyond the understanding of finite man’s truncated,minute,cramped little mindset,no matter how much he asserts otherwise.You would do well to remember that despite man’s arrogant flouting of what he deems”knowledge”,when all is said and done,he is a mere blip on the vast panoramic vista of existence and creation;he knows what he knows,and granted he IS creeping along and gaining more knowledge,but that’s no excuse for arrogantly assuming that he,man,is the be-all and end-all of wisdom and knowledge.He isn’t,not even close.For all that we DO know,there is infinitely more we DON’T know,and a wise man (or woman),as opposed to a merely”educated”man who may boast a string of alphabets trailing his/her name in some misguided effort to assert their academic prowess,sometimes just sounds like an overly educated ignoramus.—PEACE IN CHRIST.

  • Northern_Witness

    As already mentioned it makes zero difference whether Jesus is historical or metaphorical the message is still the same.

    God and measurement are contradictory.

    Your belief is mistaken. The emphasis of religion is not on explanation but on access, i.e. accessing That which is not accessible by linear means. You are unable or afraid to leave behind explanation, logic, sense data, science, linear thinking and literal language.

  • Jim Reed

    But Jesus can’t get you into heaven, and for sure Jesus is not coming again if He never really came in the first place.

  • Northern_Witness

    The story and example of Jesus shows how one can to get to “heaven”. Jesus even said it is up to each person. What do you have against a personal effort?

    Once again, it makes no difference whether Jesus was a historical or metaphorical character. You don’t seem to understand that.

    But you do like to see yourself repeat the same logical errors and factual nonsense again and again and again. No matters how many times you repeat an error, it will not magically become true.

  • Jim Reed

    Once again It makes no difference whether Jesus was a historical or metaphorical character, and if Christians will repeat that enough times I think it might eventually make a difference.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Jim: So what is your version of Trinity?

  • Jim Reed

    God is a concept. We know this from John Lennon. Jesus is a myth. We know this from history. The Holy Spirit is a mystery, according to church teaching. And now we are learning the idea is to break God down into bite sized chunks so that people can understand better.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Well, I must say, reading all of the comment here was a lot more fun than reading this blog. Twas good for laughs – which I needed today. To me, wanting to live forever is the ultimate in self-worship. Would you consider some of us would rather you not stick around?

  • Judith Maxfield

    OK. Interesting take. You’ve divided “Trinity” in to three separate parts, not related, it seems. Is this an opinion or are you referring to a second source of authority?

  • Northern_Witness

    Your imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  • Jim Reed

    There are no sources of authority.

  • Jim Reed

    You forgot to say It makes no difference whether Jesus was a historical or metaphorical character.

  • Craptacular

    “Since Almighty God has revealed Himself to be Triune to the satisfaction of all who trust that revelation…” – LCR

    You could have just stopped right there. I don’t trust any “revelations” to be had from a group of old men claiming to be speaking for god or deciding which group of old stories speak for god. And, however flawed you might think the scientific method is, I will put my “trust” in those that can back up their words with facts and repeatable results.

    “A demand for proof means only that you stuck on measuring illusion.” – Northern_Witness

    On the contrary, “a demand for proof” is exactly what keeps me from “measuring illusions.”

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Wow…it’s a little sad,but mostly humorous,that you could do no better than that,Craptacular.But not unexpected;you and those of your ilk doubtless feel a sense of safety crouching down in the cramped confines of your truncated,tiny little finite minds and shriveled,dry dusty souls…how pitiful. ( By the way,I have no trouble with legitimately applied science;it has served mankind tremendously well.So your assumptions about how I view the scientific method and life -enhancing research is woefully misinformed.No suprise there;your overweening hubris won’t let you think otherwise.)

  • Jim Reed

    It’s a process and something that we have to go through. I went through it over 40 years ago. You struggle to believe in Christianity, and believe in Jesus, and believe in the commonality of the Christian bond with the rest of your family, and friends, and church. You tell yourself you believe 100 percent, and are completely committed in your love for Jesus, and will remain that way. But there is that little feeling you have that it doesn’t quite make sense. There is an almost all encompassing coverup so that questions just aren’t expressed, because we all want to be on the good side and go to heaven. Some of us just get stuck on that little feeling that if it doesn’t make sense, then the questioning must be done. The questioning just cascades, and you feel better because you no longer have to do the pretend game for something that is clearly wrong, and the more you look at it the more obvious the mistake was. That is the process.

  • PapayaSF

    It is generally not a good idea to write a book about that which one has limited knowledge.

    This is an inapt criticism. The book is not about transhumanist’s ideas of God. The book is about transhumanism in general, about which the authors have enough knowledge to write the book. Read their bios. Religious/spiritual issues are a small part of the book. Admitting to “limited knowledge” of the private beliefs of many thousands of people seems like humility.

  • PapayaSF

    You seem to enjoy using a computer on the internet, though. I think those count as “stuff.” ;->

  • Northern_Witness

    When an author admits that he has limited knowledge of his subject matter it does not seem that he has “enough” knowledge to publish. Perhaps he should have accepted his self-verdict and not published. There are many books that have been written by authors who have limited knowledge of their subject matter and their publishing only demonstrates that lack of knowledge. Virtually any book written by an Atheist about religion falls into that category (with the possible exceptions of Mystical Atheists or Spiritual Atheists).

    It was you that mention God and Transhumanism not me. Please do not attribute words and meanings to me that I did not make.

  • Northern_Witness

    Mr. Reed has been dead many times but doesn’t know it.

  • Jim Reed

    All people know about religion is what they learned from others. Follow it back and it leads ultimately nowhere. A book about religion is probably better if it is written by someone who has minimal indoctrination into religion.

  • Northern_Witness

    Your first statement is opinion only and wrong. It serves to highlight your ignorance about religion. Everything of yours that follows is wrong as well.

  • Jim Reed

    Think about it. What people know about religion, they learned in church, from people who teach them about religion, and that is the same place those people learned their religion. Other than just hearing from one person down the chain to the next, they also have the feeling that they get in their hearts of the Spirit talking to them. But they also learned that from church, and it is just one of the religious things passed down from generation to generation. When you get down to it, religion is nothing but religion.

  • PapayaSF

    You seem to be missing my point. The book is about transhumanism, about which the authors have bios which indicate enough knowledge to write the book. The book is a survey of a large and deep field, so inevitably it can’t go into infinite detail on every subtopic. One author admitted to limited knowledge about the views of God held by transhumanists, and you picked that as your example. But that is not startling or some sort of flaw, because that aspect is not the “subject matter” of the book, any more than are transhumanist political beliefs (briefly covered), or transhumanist tastes in music or computer operating systems or ethnic restaurants.

    In your other example you write “astronomy” when you mean “cosmology.”

  • Northern_Witness

    That is your opinion. And a wrong one. If you knew more about religion you would not hold that opinion.

  • Northern_Witness

    Contained in the Atheist notion of god is a disguised support of linear thinking, mathematics, science, and logic all as the source of al knowledge. But such dualism is by nature relative and will not bring the immortality sought by Transhumanists.

  • Jim Reed

    That must be how religion works. It has been repeated many generations, and it magically becomes true. True in the sense that people want to believe, and if they stick together as a group that gives them the authority they need to confirm their own beliefs. Who is going to question? Anybody who does must be a heretic, and quality religion implies heresy must be removed. All the concepts of religious type thinking come together, and magically become religion.

  • Northern_Witness

    You have just described Atheism. As one on the inside so too speak, your “knowledge” of it is evident.

  • Judith Maxfield

    You didn’t get my question. Again: Is this YOUR opinion or are YOU referring to a second source of authority? Care to respond?

  • Jim Reed

    I was born into Christianity in a Christian family, and what was a Christian nation. I mean that in the best sense of the word, not too conservative like today. That is what I work to understand. What makes us as Christians tick? Some of it can be understood, and other pieces, like the trinity must remain a mystery.

  • Jim Reed

    Nobody has any source of authority here because there is no authority. Nobody knows anything about it. Check it out with anybody and you will see. They all have no reason for anything they think, or they are following what someone else says, and that person has no reason for what they think. I know this might seem strange to you if you are from a religious background, but that is the truth of it.

  • Northern_Witness

    Your understanding of religion and Christianity is flawed and superficial.

  • Jim Reed

    I try to understand it with a sense of reality rather than understanding it the way it prefers to be understood.

  • Northern_Witness

    You tried but failed to understand Christianity.

    Your statement that only a non-Christian can understand Christianity is too silly to comment any further on.

  • Judith Maxfield

    That seems pretty negative to me. Of course there lots of Americans who fit your bill, lack of good education, lack of a safe environment, but most of of all to me, a lack of curiosity about the world. It not strange to me, I see it all the time. However, I am curious about you and how you form your positions. The one time I thought I saw something about you from an inner self – not the outward self, was your response to me about Rilke’s answer to a young poet and living questions, not answers. Answers to me do imply taking positions, which is what “belief” can mean in today’s society. They may not be informed positions but reflect cultural norms.That does not tell me much about who someone is other than, what I meant above, the outer self that conforms to norms of a worldview defined by an authority not your own.
    I don’t know you, so I don’t apply this to you, but wonder……

  • Jim Reed

    It seems kind of negative to me too, but I don’t know what else to do. What about the Trinity? Well pick a religion, and believe what they do, and then you have a belief, and an opinion about where it came from. Following that pattern, the only thing people will ever be able to agree on is they are right, and others are wrong, and that is supported by the belief that they chose. To me, I am still stuck with thinking nobody knows about the Trinity because they are all just picking a belief. I guess either you say religion has value because it is a religion, or you say religion doesn’t have value because it is only religious.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess it comes down to a question of is the only way to understand the brainwashing to get brainwashed, or is understanding only possible if you resist the brainwashing?

  • Judith Maxfield

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts -really.
    It wasn’t about Trinity specifically, mostly your overall approach in speaking as authority with positions, something we all do, even me, but it can be problematic and turn argumentative.

    The one good thing about religion – if respectful and accepting humans no matter what – you are part of a community to bounce yourself off of in relationship to each other and whatever is conveyed in attitude is about truly loving each other, gently and forgiving, knowing the God you say you trust is in charge, not you, (so get over it). The process is long and evolving as your attitudes change and open up to possibilities you could not have foreseen. I.E. Live the questions because you are not ready for the answers.

    I don’t care if you think Jesus was not a human. Its the story that counts. Unfortunately, humans will not give up on the idea they are supposed to have all the answers. Well, obviously that didn’t work.
    I’m living proof of that. It took 50 yrs. give up childish thinking. St. Paul wrote about “seeing through a glass darkly”. A good example of literal idea missing the point, but a metaphor saying it so much better.

    There is a North American Indian saying, “If you don’t know the name you are called by, you will answer to any name”. I finally know who I am, why I’m here, and yes, it matters.

  • pennyroyal

    Jews don’t believe in a trinity either. So much for our Judao-Christian version of a national faith (since Jews see God as one).
    I always dislike the lumping of Judaism into Christianity as many public Christians do these days. Were I Jewish, I’d be offended, but since I’m not I usually say that Christianity is a breakaway sect of Judaism.

  • pennyroyal

    not so much ‘quality’ of the religion but rather ‘purity’. Christians are always breaking into smaller sects, purifying out those who differ even in tiny ways.

  • pennyroyal

    I’m an atheist and I don’t see Jim Reed’s “knowledge” of it as evident. I have an MA degree in theology and can tell you that the trinity is a human invention, part of the Catholic church’s systematizing. It systematized a series of beliefs into doctrines and ended up with a rock solid seamless system that people have to swallow whole and affirm (statements of faith) or forever be anathema. Seems like a whole lot of fuss and a long way from what Jesus taught.

  • pennyroyal

    on is supposed to have an authentic relationship with God, that’s what Protestantism was about, no priests, no intermediaries. Just the individual and god, with the individual, in a ‘closet’ privately praying, not bouncing up and down preaching like the televangelists appealing for $$$$$. How unseemly.

  • pennyroyal

    methinks you are a Taoist Christian, as in, “the Tao that can be spoken (of) is not the true Tao”.

  • Jim Reed

    I feel like we are making progress here.

  • Jim Reed

    I think I understand what you are saying about the good thing about religion. I was from an accepting and respectful family. You can be loving and forgiving, but what if someone else is not with the program? What if someone is insullting toward your religion, and disrespectful of your beliefs? That is kind of the way I had to be. Argumentative, and trying to be problematic. What then? It can start to fall apart. It is not my fault. It is the fault of the religion because it isn’t good enough if you question things. It is only good enough if people accept it without question. The Trinity issue is just something to question. It doesn’t matter if Jesus was real or not, but either way, history still shows Jesus was not real. It doesn’t matter to me. But I still have to say Jesus was a myth, and argue that with those who think Jesus was real because they have been making such a mess of the world.

    You might be a peacemaker, but not everyone wants to be that way. I don’t know if this explanation can help any, but RD is complicated.

  • Northern_Witness

    You need to keep up. We have already discussed the Trinity and both JR and I agree it is homemade and so awkward it is useless.

    You also don’t seem to have a good grasp of what Jesus taught.

  • Northern_Witness

    FYI: televangelists are Protestants.

  • Judith Maxfield

    I think you are now sharing whats really on your mind and I respect that. So you were the questioning one. People are insulting and disrespectful and a question arises why they care so much to do so? Now there is a bag of do-do. I have to wonder is it fear that you won’t find answers that are real to you, and of course society keeps hammering at you to find “the” answer. To me now, that is a false position to take. If everyone is like me, than I must be right, or better yet, not alone, not crazy or stupid. Also boring.

    I don’t know what form of religion you were in that seemed to be loving yet not really wanting to hear your questions. I agree religion, but through and because of the people, may not good enough to respect your questions. I may seem to brag about the Episcopal Church, but I’ve been in two TEC communities that really do welcome questions. They will more likely engage in a conversation than argue or deny you. The first question I ever asked of a priest, she responded with “Interesting, what do you think? Tell me more”. No arguments followed, just a new relationship.

    BTW: The Trinity idea is a hard one to understand. To me, simply put, its the three faces of the same identity one can experience.
    Anyway, the trump card will always be compassion for humanity, not theology.

  • Judith Maxfield

    On another matter, I want to talk about Jesus being an in-the-flesh human that walked the earth and also the question about st.Paul’s letters.
    I think all mainstream scholarship pretty much agrees on what I’m saying. I respect scholarship that allows room for possible error, but also includes all available knowledge, i.e. the sciences as well as ancient collections of the written word seen as a group for comparison.

    To me, it matters greatly that a human being could do what he seemingly did to impact people’s lives for the better in the midst of a very harsh world. Millions lived and died who have never been known to us or their oppressors. Only a few, generally men are known, mainly because they were from the political and warrior class in what we call the First World. Their recorded histories were in a style that is not like that of today, mainly factual (sort -of). Legends and sagas to enhance their greatness were considered history.

    So how is it that a man, probably a peasant of the land who walked the earth and is known today? How is it that there is a written trail of very early church fathers who form a connecting line back to the death of Jesus? Not directly knowing Jesus but knowing those who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 and again in 132 (maybe wrong yr here). I believe the math is possible in generations.

    In this time of history, enlightenment was birthing. Jesus taught the most absurd thinking about how to be and live, totally counter to all that his world knew; love those who hate you, turn the other cheek, etc. It still seems true today. The crucifixion was real and done by the Romans to traitors and resistors. The church was in the beginning of formation but had no consistent theology. They were retelling the story and sharing the memory. Most knew Jesus or had seen him. They were dying off as time went on.

    Paul was more interested in his letters to those communities on how to live together. They all knewJesus or of him. It seems to me they were not lying about his existence, as Jews, it seems inconceivable they would lie. They all knew the outcome of Jesus’s life. But now, how do they practice what was taught? Paul would hear of these problems and write to them. Some of the letters are not consistent, and some are regarded to not have been written by Paul at all. In my mainstream theology laity education, a logical explanation for Paul not doing a bio on Jesus is that it was not his concern. people were alive who knew Jesus and besides, they all thought Jesus would return again. There was no need for a bio. To me, this makes sense. It seems good to demand of a dead writer what he should have included. I think Paul was developing his theology as he responded
    to each church.

    So. I have to correct myself on saying it does not matter what we think of Jesus’s existence. Jesus did not represent the warrior king to be a Messiah. The psychology is way to absurd for that time and place. To offer hope and teachings of hope to the uwashed nobodies, death a too common reality, and then to share as others did the betrayal and horrible death, abandoned by God in the end, was an event the people knew too well. It was real, it was their life. For me, its way too ludicrous to have been made up as myth. A good tale, myth or psychology of human behavior has no comparison to this.

    That this human lived and suffered as humans do matters to me greatly because its my story also.

  • pennyroyal

    I have a couple of books with the parallel sayings of Jesus and Buddha, both great wisdom teachers. It’s the wisdom that we need. Who ever talks about wisdom anymore? The Bible talks about the ‘getting (growth, attainment) of wisdom. This is deeper than dogma and manmade rules, far more available to one’s moral imagination than doctrines. Simple yet profound.

  • pennyroyal

    yes, supposedly, but they have turned the Protestant Reformation on its head. Televangelists have no humility and not integrity, no concern for people’s souls. They only want to consort with the wealthy in the Republican party. They’re just hucksters with million dollar jets and as many fancy cars as Mitt Romney.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Wh
    at”process”did you HAVE to go through,Mr.Reed? What are you talking about? Sounds like you found yourself entrapped in what I’ve come to regard as s”pseudo-theological quasi-christian”matrix that has the look and feel of legitimate Christianity,but is actually a carefully contructed system overlaid with a patina of religiosity labeled”Christendom”. In this matrix Christ Himself is actually absent; a false,man-made”god” has been positioned to replace Him,wrestled into position by various quasi-political manueverings that had their origins in Constantine the Great.This false pseudo-religious system has been in place for a couple of millenia now,anchored in place by strained interpretations of Scripture and a gradual accretion of supposed necessary”traditions” and hermeneutical smoke and mirrors,a sort of quasi-theological”Stockholm Syndrome”in which a few individuals gained control of the entire contrived,bogus, man-centered apparatus and proceeded to bring the masses into their thrall,and woe betide those who rebelled against this monstrous institution!! That’s describes to a T what you were struggling with,Mr.Reed.Take the word of someone who’s studied this system for over 25 years,Mr.Reed: however anyone views this religious system,they’re NOT looking at authentic Christianity.The simplest way I can put it is this: The Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ NEVER commissioned ANYONE to construct a religious system,and He didn’t invite us to a”system”;no,Mr.Reed . Jesus called us EVERY ONE OF US TO HIMSELF.I’m sorry to say that you,sadly were robbed of what should have been rightfully yours,as it has been mine for 40 years now,every sense I met The Risen Saviour at 2 o’clock in the morning of October 4th,1976 in a jail cell in Belzoni,Mississippi.And trust me when I tell you this Mr.Reed:NOTHING has or can match that encounter 40 years later;if anything,my relationship with My Lord Jesus Christ is deeper,sweeter,and stronger than ever.So…I’ll leave you with this: When I read your post,I literally had no idea what you were talking about;whatever you’re saying,it’s not been MY experience of the Christian faith in any sense I recognize,and that’s all I can say to that.If it was like that for you,I can see my you listed no Scriptures to outline your experience;the Scriptures couldn’t possibly present The Saviour as someone one would have to”struggle”with–He paid too much for us,and is more willing to embrace us than can be articulated by mere words.I would encourage you,Mr.Reed: His Arms are still reaching for you!! Go for it;trust Him–you won’t be sorry.

  • Northern_Witness

    Protestants will find it difficult to have an authentic relationship with God because their religion is based on protest, i.e. ego, and dualism. Luther was the epitome of that. He spent years as a Catholic monk undergoing rigorous discipline to control his appetites and just when it started to show the first indications of success he mistook those first signs for the whole story and proclaimed himself to be in an authentic relationship with God. This is unfortunately a common mistake based on ego. Luther disagreed with some practices of the Catholic Church, including sexual continence, so he formed his own religion with himself as head, of course, and went on to have several children and loads of money and influence. He was the model for the current Protestant televangelists. They learned their lessons well.

  • Jim Reed

    Yes, I have seen that story before. You were pushed to the breaking point, and when you broke you became a religious nut.

  • Jim Reed

    The loving Christian family that I grew up in knew how to pleasantly redirect questions. They were Americans, and that is what we do here. If sometimes things don’t quite make sense, how can you question that? It can be difficult. In fact, it might take a good part of a lifetime to figure out how, at least that was my experience. I left Christianity in the early 70s, and had questions, but I was afraid I didn’t really know how to articulate them. As decades passed, I tried a little bit harder to ask, but still couldn’t figure out how. I thought the problem was me. Eventually I tried even harder to ask, and started to realize the stronger you question, the stronger the resistance. And all in a loving, supportive manner. Only when you get to the point where the questions will not be defied, do you reach a point where the religion becomes a brick wall. For me that point was well into the 21st century, and I think I could only figure out how to really ask questions by posting stuff on the internet. If you take the kindest, most supportive Episcopal minister in the world, and cram unanswerable questions down their throat, and force them to see how evasive they are, you might get a different response from that first time you asked one of them one of your questions.

  • Jim Reed

    Mainstream scholarship might be influenced by their Christian upbringing. There is a lot invested in telling the story in ways that make it seem reasonable. People have the impression that many witnesses knew about Jesus first hand, but the story is still from decades later, and miles away, and covers up the clear evidence that there is no first hand witness. Paul had other interests, but there is a total lack of any reference to things he would have said if those later gospel stories were oral traditions in his day.

    I am starting to believe this might be what is behind the current issues of religious freedom. At some level, Christianity sees the writing on the wall, so they want religious freedom to not have to be confronted with the evidence that there was no Jesus. On the other hand those who question want the religious freedom to put the evidence out in the public record where all religions will be forced to somehow confront it. This battle is only barely getting started, and it might be above the pay grade of the supreme court to decide.

  • Judith Maxfield

    I wonder if you, like myself, begin in the mind rather than in a heartfelt something. My pastor told me I was an academic and I still feel very proud of that; proud that I achieved a great education and a degree from UCLA. I went on through other learning programs as well as a 4 yr program in theology. I love learning, concepts intrigue me. I needed to know the church I picked would respect that and it was not one of those crazy mean churches.

    What I understand now is this: Humans learn also from experience. We know this with children, but especially for boys. I have two adult sons and by working in education, I learned a lot about child psychology. We should not keep young boys stuck at a desk. They learn by movement as a prime learning tool. Maybe emotional lessons are worked out this way, not sure. What I am saying that what if in time, the heart part, feelings are to be buried deep for men. So, I think possibly mind and heart are more separated for men because of what society demands of men, especially in war.
    So, I wonder if experience and “doing” s the key formal of us. More than staying in the mind with questions, is there a time to move out of that; have experience in a healthy and supportive setting, have friends who engage rather then sidestep or shut down the questions. There is an art in language that is not violent but deeply connecting and also very real in face to face sharing. To be vulnerable and open and to hear someone bare their soul to you is truly a sacred moment to be respected and cherished. To me, that is the Holy Spirit’s presence. No theology necessary.

    The men I know in my community are very active in the doing; visiting men in prison and listening to them (no hard conversion stuff), now putting together a program for safe sleeping, showers, and food, but also learning life stories from the homeless. The word for this is engage. When I experience this, I am staggered that someone felt safe with me to share something difficult. I am deeply humbled and feeL I was a confessor for another life and will honor that person as one of God’s own. All I did was to listen and try to fix things.

    My older son is very male, believe me. He is very much a doer but also in his maturing belongs to group of men who do amazing community work together. He seems to have a balance of mind and heart, which he needs because he has two little daughters who talk 24/7. He is not religious, but seems to have the religious attitude about everything here on RD we care about. So, some of us are maybe too much in the mind. (me too) I come back to the idea of really “living the questions” with emphasis on the living part, but not to worry about the answers. They will come in their own time. Maybe this is about growing up.

    This again is long, but its for me as well.

  • Jim Reed

    I attended one year at UCB, and then made my biggest mistake and joined a cult down in Pasadena. My family was Christian, but I think my parents did not try to force me into conforming to a mode of thinking as much perhaps as some other kids. I could question things, and I thought I was maybe smarter than others. On the religion side, I had to conclude if it’s true, then it is true, and important, and can’t be ignored. That is why I got into the cult. You can’t just take this stuff part way. Fortunately, in a few years that all burned through, and I was finished with religion. I wouldn’t get involved with religion again unless it was true, and I am pretty much totally sure that can’t happen, based on 100% of all of the evidence. But I still lived, and still do, in a world where everyone else is Christian. Hopefully there is some way that Christianity can be ended. I know for sure life is better without it.

  • Judith Maxfield

    I sorta don’t get some of what you wrote. Its Ok for now. However, why do you insist on Paul leaving out what he should have written – according to you? There were first hand witnesses, Peter especially. I guess you want outsiders to be the witnesses. Maybe there were and they died thanks to the Romans. Also, names changed during the story so who knows. If Jesus was in human form, would it then matter to you? Do you know the story of the doubting Thomas? Maybe its a message for someone in a metaphor. Wouldn’t it be so jury prefect if only those in charge, had authority were witnesses and wrote about Jesus. People today want it to be easy in 21C eyes and ears. Not so 2000 yrs age when the vast majority were poor, did not know how to write or read to prove thing to you / us in legal or scientific terms.

  • pennyroyal

    that makes sense. Luther was obsessed with not sinning early on, while still a Catholic. Lots of psychological disturbance there and of course, the extreme hubris that lead to him founding an alternative to Catholicism (which was not his goal at the outset). But I can see where you say he’s a model for Protestant televangelists.

    I admire the Quakers and their ‘inner light’ beliefs, which come from deep reflection and prayer. And of course Quaker meetings where one listens for the spirit together in silence, communing. The opposite of ‘too many words’. I admire their social witness and caring for others.

  • Jim Reed

    Peter was not a first hand witness, it was just recorded that way decades later when they made up and wrote the gospels and acts. None of that was first hand knowledge. The theory is supposed to be the gospel stories were written based on the oral stories from the first part of the century. But if those were really the oral tradition of that period, Paul would have known those stories, and they would most definitely have influenced what Paul was writing. The only thing that makes sense is the gospel stories were invented later, and they were not there in the middle of the century. The more you look into it, the more you see there is no way around that. The stories are about the beginning of the century, and they were only known in the last part of the century, and not the middle, so they didn’t happen.

    It doesn’t make any difference to me, but still Jesus is a myth.

  • Northern_Witness

    I’m not familiar with Quakerism and so cannot comment.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Is this the makings of a new sc-fi novel,Mr.Reed?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    You have an MA in theology,and you actually believe that The Triune God is a human invention? Tell me,”pennyroyal”,did you demand your tuition money back from whatever school you got that degree from? I can only hope that you didn’t think you could mentally grasp the Nature of Almighty God as Triune from some book;that’s revelatory knowledge,only given by Jesus Himself,and certainly NOT given to any atheist.Seriously,pennyroyal,go get your money back. —PEACE IN CHRIST!

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    With all due respect,”Northern_Witness,neither you nor JR have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.If The Awesome,Glorious,Mind-bending Triune God could fit in any mere human being’s small,finite, truncated tiny little mindset,He most certainly wouldn’t be God,would He.Seriously,what are you people even talking about? What is it about religious websites that draws atheists like the proverbial moths to a flame? Frankly it’s a little weird,like you have no place to go.Seek help,NOW.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Yeah,Northern _Witness,and given your ill-informed remarks about The Triune God,so is yours.Pot,meet Kettle.

  • Jim Reed

    I imagine the changes that we are about to go through will become lots of novels and movies.

    Interest in going to Mars is multiplying in the last couple years, primarily due to SpaceX and their rapid pace of successful rocket development and innovation. Humans are now living years on the space station. Lots of people are excited about taking the risk and going farther, especially to Mars. We could have people living their entire lives off of earth starting in just a few decades from now. It is fun to think about what changes these things will bring.

    All we currently know about is earth gravity, and a little bit of weightlessness in space. What happens if gravity is reduced to 38 percent of what it is now, by living on Mars? Life adapts, and takes advantage of whatever environment it finds itself in. This change of gravity will be an astounding change for us, and all other animals that we bring with us. Total adjustment will of course take a long time, but the interesting thing is how fast the first few selections that we make there will tune our current genome in that direction, and how fast this will begin a split into two different species. There is nothing on earth that can rapidly split the human species into two different species. That 38% gravity can rapidly split off a different Martian human species. Once artists and movie makers figure this out, it should be worth some books or movies. Once we are on Mars, the movie will probably be shot there, by a major studio, and it might make billions when it shows back here on earth.

  • Northern_Witness

    The main message of Jesus was that each of us could as he is. That “God Consciousness” aspect of humans, so to speak, is also the essential message of Hinduism and Buddhism. The common methodology or process of those religions is to change and elevate the “small, finite, truncated tiny little mindset” of humans so that other possibilities can be realized.

    You seem to be in a minority position with your notions of an insurmountable difference between God and humans.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Sigh…I have had,and am still having,an “authentic”relationship with The Lord our God through Christ Jesus for almost 40 years,Northern _Witness,a relationship that began long before I had any idea who Martin Luther even was,so once again,you’ve opened your mouth and removed all doubt.What is wrong with you,sir? Do you actually know anything about the Christian Faith,seriously? I mean,I’m reading your posts and I am asking myself,”what odd,bizarre version of supposed”christianity”is this person talking about??” I’ve been a born-again, blood-bought, Spirit-filled child / servant of Almighty God for 39 years,Northern _Witness,have studied my faith literally from a to z for over 25 years now,and there’s very little that I don’t know about the Christian Faith.I’ve studied(and am still studying),everyone from the”Black Dwarf”Athanasius,to Aquinas,to Augustine,to Spurgeon,to Hodge,to Origen,to Tertullian…I could go on and on,but I think you get my drift.I have a modest,400 volume library of all things Christian;I believe our Faith is intellectual as well as spiritual,and can withstand intellectual scrutiny as well as any other field of knowledge and inquiry,the hateful pejoratives of atheists notwithstanding. (Someone on this site called me a “religious nut”not too long ago.I got a BIG laugh out of that”zinger”!!)–At any rate,my point is that I think you need to further your presumed understanding of what you THINK authentic Christianity is;you may be entangled in what I refer to as the”Pseudo-christian Matrix”,a sort of manufactored chimera that isn’t Christian at all.Here’s a clue : Simply put,authentic Christianity is rooted, grounded,anchored and centered IN CHRIST.That’s why properly speaking,authentic Christianity isn’t a religion at all;it’s a Relationship with the Risen Saviour.Sadly,human beings have erected various systems,institutional constructs,and pseudo-theological fantasies around the Person of Jesus the Christ,largely beginning with Constantine the Great,and that monstrosity known as”Christendom”began to take shape,and,well…here we are.Don’t get me wrong;mankind is a cre ature of order,so a certain amount of denominational organization is attendant upon those entities referred to as “church”.Even so,Our Saviour always invited us to HIMSELF,not to institutions and the building of religious systems.Anyhoo,Northern _ Witness,my counsel for you is: Don’t get too overly concerned with what Luther or any other supposed”founder”of any given system of religion did.YOUR question is: Who is Christ to YOU?

  • Northern_Witness

    All that “education” and you learned nothing.

    Has it occurred to you that your dualism is insufficient for a transcendent awareness of the divine?

    In addition, your out-of-control ego and your anger also prevent you from accessing the sacred core of your being.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Two things,Northern _ Witness:(1),it may seem to be quibbling to you,but Buddhism is an atheist philosophy,so it holds little appeal to a Monotheist like myself. (Even the so-called Dalai Lama claimed that there is no god in Buddhism,so… (2),the”insurmountable”difference between God and humans can only be bridged in Christ,and even then we don’t take on what is known is theology as His incommunicable attributes–omnipresence,omnipotence,omnisience,et.al. (I assume we’re referring to Almighty God of Holy Scripture;I don’t acknowledge any other.)—And among Christians,mine is anything but a”minority”position.We don’t waste our time tweaking and parsing God in order to re-make Him into our weak,frail,tiny little image.

  • Jim Reed

    It seemed to make sense in the context of the conversation we were having.

  • Northern_Witness

    You need to get over your insecurity and daddy issues.

    It is not a case of ‘tweaking and parsing God in order to re-make Him into our weak,frail,tiny little image”. Rather it is a case of following the ways of knowing our own innate divinity.

    There is a difference between Jesus and Christ. Jesus wanted all to attain Christ-Consciousness, the same transcendent awareness of God as he had. But “Christ Consciousness” has many other names in many other religions. In Buddhism, it is known as “parinirvana”.

    FYI: Buddhism is a non-dualist religion. There is no you and God , there is only God. It has the same goals as Christianity, Hinduism and many Jewish and Islamic paths.

  • pennyroyal

    thanks for the laugh.

  • Jim Reed

    That knowledge comes from Jesus, and Jesus only talks to religious nuts.

  • pennyroyal

    I only use the ‘nut’ term for “gun nuts”
    Most people with such religious beliefs harm no one.
    My beef is with those who try to impose their beliefs, and their religion’s doctrines on the rest of us.

    “Your right to worship should interfere with anyone’s right to worship” (or not to worship in the case of nonbelievers).
    Your right to interpret scripture is no more valid than my right to interpret and live my life based on that interpretation (or not, again in terms of nonbelievers who never-the-less have a system of ethics as valid and true as anyone else’s).
    I have in my work as a chaplain sat and conversed (and even prayed) with those who held similar beliefs and I respect that they hold their beliefs and their understanding for themselves and would never seek to impose them on others.

  • pennyroyal

    when people think this life is irrelevant due to their belief in an afterlife in heaven, they tend to deny their own suffering and that of others. Belief in a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ god keeps religionists from addressing environmental collapse and feeds the general denial.

  • Jim Reed

    You are right, that was a dumb thing to say. But still, when Jesus is a myth it seems to me it must take a special kind of person to hear Him.

  • pennyroyal

    I agree, a myth, a useful one for some people if used for positive results (humility, courage, honesty (with self and others), trust, fairness, etc. the Ethical verities).
    Yes, people are often self-deluded. That’s why one needs to work to keep their religion health.

  • Jim Reed

    And that’s why we need RD, a safe place where being honest is the only important thing, and religious beliefs don’t have to be given any pretend respect.

  • pennyroyal

    pretend respect is suffocating and sick

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Two things,pennyroyal:(1),Is that simply your own opinion,or can you back up this claim with proof,and (2),What the what is a “pie-in-the-sky-god?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Those who refer to the Holy Spirit as “it”most definitely don’t understand Him.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    For sure YOUR “jesus”,whoever or whatever that is,won’t get you into Heaven,Mr.Reed.

  • Jim Reed

    I am going by the Bible. Jesus is all the stories that were made up after Paul wrote in the middle of the century. Paul’s Jesus came from the old testament scriptures, and the Jesus of our Christianity today was primarily made up later when the stories were invented.

  • Jim Reed

    One example would be the church seems to be pushing people to overpopulate the world rather than helping solve the problem of overpopulation. Christians also often seem to side with Republicans over environmentalists, and are unconcerned about issues like air and water pollution.

  • Jim Reed

    or Her.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    YAWN…Have you been drinking the so-called Jesus Seminar Kool-aid again,Mr.Reed? Seriously,just let it

  • Northern_Witness

    To whom are you referring? My comments should have made it clear to you that if I were to categorize the “holy spirit” I would refer to it as a process. Even Jim Reed has not made the reference of “it”. Are you taking to yourself?

  • Jim Reed

    You believe the Holy Writ is the word of God, and Bart Ehrman thinks it is not. His research shows none of the recorded miracles actually happened. All of the latest research is going to make things tough on Christianity.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Sigh…Let’s try this once again,Mr.Reed…Unless Bart Erhman was actually there,his”research”can’t “show”anyone anything.Craig Keener,a Biblical scholar that I consider the equal if not better than Erhman,wrote a two-volume work covering Biblical miracles.Two Volumes totaling at

  • pennyroyal

    It’s up to the believers in the sky god to prove that god exists. Until then, I’m an agnostic.

  • pennyroyal

    not it he’s a Christian. Reincarnation is heresy to Christian dogmatics.

  • Northern_Witness

    Just think of the surprise that awaits those Christian dogmatics when they die. It brings a smile to my face.

  • Jim Reed

    I think the modern Christian approach is as long as they can say Jesus is or might be a real person, the miracles are just a matter of faith, and the religion continues. That approach will run into problems as it becomes clear history shows there wasn’t actually a Jesus, so the miracles and everything else in the gospel stories was made up. History shows this because Christianity is based on the gospel stories written in the last third of the 1st century, about what happened in the first third of the century, but in the middle is the writings of Paul that show there was no gospel stories at that time. In Paul’s day, Christianity was based on a Christ Jesus they were finding in old testament scriptures, and it was only later that it morphed to the gospel Jesus story.

  • Sam

    Why are you here? Is it “self-indulgent and a waste”? Or are you helping solve the world’s problem here?

  • Sam

    Like Skynet. It’s not its fault that it wants to exterminate all of humanity it was programmed that way.

    I honestly think there is a lesson there for how we should think about humanity.

  • Sam

    To be honest I think you are the one distorting.

  • Sam

    I agree with the majority of what you said but I was curious if you would be so kind as to elaborate on “Earth religions won’t work”.

  • Jim Reed

    Christianity has spent thousands of years believing that a giant Jesus will appear in the sky, and set up a kingdom and rule the world from Jerusalem. When there are a trillion of us living in the outer solar system, we won’t care that much about what happens in Jerusalem.

    We see humans as a unique species, probably the only one with a soul that goes to heaven. What happens when we are thousands of different species? Our current ideas about humans being unique won’t quite work any more.

    I imagine there will be lots more reasons why earth religions won’t work across the universe beyond what I could ever think of. Check back in a thousand years, or a million for more reasons.

  • Jim Reed

    I think there is a lesson here for how we should think about the rich controlling humanity.

  • Sam

    But are the rich just programmed that way?

  • Sam

    That covers Christianity. What about the rest?

  • Jim Reed

    There is a little more to that question. The US is the superpower, and has a lot of impact on the rest of the world. When Christianity fails, my own personal opinion is most of us here in America are not going to be looking for what is our second choice religion. We aren’t going to pick from Scientology or Buddhist or Hindu or whatever. We are going to say we have had enough religion for a while, so give it a rest. Without the influence of Christianity, there will be less pressure to keep the other religions going, and they all can start to deflate.

  • Jim Reed

    Yes, but we shouldn’t make it easier for them by voting to give them whatever they want.

  • Jim Reed

    Of course that makes it more fun.

  • Sam

    Interesting perspective but I don’t feel it answered my question though. I understand where you are going though and I understand how irrelevant you hold the entire line of thought to be.

  • Sam

    Or to purchase the loyalty of those who seek power.

    Although I think that Steinbeck got it right, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

  • Sam

    But how would that help further the dialogue?

  • Jim Reed

    I think you need Islam as a kind of counterweight to Christianity. In fact, all the religions are probably growing and developing as counterweights against each other. If we want them all to start to relax, I think Christianity is the key religion where it has to start because we are the economic and social superpower in addition to the military superpower. If we can admit our religion was a mistake, others might follow.

  • Jim Reed

    That explains a lot.

  • Jim Reed

    It is the nature of the dialogue. It is not so much two way dialogue as one side providing opportunities for the other side to exploit.

  • Sam

    Okay. I understand what you are saying.

    But the original inquiry was:
    I was curious if you would be so kind as to elaborate on “Earth religions won’t work”.

  • Sam

    About me, the American people, Steinbeck, or, more broadly, how humanity is programmed?

  • Sam

    I see.

    So it would logically follow from that operational definition of dialogue for me to say:

    SO you admit you are just an exploiter!

    I suppose if that is the definition of dialogue I would like to advocate for a new one. Something along the lines of mutual understanding….

  • Jim Reed

    The Steinbeck quote. I wasn’t familiar with it. It is impressive considering he wrote it decades ago, and not recently.

  • Jim Reed

    Exploiting is not a bad thing in this case, is it? We are trying to be educational.

    Mutual understanding has its time and place, but I don’t think it ever works when dialoguing with conservative religion.

  • Jim Reed

    When we make the jump to space and other planets, we will have a much more cosmic view of things than we do right now. I will try to explain it a little differently. Consider Islam. The two major sects can very clearly see the problems with the other sect, even though they have a hard time seeing problems with their own. In Christianity the major divisions, and even all the minor divisions all see the problems with all the other sects and divisions, but never see problems with their sect. Something has to eventually give. And when we are off the planet, our perspective will be all those people on earth are crazy.

  • Sam

    I can appreciate that sometimes the means do not match the ends.

  • Sam

    For example I can see how Christianities inherently human centric faith will encounter issues when we meet other life, but I don’t see the same failings in Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Hinduism, or Judaism. These each have universalist aspects, often over looked by many adherents, that would allow them to avoid the likely issues that Christianity will encounter.

    It should also be noted that just because two groups have different views and are from the same root doesn’t mean they are both inherently wrong. The CSA and the USA were cut from the same cloth but disagreed on a fundamental aspect. They were not both wrong about slavery though.

  • Jim Reed

    Meeting other life forms would have major consequences for us. Before that, just spreading across the solar system, and then beyond would I believe have consequences just because of us, and not even counting any other life we find. It is hard to know exactly what or how due to our currently limited point of view, but the impact will be felt. All those religions you mentioned have something in common. They have roots in the distant past. I think it is a common misconception that in the ancient past men were wiser, and closer to God, and they wrote scriptures and designed religions that are beyond what we know or could write today. In fact, making the move to space will turn things on its head, religioiusly. We will see things change as we leave the earth, and our species starts to go through changes, and all other animals that we bring along will also go through changes that we can watch and apply. Changes will lead to more changes, and we will see the gravity on earth is currently dragging us down, and we can reform our species beyond that. As we spread beyond the solar system, we will see we are not only separated in space, but we will also become separated in time. Religion will become something looking to the distant future instead of looking back at the distant past, for whatever value a religion might have.

  • Jim Reed

    You don’t see the match?

  • Sam

    The end here would be a mutually beneficial conversation that leads to mutual growth but the means would be a derogatory manipulation of what someone else says. I don’t see how that means leads to that end.

  • Jim Reed

    I don’t think there can be a mutually beneficial conversation with conservative Christianity. The goal is to open everything up so that the issues are clear to anyone who wants to see them. We can’t compromise with conservative Christianity and find some middle ground where each side is partly right. The best we can do is make it possible for others to see the problems there, and help them leave the religion, or maybe help others see it is something to avoid. Eventually it will shrink, and start to fade. In that process, the split can only continue to widen. That is why there is no hope to bridge the divide, but it is inevitable they will eventually disappear. The open question is the timing, and that is an area where we can make progress and help the world to heal faster.

  • Sam

    I concur that leaving earth, regardless of meeting other life, will have a deep impact on our species. It will effect us physiologically, psychologically, sociologically, and axiologically. What these consequences will look like are beyond the horizon.

    Something we have in common with these religions is that we have are a result of the deep past and we cannot separate ourselves, biologically or philosophically, regardless of our trans or post-human development, from that past. These roots will be with us forever.

    While some people view our ancestors as wiser, which is the go to position for conservatives, there are many who view them as less capable of understanding the human condition, but we know from our various studies of the past, both from written record and from physical records, such as ancient DNA, that they were us. They were capable of the same level of sophistication of thought. I think this shows that holding them to be wiser is a mistake but disregard everything they understood about the human experience would also be imprudent.

    As touched on above I find myself viewing religions from a different vantage than you do. I do not view it as intrinsically connected to the past or the future as all of them seem to incorporate an eye on each, but more fundamentally I think they are about our relationship with the universe and ourselves. So yes, I agree that our religions will fundamentally change but the root of those religions I do not see as irrelevant as I feel you are portraying them.

  • Jim Reed

    That is all true. But. When you look at what the religions are doing for us now it kind of seems like it would be better if there was a way for us to leave them in the past. It might be more practical to take this one step at a time. I think that is the point of discussions on RD. Personally, I think it is a problem to base a religion on Jesus.

  • Smknws

    Can a human being live forever? Can life exist beyond the body? What’s next in the evolution of the human species
    **********

    Human NO being YES

    beyond the body.. yes I had a NDE 30 yrs ago saw and talked to my whole family even ones who died before i was born .It was real i was told where to look for documents holy cow family secrets uncovered . I was also shown who i was in a past life so i would say where ever that place is that’s the place that holds all SOULS before we become “human”

    S ource Of U niversal L IFE

    how does one prove a NDE ?
    What’s next for the HUMAN species

    “we will discover that we are the creator who created us to continue creating a dwelling for ” his image the soul “

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well,shucks,Northern _ Witness…I suppose that we should all be grateful that The Holy Scriptures do a far better job of revealing who The Holy Spirit is than you EVER could…You stick with your “it”-based”process”; Jesus’description makes much better sense to me.—PEACE IN CHRIST!

  • Northern_Witness

    Aside from not answering the question as to whom you were referring, you now demonstrate that reading scripture is very different from understanding it. Here’s a hint: don’t read scripture literally.

  • Sam

    I can respect your position.

  • Sam

    I think that there is a problem with basing the idea of God on anthropomorphism.

    You see no one benefiting from religion?

  • Jim Reed

    It is definitely worth exploring if anyone benefits from religion. In fact, RD is the perfect place to check it out. We discuss things like that all the time. From the religion perspective, it can be difficult because they might have only personal opinions based on nothing other than the groupthink of that particular sect. But we are always happy to look into it.

  • Sam

    Psychology is premised on the idea of individual mental health and it has been found that a large part of individual mental health has to do with their various group identities.

    There have been a number of scholarly works done on mental health and religious belief. Perhaps science will also show the benefits of religious beliefs.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Fine,Northern _ Witness,I’ll clarify for you: I’m referring to ANYONE who refers to the Blessed Holy Spirit as an “it”.How’that? And do me the courtesy of not assuming that I’m not familiar with type,metaphor,and simile inre Scriptural interpretation and hermeneutics.The selfsame Holy Spirit determines the difference for us,and from my perspective,when Almighty God is speaking,I take EVERYTHING He says literally.Neither you nor anyone else can give me a valid reason as to why EVERYTHING Jesus said about The Holy Spirit’s identity,Person,and purpose should NOT be taken literally.The Lord our God may be unclear to you,but to those of us to take His revelations on faith,He’s not hard to understand at all.Read Proverbs 3 : 5-6,and mull and reflect,my friend.

  • Jim Reed

    Would that be a reason to believe?

  • Jim Reed

    NDE is different from death. Your brain is still living and working, even if it is under stress and may not be working normally.

  • Northern_Witness

    Laurence Charles Ringo. “Fine,Northern _ Witness,I’ll clarify for you: I’m referring to ANYONE who refers to the Blessed Holy Spirit as an “it”.How’that?”

    Northern Witness: Again neither Jim Reed nor myself have done that so why have you introduced such a non-sequitur?

    Also, you are a Bible literalist and as such have not a clue about Christianity. It is that literalism that prevents you from understanding scripture. That Proverbs reference is merely cautioning against allowing ego to control one. You have failed that test. Instead of quoting scripture to assuage your ego make sure you understand the scripture you quote.

  • Sam

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. I think at that point it would be a matter of personal prerogative. Does it lead to a better life for the individual and for the community. Better here being extremely subjective. It would have to serve a utilitarian purpose, IMO, of increasing the subjective personal quality of life while increasing group happiness with an eye to long term development. Perhaps becoming a Shaker truly will make people happier than any other path but it leads to extinction so it may be pretty pointless.

    But the question with any belief is the spill over into other thoughts. For example let’s say an individual decides to believe that Jesus is the blood sacrifice to “H”imself as the avatar of “H”is thus atoning as a blood sacrifice for the “Fall of Man” that “H”e willfully either caused or put in place (depending on your perspective of free will). This belief alone though does not necessitate that one must believe that the earth is 6000 years old or that humankind cannot effect the climate or that evolution did not take place, though it may likely lead to a humano-centric view of the universe. Those are optional al a carte items, if you will. But when intellectual authority is handed over to individuals who have no intellectual basis for making determinations on matters there are issues and an over all decrease in the likely overall utilitarian happiness of the individual or group.

    Sidebar:
    Though to be honest my overwhelming ignorance about what is really out there or what we will discover as time passes does leave me in the position where I am making an untestable assumption about what will be “best” for humanity and lead to the greatest “happiness”. Perhaps the anarcho-primitivist are right and we should just abandon this whole civilization thing as we know it.

    I would hazard that yes, our individual and group health and well being should be our greatest concern. And if belief in the derisively labeled “Sky Daddy” leads to this well being than perhaps it should not be derided. But like anything it should be treated with moderation and not fanaticism.

    As I said though, what do I know? I am just one person on a blue dot orbiting a yellow star in on the edge of the Milky Way which is God-only-knows where, maybe.

  • Sam

    I think the evidence is clear that your answers regarding 1 and 3 are accurate, even if 3 is limited in scope.

    But I don’t have enough data to concur with your response to 2. How are you so certain?

  • Jim Reed

    I’m hoping to believe truth with no respect as to what harm that might bring to me or others. I know there has been times in the past when believing truth could get you labeled a heretic, and bring the most horrible penalty. Hopefully we are beyond that, but the only way to know for sure is take the risk.

  • Jim Reed

    Because billions of people have thought different with absolutely no reason, and they are always wrong about everything they think about God.

  • Sam

    This isn’t about why believers believe, either about God or the afterlife. This is about why you believe. It appears that you are making a faith based statement, regarding God and an afterlife, and that is fine if you are.

    Does your faith lead to such certainty?

    Does this same faith predicate your belief that “they are always wrong about everything they think about God”?

  • Sam

    Hopefully we will continue to progress away from the idea that certain beliefs, ideas, methods, and behaviors are heretical or treasonous, whether those are pro or anti-happiness or ignorance or even belief in general, but I don’t think we are evolutionarily built for that. Perhaps our descendants, the post-humans, will be free of our innate survival programming, but I find it likely the majority will still find it useful.

    Personally I think we should strive for knowledge, data, and wisdom, overturning every stone within and without. We should question everything and seek to understand it all. The truth can hurt. Both ourselves and others. And it can be a good pain. But sometimes we hurt people not to help them but to help us. To feed our own needs and desires. So one of those stones that should be overturned is the one about motivation and we should do our best to remove from it the glare of purity so we can see what it really is.

    We all hold that others don’t see the obvious, just as they hold that we don’t. Perhaps we are both right.

  • Jim Reed

    We may not be evolved for that, but we can still try.

    Even if the truth sometimes hurts, in the long run the error might end up being more of a problem. My feeling is if it is fixed sooner, that might end up being better.

  • Jim Reed

    Well what do they know about God?

    This might be about why I believe, and not about why they believe. but why is that?

    Darwin’s tree of common ancestry shows all life on earth is related. Is this a question of if all life forms from the last billion years have immortal existence in a spiritual heaven after they die on earth? Probably not. So exactly what is it about? The concept of humans being a separate category from the rest of life is just something written in the Bible 3000 years ago, and believed by everyone since then. We should forget about the eternal life question, and first work on the human life question. We don’t seem to have any valid thinking, either scientific or religious, for a belief that humans are somehow different.

  • Sam

    I hope my response was not misunderstood to support not trying and not facing hard truths. Trying is what after all leads to evolutionary change and as far as the hard truths are concerned I think the obstacle, as the old zen adage goes, is the path.

    I was attempting to convey that tact is a responsible and humane behavior. 🙂

  • Sam

    What they know about God isn’t relevant here because you are the one making claims about God. If your claims are unable to be tested and falsified does that not inherently make them your faith claims?

    If this question of who has an afterlife is limited to Christianity than I would agree with you. Christians, by and large, believe humans are something special (the Bible goes even further and puts one people above all others, a mantle many Christians now claim for themselves). But if this refers to Buddhist or Hindus than it is absolutely incorrect. Buddhist and Hindus believe all life, no matter how large or small, is part of the same eternal mix. Are your arguments regarding afterlives and heavens limited to Christianity?

    It should be pointed out your response does not actually provide any evidence, data, or facts that counter the idea of an afterlife. Just because you don’t believe in one doesn’t make it any less real than someone else’s believing in one makes it real. It is a (currently) untestable hypothesis and thus beyond the pale of scientific inquiry. Any claims to its existence or non-existence are merely a matter of faith.

    I am also curious about your statement “they are always wrong about everything they think about God”. Is this limited to the idea of an afterlife as well or is there other things that “they are always wrong about”? You did claim it was “everything they think about God”.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    You know what I love about Disqus,Northern _ Witness? This:…”If I were to categorize the”holy spirit”I would refer to it as a process”…this is what YOU posted two days ago,you who claimed that you didn’t refer to the Holy Spirit as”it”.So much for your concept of truth.And as far as literalism goes,let me reiterate: I take the Scriptures as literal as Jesus Himself did,no more,no less,and again,I make NO APOLOGIES for that,and neither would any authentic Christian.It’s somewhat amusing that in your exegesis of the passage in Proverbs,you practically turned yourself inside out to avoid the clear implications of what was being said,to wit,that Almighty God can be trusted to provide clear guidance to those who trust Him.But since Scripture doesn’t fit into your pantheistic,quasi-buddhist philosophy,naturally you are bound to continously seek to undermine the Word of God.But it’s a sad and futile endeavor,doomed-to-fail as all such Don Quixote-like quests have failed.The Christian Faith will NEVER be overthrown as long as JESUS IS LORD–EVER. At any rate,Northern _ Witness,I’m done with this fruitless”dialogue”; let us at least cordially agree to disagree,and part as gentlemen,yes? May the God you don’t believe in bless you nevertheless—PEACE IN CHRIST!

  • Jim Reed

    No I wasn’t saying you thought that. I was just going with my own thoughts which is, lets forget however evolution has programmed us and just think about what would be a better way. If ever there could be an actual use of religion, that would be it.

  • Jim Reed

    My claim is none of them know anything about God that is true. If there was anything there that was true, what would it be?

    I don’t want to get involved in checking all these different religions and their meaning of life after death, whether heaven and hell, or reincarnation, or rapture, or whatever else. In fact I don’t even see the need to get into the Christian version of the afterlife. I don’t think it is even important to get involved in the issue of does God exist, and can is it provable one way or the other? I think it is more valuable to get into a question where we do have historical data that can be checked and we can verify. That is the question of does Jesus exist? Once that question is resolved, Christianity can be resolved, and once Christianity is resolved, I think the other religions will start to fall into place, and the needed changes to our thinking can come.

    The Biblical Jesus story was written in the last third of the century, and is supposed to be about events in the first third of the century, but the written record of Christianity in the middle of the century shows nothing of that later gospel Jesus story. This means the Jesus story was just invented, and actual history shows it didn’t happen. I know this is a lot to absorbe due to beliefs of the last couple thousand years, but it is what we need to deal with if we want to make any progress on the religion front.

  • Northern_Witness

    “Process” is a verb and undefined, “it” is a noun and individuated.

    As for Jesus and the scriptures, there was no New Testament when Jesus was alive (if he was alive). Jesus was demonstrating an alternative to the vengeful Old Testament.

    As for God providing guidance, it is clear that you are confusing the promptings of your own ego with God’s guidance. Nice try but unconvincing.

  • Northern_Witness

    Think of “process” as a verb referring to an way of bringing into being. “it” is a noun and refers to a specific entity.

    Jesus didn’t take the New Testament literally because there was no New Testament when he was alive (if he was alive). Jesus’s teaching was antithetical to the vengeful deity of the Old Testament.

    It is not God that provided you with guidance, it is your own ego that is doing that.

    Here’s a new word for you: panentheism. But, hey, all religions are only different paths up the same mountain. it makes zero difference whether the top of the mountain is referred to God, G-d, YHWH, Allah, Nirguna Brahman, Satori, the Great Spirit, or Trickster.

  • Sam

    I see. Thank you for your candor and elaborating on your position.

    Have a good day. 🙂

  • Sam

    Okay. Have a good day.

  • Jim Reed

    So how would you rate the comments section of RD compared to other religious heresy sites?

  • Sam

    Is RD really a religious heresy site? It seems to have a large number of pro-religion articles on it.

    The comments themselves seem to be pretty standard. Plenty of people who “know” they are “right”. 🙂

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