Christian evil

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Amperage
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 09:10 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132162 wrote:
How does comparing population size make sense here?
Because some believe if God is perfect then, if He decides to create a world, then He is compelled to create the best of all possible worlds, thus population size matters.

Scottydamion;132162 wrote:
If god is all-loving then creating one person out of a million that would go to hell would be a sufficient reason to not create anyone at all.
Really? I don't see how you can claim this. Your saying God would have been better off not creating anything at all than creating a world in which He shares His love with all but some reject it. I really don't think you have much to stand on with this one. This may very well be the best of all possible worlds. Such that either God creates nothing or this. And if that was the case then I think an argument can be made in favor of something rather than nothing despite the arguments against.

Scottydamion;132162 wrote:
Is your idea of god so lonely that he has to create people in order to watch their puny lives play out?
God did not create existence for His benefit but for existences benefit.

Scottydamion;132162 wrote:
Why would a perfect god be "compelled" to do anything?
He's not, beyond His own nature, but you seem to think He is.

Scottydamion;132162 wrote:
"God has given sufficient grace for EVERYONE to be saved"

What a cop-out. If God (I'm assuming you're Christian btw) had given sufficient "grace" for everyone would not the entire planet be saved?
No, I'm not sure why you would think that. Grace does not intrude upon free will. It just means that God has paved the way for everyone to either accept or deny Him; no one can claim ignorance.

---------- Post added 02-24-2010 at 09:14 PM ----------

Krumple;132164 wrote:
I honestly took some time with this one Amp, because at first I was completely clueless to what you meant by it. But how can what you state here be true? I mean I know there are people who judge a person simply on their look or behavior and remark saying they don't want to be like that person. But on the other hand, if what you say is true, there would be no such thing as pier pressure. Conformity would be hard to come by.

I just don't think it works how you stated. I mean I personally do not make decisions based off someone else nor would I want to take the inverse of their choices just because I didn't like what kind of person they were. I don't think, "Well this guy is a christian so I'll do everything he doesn't do." That is almost absurd reasoning, in fact I don't even think you can consider it reasoning. I might have actually used this line as a joke once just because it would be incredibly silly to base your actions off someone just because you didn't like a particular thing about them.

Does your ears ever smoke?
I've read on more than a number of occasions people blaming things like the crusades or the church they grew up in as the reason they aren't Christians. I'm not saying it's the case for everyone, I'm saying it may not be feasible to be able to create a world such that, despite all the complex difference between people and their personalities and the interactions between a world, that everyone could be saved. I'm simply stating this is not out of the realm of possibility.
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 09:50 pm
@Amperage,
Amperage;132168 wrote:
Because some believe if God is perfect then, if He decides to create a world, then He is compelled to create the best of all possible worlds, thus population size matters.


That's the problem with an all-loving god who also created the world we live in. The two are seemingly incompatible. Infinite love would not leave room for infinite harm to the one loved, especially if that harm was for rejecting god's love, a paradox in itself.

Quote:
Really? I don't see how you can claim this. Your saying God would have been better off not creating anything at all than creating a world in which He shares His love with all but some reject it. I really don't think you have much to stand on with this one. This may very well be the best of all possible worlds. Such that either God creates nothing or this. And if that was the case then I think an argument can be made in favor of something rather than nothing despite the arguments against.


You are using the idea of absolutes here, all-loving is akin to saying infinitely loving. So I respond with an absolute, how is that hard to claim? It's the same idea as saying Batman would never kill anyone because he is the absolute symbol of justice, not of revenge. Is your only response that an infinitely loving god would settle for the "best of all possible worlds"? He's the one creating, he has the choice to not create, do I have to make it more explicit?

Quote:
God did not create existence for His benefit but for existences benefit.


What kind of benefit are you talking about? Benefit for all of existence? Or just those who find the idea of this god to be a good one? Why does god need to be worshipped or recognized, it doesn't make sense to punish someone for ignorance, even if you claim "grace" has been shown to us all, we are all still bound to how we have been taught to view that, and a Muslim child does not reject Christianity of their own free will, they reject it because of their parents, and that follows them into adulthood.

Quote:
He's not, beyond His own nature, but you seem to think He is.


Oh so now I'm the one talking about the impossible?

Quote:
No, I'm not sure why you would think that. Grace does not intrude upon free will. It just means that God has paved the way for everyone to either accept or deny Him; no one can claim ignorance.


I'm claiming ignorance right now. I have found serious reasons to not believe in god, and if he deems it righteous to punish me for this ignorance, then I doubt I would want to spend eternity with him in the first place!

Sooner or later you will have to be shown the gall that such statements bring with them. I am simply trying to shock them to your attention through emphasis, I'm not trying to be hateful or menacing on your account.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 10:02 pm
@sometime sun,
sometime sun;128563 wrote:
To be a Christian must one then have to believe in evil?

Is evil necessary to believe in if you believe in Christ?

Is Christianity trying to proove good or evil?

(To believe you are evil or capable mean you are a Christian?)

(Is Christian evil different from other evils or other religions evils?)


Christian theology seems to oscillate between evil as the stain of sin and also of evil as a privation of good.

Christians speak of "falling short" and "missing the mark". At the same time there is the idea of the stain of sin which can only be washed away through blood sacrifice.

Thinking of evil as a privation, as a missing of the mark seems to be the better and least superstitious way to look at it. Nevertheless, both conceptions of evil are justifiable by scripture.

It is the difference between having a goal and the consequences of failing to reach that goal.

The stain of sin has an existence all it's own. That stain can be focused on. It seems better not to focus on the stain and just focus on hitting that target of the Good. If at first you don't succeed then try try again. I want to think it is better to focus on the good and hit that target than to focus on any stain.

Yet at the same time consequences are real, guilt is real, and this guilt becomes a burden, and it is often the case that when sin is great all that the sinner can see when s/he looks in the mirror is the stain of that failure.

For the Christian it is the stain that Christ came to wash away.

If we can rationalize away the stain or lower our standards enough to believe that missing the mark is no big deal then the need to wash away that stain is no longer evident. But this is not the Christian way. The Christian does not try to explain away the stain. The Christian owns up to it. This owning up to ones mistakes is much more easy to do for those who believe that Christ has washed that stain away.

So to answer the question. Yes, just as they must believe in good (the target that they aiming at), true Christians must believe in evil (which is both the fact of and the consequences of missing that target). Or else there would be no need for the sacrifice of Christ.

No evil, no Christ
Know evil, know Christ

but also and finally

Know Christ, no evil
 
Amperage
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 10:05 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132185 wrote:
That's the problem with an all-loving god who also created the world we live in. The two are seemingly incompatible. Infinite love would not leave room for infinite harm to the one loved, especially if that harm was for rejecting god's love, a paradox in itself.
seemingly and actually are two different things.

Scottydamion;132185 wrote:
You are using the idea of absolutes here, all-loving is akin to saying infinitely loving. So I respond with an absolute, how is that hard to claim? It's the same idea as saying Batman would never kill anyone because he is the absolute symbol of justice, not of revenge. Is your only response that an infinitely loving god would settle for the "best of all possible worlds"? He's the one creating, he has the choice to not create, do I have to make it more explicit?
I agree with what your saying in terms of He could have chosen to not create anything. However, clearly He also has the right TO create. In doing so, how would you propose He create something other than "the best"?


Scottydamion;132185 wrote:
What kind of benefit are you talking about? Benefit for all of existence? Or just those who find the idea of this god to be a good one? Why does god need to be worshipped or recognized, it doesn't make sense to punish someone for ignorance, even if you claim "grace" has been shown to us all, we are all still bound to how we have been taught to view that, and a Muslim child does not reject Christianity of their own free will, they reject it because of their parents, and that follows them into adulthood.
Have you not benefited in any way by being alive? God doesn't need our worship nor does God punish the ignorant for their ignorance. Clearly, and this is bore out in the bible, that if you haven't for geographical or historical or whatever reason not truly heard the word then you will be judged by a different standard. By the standard of the laws God has written on our hearts.


Scottydamion;132185 wrote:
I'm claiming ignorance right now. I have found serious reasons to not believe in god, and if he deems it righteous to punish me for this ignorance, then I doubt I would want to spend eternity with him in the first place!

Sooner or later you will have to be shown the gall that such statements bring with them. I am simply trying to shock them to your attention through emphasis, I'm not trying to be hateful or menacing on your account.
That's fine. I know you're not trying to be hateful or menacing, though I do feel like I sense a hint of anger(or at least contemptness) in your responses(of course this could be my interpretation since tone doesn't come across to well over the interwebs). All I can say is God is just so there is no sense in thinking that if you truly are ignorant of something that you will be judged by something you don't know.
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 10:25 pm
@Amperage,
Amperage;132190 wrote:
seemingly and actually are two different things.

I agree with what your saying in terms of He could have chosen to not create anything. However, clearly He also has the right TO create. In doing so, how would you propose He create something other than "the best"?


Have you not benefited in any way by being alive? God doesn't need our worship nor does God punish the ignorant for their ignorance. Clearly, and this is bore out in the bible, that if you haven't for geographical or historical or whatever reason not truly heard the word then you will be judged by a different standard. By the standard of the laws God has written on our hearts.


That's fine. I know you're not trying to be hateful or menacing, though I do feel like I sense a hint of anger(or at least contemptness) in your responses(of course this could be my interpretation since tone doesn't come across to well over the interwebs). All I can say is God is just so there is no sense in thinking that if you truly are ignorant of something that you will be judged by something you don't know.


You are leaving out the absolutes again. If creating conflicts with absolute love, then he wouldn't create, that is my opinion, but I stand by it with my minimal definition of absolute love, the intent (ability in this case) to do no harm whatsoever.

Besides answering: "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one gets to the father but through me", how would you define "rejecting" god? Also, what is 75 years of some level of benefit compared to eternity?

The anger you sense is partially for effect as I mentioned, but it really does get to me that my parents taught me all of these things without ever mentioning the counterarguments.

"god is just". By my standards he is not, there are too many examples in the OT to mention off-hand (plus I'm about to go to bed anyways), but god commanding women and children to be slaughtered or requiring Abraham to plea for his family in Soddom and Gammorah to "change his all-knowing mind" as it were (not to mention Lot offering his virgin daughters to an angry mob, not exactly the definition of righteous). These are just a few examples.

In my heart the bible reveals no signs of divinity, so if god judges me on that then I'll have an express pass to heaven.
 
Amperage
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 10:29 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132195 wrote:
You are leaving out the absolutes again. If creating conflicts with absolute love, then he wouldn't create, that is my opinion, but I stand by it with my minimal definition of abs
My last question/comment on the subject will be this. If the human race thought like this the human race would cease to exist. If I thought to myself, 'Well why even have kids, sure I'll love em, but look at all the hurt they'll experience, surely it would be unloving to have kids", I wouldn't have kids. But I look at life from the other side of the coin. The joys and love they'll experience. I could not deny them that. I could not deny them the highs nor the lows of what it means to be alive. In fact I think it would selfish and unloving to think otherwise.

Just food for thought
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 10:53 pm
@Amperage,
Amperage;132196 wrote:
My last question/comment on the subject will be this. If the human race thought like this the human race would cease to exist. If I thought to myself, 'Well why even have kids, sure I'll love em, but look at all the hurt they'll experience, surely it would be unloving to have kids", I wouldn't have kids. But I look at life from the other side of the coin. The joys and love they'll experience. I could not deny them that. I could not deny them the highs nor the lows of what it means to be alive. In fact I think it would selfish and unloving to think otherwise.

Just food for thought


It is selfish in a good way to have children. We have an impulse to have sex, we have sex, and then we have an impulse to take care of the resultant babies.

However, we are not all-loving, if we were I have no doubt we would cease to exist or find some way to alleviate all suffering (talking about absolutes here).

This goes back to something you didn't address from my first post. You are personifying your idea of god while still holding that idea up to absolute power, absolute love, absolute knowlege, etc... The two won't meld together very well. I only see two ways out of this, either you make your idea of god less perfect, or you say "god moves in mysterious ways" that you do not understand. Either way something is lost, perfection or understanding.

I don't have to sacrifice either because I see an imperfect world full of things I do not completely understand. I have gained from not feeling guilty about the "sins" my parents taught me from youth. I have held on to the morals that make sense, but shed a lot of the morals that don't make very much sense in the 21st century. Sexuality is one of the main avenues of guilt in Christianity, and I'm free from the cycle finally. I accept that I am not perfect and try and improve on that, I see no reason I should feel guilty for faults that were out of my control.

Goodnight
 
MMP2506
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 11:15 pm
@melonkali,
melonkali;128762 wrote:
Good question. I'm a Christian with a dualist bent, but I have no good answer for you at this time -- I've begun studying the definition of evil as the concept might have been understood in the ancient world. If I ever make sense of the quagmire I've landed in, I'll post. If anyone in the forum has studied this subject, I'd love to know what you've found, what your opinion is.

rebecca


The ancient concept of evil was anything what was irrational. Their God was reason, so if something didn't follow the reasonable path, it was following an evil path.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 11:38 pm
@sometime sun,
Some times I think it comes down to two types of people in the world. There are the surrealists and the realists. The surrealists are the romanticists who see the world as more abstract and uncertain. They tend to be the theists who leave all the mechanic workings of the universe up to god, to keep the nuts and bolts tight and things working how they should be working. They don't like it when the realists get their hands dirty touching "gods" machinery. They will get quite offended when the realist points out that they understand how this nut or bolt of the universe works. The surrealist doesn't want the bolts figured out, because that is god's job and if they are understood, they feel they might be responsible for keeping the nuts and bolts tight and they don't want that responsibility.

The realists see everything or most things as having functions and workings. These functions and workings can be understood with a little bit of investigation. When these functions are understood they can be utilized to make their life simple or complex. A way of knowing what to expect when certain circumstances happen. These people are considered in most part scientific. There is a rigid systematic approach to figuring out how something functions. They see the surrealist as ignoring the parts and functions of the universe.

There is a massive exchange between these two types. When some natural disaster happens, the surrealist can't make heads or tails to how or why it happened. They don't like to think that god was being careless and forgot to check the nuts and bolts, and assume the disaster has some underline larger meaning, an abstract meaning. Where as the realist will look at the disaster from another point of view. One where it has an explanation, even if it is a complicated and technical conclusion. The surrealist will always be skeptical of the realists conclusion since god must play a role in the explanation however; the realist never includes god into the equation.

There are some individuals and certain times when everyone either crosses into either side of these types. Some individuals exhibit traits from each side even though they often contradict themselves if they are ever asked to fully explain something. The realist faults the surrealist for being too eager to answer the question where the surrealist faults the realist for making the world knowable.

I'm beginning to think that there will never be an end to this dichotomy because perhaps our brains are what cause the phenomena to begin with. The parts of the brain that are being used probably impact which type you will ultimately exhibit more of. If it is the brain then this problem will always arise because the brain isn't going to change to suit only one type, that is unless there is an advantage to one particular type, which I can't actually see there being one. Despite the fact that I want to say the realist has the advantage, it might only be a systematic reasoning where there could be an important psychological aspect that keeps the rational from becoming completely insane.
 
melonkali
 
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 09:38 am
@Krumple,
Raine;131820 wrote:
Do modern christians believe in an actual hell or is a just a metaphorical concept to explain absolute Godlessness?


I certainly don't speak for all or even most Christians. I don't believe in hell. Presuming that all Biblical books are flawed, written and edited by men who, because of the nature of men, had biases and agendas, I look to historical writings from the earliest Christians to ascertain the very early church's interpretation of Christ's teachings.

In what I'd consider, based on history and authorship, the most reliable (closest to actual teachings of Christ) of these very early church writings, there is no mention of "hell". The theology seems to be simply that we are born to die, God has opened several "gates" to immortality, Christ being one of them. If a person misses all the gates, he just dies, returns to the dust.

Scottydamion;131837 wrote:
The problem of evil has been around for ages because it is a genuine problem. There is no correct answer that does not diminish the idea of god in some manner. You either make god less than omnipotent, less than omnipresent, less than omnibenevolent, etc... or you try to conclude that evil was necessary


Agreed. That's why I'm a dualist -- if God is omnipotent in this world, we have a problem. I would point out the New Testament passages which refer to Satan a.k.a. "the prince of the power of the air" as the ruler of THIS world.

Really, dualism makes sense -- why else would Christians be told to expect persecution by THIS world if God was the ruler of this world? If God was the ruler of this world, then Jesus's temptation in the desert was meaningless, no? Jesus never replies or even implies that Satan does not have the ability to follow through on his offers to Jesus, which include rule over all the kingdoms of this world.

Scottydamion;132156 wrote:
That is the greatest crime in my opinion. Teaching children what to believe instead of how to think for themselves. I have often debated if I will raise my children as "atheists" or not, and I think I would feel more guilt at teaching them something they would take as dogma then I would feel at giving them the tools to think, even if they later "found" religion.


Agreed. My children are grown now, but in their raising, I grasped that one could not teach critical thinking on one hand and dogma on the other. The only way to "teach" religious belief is by example, or "modeling", which is a stronger influence on children than anything a parent teaches or preaches.

Deckard;132188 wrote:
Christian theology seems to oscillate between evil as the stain of sin and also of evil as a privation of good.

The stain of sin has an existence all it's own. That stain can be focused on. It seems better not to focus on the stain and just focus on hitting that target of the Good. If at first you don't succeed then try try again. I want to think it is better to focus on the good and hit that target than to focus on any stain.

For the Christian it is the stain that Christ came to wash away.

So to answer the question. Yes, just as they must believe in good (the target that they aiming at), true Christians must believe in evil (which is both the fact of and the consequences of missing that target). Or else there would be no need for the sacrifice of Christ.


I agree that it's better to focus on "good". There's nothing wrong with a "contrite heart" or remorse for one's mistakes; such attitudes help us understand and forgive the flaws we perceive in others. But "paralyzing guilt" serves no good purpose.

Human nature is imperfect. Every one of us has done things we regret, or wish we could do-over (with the exception, maybe, of some full-blow narcissists who quite obviously, by any standard apart from their own, have done things they SHOULD regret.)

The sacrifice of Christ, again referring back to early church writings which historically seem closest to "straight from the horse's mouth" (at least to me), the purpose of the incarnation, Christ in the flesh, was to give mankind an understandable example, a human life, which all men could emulate. Such a "human" example, if relevant to all of humanity, would have to include persecution by this world, death and resurrection, would he not?

The whole "atonement" idea, IMO, is Judaizing, either from Jewish authors or directed to a Jewish audience.

Amperage;132190 wrote:
God doesn't need our worship nor does God punish the ignorant for their ignorance. Clearly, and this is bore out in the bible, that if you haven't for geographical or historical or whatever reason not truly heard the word then you will be judged by a different standard. By the standard of the laws God has written on our hearts.


judged by "the standard of the laws God has written on our hearts" -- nicely said.

Scottydamion;132195 wrote:
"god is just". By my standards he is not, there are too many examples in the OT to mention off-hand (plus I'm about to go to bed anyways), but god commanding women and children to be slaughtered or requiring Abraham to plea for his family in Soddom and Gammorah to "change his all-knowing mind" as it were (not to mention Lot offering his virgin daughters to an angry mob, not exactly the definition of righteous). In my heart the bible reveals no signs of divinity, so if god judges me on that then I'll have an express pass to heaven.


Yeah boy, the OT is a real problem in many places. It's not hard to prove that it wasn't written by God -- too many discrepancies and contradictions for that. I mean, don't you think God would at least have a spell-check? I don't believe these and other atrocities could have been ordered or ordained by God, at least not by the God of Christ.

Christ probably did cite the OT -- early Christian-Jewish sects used the OT as text. However, 1) NT authors may or may not be accurate in which OT passages Jesus referred to and how He interpreted them, either because of personal bias or consideration of their audience; 2) reaching a Jewish audience without referring to the OT would have been ineffective.

Krumple;132216 wrote:
I'm beginning to think that there will never be an end to this dichotomy because perhaps our brains are what cause the phenomena to begin with. The parts of the brain that are being used probably impact which type you will ultimately exhibit more of. If it is the brain then this problem will always arise because the brain isn't going to change to suit only one type, that is unless there is an advantage to one particular type, which I can't actually see there being one. Despite the fact that I want to say the realist has the advantage, it might only be a systematic reasoning where there could be an important psychological aspect that keeps the rational from becoming completely insane.


Well, neurotheology is actually a growing field. Neurologists have been studying mysticism, spirituality, religious experience and "religiosity" for a while now. The first article I ever read about it was "God of the Right Temporal Lobe". I haven't kept up and have not the foggiest idea about where the field stands these days.

rebecca
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 04:32 pm
@melonkali,
melonkali;132836 wrote:
I certainly don't speak for all or even most Christians. I don't believe in hell. Presuming that all Biblical books are flawed, written and edited by men who, because of the nature of men, had biases and agendas, I look to historical writings from the earliest Christians to ascertain the very early church's interpretation of Christ's teachings.

In what I'd consider, based on history and authorship, the most reliable (closest to actual teachings of Christ) of these very early church writings, there is no mention of "hell". The theology seems to be simply that we are born to die, God has opened several "gates" to immortality, Christ being one of them. If a person misses all the gates, he just dies, returns to the dust.



Agreed. That's why I'm a dualist -- if God is omnipotent in this world, we have a problem. I would point out the New Testament passages which refer to Satan a.k.a. "the prince of the power of the air" as the ruler of THIS world.

Really, dualism makes sense -- why else would Christians be told to expect persecution by THIS world if God was the ruler of this world? If God was the ruler of this world, then Jesus's temptation in the desert was meaningless, no? Jesus never replies or even implies that Satan does not have the ability to follow through on his offers to Jesus, which include rule over all the kingdoms of this world.



Agreed. My children are grown now, but in their raising, I grasped that one could not teach critical thinking on one hand and dogma on the other. The only way to "teach" religious belief is by example, or "modeling", which is a stronger influence on children than anything a parent teaches or preaches.



I agree that it's better to focus on "good". There's nothing wrong with a "contrite heart" or remorse for one's mistakes; such attitudes help us understand and forgive the flaws we perceive in others. But "paralyzing guilt" serves no good purpose.

Human nature is imperfect. Every one of us has done things we regret, or wish we could do-over (with the exception, maybe, of some full-blow narcissists who quite obviously, by any standard apart from their own, have done things they SHOULD regret.)

The sacrifice of Christ, again referring back to early church writings which historically seem closest to "straight from the horse's mouth" (at least to me), the purpose of the incarnation, Christ in the flesh, was to give mankind an understandable example, a human life, which all men could emulate. Such a "human" example, if relevant to all of humanity, would have to include persecution by this world, death and resurrection, would he not?

The whole "atonement" idea, IMO, is Judaizing, either from Jewish authors or directed to a Jewish audience.



judged by "the standard of the laws God has written on our hearts" -- nicely said.



Yeah boy, the OT is a real problem in many places. It's not hard to prove that it wasn't written by God -- too many discrepancies and contradictions for that. I mean, don't you think God would at least have a spell-check? I don't believe these and other atrocities could have been ordered or ordained by God, at least not by the God of Christ.

Christ probably did cite the OT -- early Christian-Jewish sects used the OT as text. However, 1) NT authors may or may not be accurate in which OT passages Jesus referred to and how He interpreted them, either because of personal bias or consideration of their audience; 2) reaching a Jewish audience without referring to the OT would have been ineffective.



Well, neurotheology is actually a growing field. Neurologists have been studying mysticism, spirituality, religious experience and "religiosity" for a while now. The first article I ever read about it was "God of the Right Temporal Lobe". I haven't kept up and have not the foggiest idea about where the field stands these days.

rebecca


You have an interesting perspective compared to what I'm used to hearing anyways. I'd like to hear your thoughts on why dualism makes sense? My background is more scientific so I tend to apply Ockham's Razor to my belief systems wherever possible, just to let you know why I'm curious and how I apply skepticism, as a limiting factor.
 
melonkali
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 12:25 am
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132994 wrote:
You have an interesting perspective compared to what I'm used to hearing anyways. I'd like to hear your thoughts on why dualism makes sense? My background is more scientific so I tend to apply Ockham's Razor to my belief systems wherever possible, just to let you know why I'm curious and how I apply skepticism, as a limiting factor.


Scotty,

Don't panic at the length of this post. The last half of it is only evidence I've provided to support the first half, the actual post, which is not very long.

Thanks for the interest. I very much appreciated your courtesy of giving me a "heads-up" on your skeptical, Ockham's Razor perspective. I'm going to "cut to the chase" concerning my pet proto-theory on dualism first, but below that I'll provide a "dull supporting foundational argument", much of which I've posted in other threads.

See PART 3 for evidence that some kind of "non-natural" intervention was responsible for the "leap of civilization" in ancient Mesopotamia, associated with the arrival of the Sumerians, whose mythos and quasi-historical traditions became the seeds of all known world religious beliefs.

PART 1. SUMERIAN BASICS
Sumerian mythos is so much more pragmatic than any other, and apparently played such a small part in everyday life, that Sumeriologist Leo Oppenheim once wrote that the term "Sumerian religion" should not be used. Mankind was created as slave labor to work the mines and fields (these gods ate bread and drank beer). The god Enki, "friend of man", sent seven sages to teach the arts and skills of civilization to mankind. Mankind's creation, by Enki, involved mixing the flesh and blood of a slain god (Geshtu-e), for man's "intelligence", with "clay" -- man is a hybrid of god and earth, a slave laborer. The gods had personalities, good qualities and imperfections. And sometime way back, probably around 2000 BC, the Sumerian "gods" left the earth, going off up into the sky.

PART 2. THE SAGA (SPECULATION) BEGINS
The very earliest Sumerian myths or quasi-historical accounts reveal a people not knowledgeable of the typical "ways of mankind", though apparently attempting to assimilate. Sumerians and/or their "gods" may have been responsible for humanity's advances in math, liberal arts and technology, but when it came to "normal" living for peoples of that time, the Sumerians were sheep among wolves (the Akkadians, the Assyrians, some East and West Semitic tribes).

For example, one very early Sumerian document chronicling some kind of dispute (you cannot call this a "war") between the king of Aratta (in present day Iran, interestingly) and the king of Uruk (Mesopotamia) begins with a benign battle of wits -- no one is harmed. The "dispute" is concluded with a fishing contest between a magician from Aratta and an old woman from Uruk. She catches bigger fish, Uruk wins (meaning simply that the king of Uruk moves to #1 in the chain of command of kings), and the magician is thrown into the river and drowned. Period, end of story. Sure, this is probably some kind of analogy vs. a historical event, but even so, it is a much gentler type of account than later "conflict" stories from Mesopotamia.

Here it should be noted that cuneiform language experts believe the earliest Sumerian accounts which we have reflect a civilization that had existed for a while, already peaked, and was in decline. Our records do not reflect the "height" of Sumerian civilization.

Early Mesopotamian literature, which begins as Sumerian, very quickly shows Akkadian influence and finally Akkadian dominance. Mythos, historical and quasi-historical accounts, both later Sumerian and early Akkadian, became increasingly violent, cruel and, well, "evil" in the same ways mankind exhibits evil. Perhaps the Sumerian/Akkadian encounter is related to the Genesis account of "sons of god" marrying the "daughters of men", but that is pure speculation. The fall of Ur III (NeoSumerian), circa 2000 BC, was the end of the Sumerians, and the gods left earth, and per the OT, Abraham left the ruins of Ur for Canaan, although claiming that Abraham was both Sumerian and father of the Hebrews does not really work, since the Hebrews and their language are semitic, the Sumerians non-semitic.

As Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians and West Semitic peoples took over the Sumerian mythos, warrior/storm gods became increasingly dominant, while moon gods decreased in popularity (the god of the last Sumerian city, Ur, was the moon god Nanna-Sin), big scary creatures and problematic gods increasingly became personifications of "evil", and it's easy to see how the Old Testament evolved into a genocidal land-grab. It's also not hard to see how the Old Testament god seems so schizophrenic -- there have been at least three "gods" identified (by text critics) in the Hebrew Old Testament "God".

Consider the evolution of the Anzu (or Thunder) Bird. OK, so he's a great big scary raptor-like creature, but two early Sumerian stories of the Anzu Bird are fun to read; the bird ends up helping King Lugalbanda and King Etana. Win/Win. By the time the Anzu Bird gets to the West Semitic tribes, he is THE evil being who must be slaughtered by some great warrior god.

I noted New Testament references to dualism in my previous post. So who is the evil "ruler of this world" the New Testament refers to? Note that he seems to work through the minds and actions of men. Is he an outside influence on men's minds/souls, or is he actually "us", the "earthly" or "dark" side of our hybrid race? Were the Sumerians the true hybrid race or were they the race of the gods? The possibilities are many, and I have no clear answer.

However, the effects of this evil being(s) can be seen all the way back to the Sumerian/Akkadian encounter; his image in the Near East changes along with the image of the type of high god "in vogue" at the time. We know that men edited mythological texts and changed the images of the gods. Men, specifically the tribes which encountered the Sumerians, changed the culture and apparently the very nature of the Sumerians for the worse, ended up dominating the Sumerians, then eradicating them altogether.

There is and has been, since mankind's first recorded history, a strong evil force in this world, and it works through the minds and actions of men, just as the force of goodness we call God does. It may be caused by some external source of which the mind is a receiver, or it may be inherent in man's nature and the mind its transmitter. But it clearly exists and it rules this world. Obviously this train of thought could travel and widen its scope, but the post is already too long. This must suffice for a foundation of dualism in a historical perspective. Discussion of the philosophical perspective must await a later post. One conclusion we may reach here regarding the source of evil: it isn't the Anzu Bird. Smile


rebecca

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PART 3. ARGUMENT FOR NON-NATURAL INTERVENTION IN ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA
The history of mankind contains two inexplicable "leaps" and another strange puzzle. The most significant, at least the best researched, is the "leap of civilization", a.k.a. "the urban revolution", when the arts, skills and technology of high civilization, including math, writing, literature, fine arts, complex architecture, technology, metallurgy and sociopolitical systems, suddenly appeared in southern Mesopotamia, still commonly referred to as the "Cradle of Civilization". We now know, based on Mesopotamian trade records and new archaeological finds in Egypt, that there were three "ancient cradles" which were closely connected: Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley. What we don't know is how this "leap" came about. I recently read an article by an archaeologist at U.C. Berkeley who lamented, "we've been digging for over a hundred years now, and we have nothing". Still no transition layers, no footprints (evidence of the immigration of the Sumerians), not one hard clue about where the Sumerians and/or their gods came from (even with several other disciplines involved in the search, including linguistics, agriculture, genetics, weaving techniques).

All high civilizations trace back to this tri-partite cradle of civilization, as do all known world religions (with the exception of primitive animism). The Hebrew Bible seems to be a heavily edited aggregate which includes beliefs and mythos from other West Semitic tribes (who took their beliefs from ancient Mesopotamia), and from Egypt and Mesopotamian Babylon (during the Hebrews' Babylonian captivity, circa 7th century BC). During the intertestamental period (between the old and new testaments of our Christian bible), Judaism was subject to Greek and Persian influences as well. Both Minoan and Mycenaean cultures (antecedents of Greek Hellenistic culture) trace back to the tri-partite cradle, and primarily Egypt and Mesopotamia. Assyrian culture, which is antecedent to Persian culture, also traces back to Mesopotamia.

So can all of ancient Mesopotamia's "leap of civilization" (primarily the Sumerians) be explained by a highly improbable but possible natural process? Not likely. As you may have seen me post in other threads, those pesky cuneiform math tablets defy natural explanation. 2000 BC (and probably dating back much earlier) sexagesimal (base-60) quadratic equations? When we did not rediscover quadratic equations in our own decimal system until The Enlightenment? Square and cube roots, with a yet unexplained emphasis on the square root of 2? A table of (sexagesimal) secant squares, and other cuneiform tablets containing sexagesimal tables which could not have been derived from even the sophisticated math formulas known to have been used by Sumerian scribes? By the time the Greeks arrived in Babylon, cultural decay had left little to salvage -- the Pythagorean theorem is now believed to have come from Babylon.

Though less data is available, the preceding leap of agriculture is fairly well documented: mankind went from hunter-gatherers, eating wild grasses, fairly straight to growing (including irrigation techniques) and complex processing of cereal grains. Expected transition steps have not been evidenced. This evident "leap" correlates with early fragments of Sumerian cuneiform tablets which describe the gods teaching men how to plant and process barley.

A big puzzle with the evidence suggesting a leap: Homo sapiens sapiens first appears in Africa about 150,000 years ago. The available data suggests that homo sapiens sapiens showed very slow cultural advancement in a gradual step fashion until about 40-50,000 years ago, at which time the Upper Paleolithic Revolution or Great Leap Forward occurred, with cultural leaps and probably the advent of language. Another problem with early homo sapiens sapiens is recent genetic analyses which indicate that the entire modern human race could have come from between only 1 and 10 thousand "breeding pairs", depending on which statistical paradigm is used. Neither extreme, nor any figure inbetween, correlates with archaeological finds or anthropological theories.

Overall, I weight heavily on the well-documented "leap of civilization" and those pesky math tablets as the best evidence that something non-natural occurred in human history, and that "something" brought with it the seeds of all world religious beliefs and the arts and skills of high civilization.
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 02:03 pm
@melonkali,
melonkali;133469 wrote:
Scotty,

Don't panic at the length of this post.


Too late!

Quote:
Overall, I weight heavily on the well-documented "leap of civilization" and those pesky math tablets as the best evidence that something non-natural occurred in human history, and that "something" brought with it the seeds of all world religious beliefs and the arts and skills of high civilization.


Thank you for your post, I apologize that it took me so long to respond to. I do not see why the advent of language could not be considered the "leap of civilization". Also, it could be seen as embarrasing that it took us until the Enlightenment to catch back up with these early civilizations, not as evidence for anything.

Could you send me some links concerning Sumerian civilization? I tried to find some on the tablets you were talking about, but it would save me time if you could point me in the right direction.

It is interesting, especially the myths about gods teaching them agriculture.
 
melonkali
 
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 10:43 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;135520 wrote:


Too late!



Thank you for your post, I apologize that it took me so long to respond to. I do not see why the advent of language could not be considered the "leap of civilization". Also, it could be seen as embarrasing that it took us until the Enlightenment to catch back up with these early civilizations, not as evidence for anything.

Could you send me some links concerning Sumerian civilization? I tried to find some on the tablets you were talking about, but it would save me time if you could point me in the right direction.

It is interesting, especially the myths about gods teaching them agriculture.


Thanks for your continued interest -- there aren't many who pursue the math tablets this far along. Sorry for the godawful length of that last post. There's just so much misinformation and sensationalism on the net these days...

I appreciate your asking me to post a few links -- I love my links. I noticed, in glancing over them, that my scholarship is becoming increasingly outdated; you may end up correcting my ideas and teaching me a few things!

A few of the articles linked below, primarily or secondarily, seemed, to me, a wee bit casual about describing texts as Sumerian, Akkadian or Babylonian, without in-depth exploration of which culture was most likely responsible for the knowledge and ideas presented in the text, or the most probable date of the original text (OK, so I'm a little Anal-Retentive about this).

GENERAL ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIAN STUDY/LINK SITES:

1) John Halloran's Sumerian Language Site. Lexicon and Links -- Halloran has been around a while. I recall that he updated his FABULOUS "Sumerian Lexicon" back in 2009, and may have done so again since then:

Sumerian Language Page

2) A huge links page from Halloran's site -- last I checked (2009) some were no longer valid, but this list is always worth checking:

Web Site Links Related to Mesopotamia or Language

3) The ETCSL-- Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature -- 100% hard-core scholarship and translations (also transliterations)

Ways to navigate the ETCSL:
a) Click "Sumerian" for language, literature, cuneiform
b) ClicK "miscellaneous" for links
c) Click "corpus content by category", then you can click on your chosen document (I always click on "ascii").

ETCSLhomepage

4) The stellar Etana site which now includes one of the oldest, most reliable sites on the net: The Abzu. I used to live in The Abzu -- but since the merger, I can't navigate the darn thing. Wishing you better luck. Tell The Abzu "hello" from me.

ETANA

5) How Grain Came to Sumer (from the ETCSL)

The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature

6) "Gateways to Babylon" is a huuuge site which, although it adds a strange NeoPagan/Wiccan flavor to its esoteric interpretations, has an extensive, solid backbone of history, facts, translations, maps, timelines and LINKS, so many beautiful LINKS!! Including ARCHAEOLOGY LINKS!!! Whooo Hoooo!! Very Happy

Gateways To Babylon

ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIAN MATHEMATICS LINKS
Never Forget: "Otto Neugebauer" and "Plimpton 522"

http://www.shsu.edu/~mth_jaj/math467/shockley.pdf

Babylonian mathematics

Mesopotamian Mathematics

http://www.math.tamu.edu/~dallen/masters/egypt_babylon/babylon.pdf

Thanks again. Keep me posted, as time allows, on your discoveries and your opinions. I'll always love ancient Mesopotamia, whether or not it represents an un-natural "leap"

rebecca
 
 

 
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