Friday, November 10, 2006

*freeliberal

Hint for Democrats: Protect Whistleblowers

Following up on yesterday's blog about Democrats losing focus on why they were elected, today I offer a reminder of the sort of things we Free Liberals would like to see from the new Congress.

Sibel Edmonds continues her fight to get protection for national security whistleblowers. Democrats could be strong on national security by being bold in protecting those who work in the field. Read the Liberty Coalition petition, here.

-- Kevin D. Rollins

18 comments:

damien said...

*1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion....

*The U.S. Congress officially recognized the Noahide Laws in legislation which was passed by both houses. Congress and the President of the United States, George Bush(snr), indicated in Public Law 102-14, 102nd Congress, that the United States of America was founded upon the Seven Universal Laws of Noah, and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization. They also acknowledged that the Seven Laws of Noah are the foundation upon which civilization stands and that recent weakening of these principles threaten the fabric of civilized society, and that justified preoccupation in educating the Citizens of the United States of America and future generations is needed. For this purpose, this Public Law designated March 26, 1991 as Education Day, U.S.A.

*You weren't aware that the USA was founded on the laws of Noah? It's here in the library of Congress and it's discussed here. Well, you live and learn. (Don't ask me about my emotional response on this one. It's fucking unprintable.) THERE.IS.NO.LOBBY.

damien said...

want more....

Whereas society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles that has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society;

Whereas the justified preoccupation with these crises must not let the citizens of this Nation lose sight of their responsibility to transmit these historical ethical values from our distinguished past to the generations of the future;

Whereas the Lubavitch movement has fostered and promoted these ethical values and principles throughout the world;

Whereas Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Lubavitch movement, is universally respected and revered and his eighty-ninth birthday falls on March 26, 1991;

Whereas in tribute to this great spiritual leader, `the rebbe', this, his ninetieth year will be seen as one of `education and giving', the year in which we turn to education and charity to return the world to the moral and ethical values contained in the Seven Noahide Laws; and

Whereas this will be reflected in an international scroll of honor signed by the President of the United States and other heads of state: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That March 26, 1991, the start of the ninetieth year of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, leader of the worldwide Lubavitch movement, is designated as `Education Day, U.S.A.'. The President is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

lukery said...

wowsers. thnx.

- although, while we're quoting the first amendment, i resent your suggestion that your response is not printable.

damien said...

Just to round it out...

First note that Noah is a mythological person (as opposed to Hammurabi, a historical ruler of Babylon, whose religious and civil edicts are similar to the 10 commandments yet produced before those laws.) Secondly, note that the Noahide laws are part of an oral tradition not found in the Old Testament and have no written roots. They appear to have been constructed well after the Exodus and the 10 commandments. Thirdly, they play a role similar to canon law in the Catholic church.

With these ideas in mind, imagine if Public Law 102-14, 102nd Congress had been written as follows:

"the United States of America was founded upon the canon law of the Catholic Church produced by priests sometime after Jesus died, and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization."

Now you're getting the idea...

The seven Noahide prohibitions are of idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, illicit relations, eating live meat and failing to establish courts of justice.

The Noahide website explains why Christianity does not fulfill God's will, and how it has always been a weapon against Judaism.

So the theology of the Noahide laws is that Christianity is evil. Yet, if we are to believe Congress, "the United States of America was founded upon the Seven Universal Laws of Noah, and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization."

That's an affirmation, confirmed by Congress, that Christianity is evil.

lukery said...

"note that Noah is a mythological person"

god, too.

damien said...

"god, too."

Correct, of course. But there is a more substantive, unresolved question behind that remark. People who say "God exists" may be mistaken, gullible, delusional, easily-lead, etc. But the subtext of their claim is that there is a reality in the objective world, outside a person's own private reality and sense perceptions, that can be met and communicated with by some means. Moreover, this communication, awareness, understanding - call it what you will - is allegedly carried out at a level of intimacy and certainty that goes beyond normal human to human communications. Clearly, there are problems with such claims, not the least of which is their essentially private and unverifiable nature.

otoh, people who say "God does not exist" have an equally difficult philosophical problem. It is reasonable and appropriate to deny claims by others that they have 'spoken with God' or had religious conversions or whatever. But, philosophically, there are problems in universally denying the possibility of higher order awareness of one kind or another for every other person, and under all circumstances.

In my younger days I met and mixed with a lot of religious people of various types (I was brought up a catholic). For me, a lot of the cheap clutter of religion has been left far behind. Kindness, laughter, intelligence are far more important than a grab bag of junk beliefs. If, however, some of those beliefs help people to live with kindness, laughter and intelligence then I really don't care what junk holds it together.

On a personal note, you know those quiet moments people get sometimes when they just stop and say to themselves "gee, I wonder what it's all about?" Well, I haven't had that question in my mind in over thirty years. Not for for a second. Not for for a quarter of a second. Not once. Not ever. That doesn't say anything about God. But it does say something about the possibility that consciousness is real, subtle and can evolve in interesting ways.

Now, about that flying spaghetti monster...

lukery said...

D- "otoh, people who say "God does not exist" have an equally difficult philosophical problem. It is reasonable and appropriate to deny claims by others that they have 'spoken with God' or had religious conversions or whatever. But, philosophically, there are problems in universally denying the possibility of higher order awareness of one kind or another for every other person, and under all circumstances. "

hmmmmm - firstly, i'm not sure that atheists have an 'equal' problem. Secondly, i'm curious about your emphasis on 'universally' etc. - are you suggesting that god is like schroeders cat? ie that She may *exist* for some people and not others? i dont think i've ever heard that argument before.

damien said...

"hmmmmm - firstly, i'm not sure that atheists have an 'equal' problem."

This is not to argue one way or the other for the existence of God(s). The essence of the argument of the God-believers is that knowledge of such a being is allegedly obtained outside a scientific setting, either through rituals, conversion procedures, 'faith' etc. If we were dealing with a scientific paradigm we could demand of these 'believers' that they prove their experience to us within our scientific framework. Of course, the essence of their argument is that such knowledge cannot be communicated in this way, but is nonetheless real. Scientifically, it's circular logic, for sure, but philosophically it's perfectly respectable. As long as personal experience is as private as it is, we don't know what someone else is experiencing. So we have no basis for rejecting any of their claims. Of course, we are not required to build our behaviour around other people's delusions, nor should we.

We need to be a bit flexible about 'God' here. By 'God' I mean any higher form of consciousness, organised energy or being that does not possess a body yet may reflect a higher order interactiveness with the universe that we might consider to be 'living'. For example, the Buddha claimed in one discourse that while individuals possessed sight there was an aspect to that faculty that had no physical location, that it was spread throughout the universe. (I don't know if that's true or not, I'm just making the argument.) This is not as wasy out as it first seems. Radio waves were deemed impossible at first, yet they exist. The key here is to understand that a valid definition of the generic term 'God' need not be anthropomorphic. If I was a dog and I came across a human I might have great difficulty explaining the nature of humanness to other dogs - assuming we could bark some messages to each other - yet the experience could well be real.

Back to the argument: a strict atheist argues that no person, operating under any circumstances, can encounter ANY higher form of consciousness (of the type I have just described) because such 'living' entities cannot exist in principle. I think such a claim is unsustainable - can you say that 'cat-like' creatures, for instance, will NEVER be found on any planet in the entire universe? Of course not.

As an alternative an athiest might argue 'God' or 'Gods' cannot be demonstrated to others - which is just to insist that shared knowledge is the only valid form of knowledge. I don't know as that's true either.

AFAICS, strict atheism is pretty much an unsustainable argument. But there is nothing wrong with a person believing no God(s) exist until a scientific demonstration of them is found. Agnosticism is well justified imho: "I don't believe God(s) exist until I meet one or they're justified to me by the scientific method." Perfectly acceptable.

Secondly, i'm curious about your emphasis on 'universally' etc. - are you suggesting that god is like schroeders cat? ie that She may *exist* for some people and not others? i dont think i've ever heard that argument before.

No, I wasn't arguing the schroeders cat line (existing only for some people at some times). Rather, that no-one can say with complete certainty, for example, that 'cat-like' creatures will NEVER be found on any planet in the entire universe.

People ought to reject as 'untestable' (and hence meaningless except as a private expression) any testimony of a religious person about their alleged experience of a 'God' or 'Gods'. Such claims are in the 'imaginary friend' category. otoh human consciousness is quite extraordinary and subtle and it may be entirely possible that some humans do experience higher-order types of consciousness (much as a dog encountering a human).

Certainly, most claims of God-awareness are exactly what they appear to be - hallucinatory bunkum. Other than being a libertine in allowing others to believe whatever they like about 'God(s)' I think there are two very useable and important social principles here:

(1) Any religious beliefs that advocate violence (esp. for idiotic crap like 'chastity')should be banned.
(2) Societies should be civil, not religiously based.

I can't see any reason why we should build modern societies on the musings of ancient goatherders and shepherds. And I'm not a big fan of witch burnings...unless they're particularly ugly ;)

lukery said...

okey-dokes. i'm completely willing to accept the possibility that there might be things (energy, communication etc) that are not knowable/measurable through our 5 senses as currently configured - although i strongly believe that 'physics' (or something like it) will, eventually, be able to describe/explain any such phenomenon.

my schroeder's cat reference was in response to this: "But, philosophically, there are problems in universally denying the possibility of higher order awareness of one kind or another for every other person, and under all circumstances."
you appear to be arguing that interaction with (something godlike) by, say, (at least) a single person is the key. you also reiterate the point ("possible that some humans do experience...") - i'd be much more comfortable discussing the existence of something godlike if it wasnt dependent on whether or not someone 'experienced' it.

as you say, it all comes back to the definition of 'god' - and if, for sake of argument, we strip Her of Her three main roles (per western religions) of i) creator ii) Heaven's host iii) intervention then i'm not exactly sure what we're left with apart from some forms of energy that we haven't discovered/explained yet (which may or may not be godlike)

as for: "(1) Any religious beliefs that advocate violence (esp. for idiotic crap like 'chastity')should be banned."
i'll just say that:
a) violence should be banned
b) religions which don't 'advocate' violence can still create/ result in violence.

lastly, i have no problem with people who believe in the FSM if it helps them in any way. many people take strength, find wisdom etc in their particular version of the FSM. hats off to them - so long as they don't hurt/repress anyone - although i also take richard dawkins' position that religion is dangerous for a whole host of different reasons.

i disagree with you that strict atheism is problematic - and i think your definition of agnosticism could effectively serve as the definition of an atheist: "I don't believe God(s) exist until I meet one or they're justified to me by the scientific method." - i doubt there's a single atheist who wouldn't sign up to that.

damien said...

We're probably in agreement on several issues here. There are philosophical problems all over with the whole 'God' issue. The main reasons people invest in religion are (i)they are powerful social forces for defining group behaviour and ethical standards, (ii)the possibility of survivability of part of a person after death and (iii) enhanced consciousness while alive.

As far as (i) is concerned I have yet to see a fully secular eithical system develop from scratch. They always seem to arise out of, or in reaction to, an established religious culture. I don't know what such a system would look like without referencing or utilising features of an established ethical system founded in a religious tradition.

As a bit of a side argument, I suppose one could argue that genetic markers may have developed over generations that can predispose an organism towards cooperative and altruistic behaviour in regard to group membership. In that model, the necessity for some God figure would not be needed. We could view formal religion as an irrelevant artefact of biological processes that we could wean ourselves off over time. (All of which seems ok. I don't mind ethical systems so long as they get away from killing people).

Re(ii), fear of oblivion through death is very strong in people so belief in a God-figure would almost certainly be created by many people even if there were no messianic leaders encouraging such beliefs. It's not a particularly important issue for me. I agree with Woody Allen: "I'm not afraid of death, I just don't want to be around when it happens." So that part doesn't interest me. If there is a God creature discoverable only after death, then that's a no-brainer for everybody. We don't get to know (or not know it!) till then.

Re (iii) advanced consciousness while alive...Is it possible for this to occur?... I would say yes to this question.I am reminded of Buddha sitting under the Bo tree after seven years of fasting and rituals, fully determined not to get up until he had answered life's deepest questions. His 'enlightenment' came when a milk maid passed by leading a cow. It appears that the Buddha then became aware that his existential questioning that gave rise to so much 'pain' was an illusory exercise, a kind of self-indulgent and meaningless generation of angst. He became aware that the milk maid was content, that she was not troubled by the questions that he personally considered so important. He was forced to accept that his ruminations were the self-generated torturings of his imagination. The world was just itself. He was thus freed from his illusions. This process of discarding false questions was only succesful because he had brought all his questions into one focus and then had that focus neatly removed by the presence of another person he was able to recognise as not part of his imaginitive process. The world was still the same, he'd just lost his illusions. (I went through an interesting exercise with a guru many years ago that had some parallels to this sort of process...consciousness can be changed in some very interesting ways.) I say this because the existence of a 'God' being can be quite separate from changing consciousness. The idea of separating real questions from fetid imagination ought not to be underrated.

We come to the God-being idea. There are big problems here. The universe is BIG. It's probable there are billions of life forms out there (separate issue, I know). But the idea that one Moses-like know-it-all with a brain like ours sitting over it seems a bit far-fetched, particularly if it's thought that he/she has an immediate interest in particular humans. That's why I said the anthropomorphic model seems a bit of a stretch. (I like the Buddha model.)

you appear to be arguing that interaction with (something godlike) by, say, (at least) a single person is the key. you also reiterate the point ("possible that some humans do experience...") - i'd be much more comfortable discussing the existence of something godlike if it wasnt dependent on whether or not someone 'experienced' it.

Fair point. But it's argued by people that a God-being exists. You reasonably have to start with the evidence of alleged witnesses or physical evidence to such a strange phenomenon and see if any of that is reasonable. I don't think you can be succesful with any discussion in the abstract on this question. The situation is similar to discussing if ghosts or alien life forms exist. The existence of God issue is not a big deal for me. I consider it more important to start with the Buddha issue of separating real from imagined questions. FTR, I don't think there's a Moses-mega being sitting over it all. But, it's a question that obviously interests others.

i disagree with you that strict atheism is problematic - and i think your definition of agnosticism could effectively serve as the definition of an atheist: "I don't believe God(s) exist until I meet one or they're justified to me by the scientific method." - i doubt there's a single atheist who wouldn't sign up to that.

I don't think that's true. Agnosticism essentially says you don't know (and you may not feel obliged to know, regarding the God issue as a monumental beat up.) Athesim oto says you know absolutely beyond any shadow of any doubt that no God-being exists. That's not a statement about a person's belief system. That's a statement about the condition of the physical universe. How would you know that such a God-being doesn't really exist? They might be quite small and hiding behind Alpha Centauri? Have you been there lately?

Thanks for your thoughts L. Are we there yet?

lukery said...

yeah - we're close :-)

re atheism & scientific proof: it's my understanding that atheists don't differentiate between say unicorns and any versions of the flyingspaghettimonster - that is, 'of course neither exists, but if you prove to me that i'm wrong, then i'll re-evaluate'

I don't know what such a system would look like without referencing or utilising features of an established ethical system founded in a religious tradition.
chicken or the egg? if we take Moses & the tablet as a starting point for arguments sake - i'm pretty sure that most of the media oxygen the following day was sucked up by 'holy shit - god threw a rock at moses' rather than 'holy shit - this 'don't kill' thing is a revelation! i'd never even considered THAT before! This God fellow is a GD genius!'

it's true that most societies had some version of 'religion' - but most of the 'religious rules' are the same rules that you have in any co-operative group, and the 'selfish gene'/ evolutionary psychology can explain most of it.

But it's argued by people that a God-being exists. You reasonably have to start with the evidence of alleged witnesses or physical evidence to such a strange phenomenon and see if any of that is reasonable.
i'm not sure that's where you have to 'reasonably' start - but if that's the test, arguendo, there's no evidence, so the discussion should be over. there used to 'physical evidence' - e.g. baby bears, and floods, and stars, and death - but they have all been proven to have other causes.

So as i said, if you remove Creation, Heaven & Interventionism - then there's not much left for a god to do, or to be, or even be defined as.

as for 'advanced consciousness' - i think we need to define both advanced and consciousness - is it possible for someone to have 'different' experiences to other people? sure. some people have more joy, or peace, or appreciation of the world around them, or wisdom than others. others take acid. all of these are examples of different consciousness - and i'm sure all of these experiences/states can feel as though they are divinely inspired/generated...

i would argue that the eastern religionists are much closer to atheists than to westernreligionists - because the easterners and atheists have their joy/peace/understanding in the present, than the westernreligionists who (and yes im being simplistic) derive a lot of whatever they get from some 'other' being and/or place (and the threat of punishment).

damien said...

"dawkins subscribes to my definition of atheism" :-)

Appeal to authority. Not a valid argument. I shall return.

Kathleen said...

Check out the I Ching guys. It describes and discusses life force, not God, per se. I guess I'm a pantheist, which is to day I recognize life force in every living thing, which continues through eternity through the conservation of energy and matter. Death is just repackaging. there are universal laws that all matter and energy follow. We are in a perpetual process of discovery.

damien said...

I had a look at the I Ching some ago Kathleen. I had a friend who was heavily into it. It's interesting to me only for two reasons: the underpinning Confucian philosophy about ethics and the good society as reflective of a natural order; and, the hexagram pairings (King Wen and Fu Hsi) which record how you move between hexagrams changing one unit at a time. I have long suspected that these systems are part of an arithmetic process being carried out in four dimensions. When you rotate an object in space its movements are recorded by a mathematical table of patterns called its Lie-group (named after Sophus Lie). Now, for all dimensions except 4-D the Lie group is simple. That means what it sounds like. You can't break the process down. However, in four dimensions the Lie group of rotations is made up of two subgroups from the third dimension. Rotating an object in four dimensions is equivalent to rotating two separate objects in three dimensions. It's a bit like going to a 3-D movie screening and watching the image through two 2-D eyeglass lenses that produce the composite image. Only in this case, you use two 3-D rotating images to get a 4-D rotating image. Anyway, I still believe the I Ching is a four dimensional mathematical calculus reflecting this process.

I guess I'm a pantheist - wow! A full blown pagan destined to burn in the fires of hell for all eternity. Way to go Kathleen! :)

damien said...

A great deal of religious talk is, of course, total nonsense. Aussie poet and cartoonist Leunig has a nice take on this:

Come sit down beside me
I said to myself
And although it didn't make much sense,
I held my own hand
As a small sign of trust
And together I sat on the fence.

lukery said...

d: "Appeal to authority. Not a valid argument."
well - we're only quibbling about definitions.

K: "I guess I'm a pantheist, which is to day I recognize life force in every living thing, which continues through eternity through the conservation of energy and matter. Death is just repackaging. there are universal laws that all matter and energy follow. We are in a perpetual process of discovery."
i could subscribe to most of that - perhaps the only question (which may or may not be significant) is whether there's any difference between pantheism (as described) and atheism - and whether it matters.

damien said...

"we're only quibbling about definitions". Too true Lukery - I was just playing - sorry about the delay.

A few philosophers have argued that 'God' statements are exclusively private statements. They cannot be verified by another person, they cannot be scientifically tested in any way, they are unfalsifiable (a la Popper) and hence, socially, they can have no agreed meaning. This is not to say they don't have a private meaning for their users and they may well reflect aspects of reality or consciousness for a particular individual. I agree entirely with this idea that religious statements are, by and large, private statements and philosophy cannot usefully be applied to them. I would disagree, however, with those who would seek to dismiss these private statements as exclusively fiction, hallucination or fantasy. Because of the extensive nature of these private statements across societies and across history I am prepared to accept that some individuals may be tapping into deeper aspects of human consciousness. The only valid inquiry-responses to such claims (since they are not open to reasoned argument) is to follow the directions of the proponents of these views. Thus "take this hallucinogen", "complete this religious ritual", "give all your goods to the poor", "sacrifice this vestal virgin" are all valid courses of inquiry (if one wants to).

We can reject private statements about 'God' entirely. We started this discussion when you added 'God' to our list of fictional characters such as Noah. As a basis for inquiry about the world, there's nothing wrong with that stance, of course. There's a long list of philosohers who would agree with you. The term 'atheism' could be used here quite safely.

However, my personal preference not to use this term in this context is as follows:

(1)This manner of rejection of phenomena can equally be applied to the class of all unknown or undemonstrable truths about the world. For example, a person living in the early 19th century who spoke about electric motors could be deemed to be expressing a 'private statement' not open to verification by others. The phenomenon in this case is true. Neither the language describing it, nor the science for accessing it, were available at the time (except to Michael Faraday). So this process of rejecting private statements may be limiting of genuine inquiry.

(2) I used the term 'undemonstrable truths' just now. Recall here Godel's theorem (of which I am sure you are aware). Kurt Godel (1931) managed to show that within mathematics - arithmetic, specifically - there are true statements that are inherently unprovable from the axioms of arithmetic. Moreover, if more axioms are added to remedy this deficiency, then new statements will arise that will also be true and unprovable. We know that some statements are true and provable ("2 + 3 = 5"). We know that some statements are false and provably so ("2+3 = 10"). But what are we to make of the as-yet-unproved statement of Goldbach ("every even number is the sum of two primes"). This statement has yet to be proved. It may be false, but appears to be true. Even if it is true, it is now (no thanks to Godel!) entirely possible that this may be a true statement for any particular number even number we care to examine, yet an undemonstrable one in its totality. Moreover, further advances in mathematics have made it clear that such true-yet-unprovable statements constitute that vast body of mathematical truth by many orders of magnitude. ie. most mathematical truth is true but unprovable!

Why is this important? Well, maths may look complex, but in comparison to life systems such as biology, human consciousness, the cosmos etc it's simple. There is every good reason to believe that there are vast amounts of 'truth', 'reality' out there that will simply not be accessible to scientifically agreed principles.

Does that mean one should accept the views of every religious idiot? Decidedly no. But it is a judgement call as to where one draws the line in investigating such phenomena or denying their possibility. I once went through an initiate process where I was told that every human comes into this life accompanied by spiritual guides. I was also told that I had 9 of these in my life, 4 females and 5 male spirits. I had my attention directed to certain aspects of my consciousness that were subtle and that I had not previously been aware of. Do I believe in "spirit guides"? I hardly care one way or the other. Were the discovered aspects of my consciousness real enough? For sure. Is it possible that these two aspects have some basis in reality? I don't know. I would be foolish to dismiss the idea entirely. But at a practical level I neither know nor care whether spirit guides exist.

re Moses, the chicken or the egg, and the possibility of an ethical system arising outside a religious culture.

I just finished watching an SBS show on religion. One of the social scientists noted that belief systems altered according to social developments. Animism (spirits in rocks, trees etc) was found in stone age cultures. This then progressed to multiple gods with tribes of animal herders. Only with crop cultivation and settled cities were there outbreaks of the idea of a universal God. Islam, for instance, violently overthrew tribal groups each having their own god(s). So there's no reason to think that the idea of a universal 'God' is somehow innate in people. Social definitions of God are built on preceding models. (eg the Genesis account from the bible was written about 600BC and is an almost identical copy of the ancient Gilgamesh epic. It should have been called 'Gilgamesh 2').

i'm pretty sure that most of the media oxygen the following day was sucked up by 'holy shit - god threw a rock at moses' rather than 'holy shit - this 'don't kill' thing is a revelation!

I accept that prohibitions against killing did not arise out of a vacuum. But neither did they arise out of any innate sense of individual conscience. Social and religious customs were always present in ancient societies. The general rule was that killing within a tribe was taboo, but against competing tribes or strangers was accepted. The Moses law should be seen in this context. A group of related tribes left Egypt. Moses' new laws were directed at unifying these tribes by prohibiting tribal killings within this newly formed 'chosen people'. The injuction against killing was a global one, for sure. But those who opposed this newly formed people seeking new lands had no protection under the law. Priests of other religions, in particular, were killed with a vengeance. This was a law given for a 'chosen people'.

While I accept that it is possible for one to develop a purely secular ethical system, the historical fact is that they have always arisen in social settings with religious components of one sort or another. For sure, Dawkins' gene thing may be driving the whole thing at the bottom. But I have yet to see a secular ethical system emerge without reference to a particular social and religious setting. (I don't say it's not possible, just not likely. However hard we want to believe in ethics as individual conscience based, the reality is that social mechanisms pretty much define us.)

"But it's argued by people that a God-being exists. You reasonably have to start with the evidence of alleged witnesses or physical evidence to such a strange phenomenon and see if any of that is reasonable." - i'm not sure that's where you have to 'reasonably' start - but if that's the test, arguendo, there's no evidence, so the discussion should be over."

I don't think that's true at all. There is a 'God' phenomena (mystics, teachings of Jesus, Mohammed etc) claiming a basis in reality of a "god entity'. Now they may be all delusional, but witness statements are a valid evidentiary starting point. If you're in the Sahara desert and you get multiple anecdotal reports about the existence of polar bears, you can deny the judgment or sanity of those making those reports, but not the reality of eyewitness statements as evidentiary starting points. To the extent that such claims are not in conflict with established science they can be examined. People can be full on atheists in rejecting such phenomena as the alleged physical resurrection of Christ, for example. But claims of extra-sensory awareness, communication by non-verbal means with other conscious beings, or more subtle aspects of the 'God' phenomena can reasonably be the subject of individual inquiry.

as for 'advanced consciousness' - i think we need to define both advanced and consciousness. You are correct. I think the term I should have used was 'enhanced consciousness' in the sense of seeking to move beyond the boundaries of familiar sensory experience. One could argue easily that 'God' experiences can be replicated by drugs, so yeah, there's nothing special going on here. But that ought not to mean that the experiences of different individuals can never be substantially or radically different. And then we are back to the impossibility of accessing individual consciousness accept by following instructions on how to get there..."take one vestal virgin..."

So as i said, if you remove Creation, Heaven & Interventionism - then there's not much left for a god to do, or to be, or even be defined as.

That's fine if you accept that the 'God phenomena' in all it's social varieties can or should be brought down to a definitional status. Personally, I think it's fine for people to be athiests. And I don't have any God views of my own to foist on people. But I've seen too much in my own life and I've met too many people to dismiss such ideas out of hand. I believe that strict atheists have a hard time justifying their position philosophically because of the types of arguments I gave in (1) and (2). I think agnosticism has better arguments for it. But I don't really care if it makes people happy. Whatever turns you on, Lukery. Cheers mate.

damien said...

ps. I have no doubt a professional philosopher could rip my ideas to shreds here. But that's ok, I'm just providing 'snapshots'. Clearly, when you are in the middle of the Sahara and you get reports of the existence of polar bears, you have try to distinguish those claims from reports on the existence of mermaids or else all knowledge is just a fuzzy mess. I have a strong feeling that I have not adequately addressed your concerns or definitions of atheism, which have real merit. I'm sorry if I haven't gotten to the bottom of your ideas here Lukery. I guess my basic argument is that dismissing ALL 'God' statements as having no possible basis in reality is an exceptionally strong statement about the nature of the physical universe that in many ways is as much a 'faith' exercise as beliefs in 'God'. That's why I feel the agnosticism argument is on stronger ground. Shall we start a new religion? I bags being the Prophet- with all the commercial rights. You can be the God - but you'll have to keep a low profile. :)