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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:37 am 
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tinwë wrote:
A quick comment on the statement made earlier that we could eliminate the suffering from natural disasters if we built structures designed to withstand them. I took a structural engineering class back when I was in architecture school where we were given an assignment to design a house that could withstand a tornado. The assignment was intended to be an exercise in futility, not because it can’t be done - it can, easily in fact: throw enough steel and concrete at a building and you can design it to withstand anything. No, the point was to demonstrate that it would, in fact, be impossible to design structures that could withstand every possible eventuality for every person in the world. The resources, time and money simply do not exist for such design. You would be amazed at what it takes to build something to withstand a tornado. We had one come through our town a few days ago - missed my brother’s house by less than two miles, and completely destroyed several homes. These were modern structures that were built to withstand a 90 mile per hour wind load (what the code requires for this area), and there was nothing left of them but the concrete slab on the ground.

Of course there are things we could, and should, do better at. There is an exclusive beachfront town here in North Carolina where multi-million dollar houses are routinely destroyed by hurricanes and the government keeps paying to rebuild them. It’s ridiculous! I also think it’s fairly absurd that some of the largest cities on the West Coast are built in areas that are certain to fall into the sea in the foreseeable future. But the inescapable fact is that if we were to take all of the people out of all of the places subject to earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, volcanoes, drought, and any other natural phenomenon that poses a threat to us, there wouldn’t be enough land left to house all seven billion of us. Maybe if we pursued a population control program using aggressive birth control, family planning and abortion procedures we could keep the population down to a safe number, but religion seems to be opposed to that sort of thing.

The world would, undoubtedly, be a much better place if greed, selfishness, short-sightedness, callousness, hatred and all of the other human failings were replaced with genuine caring, empathy and understanding of our fellow man, but even then there would still be suffering and bad things would still happen to good people. I utterly reject the notion that suffering came into the world because of sin. Adam and Eve would have eventually known suffering even if they had never gone anywhere near the apple tree. Imo.


That bit at the end is a hard teaching, one that I do not understand fully myself. In a weekly Bible study we've been looking at the book of Genesis for over 3 months and have barely made it halfway through chapter 3 (man would I like to just move on at times!)

Anyway, thanks for sharing your knowledge of structural integrity, our ability to build to withstand certain forces. There are also such things as building below ground (a system of mirrors and tubes can even transport the light of the sun to subterranian spaces) or under water... either way I appreciate your conclusion about cost, but I don't agree that it has to be that way but for the inherent limitations or standards our economic system imposes. (Your illustration about the mansions being rebuilt is a kind of proof of this.) Obviously our economic system presents a set of conditions we are either okay with trying to work within, or that we feel powerless to change in a meaningful way. The point being if we could cast aside our acceptance of or assumptions about the way things "have to be" we might feel a bit freer to explore solutions that could make a profound dent in human suffering.

That aside, I was wondering if we could pick up a thread that flows from your post, but also Vison's: is it assumed then that people who are visited by disaster did not enjoy protection from such things? If they asked for protection or rested in the belief that they were protected (speaking of the divine here) yet suffered with or through some disaster, does that mean they were deluded? Conversely, is it assumed that everyone that survives a disaster relatively untouched by suffering (if at all) was protected from it through prayer or divine intervention? In other words is not the principle behind the saying "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" the only logical conclusion to be drawn? If so, wherefore the consternation when bad things happen? [and] Is not being angry with God, by definition, also acknowledging God?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:00 pm 
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I said before and I'll say again: if you believe in that kind of a god, then that god will do whatever it wants whether you understand it or not. You can study till your eyes fall out, reading what other men have said about the god. It won't change one thing. You are still at god's mercy.

So I have nothing to add.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:13 pm 
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What Vison said is also the ultimate takeaway from the Book of Job: I'm God, you're not, deal with it. Good things happen to the wicked, bad things to the virtuous, or not, and that's how it is, and questioning it will get you exactly nowhere.

I can get nowhere a lot easier by cutting out the ineffable middleman.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:00 pm 
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vison wrote:
I said before and I'll say again: if you believe in that kind of a god, then that god will do whatever it wants whether you understand it or not. You can study till your eyes fall out, reading what other men have said about the god. It won't change one thing. You are still at god's mercy.

So I have nothing to add.


But you've just added quite a bit, and ax provided an excellent (if not abrupt) summary of the Book of Job.

Where we disagree (well there are a few points) is whether or not there is a God, and if so whether or not it is possible to trust that he cares about us even as we suffer. I believe it is possible because I have, to the best of my ability at least, but also not without help from him in that regard.

And I agree with you partially about studying the scriptures. There is a lot there I do not understand and wonder sometimes if I ever will. But (you knew there was a but) it is possible to learn about God through them, and understand quite a bit depending in what spirit you approach them.

In any event, I am sure you are not saying that a person is wasting their time in the studying the Word, or that a person who studies the scriptures perhaps cannot be counted on to understand them or apply them to their own life. Obviously you are not saying this because throughout the HoF we are entreated routinely to rely on the knowledge this person or the other has devoted time in study to.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:16 pm 
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SirDennis, I am not going to say what I think about studying the scriptures looking for god's words, believing god's words to be in there.

Have a nice day. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:32 pm 
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hmmm perhaps it is time to abandon any hope that we can in fact talk about this stuff in a forum dedicated to doing that?

I'll try to have a nice day. Thank you vison. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:44 pm 
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[quote="axordil"I can get nowhere a lot easier by cutting out the ineffable middleman.[/quote]

That made me laugh. :P

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:21 pm 
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We can certainly discuss topics like this one, SirD, as we have in the past. Based on my own experience here, which hasn't always gone smoothly, it's wisest not to press people to give answers or state conclusions that they've expressed a wish not to state. That can be frustrating in the short term, but in the long term it allows people to participate in discussions who would otherwise stay away rather than risk being pressured to say more than they feel comfortable saying.

This is not a major point, but it's worth mentioning.

ETA: I made this post before I was aware of the existence of your Nan Elmoth thread, SirD, and this isn't related to that; it really is a general comment.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:52 pm 
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Ah, so it is my method of communication, by inquiry, that is the problem? (there I go again) Even when I state that I do not myself have the answer? Or is this interpreted as false modesty of some kind? Its certainly not meant to be an interrogation.

Perhaps it is wrong of me to believe that because people are here, reading and throwing in the odd comment, that they actually do want to explore certain ideas.

I really don't see another way of having a conversation. Unless conversation is meant as a series of connected statements that aren't meant to be challenged or turned over. It seems, and perhaps I am the most guilty of it, that we spend quite a bit of energy second guessing the other's motives by what they say. I suppose that is slightly better than being shunned, but only slightly.

All this is to say I feel roundly rebuked for my naiveté. I will take my leave of this place, though not without a sense of sadness and loss.


Last edited by SirDennis on Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:59 pm 
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SirDennis wrote:
Ah, so it is my method of communication, by inquiry, that is the problem?


If there is a "problem", I am not aware of it. :scratch:

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:39 pm 
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I’m not sure what the problem is either, and I certainly hope you don’t leave on account of any of this. You are a valued poster and your viewpoints are always welcome.

I think the difficulty with the type of conversation you are trying to have is that it presumes starting from a reference point that not everyone here shares. It is difficult to discuss the merits of various beliefs with people who do not necessarily share the tenants that form the foundation of those beliefs. For instance I stated pretty unequivocally that I reject the notion that suffering came into the world through sin, an idea that I think is pretty clearly spelled out in the Bible, and from which your inquiries naturally follow. So how else am I supposed to respond except that I disagree with the tenants behind your inquiries?

There are people here who do share your point of reference and who would enjoy having the sort of discussion you want to have. The difficulty, again, is that this is an open forum where everyone is welcome to participate whether they agree with you or not, and you should expect that sometimes people will tell you they disagree.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:55 pm 
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I hope you don't leave either, Sir D. But I think you ran up against a wall with this:
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...about studying the scriptures. There is a lot there I do not understand and wonder sometimes if I ever will. But... it is possible to learn about God through them, and understand quite a bit depending in what spirit you approach them.


You directed this toward vison, I believe, an attempt to find some common ground.

But if a person doesn't believe in God or a god or any gods...and a person doesn't believe that the scriptures were in any way inspired by a Divine being - then that person is NOT going to believe that it is possible to learn about God/god through them. No matter what spirit is used in approaching them.

To that person, studying the scriptures looking for God's word is an exercise in futility at best.

When you or someone else brings up what it says in scripture to make a point, or to "prove" something, you assume there is common ground/agreement on the validity of the scriptures themselves. If the person you are having the discussion with does not view the scriptures in the same way or give them the same value, then you have no ground to stand on for your argument/discussion.

I think vison was trying to politely back out of the discussion without belittling your beliefs.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:45 pm 
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By this place I meant this particular forum (Tol Eressëa). I'm not one to just take my ball and go home. Though I dare say, if I remain committed to staying away from Tol Eressëa chances are I won't be see very much at all.

Clearly I do not understand the purpose of "this place."If people who are otherwise participating in a thread are not interested in discussing ideas because they reject where the idea comes from, it is a little hard to have what I would call a discussion. Furthermore declining to comment by saying you will not say what your comment actually implies is disingenuous at best.

I'm not looking for agreement, but some respect for ideas that are out there whether we believe them -- or that from which they are derived -- or not.

A discussion of the ideas surrounding UFOs is analogous I think. Saying an idea derived from a body of thought is nonsense because you think the whole body of thought is nonsense is not very productive. Consider ideas that flow out of fantasy literature, or science fiction for instance. Are they not worth talking about because we know they are fiction?

Perhaps it is the nature of spirituality itself that is threatening? Perhaps we can talk about ideas from fantasy literature or SciFi because (by and large mind you) we all agree that they, in the end, are derived from what is fantasy? In other words, regardless of the idea, sound or unsound, we believe such ideas to have little real impact on ourselves personally. I do not think that it is purely a function of psychology that discussing "religious" ideas seems threatening (as in eventually leading to discomfort or conflict)... but there I go again...

And as I see that is not likely to change I do not see much point in participating in threads in Tol Eressëa myself. It is not because people disagree with me. Please give me more credit than that, as I have to others.

Why do I think it won't change? Because people want to retain the right to comment apparently also without being willing to consider the ideas expressed -- moreso than they have already or believe they will in future -- the effect of which is to make others very leery of expressing their own beliefs without fear of reprisal or veiled ridicule.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:09 pm 
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Saying an idea derived from a body of thought is nonsense because you think the whole body of thought is nonsense is not very productive.


If one does not accept the axioms, the elegance of the argumentation therefrom is irrelevant. You can prove anything, if you start with the right axioms.

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Consider ideas that flow out of fantasy literature, or science fiction for instance. As such, what is the point?


Those ideas do not claim to have divine sanction.

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Perhaps it is the nature of spirituality itself that is threatening?


I don't find spirituality threatening. I find it sketchy, from an empirical point of view.

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Because people want to retain the right to comment apparently also without being willing to consider the ideas expressed -- moreso than they have already or believe they will in future


This is correct, in my case. Unless and until I have a Saul on the Road to Damascus moment, my examination of the notion of religion as a whole has concluded. I've spent fifty years gathering data, trying out various permutations, and come to the conclusion I don't have a religious bone in my body. I do not believe that disqualifies me from a religious discussion.

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the effect of which is to make others very leery of expressing their own beliefs without fear of reprisal or veiled ridicule.


I do not equate disagreement on fundamentals, or refusal to consider what are for me unconvincing arguments, with ridicule, veiled or otherwise. A religious argument doesn't have to convince me to be valid for you. Moreover, the point of Tol E. is not to convince, nor to witness, but to discuss religious issues with respect.

Respect does not apply acceptance or even consideration, though. It simply means recognition that everyone here has a right to believe as they wish.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:41 pm 
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I do not equate disagreement on fundamentals, or refusal to consider what are for me unconvincing arguments, with ridicule, veiled or otherwise. A religious argument doesn't have to convince me to be valid for you. Moreover, the point of Tol E. is not to convince, nor to witness, but to discuss religious issues with respect.

Respect does not apply acceptance or even consideration, though. It simply means recognition that everyone here has a right to believe as they wish.


Ax "people" does not mean "everyone." I figured each individual could examine their own participation and see if the shoe fit or not. In your case it does not.

But I detect, yet again, an accusation that I: have been witnessing (apart from which is necessary to illustrate a point as anyone does who shares anecdotal evidence); have been trying to convince people of something; and/or have implied (or worse, think) that everyone is not entitled to their beliefs.

The point of my post was to say, yes respect does not imply acceptance, but it does require examination (ie consideration). How else are we to demonstrate respect in a forum that theoretically doesn't exist without the willingness to engage with ideas each of us bring to the thread? A series of "no comments" strung together is not exactly a conversation.

ps You are way older than I thought (not that it has any bearing on anything).

ETA I see you quoted a part of my post that deleted before you posted... the sentence didn't make sense but I admire your willingness to engage with it.


Last edited by SirDennis on Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:49 pm 
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I don't have a lot to say about this subject, as I consider it fairly moot, and people will believe what they and and vice versa.
However I do believe there is a large distinction between spirituality and religion. Spirituality is far more personal and isn't subjected to dogma put down by some other human.

Nor do I understand why any human would think they have the ability to understand a being that is omniscient and all powerful. It seems fairly pointless to me to try and comprehend something without the tools to comprehend.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:59 pm 
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Nor do I understand why any human would think they have the ability to understand a being that is omniscient and all powerful. It seems fairly pointless to me to try and comprehend something without the tools to comprehend.

You might be surprised to learn (I know I was) that you are paraphrasing scripture here. (Actually it was cited in this thread by Jewel.) There are degrees of understanding of course. We see it all the time in our conversations with each other.

I really do intend to leave this forum, though I do not want to. But not without making it clear it is not the people themselves, just that I feel personally, that I am unable to discuss religion or spirituality (a fair distinction you make Holby) in a way that is in accordance with this forum.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:11 pm 
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But I detect, yet again, an accusation that I: have been witnessing (apart from which is necessary to illustrate a point as anyone does who shares anecdotal evidence); have been trying to convince people of something; and/or have implied (or worse, think) that everyone is not entitled to their beliefs.


I would not *accuse* you of witnessing, as that implies it's wrong. It's merely not the best fit for this forum. But yes, sharing anecdotal evidence to support a religious point *is* witnessing, as I was brought up to understand (and practice) it. The same goes for trying to convince. Again--nothing wrong with it, it's just going to have a limited audience.

I would *not* say you've demonstrated any intolerance toward the beliefs (or nonbeliefs) of people here. Far from it. :)

What I would say TE is for is figuring out why people believe as they do and act as they do on those beliefs.

ETA: I do feel obligated to add I AM NOT THE MANAGEMENT. I'm merely describing, not proscribing, the behavior I've seen and how it's worked.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:31 pm 
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Also - this is simply one thread in this particular forum. If you wanted to have a discussion about (say) the various tents put forth in the Bible, or start an on-line Bible-study thread or anything of that nature...well, you are more than welcome to do so and I bet you'd get a different group of people participating.

This thread started with Al's disbelief/disgust about a particular video and the beliefs expressed therein. So the people participating might be more...um...skeptical of the Bible and etc than others.

I certainly would participate in a thread about (say) Old Testament stories and characters or the Book of Job or the parables of Jesus. I am pretty well-versed when it comes to the Bible and it's fun and sometimes enlightening to talk about various parts of it - either historically, spiritually or from a particular religious standpoint. (I was raised Presbyterian and drifted towards the Quakers later on.)

And I have found that a person can have a cracking discussion about bits of the Bible without necessarily believing it is Divinely inspired.

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