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  1. #1
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    Oxford Professor: "Belief in God is Delusional"

    I think I have to agree...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/bo...76b237&ei=5070

    Richard Dawkins, who holds the interesting title of “Charles Simonyi professor of the public understanding of science” at Oxford University, is a master of scientific exposition and synthesis. When it comes to his own specialty, evolutionary biology, there is none better. But the purpose of this book, his latest of many, is not to explain science. It is rather, as he tells us, “to raise consciousness,” which is quite another thing.

    The nub of Dawkins’s consciousness-raising message is that to be an atheist is a “brave and splendid” aspiration. Belief in God is not only a delusion, he argues, but a “pernicious” one. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, Dawkins rates himself a 6: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

    Dawkins’s case against religion follows an outline that goes back to Bertrand Russell’s classic 1927 essay “Why I Am Not a Christian.” First, discredit the traditional reasons for supposing that God exists. (“God” is here taken to denote the Judeo-Christian deity, presumed to be eternal, all-powerful, all-good and the creator of the world.) Second, produce an argument or two supporting the contrary hypothesis, that God does not exist. Third, cast doubt on the transcendent origins of religion by showing that it has a purely natural explanation. Finally, show that we can have happy and meaningful lives without worshiping a deity, and that religion, far from being a necessary prop for morality, actually produces more evil than good. The first three steps are meant to undermine the truth of religion; the last goes to its pragmatic value.

    What Dawkins brings to this approach is a couple of fresh arguments — no mean achievement, considering how thoroughly these issues have been debated over the centuries — and a great deal of passion. The book fairly crackles with brio. Yet reading it can feel a little like watching a Michael Moore movie. There is lots of good, hard-hitting stuff about the imbecilities of religious fanatics and frauds of all stripes, but the tone is smug and the logic occasionally sloppy. Dawkins fans accustomed to his elegant prose might be surprised to come across such vulgarisms as “sucking up to God” and “Nur Nurny Nur Nur” (here the author, in a dubious polemical ploy, is imagining his theological adversary as a snotty playground brat). It’s all in good fun when Dawkins mocks a buffoon like Pat Robertson and fundamentalist pastors like the one who created “Hell Houses” to frighten sin-prone children at Halloween. But it is less edifying when he questions the sincerity of serious thinkers who disagree with him, like the late Stephen Jay Gould, or insinuates that recipients of the million-dollar-plus Templeton Prize, awarded for work reconciling science and spirituality, are intellectually dishonest (and presumably venal to boot). In a particularly low blow, he accuses Richard Swinburne, a philosopher of religion and science at Oxford, of attempting to “justify the Holocaust,” when Swinburne was struggling to square such monumental evils with the existence of a loving God. Perhaps all is fair in consciousness-raising. But Dawkins’s avowed hostility can make for scattershot reasoning as well as for rhetorical excess. Moreover, in training his Darwinian guns on religion, he risks destroying a larger target than he intends.

    The least satisfying part of this book is Dawkins’s treatment of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. The “ontological argument” says that God must exist by his very nature, since he possesses all perfections, and it is more perfect to exist than not to exist. The “cosmological argument” says that the world must have an ultimate cause, and this cause could only be an eternal, God-like entity. The “design argument” appeals to special features of the universe (such as its suitability for the emergence of intelligent life), submitting that such features make it more probable than not that the universe had a purposive cosmic designer.

    These, in a nutshell, are the Big Three arguments. To Dawkins, they are simply ridiculous. He dismisses the ontological argument as “infantile” and “dialectical prestidigitation” without quite identifying the defect in its logic, and he is baffled that a philosopher like Russell — “no fool” — could take it seriously. He seems unaware that this argument, though medieval in origin, comes in sophisticated modern versions that are not at all easy to refute. Shirking the intellectual hard work, Dawkins prefers to move on to parodic “proofs” that he has found on the Internet, like the “Argument From Emotional Blackmail: God loves you. How could you be so heartless as not to believe in him? Therefore God exists.” (For those who want to understand the weaknesses in the standard arguments for God’s existence, the best source I know remains the atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie’s 1982 book “The Miracle of Theism.”)

    It is doubtful that many people come to believe in God because of logical arguments, as opposed to their upbringing or having “heard a call.” But such arguments, even when they fail to be conclusive, can at least give religious belief an aura of reasonableness, especially when combined with certain scientific findings. We now know that our universe burst into being some 13 billion years ago (the theory of the Big Bang, as it happens, was worked out by a Belgian priest), and that its initial conditions seem to have been “fine tuned” so that life would eventually arise. If you are not religiously inclined, you might take these as brute facts and be done with the matter. But if you think that there must be some ultimate explanation for the improbable leaping-into-existence of the harmonious, biofriendly cosmos we find ourselves in, then the God hypothesis is at least rational to adhere to, isn’t it?

    No, it’s not, says Dawkins, whereupon he brings out what he views as “the central argument of my book.” At heart, this argument is an elaboration of the child’s question “But Mommy, who made God?” To posit God as the ground of all being is a nonstarter, Dawkins submits, for “any God capable of designing a universe, carefully and foresightfully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide.” Thus the God hypothesis is “very close to being ruled out by the laws of probability.”

    Dawkins relies here on two premises: first, that a creator is bound to be more complex, and hence improbable, than his creation (you never, for instance, see a horseshoe making a blacksmith); and second, that to explain the improbable in terms of the more improbable is no explanation at all. Neither of these is among the “laws of probability,” as he suggests. The first is hotly disputed by theologians, who insist, in a rather woolly metaphysical way, that God is the essence of simplicity. He is, after all, infinite in every respect, and therefore much easier to define than a finite thing. Dawkins, however, points out that God can’t be all that simple if he is capable of, among other feats, simultaneously monitoring the thoughts of all his creatures and answering their prayers. (“Such bandwidth!” the author exclaims.)

    This sort of coolly speculative thinking could not be more remote from the rococo rituals of religion as it is actually practiced across the world. Why is it that all human cultures have religion if, as Dawkins believes he has proved, it rests on a delusion? Many thinkers — Marx, Freud, Durkheim — have produced natural histories of religion, arguing that it arose to serve some social or psychological function, such as, in Freud’s account, the fulfillment of repressed wishes toward a father-figure.

    Dawkins’s own attempt at a natural history is Darwinian, but not in the way you might expect. He is skeptical that religion has any survival value, contending that its cost in blood and guilt outweighs any conceivable benefits. Instead, he attributes religion to a “misfiring” of something else that is adaptively useful; namely, a child’s evolved tendency to believe its parents. Religious ideas, he thinks, are viruslike “memes” that multiply by infecting the gullible brains of children. (Dawkins coined the term “meme” three decades ago to refer to bits of culture that, he holds, reproduce and compete the way genes do.) Each religion, as he sees it, is a complex of mutually compatible memes that has managed to survive a process of natural selection. (“Perhaps,” he writes in his usual provocative vein, “Islam is analogous to a carnivorous gene complex, Buddhism to a herbivorous one.”) Religious beliefs, on this view, benefit neither us nor our genes; they benefit themselves.



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  2. #2
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    I don't...

    Quote Originally Posted by spyderman
    I think I have to agree...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/bo...76b237&ei=5070

    Richard Dawkins, who holds the interesting title of “Charles Simonyi professor of the public understanding of science” at Oxford University, is a master of scientific exposition and synthesis. When it comes to his own specialty, evolutionary biology, there is none better. But the purpose of this book, his latest of many, is not to explain science. It is rather, as he tells us, “to raise consciousness,” which is quite another thing.

    The nub of Dawkins’s consciousness-raising message is that to be an atheist is a “brave and splendid” aspiration. Belief in God is not only a delusion, he argues, but a “pernicious” one. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, Dawkins rates himself a 6: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

    Dawkins’s case against religion follows an outline that goes back to Bertrand Russell’s classic 1927 essay “Why I Am Not a Christian.” First, discredit the traditional reasons for supposing that God exists. (“God” is here taken to denote the Judeo-Christian deity, presumed to be eternal, all-powerful, all-good and the creator of the world.) Second, produce an argument or two supporting the contrary hypothesis, that God does not exist. Third, cast doubt on the transcendent origins of religion by showing that it has a purely natural explanation. Finally, show that we can have happy and meaningful lives without worshiping a deity, and that religion, far from being a necessary prop for morality, actually produces more evil than good. The first three steps are meant to undermine the truth of religion; the last goes to its pragmatic value.

    What Dawkins brings to this approach is a couple of fresh arguments — no mean achievement, considering how thoroughly these issues have been debated over the centuries — and a great deal of passion. The book fairly crackles with brio. Yet reading it can feel a little like watching a Michael Moore movie. There is lots of good, hard-hitting stuff about the imbecilities of religious fanatics and frauds of all stripes, but the tone is smug and the logic occasionally sloppy. Dawkins fans accustomed to his elegant prose might be surprised to come across such vulgarisms as “sucking up to God” and “Nur Nurny Nur Nur” (here the author, in a dubious polemical ploy, is imagining his theological adversary as a snotty playground brat). It’s all in good fun when Dawkins mocks a buffoon like Pat Robertson and fundamentalist pastors like the one who created “Hell Houses” to frighten sin-prone children at Halloween. But it is less edifying when he questions the sincerity of serious thinkers who disagree with him, like the late Stephen Jay Gould, or insinuates that recipients of the million-dollar-plus Templeton Prize, awarded for work reconciling science and spirituality, are intellectually dishonest (and presumably venal to boot). In a particularly low blow, he accuses Richard Swinburne, a philosopher of religion and science at Oxford, of attempting to “justify the Holocaust,” when Swinburne was struggling to square such monumental evils with the existence of a loving God. Perhaps all is fair in consciousness-raising. But Dawkins’s avowed hostility can make for scattershot reasoning as well as for rhetorical excess. Moreover, in training his Darwinian guns on religion, he risks destroying a larger target than he intends.

    The least satisfying part of this book is Dawkins’s treatment of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. The “ontological argument” says that God must exist by his very nature, since he possesses all perfections, and it is more perfect to exist than not to exist. The “cosmological argument” says that the world must have an ultimate cause, and this cause could only be an eternal, God-like entity. The “design argument” appeals to special features of the universe (such as its suitability for the emergence of intelligent life), submitting that such features make it more probable than not that the universe had a purposive cosmic designer.

    These, in a nutshell, are the Big Three arguments. To Dawkins, they are simply ridiculous. He dismisses the ontological argument as “infantile” and “dialectical prestidigitation” without quite identifying the defect in its logic, and he is baffled that a philosopher like Russell — “no fool” — could take it seriously. He seems unaware that this argument, though medieval in origin, comes in sophisticated modern versions that are not at all easy to refute. Shirking the intellectual hard work, Dawkins prefers to move on to parodic “proofs” that he has found on the Internet, like the “Argument From Emotional Blackmail: God loves you. How could you be so heartless as not to believe in him? Therefore God exists.” (For those who want to understand the weaknesses in the standard arguments for God’s existence, the best source I know remains the atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie’s 1982 book “The Miracle of Theism.”)

    It is doubtful that many people come to believe in God because of logical arguments, as opposed to their upbringing or having “heard a call.” But such arguments, even when they fail to be conclusive, can at least give religious belief an aura of reasonableness, especially when combined with certain scientific findings. We now know that our universe burst into being some 13 billion years ago (the theory of the Big Bang, as it happens, was worked out by a Belgian priest), and that its initial conditions seem to have been “fine tuned” so that life would eventually arise. If you are not religiously inclined, you might take these as brute facts and be done with the matter. But if you think that there must be some ultimate explanation for the improbable leaping-into-existence of the harmonious, biofriendly cosmos we find ourselves in, then the God hypothesis is at least rational to adhere to, isn’t it?

    No, it’s not, says Dawkins, whereupon he brings out what he views as “the central argument of my book.” At heart, this argument is an elaboration of the child’s question “But Mommy, who made God?” To posit God as the ground of all being is a nonstarter, Dawkins submits, for “any God capable of designing a universe, carefully and foresightfully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide.” Thus the God hypothesis is “very close to being ruled out by the laws of probability.”

    Dawkins relies here on two premises: first, that a creator is bound to be more complex, and hence improbable, than his creation (you never, for instance, see a horseshoe making a blacksmith); and second, that to explain the improbable in terms of the more improbable is no explanation at all. Neither of these is among the “laws of probability,” as he suggests. The first is hotly disputed by theologians, who insist, in a rather woolly metaphysical way, that God is the essence of simplicity. He is, after all, infinite in every respect, and therefore much easier to define than a finite thing. Dawkins, however, points out that God can’t be all that simple if he is capable of, among other feats, simultaneously monitoring the thoughts of all his creatures and answering their prayers. (“Such bandwidth!” the author exclaims.)

    ...
    I don't think it is delusional to believe in God, not at all. Do I believe in God myself? I'm still not entirely sure anymore, but for other folks to believe in it, that's all good, as long as they don't push it on me, but living in the Bible Belt, there are lots of times when it is pushed this way, very hard, but alas, I knew what I was getting into.

    Everyone, even the good professor in this article, is allowed their opinions and such, but why does he have to push his OPINION that belief in God is delusional on other people? It is kind of silly really.

  3. #3
    Palm trees & sunshine!
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    Quote Originally Posted by magnolialover
    I don't think it is delusional to believe in God, not at all. Do I believe in God myself? I'm still not entirely sure anymore, but for other folks to believe in it, that's all good, as long as they don't push it on me, but living in the Bible Belt, there are lots of times when it is pushed this way, very hard, but alas, I knew what I was getting into.

    Everyone, even the good professor in this article, is allowed their opinions and such, but why does he have to push his OPINION that belief in God is delusional on other people? It is kind of silly really.
    With all the religious fervor in the world today and all the harm being caused by it, I'm glad that there are people in positions of authority who are willing to shout it down.


    supervillain

  4. #4
    angel of the morning
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    With all the religious fervor in the world today and all the harm being caused by it, I'm glad that there are people in positions of authority who are willing to shout it down.
    Agree. An imbalance of ideology has pervaded for far too long. The Prof's arguments are well reasoned and the older I get the more i think religion is just one big scam and counterproductive to humanity.
    I watched him walking in and it was like they say, you know, he kind of glowed. Like a ray of light was around him. A kind of Jesus. - Spirito (interviewing Spirito)




  5. #5
    the_rydster
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    With all the religious fervor in the world today and all the harm being caused by it, I'm glad that there are people in positions of authority who are willing to shout it down.
    Unfortunately religion is not the only 'belief system' which has 'caused' world problems.

    Although 'science' could be considered a 'morally neutral' system, this can lead to its practitioners becoming unknowingly (or knowingly) morally unscrupulous. Science need it be reminded invented the atomic bomb. Nazi scientists invented more efficient ways to butcher people, and Nazi Technocrats used slave labour because it was logical on paper. The devotions of scientists and technicians to their field can lead to them missing the bigger picture.

  6. #6
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    Faith-belief that is not based on proof....

    I have faith but understand that the idea of God as I know it, intentionally transcends evidence...That's the whole point...Unfortunately these "Conservative Christians" (oxymoron) have perverted the "faith"and are using it to further their own selfish agendas.

    You just have to laugh at these freaks like Falwell, Robertson, etc....9/11 was because of the gays,,,,assassinate Chavez....All of these clowns, Bush included, better enjoy what they have now, because eternity is a long time...
    Last edited by lookrider; 03-24-2007 at 05:46 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_rydster
    Unfortunately religion is not the only 'belief system' which has 'caused' world problems.

    Although 'science' could be considered a 'morally neutral' system, this can lead to its practitioners becoming unknowingly (or knowingly) morally unscrupulous. Science need it be reminded invented the atomic bomb. Nazi scientists invented more efficient ways to butcher people, and Nazi Technocrats used slave labour because it was logical on paper. The devotions of scientists and technicians to their field can lead to them missing the bigger picture.

    Science isn't a belief system. Science is a process. Without a narrow focus, progress would be almost impossible in many things.

    Who is to blame when you hit your thumb with a hammer, you or it?


    supervillain

  8. #8
    the_rydster
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    Science isn't a belief system.
    Totally wrong.

    The Scientific system is build on certain articles of faith.

    1) The exists an external objective reality.
    2) The exists uniformity through time
    3) The universe has structure
    4) Predictions and generalisations are possible

    Futher to this the relationship of 'cause to effect' is assumed, which is totally impossible to prove or disprove.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_rydster
    Totally wrong.

    The Scientific system is build on certain articles of faith.

    1) The exists an external objective reality.
    2) The exists uniformity through time
    3) The universe has structure
    4) Predictions and generalisations are possible

    Futher to this the relationship of 'cause to effect' is assumed, which is totally impossible to prove or disprove.
    I know exactly where you're going with this and I'm going to shut you down before you take this too far....

    Human beings don't experience life on the level of subatomic particles. Not that I need to cite any authorities on this but Richard Feynman said exactly that in order to undermine your whole thesis.. and btw, he trumps Hawking by a wide margin.

    This Matrix stuff is sci fi....

  10. #10
    Palm trees & sunshine!
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_rydster
    Totally wrong.

    The Scientific system is build on certain articles of faith.

    1) The exists an external objective reality.
    2) The exists uniformity through time
    3) The universe has structure
    4) Predictions and generalisations are possible

    Futher to this the relationship of 'cause to effect' is assumed, which is totally impossible to prove or disprove.

    No, it is you who are incorrect. Science is the tool used to arrive at the theories you list. The faith you speak of is in those theories, not the tool used to arrive at them. Unlike the foundation of pretty much every religious belief, cause and effect is an observable fact.


    supervillain

  11. #11
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    Getting back to the original subject, believing in something without any proof is delusional. Many people feel happier because of it though. Believing in God doesn't seem to cause problems to society. It's organized religion that seems to be the problem. Once you get a group of people who tell others what they can and cannot believe, then you get problems.
    Mike

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  12. #12
    the_rydster
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    Quote Originally Posted by lookrider
    I know exactly where you're going with this and I'm going to shut you down before you take this too far....
    I am not trying to make a case for Solipsism if that is what you are insinuating?

  13. #13
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    I wonder why this is; there is a radical faith which is teaching their young to kill not only their perceived enemy, but using themselves as the weapon to do so, and you bring up Jerry Falwell. Who here is the clown?
    Just because I understand doesn't mean I care!
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spirito
    Agree. An imbalance of ideology has pervaded for far too long. The Prof's arguments are well reasoned and the older I get the more i think religion is just one big scam and counterproductive to humanity.
    I only wish I'd live to see the day where religion ceases to exist.


    supervillain

  15. #15
    the_rydster
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    No, it is you who are incorrect. Science is the tool used to arrive at the theories you list.
    The theory of an external objective reality? Which one is that, and how has it been proved? Sources please.

    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    cause and effect is an observable fact.
    Prove it (you can't).

    How do you know it does not work backwards.....the effect 'causing' the cause?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_rydster
    Prove it.
    If you jump off a high enough platform onto a hard enough surface, you will die. If you want to test that "theory", go for it. Be sure to post your results.


    supervillain

  17. #17
    the_rydster
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    If you jump off a high enough platform onto a hard enough surface, you will die. If you want to test that "theory", go for it. Be sure to post your results.
    I was not asking you to prove the theory of gravity.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_rydster
    I was not asking you to prove the theory of gravity.
    Correct. You asked me to prove cause and effect and I gave you a simple way of testing it. Please post your results.


    supervillain

  19. #19
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    pretty much sums it up for me also:

    On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, Dawkins rates himself a 6: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
    "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." -S. Hawking

  20. #20
    the_rydster
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    Correct. You asked me to prove cause and effect and I gave you a simple way of testing it. Please post your results.
    It does not test it at all.

    The notion that an effect is preceded by a cause is an article of faith, as well as being a linguistic construct.

    It could be that my death (the effect) actually 'caused' me to jump of the cliff (the cause), if for example time is not constantly linear in one direction but runs the other way.

    It could also be that the 'cause' has not relationship to the 'effect' other than being coincidental, but all the time, like an illusion.

  21. #21
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    Does a tree falling in the forrest make a sound if there is no one around to hear it?
    Just because I understand doesn't mean I care!
    - From my beer koozie

    Anti-Americanism is the principle zeitgeist of our times.

    - the rydster

    Sometimes your answer is as simple as looking down and noticing your own feet for the first time.
    - Snakebit

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_rydster
    It does not test it at all.

    The notion that an effect is preceded by a cause is an article of faith, as well as being a linguistic construct.

    It could be that my death (the effect) actually 'caused' me to jump of the cliff (the cause), if for example time is not constantly linear in one direction but runs the other way.

    It could also be that the 'cause' has not relationship to the 'effect' other than being coincidental, but all the time, like an illusion.


    Go ahead, use the scientific method and test your theories.


    supervillain

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live Steam
    Does a tree falling in the forrest make a sound if there is no one around to hear it?
    No...sound is an artifact of someone hearing it. A product of the senses.
    "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." -S. Hawking

  24. #24
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    I am undoubtably alive. I know this from my own experience. I am undoubtably part of a creation, again I witness this for myself as myself.

    Given the reality of a creation, it is not unreasonable to assume a creator, whatever the nature of that creator may or may not be.

    The matter of delusion does not concern creation and creator, it concerns characterizing the creation as a product of a creator named God.

    God, Jehovah, Allah are loaded words. Ask a fundamentalist Christian to describe God, and you are very likely to get a picture that looks like Charlton Heston in the film Moses sitting on a cloud directing the world like a holy traffic cop. That is delusional.

    God, Jehovah, Allah are delusions.

    Religion is unfortunate, as it get's in the way of the individual man or woman realizing the miracle of this creation in its own right. And it makes alot of people want to kill alot of other people, which on the whole really sucks.
    Last edited by jbrumm; 03-24-2007 at 07:25 AM.

  25. #25
    angel of the morning
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    I only wish I'd live to see the day where religion ceases to exist.
    Get thee to Vegas.
    I watched him walking in and it was like they say, you know, he kind of glowed. Like a ray of light was around him. A kind of Jesus. - Spirito (interviewing Spirito)




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