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I'm going to hijack this...

Question... why 1?  If there exist beings with the power to do all the things god is acredited with doing why is there only 1?  Given that they exist there are not 0 of them, but I see absolutely no evidence *anywhere* for there being only 1 (many Christains point and say 'look, God made a tree' or 'obviously God did this' - ostensibly proving the existance of such a being but without saying why there should be only one of it).

YHVH is understood (by some people) to be a corruption of a Babelonian god of war, several people seem to want to call him El though I don't know if this is an archeology thing or just a making-up-a-name thing,  the personal god of Abraham (god of my father would mean just exactly that).  The worship of this deity was passed on from father to son and apparently (if we believe the bible) all of the tribes of Israel are direct descendants of Abraham.  This is quite possible, especially given the number of children people used to have. So El is the god of their fathers' (even if their identity is matrilineal - an idea which I suppose is understood to be an artifact of not knowing for certain who the father was).  El appears to have been a jealous god, he tells his followers 'Thou shalt have no god before me', and later we have (an oft repeated refrain I seem to recall) 'for I am the Lord Thy God and there Is No Other God But Me', which is even more egotistical... I suppose that if you worship him you obviously *have* to beleive everything he says, more you *obviously* *have* to believe everything anyone has reported him as haveing said 3000 years ago...
Requiem refuses to rise to this.
El was the high God of Canaan. He had a court of other gods. Abraham knew God as El, not Yahweh. El's much more personal than Yahweh: you can sit and have a conversation with him without being blasted away by his sheer holiness, for example (Bible reference left as an exercise for the reader). Yahweh became identified with El as the Israelites began to think of Yahweh as the most high god. Yahweh seems to be the jealous and much more holy (in the sense of separate) version of God. Karen Armstrong's A History of God is quite good on this stuff, as is Norman Cohn's Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come. Daegaer, a LiveJournal person, also writes about [popular religion in ancient Israel]. Fascinating stuff. -- PaulWright

Personally I have two huge problems with Christianity, one is the Church (as distinct from the beliefs of the church, I despise the organisation of Christian churches and the way the seek to persuade everyone that they and only they have the 'right' interpretation and that not only all non-believers but allso all other Chrisitans are wrong, I depise the Established Church, I despise the way that America is being run by the Church even though it doesn't have an establishment...) the other is the statement that 'I am the Lord Thy God and There Is No Other God But Me'.  Yeah, I have little problems with Christianity (most of Leviticus) but that's the main problem.
The Church as apposed to the church have a hell of a lot to answer for. But don't just concentrate on their problems. They are supposed to be there for one reason and for one reason only - to help individuals find God. In that respect, they do succeed a remarkable amount even given all their failings. --Requiem
Well, it's nice to have a bunch of people to worship with, that's good.  But it's less nice to hit other people over the head with sharp things -Naath

I personally believe in the existance of infinately many gods or at least in the existance of a finite number so big that you aren't going to count to it soon, however I only worship a few individual deities (otherwise it would get silly), but I believe that many many others exist.  Therefore I am quite happy to accept that El/YHVH exists, but I do not wish to worship at his altar, or obey his commandments.  The gods I worship are far more 'human' than the Christian concept of god and give out far fewer commandments, mostely to do with how to properly woship them.  My 'morals' are formed in the same way that most atheists form their morals, with a tag on about remembering to pray.  Several people have expressed shock at the idea of a moral system independant of a deity, however it is quite possible, many atheists are moral people.  Me, I believe in deity, and there are some rules from which a moral code can be obtained, mostely pertaining to ballance and the repercussions of doing wrong.  The Egyptian concept/deity Ma'at is the embodyment of the ideal of causing least harm, and provides the ideal without giveing any rules for following it (OK there are probably hundreds of rules but the mostely pertain to how to govern Egypt), the wiccan 'an it harm none do what ye will is a similar ideal, the Thelemaic 'do what ye Will' means something slightly different - the Will is not a fleeting desire but more an idea of destiny and what you 'must' do.  And these are all principles that I think are worthy to try to live by.  Allthough I have no idea how I shall be judged. - Naath

Principle of reduction?  After all, there's no evidence that requires multiple gods - so go for the simplest explanation?  --Vitenka
And there is one of anything else?  There are billions of humans, dogs, cats, mice, microbes, planets, stars, all sorts of stuff - why have only one god? Naath

I have no problem with a moral system independent of a deity. I have a little difficulty with the idea of knowing that a god exists without worshipping it, unless we substantially modify the definition of 'god'. By my definition, there's no possibility of more than one existing! --Requiem
My gods exist independent of whether you worship them or not.  We may accept the PTerry hypothesis - gods die without worship - but they are not unworshiped. - Naath
Sorry, this baffles me. Are you really saying you can't conceive of a world with more than one god? I assume here your definition of 'god' isn't something circular like "being there is only one of". What is it? - MoonShadow
Also, unless you're including the phrase "perfect being" in your definition of God, I'd argue that there are plenty of deities you probably wouldn't want to worship. Of course, my personal viewpoint is that the perpetrator of Sodom and Gomorrah is among these, but that's just me - CorkScrew
I can't conceive of there being enough concept-space for more than one God. God defies definition, by definition. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and ineffable. I use the word 'He', but that's only by convention, not because God would conform to something so petty as gender. God is He who can create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it, and then lift it. God created everything, and set the laws by which the Universe runs, into which He built the certainty that all that we see around us would arise. There's not space for more than one Creator. And after all this - he loves something as petty and insignificant as humanity. I suppose that's the closest I can get to my definition of the word 'God' - but it's really not enough. I have a feeling that's not what Naath was defining as 'god'. --Requiem
I was defining god in the 'spiritual being with powers far greater than mine' sense.  I exclude aliens as I believe that gods have something to do with life beyond death, but I don't see gods as being either the imovable object or the irresistable force and nor are they capable of either in this world. - Naath
"I can't conceive of there being enough concept-space for more than one God" - this depends heavily on your concept of God. A bit circular for my liking.
"God defies definition, by definition" - great rhetoric, but I'm left unsure as to what it means. For me, this would logically extrapolate to "there is no God" since, if he performed any act, you could define him as "the being who performed this act". Hence He can't affect our universe, hence by Occam's Razor He can be assumed not to exist. I assume this isn't what you meant?
No. God defies exact or complete definition, was more what I meant. What can I say? It was late. --Requiem
I know that feeling. LackOfSleep? is evil. - CorkScrew
"There's not space for more than one Creator" - I take it you don't contribute to Open Source software then.
Great rhetoric yourself ^_^ - I'm having a hard time seeing why that is relevant. --Requiem
Good point :) I meant that a universe doesn't necessarily have to have just one creator. Possibly one Creator creates the Universe, then delegates the fine detail to an assistant or something - CorkScrew
Looking at the concept of God from an atheistic perspective, I'll try to sum up what "God" means with reference to the world's religions. Please correct any inaccuracies.
Christian, Moslem: the all-powerful creator. A perfect being that can do no wrong.
Hebrew: the all-powerful creator. A rather nasty SOB if you get on his bad side.
Buddhist: an extremely powerful entity. Not necessarily better, worse or more or less enlightened than a mere mortal.
Buddhism requires no god. --SF
I know, but I believe it has the concept of god - CorkScrew
Hindu: a personification of one central ultimate power. Not necessarily good or bad.
Greek/Roman?/Pagan?/Aztec?!/Norse?/Egyptian?/Babylonian?/Inca?/Misc?.: an extremely powerful entity. Worship it and it will be nicer to you. Not generally particularly nice personalities.
From this completely unscientific summary, we can see that Christianity as a faith is rather in the minority as far as the "perfect and infinite in all ways" definition of "God" goes. Given this, I'm slightly surprised that you have that much trouble comprehending an alternative. - CorkScrew
Aha. I was using the Christian definition of God, because that's what I'm used to. If you use another defninition, then of course it's possible to have multiple 'gods'. Forgive me if I don't call them God, though. --Requiem
How about we compromise and use "God" for Christian-style deity and "god" for the powerful beings of other cultures? - CorkScrew
Requiem will answer 'yes', but only after exams.
Looking back, that came across as a little nastier than I expected - sorry. However, I do think that Requiem's comment was a little rhetoric-heavy to float - CorkScrew

Hinduism, as far as I know, teaches that there are many, many gods and avatars ( gods in mortal form ), but that these are all in some way aspects of the three gods; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. In turn, these three gods are all aspects of one god. There's disagreements about this, for example the Hare Krishna movement believe that Krishna, who most Hindus would say was the incarnation of Vishnu ( and I've heard there are interesting paralells between Krishna and Christ, but that's another story ), is actually the one god. It's all very mystical and I don't really understand it... -- Xarak
Everything is part of Brahma.  But only if you're the right sort of Hindu --Naath

When I was a good little Catholic (as in, I was about 6 and a good Catholic), I asked our local Catholic priest what happened to all the prayers people of other religions sent. He told me that they basically put the same letter in the envelope, so to speak, but the address was different. And that whatever name we call Him by, all our prayers find their way to God in the end. I'd go further in this vein (however parochially Christian this sounds) and argue that it's far more important that we are religious than that we are Christian. When we've got everyone acknowledging the existence of Something Greater Than Themselves, then is the time to start the debate to convince members of other religions that our interpretation is the right one. Religion can, and should, be the greatest force for good in this world; we need to stop bickering about which is right and achieve our common goals, before we can in good conscience sit and argue interpretation and theology. --Requiem
And of course the correct belief system is blatantly Aztec (ref. the challenge I have just laid down over at God) - CorkScrew
To your question, a question - why? --Requiem
That was an ironic statement used to highlight the fact that it seems slightly ludicrous to point to a book and say "that's the correct belief system" without some evidence thereof. I'm not actually a worshipper of the Aztec pantheon, in case you were wondering, but it makes a good example - CorkScrew
Damn. I was going to offer you the use of my obsidian knife collection. --Jumlian
Oh, I know. All I can say, is that it's a personal issue (and, incidentally, if you read what I've been writing I'm not just pointing to the book; I'm pointing to all the good and holy people around). There's nothing I can say that can convince an atheist I'm right, unless God speaks to them in their heart and they listen - and in that case there's nothing I need say. All I'm doing is putting down what I believe so that other people can read it. Perhaps God will choose to use my words to speak to someone, somewhere. If logic were much help in the search for God, we'd all be the same religion already. By the very nature of God, what you ask is impossible. --Requiem
I heard Eris speak in my heart, and I answered.  I heard Ishtar speak in my heart and I answered.  I heard many gods speak in my heart and I cannot worship at the altar of all of them but I most certainly will try.  I have no altar to sacrifice at and no victims, I have no oxen, no sheep, no swine, no chikens and no produce to sacrifice, I have no oracle to conult, no temple to worship at and only badly translated fragments of the tiny fragment of what was ever written.  But still I will follow my faith.  I can not say that I have heard the voice of El but if I did he could go on file under 'war gods, ignore at your peril, not terribly relevant to impovershed student lifestyle', I have not heard any being calling itself YHVH, I have not heard a being of such great power that you describe speak to me.  Maybe I am too occupied listening to all the others.  Maybe he's not interested in people who are dedicated elsewhere.  Maybe maybe maybe.  I don't doubt that you have heard the voice of your god, but why do you expect me to listen out for his voice when others are shouting at me?-Naath

Wait...so are you saying that purely through intellectual arguments, no-one can be convinced to believe in God? E.g a perfectly rational computer with no ability for human emotion etc. wouldn't believe in God? Or are you saying that there are rational reasons to believe, but rational argument won't in fact work because people arn't rational enough? It seems like a major distinction... -- Xarak


I'm saying that you can't conjure true faith and belief by reasoned discussion, because it's an emotion. You can convince people to go through the motions, but faith isn't something you have to work at; it's something that just is. There are rational reasons to believe, but belief isn't itself a cold, rational, logical thing. It's a human emotion (with a bit of a helping hand from Above). --Requiem
I'd support the "belief in God is a function of emotion as much as logic" argument. For example, IIRC there was a study that suggested that the low frequencies of church organs tended to trigger religious feelings. However, I don't consider appeals to the emotions to be a plausible justification for worshipping a god. - CorkScrew

Fair enough. But if conversion is entirely reliant on God speaking to a person, why bother witnessing? Surely an all-powerful God doesn't really need help converting someone he's decided to convert? - CorkScrew

I was talking to some StreetPreachers? today, and they seemed convinced enough that it was what they were called to do... -- Xarak
Just because they say they're Christian doesn't mean they're not misguided. --Requiem
So isn't it possible that all Christians are misguided? How do you tell who the misguided ones are? - CorkScrew
Requiem will answer this point after exams.

AIUI, it's 'cos he wants it to be your choice - he won't speak to you unless you call to him first; so someone who isn't him needs to be around to tell you it's possible to call to him. *shrug* I might be wrong, I don't think I can support that from doctrine. -MoonShadow

''Except that the human mind is a weak and feeble thing, and can't really cope with a deity speaking directly into it unprepared. That and the "FreeWill" thing means God wouldn't just convert someone without their permission, as it were. Basically, the purpose of witnessing is not to convince people that God exists, etc, but more to make them susceptible to personally discovering it for themselves. --ChrisHowlett (EditConflicting? with MoonShadow, and saying basically the same thing)
If he is all powerfull, surely he can whisper. - Naath


(at Corkscrew) No, true. But for whatever reason, He has given everyone free will, and that includes the choice not to listen to him. But it's much harder to listen to God if you don't know he's talking to you. That's where the faithful, and the Church, come in. It's our job to remind everyone that God is out there and his voice is there if you listen hard enough. --Requiem (triple EditConflict, all with the same message! which is faintly comforting... --CH)

Now that is merely organised religion stepping in.  I presume that it is fairly evident from your tone that you are not going to remind people that (to needlessly continue an example) the Aztec pantheon is as validly out there too.  And Requiem, Good luck with the revision. --Jumlian

To answer your point - well. We're all part of different denominations. I find it moderately interesting that we all have the same line. --Requiem''
If you're not able to empirically confirm or deny which faith is correct, aren't you putting at risk the souls of the people you convert? What if the Aztec pantheon is the correct one and you're condemning your converts to hell (or its equivalent) for believing in Christianity? Btw, what do you mean by "we all have the same line"? I'm confuzzled - CorkScrew
Check out what people have written - they're saying they can't convert you, only God can. So from their POV, if they are mistaken and Aztec pantheon is the correct one, nothing will happen and you'll be no worse off than before they spoke to you.  -MoonShadow
What puzzles me is, if only God can convert people, how come people are converted to religions other than Christianity? I can think of a few answers but none are quite satisfactory - CorkScrew
People can be mistaken. Not everyone calling themselves Christian necessarily is, for that matter. It all depends on what you mean by "convert" - someone being convinced to go through the motions is not conversion, remember.. People like [this] worry Christians as much, if not more, than other religions. But no, I don't have a glib answer either. *shrug* anyone else? - MoonShadow
"If only we had all the answers," is my instant response to this. There must be a reason for it - but who knows what it is? I'm sure that you could get a more satisfactory answer to this from someone who'd devoted more time to the study of such questions. --Requiem
(PeterTaylor - glib answers on demand ;) The claim is that only God can convert people to Christianity. Therefore the contradiction doesn't exist, although there is a question raised as to why this is so: what is different about conversion to Christianity? I think part of the answer may lie in the nature of Christian faith as a personal relationship with God rather than an intellectual assent to a set of axioms and conclusions.
I think that it would be a great factual error to say that people who don't believe in the Christian faith don't believe they have personal relationships with their gods. In that the Christian god is one of the least human in nature (if you believe C S Lewis, at least), it would possibly be fair to say that Christians have one of the least personal relationships with their deity. - CorkScrew
''I don't agree with your conclusion - but I agree with your other statements. The Christian God is one of the least human in nature. But perhaps because of this, true Christian faith requires a very personal relationship with God. (Hey, no-one said it was easy!) --Requiem
How can you have a personal relationship if it's arguable that one half of the relationship is arguably not a "person"? C S Lewis in particular seemed to describe him as more of a combination of tide-like moral urge and shining light in the sky. I'll stick to Nanahuatzin :) - CorkScrew
Like I said, it's not easy. --Requiem (last I'll say on this matter; I really haven't the time for this right now.)




Paganism had been only the dream of childhood, or only a prophetic dream. Where was the thing full grown? or where was the awakening? (The Everlasting Man was helping me here.) There were really only two answers possible: either in Hinduism or Christianity. Everything else was either a preparation for, or else (in the French sense) a vulgarisation of, these. Whatever else you could find elsewhere you could find better in one of these. But Hinduism appeared to have two disqualifications. For one thing, it appeared to be not so much a moralised and philosophical maturity of paganism as a mere oil-and-water coexistence of philosophy side-by-side with Paganism unexpurged; the Brahmin meditating in the forest and, in the village a few miles away, temple-prostitution, sati, cruelty, monstrosity. And secondly, there was no such historical claim as in Christianity. I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion - those narrow, unattractive Jews, too blind to the mythical wealth of the Pagan world around them - was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become fact, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it.
C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy Chapter XV

1) I'd say that the view that one religion is "a preparation for, or else ... a vulgarisation of" another religion is an intrinsically narrow-minded attitude. Also, how do you tell where preparation ends and vulgarisation begins?
2) As far as comparative cruelty in Hinduism is concerned, I'd like to draw your attention to the Cathars, the Crusades and Northern Ireland.
3) Does an historical claim make a religion or other statement more likely to be true? I think not. It may make it a more desirable truth or a more seductive lie, but it doesn't affect the accuracy of a statement. For example, Quantum Electrodynamics makes no historical claims, but the tales of King Arthur do.
4) Also, writing style maketh not the truth.
-- CorkScrew

1) and 2) are indeed points. I'd dispute 3). QED claims that it always applied, and always will - that's pretty historical to me. It claims that the correct explanation for various events is its explanation - sounds 'historical' from where I'm sitting. What I think Lewis is getting at is that Christianity has a couple of claims provable (in theory) by reference to historical fact. And as for 4) - that's true. But you've been asking for a well-written, vaguely logical and coherent explanation - well, here one is. Be a bit more grateful that you get his clear and stylish prose rather than my incoherent ramblings for once. ^_^ I don't know why I didn't think of C.S. Lewis earlier; thanks to whoever put the quote there. Read his work, and I'm not talking about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. There are a couple of other authors I could point you at, but I can't find the references ATM. --Requiem
Christianity says 'this dude lived and died and rose again' - totally totally unproveable- of course, the OT allso has a lot of history, but haveing history written down by priests is not uncommon.  The walls of the temple of Karnak are *covered* in history.

He asked why believe Christianity rather than the Aztec religion. The answer is that the Aztec gods are clearly stories, but Christianity might be true. That doesn't mean it is, and Lewis is not trying to provide a proof. But there is a qualitative difference between the stories of the Greek or Norse gods, which read like stories, and the gospels, which read like historical accounts. Again, that's not to say that they are historical accounts: they might be made-up. But the other examples you give are obviously made-up, and Christianity might, note might, not be. It gives specific claims about specific things which might, or might not, have happened. If they happened, the religion is true; if they didn't it is false. It is worth investigating, anyway; the others, being clearly stories rather than even claiming to be concrete historical events with actual dates and places attached, are not.
I would strongly disagree that the Aztec gods are clearly stories - for many years the Aztec believed in them strongly enough to sacrifice many many people to keep the sun in the sky, for example. Just because they're not written in the style that you associate with history doesn't mean they're any less realistic than the Christian gospels - CorkScrew
The myths of other faiths are as validly history as the myths of Christianity.  They are not 'just stories' any more than 'you' might think that the story of the loaves and fishes is 'just a story'.-Naath

Re point 3, I should clarify: I wasn't just talking about historical references indicating a grain of truth. The claim of most Christians is that the Bible is 100% true, all of it, and as such I feel it should live up to a higher standard of proof than most texts (which tend to claim to be good theories or accurate as far as they can tell rather than being the ultimate reality). The historical record certainly seems to indicate the existence of an historical figure, but you could say the same about Arthur.
Whoa! Where did you get that from?? Most Christians I know do not believe in complete Biblical literality or Biblical infallibility. Please don't tar us all with the same brush. Yes, that one there, the one with the 'Evangelical' label on it. --Requiem (definitely not an evangelical)
Fair enough. But my point still stands: just because there was someone called Jesus back when, who got a reputation of some sort, doesn't mean the gospels are, well, gospel. It certainly doesn't supply me with enough evidence to throw away my existing views on how the universe works. - CorkScrew
I have read nonfiction by C S Lewis before (Mere Christianity and the Screwtape (?) Letters). He's an excellent writer, with a gift for clear explanations. His theories of God hang together quite nicely. It still all boils down to "Christianity is the religion I have most affinity for" though. Given that there are people with affinities for other religions, it's quite hard to figure out which one is true, assuming one is.
Apologies for the abrupt reaction; I was slightly disturbed by the use of Paganism to refer to generalised evils.
-- CorkScrew
Unless you know something I don't, the Screwtape Letters is fiction :) - SunKitten
You thought they were fiction? Um... {Breathes deeply and tries to recall his lines} Of course it's fiction, sorry. However, it's written as an allegory instead of a story, so I class it with his nonfiction works. It's obviously not in any way factual. Of course not, silly idea. - CorkScrewtape?^H^H^H^H



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