Another confusion thread about Christianity

In this thread :
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=113688

Hi sorry, I’m pretty new to the board so forgive me if i bungle up this one…

I’m not Christian, not did I have a Christian upbringing, so there are many things about that faith which I remain oblivious to. However, something about this rubs me the wrong way. Not the content of this specific post (that was actually quite refreshing), but the seeming implications for the general structure of Christianity. Specificly the notion of Churches and bibles. These two things seem to have at least one thing in common, and that is giving people an idea of what they are supposed to fear.

As I understand it, a Christian believes that sin is “bad”. “Bad” here defined as anything which seperates you from God (which I’m given to understand is the general description in Christianity for “Evil”).

Now forgive me from drawing conclusions here, however it would seem that ones own Ego boundries (ie: ones internal sense of identity -what is “me” as I use the term) would pose a threat to ones connection to God as they tend to be used to seperate oneself out from other things (that does seem to be their function anyway). This could very well include God and likely does if you’re talking about “God” as an abstact principle which is somehow seperate from the rest of nature or even removed from nature entirely.

Now since either of those principles don’t seem very useful as they would seem to result in anything with an Ego boundry as being inherently Evil (and thus making a connection with god a fight against ones very own nature- which seems to be an odd thing to do an ultimately if you are successfull some how, very self defeating because your motivation would be drawn from self loathing rather than love…takes a breath which would then mean that since God is love (or so i here) you would end up even more disconected from him by trying to gain some connection…)

Anyway, point of that rambling paragraph is that God as an abstract and seperate or “supernatural” force doesn’t seem to make sense in other than a dead-end sort of way so i’m going to go out on a limb here and make the assumption that God is an inherant and natural force of phenomenon, non-distinct from the componant parts of the natural universe (though as a whole may have an awareness, form of overall pattern which may be “more than the sum of it’s parts”).

So with that assumption in place, one can then see that a reasonable sequence to gain a connection with God and further that in the worl would be something as follows:

  1. If God is Love, then the first step to gaining internal and personal contact with God is by identifying oneself as “Godly”. Not in the sense of ego-mania but simply through acts of self acceptance and self-love (seeing the value of what one is as being a good thing because “good” in this context is connection with God, which as an inherant force exist internally and can be found both in the act of finding oneself “Love-worthy” and through Loving and appreciating simply what one is.).

  2. Now understanding that “communication occurs on common ground” (one of my favorite catch phrases), one can see the “Love-worthiness” in all things one observes and by loving them feel connected through that love (love within to love within all things). And since God is love, you are fact both connectied to and interacting with the world through God.

Now here come the problem with fear. Fear, as an isolating force has the capacity to cause one to refect something and thus lose contact with the “Godness of it” as loving an object of fear is a tricky matter indeed. In this context i can certainly understand why sin might be defined as fear.

However as I’ve pointed out, isolating behaviors don’t have to result in this form of disconnection unless, you are viewing the subject of that fear as outside the realm of God (which is the natural world as far as I can tell, and yes this would imply that souls and the rest of that mess are inherently parts of the natural world whether or not they exist in the quantified potrtions of it or not ) and thus supernatural.

Now it seems unlikely that a “supernatural” object would be capable of interacting in any manner direct enough to be sensed with the natural world. Why? Because as soon as it had done so it would have entered the realm of the natural or Godlike and thus be a natural of Godlike item itself. Something truely seperate from our world does not likely enter our world enough to be sensed let alone reacted to.

So now it would seem to me that the only sin (or as clos to a sin as you can get) is that of viewing something as unatural and seperate from God (nature, which must be Godlike as he is in it) and trying to spread that view to others (and thus promoting a sense of unlove for that object as it is seperate from what we can reasonably identify with the love we feel inside our selves (which is God).

That being said, doesn’t that make bibles, churches and every other item that makes an organized( or disorganized in many cases) attempt to dissminate knowledge of what is “sinfull” or desirable to be seperate from, the most “Evil” or fear inducing item set in the natural world?

At the very least it would seem that those things as I understand it are the most likely to cause a sense of seperation from God both internally in the form of outright rejection of aspects of ones self and externally by rejecting thing in others or in the world at large. (As seperate from first accepting them so that one can act from WITHIN the context of their existance as part of the larger whole we in case call God, and identify as love. )

Greetings, Wyldkard, and welcome to Straight Dope Great Debates. You’ve made quite an interesting contribution. It is always wonderful to make the acquaintance of a thinking person. Please understand up front that I speak as a Christian, albeit a renegade one. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God. I’d like to comment on your post, if you don’t mind:

Yes, sin does that. It separates you from God, but in a spiritual sense. That important qualifier will resurface soon.

Man is a dual being, much like particle pairs. He has a spiritual nature and a flesh nature. Please indulge this brief exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus:

A bit later, Jesus tells a woman from Samaria:

Thus, God is indeed supernatural. There is no natural evidence of any sort of spirit. There are only natural analogies.

A man’s natural ego is a closed consciousness, a unique set of experiences shared by no one else, not even his own clone. A man’s supernatural ego is spirit, and spirit, being eternal, is not localized. That is, all spirit is one. There is therefore no division of spirit. What happens with sin is not that spirit separates from God and lives elsewhere, but rather that it dies.

As Jesus pointed out, a man must be born of water (i.e., childbirth and the breaking of a woman’s water) and spirit (i.e., faith and the acceptance of God’s grace). A man’s spirit cannot live unless he gives it up to God. God, as the very source of the spirit, is holy and good. And He loves goodness. Rebellion against God is as risky as fighting against your parachute or tearing up your life vest.

Why don’t we start here, since treating your entire text at once would be quite daunting. In any case, we probably ought to find out whether the debate in this thread will, as I suspect, center around whether God is natural or supernatural. Where do we stand so far?

Main Entry: con·de·scend
Pronunciation: "kän-di-'send
Function: intransitive verb
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French condescendre, from Late Latin condescendere, from Latin com- + descendere to descend
Date: 14th century
1 a : to descend to a less formal or dignified level : UNBEND b : to waive the privileges of rank
2 : to assume an air of superiority

Regardless of whom you intended it for, was that necessary, kniz?

I thought it was a good faith question and answer. I learned from both of them.

Well, what I said was that sin separates you from God if you let it turn you away from God. Now, I don’t do all that well with naked epistemology, and metaphysics just leaves me confused. But I don’t need to understand it, thank God.

What you are is what God made. What you do, is what you decide to do with what God made. I believe you have free will, and can go where you want. But I also think that the potential exists for you to be immortal, beyond this physical world, and you can do that by following God. To help you out, God sent His son, to show you the Way.

My point in the thread in question was that identifying sin doesn’t bring you closer to God. Love does that. In the case where you cannot feel the existence of God, you should love each other, as if love itself were enough of a reason. Let God take care of the rest.

It really isn’t all that complicated. You can’t be somewhere God can’t be. I am not sure how that works out in a phenomenological analysis, but I never really think about that. I know my part. I am the saved soul. Mostly I just try to love everyone. When I fail, I try again. I haven’t gotten any further than that, so far.

Tris

[

QUOTE]*Originally posted by Libertarian *
**Greetings, Wyldkard, and welcome to Straight Dope Great Debates. You’ve made quite an interesting contribution. It is always wonderful to make the acquaintance of a thinking person.
Man is a dual being, much like particle pairs. He has a spiritual nature and a flesh nature. Please indulge this brief exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus:

A bit later, Jesus tells a woman from Samaria:

Thus, God is indeed supernatural. There is no natural evidence of any sort of spirit. There are only natural analogies.

A **
[/QUOTE]

Hi sorry, don’t mind the cropping, I’m not sure what added format I should have put in there to make it clear that it’s only part of a quote. :slight_smile:

First of all thank you, both for the warm welcome and for seriously answering my question.

I actually hadn’t considered the notion of particle pairs as an anology. It implies that the “spiritual nature” (as you put it) of a person may not nessesarily be physically co-existing with a persons “flesh-nature” but linked in behavior and consequence in a syncronicitous fashion. (Please correct me if I’m misinterpreting the metaphore, thats most of what I know about particle pairs on the table there). Now as I understand it, particle pairs are “created” at the same time and then slit off (roughly speaking). Are you implying that their is a point in time where spirit and flesh ARE co-existant?

Or are you talking about a level of reality which you consider to be “slightly out of phase” to use a sci fi metaphore?

My assumption is generally that anything that we can interact with enough to sense is probable entrenched enough in the “natural” world to be subject to it. So in that sense at least in that sense it is “natural” at elast while interacting with us. However it is entirely possible (at least as far as my phillisophical grasp of quantum mechanics is concerned) to have syncronicitous activity between two “eigenstates” (probably a butchered spelling).

My second assumption of the nature of things supernatural is that if they exist “outside of our nature” (although through an application of Occam’s Razor my natural assumption is that most “supernatural behaviors” are simply uncharted or otherwise unquantified (for various reasons) natural behaviors), is that they likely belong to another nature of their own with likely it’s own natural laws and “expected behaviors”. I would then assume that if two such states were in contact, that they would be so through

  1. Similarity, where behaviors which are close enough to match form linkages between the two states (ie: a physical law and a spiritual own which are at least roughly equivilant likely share the same unlerying mechanism although it is being expressed in a differnt context.).
  2. Polarity, wherin roughly anithetical mechanisms may be linked by containing their opposites in some part of their makeup (ie: if the “supernatural” we are disscussing is assumed to be completely different from the phenomenon we observe in physical reality then it a matter of the two holding each other in a form of stable balance).
  3. Through contagion, as in the notion of some part of, substance or entity from one states reaches out and manages through some thrid party behavior and enters into direct interaction with another state. It’s presence either continual or historical may indeed be forming stronger linkages btween the states.

Possibly these, a combination of them of maybe something completely different.

Anyway, the point of this theorizing is simple. I assume that people practice some form of spirituality because they have some kind of subjective experience that they believe can be best modeled in terms of I suppose what you would call, “spiritual nature”. I make this on the assumtion that a thinking follower of a religeon does so for reasons other than “my parents told me to and I never stopped”. On that assumption of experience, I then would say that it is a reasonble thing to do to attempt to clarify ones perceptions to the degree where one can make inormed decisions based on that input.

So if there is contact between spiritual nature and flesh nature then what are the behaviors of their interaction. At the very least that should be modeled. Based on what we know of the world we live in and based on at the very least the experienced behaviors of that interaction set, we can try and makes reasonable guesses about the behaviors and “natural laws” whatever they may be, of “spiritual nature”.

Then the hypothesis can be tested at least by practicing members of that the faith in question by alterning ones behavior here in the hopes of eliciting a congruent shift in interactional behavior which would be reasonalbe assuming our hypothesized spiritual behavior is reasonably accurate.

In doing so, you might be able to advance the cause of your “spiritual technology” to at the very least improve the effectiveness of your worship practices.

Splendid questions and observations!

There is growing evidence (although criticism exists) that there is a connection between the spiritual and physical realities through the brain’s limbic system. I recommend Phantoms in the Brain, by neurosurgeon and researcher, VS Ramachandran. In particular, see the chapter titled, “God and the Limbic System”. Whatever mechanism there might be, if any, for how this connection (if that is even the right term) might work is unknown. Interestingly, observations by Ramachandran and others in this area may be interpreted dichotomously: either man is producing a spiritual experience by natural means and thus creating God; or else God has given man the necessary means by which to discern Him. Science, as Ramachandran points out, may not declare either to be valid over the other.

—There is growing evidence (although criticism exists) that there is a connection between the spiritual and physical realities through the brain’s limbic system.—

Well, all except for the complete lack of evidence of “spiritual realities” in the first place- a concept which doesn’t even seem to have literal meaning (so no wonder it can’t tested).

What we have discovered is that when you stimulate a certain portion of the brain, you experience a “oneness” feeling. This experience is actually fairly rare naturally, but can benduced by people who go into trances, repetitive prayer, or other such hypnotic activitiess. Like with NDEs, what a person interprets this feeling as depends upon what the person believes. Theists, of course, interpret it as being a connection with their god. Buddhists interpret it as acheiving the desired destruction of the self. People who don’t have religious beliefs just think it’s really cool feeling. The Buddhists actually may be closest to the likely biological explanation, in that what appears to be happening is that whatever part of the brain that helps establish a sense of “self” is being shut off, so you begin to lack any cognitive separation between yourself and the world around you.

—Science, as Ramachandran points out, may not declare either to be valid over the other.—

Science cannot falsify the unfalsifiable possibility, though, so were pretty much stuck with whatever we can prove about the first one. Otherwise, it is impossible to prove a universal negative.

It’s just like firewalking: people pointed out that it took no special skill to do. But there’s no way to prove that firewalking shamans don’t have some sort of additional mystic abilities. Because there’s no operational definition for what these abilities are. It’s just that it is no longer necessary to resort to mystical hand-waving to explain the phenomena.

Same with the brain thing: essentially, what has happened is we have found a biological explanation for a particular mystic experience (one reproducible in the lab) that a few people sometimes acheive. There is really nothing more that can be said beyond that. There’s no longer any NEED to resort to the claim that anything mystical is happening: but there’s no way to prove that something mystical ISN’T happening either.