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What is the Point of Life? 26 March, 2010

Posted by paralleldivergence in afterlife, astronomy, Earth, God, heaven, hell, Life, Religion.
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Today I received a personal invitation from Aim for Awesome to share my thoughts on “The Point of Life”. Vern said it could be “two sentences, or two pages – up to you”. Anybody who could so profoudly sum up the answer to this question in two sentences is a better person than me. To me, it’s a question that demands respectful consideration.

Before anyone can work out the point of life for themselves, they must work out their own ground rules. Most choose to simply accept someone else’s ground rules by blindly following the indoctrination of their parents and their religious community and believe in an illogical, invisible and impossible entity which demands of its followers, kooky rituals that confusingly vary widely between multiple different religions that seemingly follow that very same entity – all in the same selfish goal of securing passage after bodily death into an unknown paradise forever more, instead of being sucked into an equally unknown eternal paradisean-antithesis that they morbidly fear. Blind Faith demands obedience.

Now when you put it that way, it makes you think more seriously about the real point of life. Firstly, I share two beliefs with the majority of the inhabitants of Planet Earth. We are born, and we die.  Everything else is debatable.

When you unravel and expose religion, I simply cannot accept that GREED and FEAR would be the two key motivators of Mankind.

Why was I born and get to live in a country where the average lifespan is about 74 years while other humans are born in and must live in countries that have average lifespans of a mere 30 years?

Why do I and my children have easy access to health care, education, fresh food and clean water, while there are children and babies suffering unimaginable pain from the day they enter this world until they succumb to childhood mortality?

A God that loves us all would not allow this, but blind faith makes you dismiss any questionable event or situation as part of “God’s Plan”, which is conveniently beyond our comprehension.

Within the timeline of the universe and the existence of this world, the reign of mankind is almost an unregisterable blip. But human history has shown evidence of massive progress by the Earth’s most dominant species, all in the name of humanity.

As one of six billion humans, living on an insignificant rock careering around one star out of an almost infinite number, who was fortunate enough to have been born in a developed country at the junction of the Industrial  and Technological Eras, I have my chance to make a tiny difference before I disappear forever.

What kind of difference? Who knows. Improving the living conditions for one less-privileged human; working to benefit your local community;  inventing a breakthrough solution to a known or unknown problem; generating a larger than required income which is then shared with the poor or less-fortunate; educating the masses either directly or indirectly. In other words, making YOUR mark in human history – leaving a legacy for the species and for our current home, Earth.

An ant is born and dies. A cat is born and dies. A shark is born and dies. What is their Point of Life? A human is born and dies. The difference is, many of us have an ability to make a difference, but we individually choose not to. Imagine how it could be if they all did make a difference.

That’s my Point of Life. What’s yours?

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Comments»

1. Victor Davidson - 26 March, 2010

Writing as a practising Pure Land Buddhist I live within a philosophic paradigm which prioritises grace above cause and effect. Today 26 March 2010 I saw no evidence of an interventionist God external to historical or scientific process as commonly understood since the Enlightenment. Today I did put a book in the hands of a child and put a smile on her face. This is enough. Living within beneficial and productive process as personal practice is all we can do to remove ourselves from the life/ death punctuations. Do we have any choice other than to embrace each other in compassion?

paralleldivergence - 26 March, 2010

Thanks Victor. About 20 years ago, I worked with a really REALLY nice Sri Lankan Buddhist man for several years. Whenever we had down time, we discussed religion and I learned a lot about his religion (which is more an explanation of life than a religion).

Corrrect me if I’m wrong, but in Buddhism, it seems EVERYBODY is born, lives, dies, is reincarnated and the cycle continues indefinitely – until the being reaches enlightenment (or nirvana). To do that, you must shed yourself of all possessions, feelings, worries, dependences and desires. I often argued with him that he was a hypocrite because he was an IT Support Specialist working in the city. He had a mortgage and a family. To me, you could only reach enlightenment if you lived as a monk on a mountain somewhere in isolation.

He said that each lifetime should be aimed at slowly shedding one’s responsibilities, but your current lifetime is unaware of your past lifetime. So if you were living as buddhist during one life, on your way to enlightenment and then you end up being reborn in Hollywood, Los Angeles as the son of a Jewish movie producer, then you’re back to the start of the wheel. He called it “Samsara” – suffering. He believed that all life was suffering and challenged to meet up with me in thirty years time to see if I was “happy”. He predicted I would not be.

There’s about 10 years to go before our meeting, and to date, I am still happy – why? Because I believe I have worked out what the point of life is. We all get just one chance to exist. If we are fortunate enough to have been born into a society where we can make a difference, then we should. If God is supposed to the be Father of Man, then that implies that we are all brothers. We should all work to help the Brotherhood of Man.

2. darcymoore - 27 March, 2010

The purpose?

Not certain Stu – but practically, the question of what is one to do interests all of us endlessly. I think John Lennon may have been onto it when he said, ‘life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well’.

As usual, Oscar Wilde says it best:

‘Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about’ ;O)

paralleldivergence - 27 March, 2010

Thanks Darcy. I think it NEEDS to interest us. What if there is not Heaven or no Hell? What if we don’t get reincarnated? Lord knows we have no evidence for any of these things.

Would we live our lives differently if we knew that this was all there was?

3. darcymoore - 27 March, 2010

*Laughing* I think you misunderstand…or rather, I did not make myself clear. You surprise me though, Stu…I haven’t believed in any of the fairy tale motifs you mention since I was 10 years old and assume most adults are the same.

An existentialist, who has mellowed to a kind of unknowing agnosticism, I am happy with glimpses of beauty, helping others and learning more in the warm coccoon of my family and our civilisation’s culture. I like nature generally, the sun or rain on my face and the feeling of returning to the ocean for a swim. This is almost enough and I live my life knowing, probably, that this is all there is and am amazed at how rich, fulfilling and endlessly fascinating is the tapestry of existence. The mystery may well unravel one day…maybe one of my descendants will be at the unveiling.

Bob Dylan said, “…that life is but a joke. But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate, So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.” I relate to what he says and remember being unhappily existential for a brief period in my youth but the self-indulgence of the angst, just makes me laugh now, even when ‘the wind howls’.

Make sense?

I like pattern recognition too, to while away the hours…’til the void ;O)

paralleldivergence - 27 March, 2010

No, I didn’t misunderstand you Darcy – I was just adding to what you said. But I’m glad you came back to “clarify” and add some more gold to the comments. Thanks.

4. Vern - 28 March, 2010

Hi Stu,

I’ll add your contribution to the “What is the Point of Life?” ebook when I publish it in April. Thanks much! Though I sought certain people out as “must haves” for their opinion to publish – I am also open to having anyone that has a sincere interest in adding a few sentences or paragraphs? to the book. I’ll credit you (of course) and you can put your link to your site, email, whatever you want to add. You’ll receive a free copy of the ebook if you contribute. :) Cheers!

paralleldivergence - 1 April, 2010

I enjoyed thinking about it and putting this together Vern. Best of luck with the eBook.

5. graeme - 28 March, 2010

In thinking about the meaning of life, perhaps we should consider if life, the universe and everything, is really real?
Professor Bostrom’s paper on computing power and the simulation argument is quite thought provoking in this regard.

http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html

For some deep reflection on the meaning of life I also recommend reading the online novella ‘The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect’.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/prime-intellect/mopiidx.html

If you want to test your ideas of knowledge, reality, truth, mind, and meaning then you might like to try the Google search ‘brain in a vat’.

No kidding!

paralleldivergence - 28 March, 2010

Thanks Graeme. While we’re waiting for Neo to save/kill us all, what do you think is the point of life? :)

6. thehairyhand - 11 April, 2010

insignificance!
All and everything is insignificant.
Consider the human stain that has smeared across the planet. The numbers and depths of lives that have been here. And even the most important ones. Made their mark. And were remembered by family members, and those affected… then they died… and then – for the few – a footnote in someone’s history. Then in a hundred – a thousand years…… what?
– and with time and weather their stain is no more.
So…. what is significant?

paralleldivergence - 12 April, 2010

You make a great point thehairyhand. But it is the combination of all those “marks” that humans have progressed.

7. Dave - 16 April, 2010

I enjoyed reading the Point of Life. Hungry Beast last night made an interesting comical point comparing the wackiness of Scientology with the wackiness of the beliefs in mainstream global religions.
And wacky most are – yet most have memes that may be useful to our group survival.
In balance, I suspect religion has more benefit for global society than it has negatives.
It takes comprehensive education to free a human of superstition. Yet many have little access to the ideas of liberation.
I noticed in our local paper that a workshop on crop circles was very well attended!! Can’t believe people can be so be ignorant – yet so many are.

paralleldivergence - 16 April, 2010

Don’t get me wrong Dave, religion DOES give people point to THEIR lives, but my problem with it is that point is pushed onto them – there is no free will. And without free will, as a human race, we cannot progress. Religion stifles – it convinces us NOT to question, just to believe. Before you know it, your life has ended on this planet, and for what? An everlasting dance with God at His place? Sounds great.

Thanks for your excellent contribution to the discussion.

Dally - 24 June, 2010

but my problem with it is that point is pushed onto them – there is no free will.

There are more than 4,200 religions according to http://www.adherents.com/.

How can you say we have no free will? I mean, if you do not like religion X, you can always choose to believe in religion Y. If not, religion Z. If not, you can choose not to believe in any ‘religion’.

But even if you have no ‘religion’, you still have to believe in something, unless you are a 100%, total, absolute, complete, comprehensive sceptic in every nook, cranny, corner and recess of your mind.

At the end of the day, no matter what you believe in, you still have free will to believe what you want to believe in. The fact that the world has 4200 religions (which I guess may not include lots of other ‘customised’ New Age beliefs).

paralleldivergence - 24 June, 2010

Hi Dally.

Sure, there are 4,200 religions. But we can safely reject most of them as they cater for miniscule numbers of people. Let’s stick to the big ones – Christianity (all forms inc Catholicism), Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Bhuddhism. They would cover over 95% of “believers”.

Before I answer your question, you acknowledge 4,200 religions, but it is impossible for them all to be right in their belief/explanation of the world, afterlife and rituals – so which one, if any, is right? And how do you know? The answer is not because it is written in a book. They all have their own books.

I say the religious have no free will because their religion is a “way of life” – their way. A Muslim can choose not to pray 5 times a day, to eat pork or drink alcohol, to deny one true God and Muhammad as his messenger, but he would no longer be a Muslim. The Muslim is given rules to live by. Where is the free will?

A Christian must not question the Bible or Jesus Christ or the gospels. If you had the free will to do that, you would not be a Christian. Both the Muslim and the Christian believe in Heaven and Hell. Judgement after death and an everlasting afterlife. The lure of Heaven and the terror of Hell are what further control human lives. Selfishness and fear. Yet both the Christian and the Muslim believe the other won’t be in Heaven with them. Which one is right? They can’t both be.

My point in the previous comment was, if we as a race have no free will and we live within the boundaries of religions created millennia ago and the only point of living is to get to Heaven, then what effort are we really going to make to improve the lot of every human on our planet? Not much effort at all, so not much progress.

Dally - 24 June, 2010

I say the religious have no free will because their religion is a “way of life” – their way.

I think perhaps we need to clarify the meaning of “free will”.

Sure, each of the major religions have their own sets of beliefs. But each set of beliefs (taken as a whole) are contradictory. So, a Muslim cannot be a Christian at the same time because the two sets of beliefs contradict each other. Not unless you are willing to live with internal contradictions in your mind.

In the same way, a true Communist cannot believe in free market capitalism, while a Fascist cannot believe in class struggles.

I don’t call that “no free will” because you can still choose to believe in Islam or Christianity or reject them both, according to what you believe is true. But if you decide to ‘exercise’ your ‘free will’ by picking and choosing subsets of both religions to suit your liking, then at the end of the day, you are neither Muslims or Christian. In fact, it would be better to give your new set of beliefs a new name i.e. a ‘new’ religion.

In the same way, is the Communist Party in China really Communist? It is ‘Communist’ if you shift the definition of Communism such that this new definition is incompatible with the original definition of Communism.

Dally - 24 June, 2010

if we as a race have no free will and we live within the boundaries of religions created millennia ago

Just to add here… my point is, we humans have free will. Even if you are a North Korean living under Kim Jong Il’s totalitarian regime, you still have the free will to believe or reject the national ideology because Kim can’t force you to believe or disbelieve.

You can pretend to believe his ideology under the threat of punishment/death or decide to believe in order to join with the flow. But at the end of the day, you have the choice to believe that no other human can take away. Sadly, the majority choose to believe (or at least pretend to believe).

the only point of living is to get to Heaven

I think you need to read up on the religious texts on that.

paralleldivergence - 24 June, 2010

Dally, you’ve just answered your own question. If you follow a religion, then exercise your own free will to go against your religion, you are no longer practising that religion. Therefore, religion restricts free will. If you can only live within certain parameters, you are not allowed to explore beyond those boundaries. Ever heard the term “blind faith”? If you never venture outside your boundaries, you’ll never find anything new. Religion controls. Have a read of this post: http://paralleldivergence.com/2006/11/04/which-is-stronger-manfluence-or-godfluence/

Dally - 24 June, 2010

I read that article of yours.

You have to distinguish between religion in the cultural sense and religion in the sense of internalisation of belief. In countries like Iran/India, religion is more of culture and less of a chosen set of beliefs.

Therefore, you do not have the so-called free-will not to belong to any culture because you are born into it. A person may call himself Muslim in the cultural sense but that does not necessarily mean they internalise the beliefs of Islam in their hearts. I know of Muslims in Islamic countries who call themselves Muslim by default but who ‘practice’ Islam by going through the motions. But do they necessarily internalise Islam? By talking to them more in depth, you realise that they don’t.

Dally - 24 June, 2010

For faith to be pure, it should be self-discovered.

How do you suppose that will work out in reality? If I sit under a tree in an isolated mountain and think hard enough, will I be able to ‘discover’ faith?

This is what Buddha is believed to have done. But I’m not confident that I can do that.

If you don’t believe that it is possible to do that, then you have to believe that faith can be absolutely and totally pure.

Dally - 24 June, 2010

For faith to be pure, it should be self-discovered.

How do you suppose that will work out in reality? If I sit under a tree in an isolated mountain and think hard enough, will I be able to ‘discover’ faith?

This is what Buddha is believed to have done. But I’m not confident that I can do that.

If you don’t believe that it is possible to do that, then you have to believe that faith cannot be absolutely and totally pure.

Dally - 25 June, 2010

Also, in any religion, there is an extensive body of thought in which theologians spent their life-time thinking about.

Unfortunately, many of the adherents only skim through the surface of these extensive body of thought. This has created an unfortunate situation where the non-religious people make a blanket conclusion that faith is shallow and is ‘blind’ and so on. It is fair to say that many of those who make that blanket conclusion is as shallow as the adherents.

I think society as a whole is getting dumber and dumber, thanks to the Internet, television, Twitter, information overload, et.c…. you get the drift. People are getting more and more towards the point that they do not have the patience to go beyond a one-sentence summary of profound, complex and extensive things.

Dally - 26 June, 2010

you can be skeptical about some things and ACCEPT OTHER THINGS because you’ve reached a decision based on your own research.

Which is what I mean. Eventually, there comes a point that you have to accept certain things because you can go no further in questioning.

There are religious people who do not go deep and accept their beliefs quickly. There are also non-religious people who do not go deep too. There are religious people who go deep and non-religious people who go deep too.

Different people have different depths that they can go into. The problem is, each group put the other group into a box and label them and reduce the other group into something that is too simple and easy to understand. This is something all of us are guilty of, regardless of whether we are religious or non-religious, in matters not limited to religion.

I see this everywhere, even in the fields of computers, operating systems, economic ideology, political ideology, etc.

Dally - 26 June, 2010

I tend to write succinctly, providing key points and allowing the reader to explore and extrapolate for themselves.

Note the word “extrapolate”. In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, extrapolating is one of the most common and insidious logical pitfalls that humans fall easily into. Nassim is horrified that even his doctor fall into this logical error (because it has implication on his health).

If you are not careful about it, you can easily lead your readers into error.

paralleldivergence - 26 June, 2010

I’m not doing the extrapolating, the readers are. And they can choose evidence from elsewhere – I am no authority, I speak for myself. I don’t lead the readers into error – I leave that to priests, pastors, reverends and muftis – who directly do it.

I never said you should 50% disbelieve in God. Either you believe or you don’t. How you come to your secision is up to you. I came to my decision through the weight of evidence that I researched over many years. I was born into a religious family and was TOLD what to believe – as all religious families do to their children. An atheist family tends to be more open and wants their children to inquire, to learn and to decide for themselves. Big difference. I am not militant. To each their own. We have one live to live, we must choose for ouselves how we want to live it.

On the YECs, are you prepared to stand up and reject the Creation Museum in Kentucky? Will you call it an abomination that our children are having garbage shoved down their throats in the guise of a “museum”? http://paralleldivergence.com/2007/04/28/creation-museum-madness/ – will you complain to your government that these people are making a mockery of your religion?

What about Westboro Baptist Church? Do you openly reject their warped view of your religion? Do you stand up in your church and say “that is wrong”? If not, why not?

Sorry about the confusion of the comment thread, but I’ve been answering once and you’ve been ansering three times. :)

Dally - 26 June, 2010

On the YECs, are you prepared to stand up and reject the Creation Museum in Kentucky?

Well, on the other hand, for those atheists who wage militant campaign on believers, would you be prepared to do the same? I’m not saying you should and I’m not saying I should either. I believe the ones who go to such lengths to openly antagonise the other side (both on the atheist and theist sides) are the minority from each of their camp. And they are very loud minority. The majority (from either side), simply can’t be bothered to join in the fight. I for one, don’t think it is helpful to add fuel to the fire by ‘standing up’ for either side.

I was born into a religious family and was TOLD what to believe – as all religious families do to their children.

My sympathies.

But I think the fault is not religion/faith per se. I know of stories of people coming to faith in the midst of one of the most un-conducive environment for faith- institutional religious environment. How they do it, I don’t know. But it happened. One influential Christian writer wrote that some people come into faith DESPITE the church.

An atheist family tends to be more open and wants their children to inquire, to learn and to decide for themselves.

That’s perhaps true in Australia.

On the other hand, I find it hard to imagine militant atheist like Richard Dawkins allowing his children (if he has any) to embrace faith.

In China, the opposite is happening. Over there, I heard that atheism is the official government policy and every child is brought up to be atheist through the educational system (some argue it’s indoctrination). Then when they come to Australia as students, many accept faith as liberation.

Dally - 26 June, 2010

Another thing….

A non-YEC Christian may share the same faith as the YEC and accept each other as brothers and sisters in faith, but it does not necessarily mean they have to condone and support each other’s actions.

Within a faith, there is also a wide diversity of different schools of thought, motivations and thinking, sub-beliefs, etc. It is very unhelpful is to clump all of them together, put them in one box, see them as a monolithic whole and give them a single label.

Dally - 24 June, 2010

If you follow a religion, then exercise your own free will to go against your religion

Why do you use the word “your” as if you belong to a certain religion against your free will?

If you go ‘against’ your religion, then it means that this religion is no longer ‘yours’. If it’s no longer ‘yours’, then the word ‘against’ does not apply.

You may not notice it yourself, but you seem to think of a religion as some kind of a club that you ‘belong’ to (e.g. due to accident of birth) and it restricts its ‘members’ from leaving.

In reality, ‘your’ religion is just a set of beliefs that you choose to internalise. Nobody has the power/capability to ‘restrict’ you from choosing to reverse the internalisation of your beliefs. Even Islam’s sin of apostasy (punishable by death in Saudi Arabia) has any power to restrict you from choosing not to belief. Some former Muslims, on pain of death, pretend to be Muslims even though in their hearts, they no longer internalise Islam.

paralleldivergence - 24 June, 2010

Sorry Dally, you’re incorrect. Your religion is not a set of beliefs that you choose to internalise. That’s FAITH. Faith and religion are two very different beasts. Read:

http://www.helium.com/items/464006-the-differences-between-religion-and-faith

Dally - 24 June, 2010

That’s FAITH. Faith and religion are two very different beasts.

We’re going rounds in circles because we use different words for the same meaning.

Okay, let’s use your words. In my previous comment, I said,

You have to distinguish between religion in the cultural sense and religion in the sense of internalisation of belief.

So, let’s call “religion in the sense of internalisation of beliefs” faith.

The problem is, for a Muslim born in Iran, how can we tell it’s religion or personal faith for him/her?

paralleldivergence - 24 June, 2010

So there’s you’re problem. I’m talking religion and you’re talking faith. Religion does stop you, hold you back, control you. That’s exactly what it’s intended to do. You can choose to believe that there’s a God who loves you, no matter what, but he doesn’t have to stop you doing things to improve things here on Earth for others. A doctor who works with stem cells should not be prevented on religious grounds from finding a breakthrough to multiple crippling diseases. A fetus that has been determined to be profoundly disabled should be allowed to be aborted to avoid a long, suffering pointless existence without the repercussions and judgements of religious people. Can you see my point?

paralleldivergence - 24 June, 2010

For a Muslim born in Iran, they have had no choice from birth. Virtually 100% of Iran are Muslim – Shi’ite. Just because of his birthplace, he will be indoctrinated in the way of the Iranian Muslim. He will pray regularly, memorise sura and du’a, go to the mosque, fast during Ramadan, avoid pork and alcohol, work to pay zakat. His future life will be drummed into him, possibly to the point where it will turn into faith, but really, it was religion that put it there.

For faith to be pure, it should be self-discovered. How many indians living in the Amazon jungle away from all civilised society ever discovered Muhammad or Jesus miraculously through some divine spiritual event that wasn’t driven by another person? The answer is zero. (no evidence of such enlightenment since Muhammad supposedly – wasn’t he the last prophet?)

Dally - 24 June, 2010

You can choose to believe that there’s a God who loves you, no matter what, but he doesn’t have to stop you doing things to improve things here on Earth for others

Well, if you believe that the Earth is all there is and there’s no life after death, then yes, you should abort the foetus because that is the moral and right thing to do.

But on the other hand, if you believe there’s life after death, then the answer is not that clear-cut.

If you believe that God is love and you believe that the Earth is all there is, you are actually internally contradicted within yourself because observations of the world tell you that the world is full of suffering. Unless you believe in a God that is powerless but is love. But a powerless God is by definition not God in the first place.

If you believe that God is love, then you have to believe that there is an after life where God will right all the wrongs on Earth and make everything fair. But if you believe in God who is love, then you can’t just abort the foetus because God would not only love you, but He would also love that foetus.

So, if you believe that the Earth is all there is, at the end of the day it is still a belief. If you believe in God and the afterlife, it is also a belief. But you can’t believe in God and act as if there’s no God, not unless you don’t mind having internal contradictions within yourself.

I understand that you do not want religious people to judge doctors who abort. But on the flip side, if a doctor does not want to abort, the non-religious people should not judge either.

Dally - 24 June, 2010

How many indians living in the Amazon jungle away from all civilised society ever discovered Muhammad or Jesus miraculously through some divine spiritual event that wasn’t driven by another person?

Yes, but these Indians have their own religion and rituals too.

paralleldivergence - 25 June, 2010

Hi Dally, You’ve added a fair bit to the discussion. I’ll try respond to it all here. Let’s look at it from another angle. We are focussing on the meanings of specific words and putting connotations onto them. For example, your interpretation of “belief” or “believe” are different to mine. You “believe” with some sort of unwavering rigidity – it is this way, and that’s the only way it is. I believe because I don’t know.

I cannot say that I know there is no God because you can’t prove a negative. But I also can’t say that I know there is a God either. Personally, I believe there is no God – in other words, to me, I have come to a realisation that there is no God and I live my life as if there is no God. I reckon there is no God. To me, “believe” means “reckon” – nothing more. No God means no rituals toward God, no Heavenly afterlife to greedily hunger for, no Hell to restrict my way of life to stop me straying from some defined path that religion tells me to stay on. No wasting my Sundays sitting in a church listening to sermons about something that to me is not real. No wasting my time praying 5 times a day to someone who isn’t there.

Instead, I devote my time to bettering myself, to helping my friends, family and community. To discovering new technologies and developing computer software to forging past boundaries.

As for our “primitive” Amazonian friend, sure, providing he hasn’t been influence by his parents’ and community’s beliefs and rituals, he may well develop a pure faith of his own. But it won’t involve Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha or L. Ron Hubbard. He will simply be trying to make his own sense of the world, which is all the Buddha did.

Is there a God? Is there a Heaven? Is there a Hell? Are there Angels? Did Moses part the Red Sea? Did Jesus resurrect? These are all based on stories from ancient history.

I think it’s safest to say “we don’t know”, but the mounting evidence from a society that is continually growing technological knowledge suggests the answer is probably No.

On your final question: “If we have absolutely zero free-will, then are we capable of discussing whether we have free-will (as what we are doing now)?”

I never said we have absolutely zero free will – that would mean we are all Sims or robots running around the planet following a built-in program. I’m suggesting that if you truly follow a religion, then you are restricted in what you do by that religion. Because of my long and arduous studies of multiple religions and the world and universe, I can freely say “I truly and personally believe there is no God”. A Muslim would be terrified of the pain and suffering he would endure forever in afterlife if he chose to utter that heresy. I don’t know what religion you follow Dally, but could you utter those words? If not, why not? Perhaps you need to spend more time questioning your world and your own religion rather than accepting it blindly and telling everyone else they are wrong.

Thanks for the discussion Dally.

Dally - 25 June, 2010

Perhaps you need to spend more time questioning your world and your own religion rather than accepting it blindly and telling everyone else they are wrong.

I think it is fair to say that all of us, regardless of religion or no religion, have some kind of ‘blind’ acceptance of beliefs that makes up our world-view. Whether it is in spiritual beliefs, or political beliefs or something else.

The only way to have absolutely zero blind acceptance in anything is to live your life as an absolute sceptic, which will drive any human to insanity.

For many beliefs, they are outside the realm of the scientific method and therefore unprovable by definition. For example, in the field of economics, the academia describe it as a ‘science’ when it reality, it is not a field that you can employ the scientific method as in the case of physics.

My point is, each person can only question and be a sceptic up to a certain point, beyond which you will be driven to insanity trying to search for an elusive answer that you can spend up to infinity trying to find. That’s where faith begins.

Also, whatever you believe in, it is important not to have internal contradictions within yourself. Unfortunately, some atheists are so aggressively evangelistic in their atheism that they fail to see the irony that they’ve become the very thing that they’re trying to oppose.

paralleldivergence - 26 June, 2010

Dally, you can be skeptical about some things and accept other things because you’ve reached a decision based on your own research. Being skeptical does not mean you will go insane.

I do not continue to chase the answer to where we came from and how this all started. Here’s another article worth reading: http://paralleldivergence.com/2006/11/11/how-hubble-killed-god/ that helps explain how I came to my conclusion. If I’m wrong, will I really go to Hell for it? Pfft. Is God really that petty? Who am I a speck in six billion alive today – and he individually loves me? It’s too ridiculous to consider without ANY evidence apart from a book written almost 2000 years ago and corrupted over the ages. Why would I live my life according to that legacy?

I have a brain, I make my own decisions and I will wear the consequences, if any, of those decisions. As for you, you can do the same. I am not trying to convert you, I just want you to open your eyes. Re-read Buddha’s words from the image at the top. If you choose against that advice, you are not following any God’s directives, you are following Man’s directives.

paralleldivergence - 26 June, 2010

Without evidence, I have every right to question. I tend to write succinctly, providing key points and allowing the reader to explore and extrapolate for themselves. I’m not one to bury readers in a mass of words that are aimed more at distracting that getting to the point.

Sure. Young Earth Creationists are a minority, but if given a choice, a mainstream Christian would side with the YECs than with an atheist. Why? Because they refuse to admit that it is possible that there is no God. So if you believe in an ancient universe, many billions of years old, and an Earth almost 5 billion years old, you have to start questioning WHY everything seems to have happened people-wise in just te past few thousand years…

Dally - 26 June, 2010

Young Earth Creationists are a minority, but if given a choice, a mainstream Christian would side with the YECs than with an atheist.

Of course, this will happen if you put both groups into a box and label them with some quick and easy to understand adjectives.

Why? Because they refuse to admit that it is possible that there is no God.

If I decide to entertain the possibility that there is no God, how do suppose carry out that practical life? If I decide to think that there’s 50% chance that God does not exist, do I, as a doctor, abort 50% of babies and then keep the other 50%?

Talking about probability, I think it is nonsensical to attach the word ‘probability’ (in the statistical mean) on concepts that is unprovable by definition.

Dally - 26 June, 2010

Here’s another article worth reading: http://paralleldivergence.com/2006/11/11/how-hubble-killed-god/ that helps explain how I came to my conclusion.

Well, do you know that there are more Christians who do NOT believe that the world is 6000 years than Christians who do so? Did the former’s belief contradict the Bible? I know of a PhD astrophysicist who is a Christian who have no problem reconciling his beliefs and science.

If I’m not wrong, you seem to have taken a minority sample of some adherents’ beliefs and extrapolate it to the rest.

No, I’m not trying to convert you either. I’m just trying to point out that some of your understanding of the motivations, beliefs and thinking of believers/faith/religion are myths, inaccurate and over-simplistic. Many of your understanding regarding religious beliefs are what I see as over-simplified ‘one-sentence’ summaries.

Note that this kind of oversimplification is prevalent in everywhere in society, including regarding non-religious issues. Perhaps it is a product of the modern information-overloaded society.

A good book I recommend you to read is “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It is mainly targeted at the financial/economics/statistics industry but I see that it is also relevant for this discussion. But you may have to re-read this book a couple of times because the author writes as he thinks, so the content tend to meander too much.

8. Dave - 16 April, 2010

Thank you Stu for creating the opportunity.
Ah! Free will vs predestination from an all knowing, all seeing Deity.
Which of course is why we have religious terrorists – anything they do must be sanctioned by God.
But I do believe in a creating event that put our universe into being. But I don’t believe that the creating event had any further interaction as the universe expanded, other than to put in play the maths which sets the rules for our accidental design. We make the world and the world makes us. Did Maths exist before the universe was created, or did humans invent it? Somehow I think it was always there – even before our universe came into existence..
I do believe in intrinsic beauty – and it’s enough for me that I came from stardust and will go back to stardust. Any immortality I have will be through my children’s children and the memories I leave behind.
In the end, as you implied earlier, we’ll be remembered by the difference we make to peoples lives rather than by our possessions.

9. Jerry - 14 June, 2010

Stu!

Revolutionary? I’d have to say no… but, I’ve not used one either. A new way to play with the web using fingers instead of a mouse… that’s cool. I don’t see myself getting one, my fingers need to type – I’m a writing fool as you know.

It’s just as well they didn’t put a keyboard on that thing – it’d be 4 inches too small anyway!

I think the ultimate device is a notebook computer with a chicklet keyboard, good speakers, a lot of RAM, 3G, 4G and all the G’s, touch screen that’s about 6 times better than current HP touchscreens, and about 14 inch screens. BIG SSD – 250GB plus. Battery runs 10-15 hours. Lightweight – 2-3 lbs is fine.

Oh – and running something other than Windows. Something blazing fast. Something with a free OS.

That’s my take…

Did you vote in my poll yet? I unveiled a new design – please have a look. ;) Cheers Stu…

10. Mike | MikeFook.com - 24 June, 2010

Do we have free will?

In theory, sure. In reality – nope.

Look at it this way – every single human being on the planet grew up within a society. Some grew up with wolves – and they too grew up in a society.

As children – growing up we are learning things daily. Sometimes hundreds of things. It is literally impossible to question what we’re learning as we grow up. Usually it’s damn near impossible as adults too. It’s safe to say – kids cannot interpret the right/wrong, good/bad, indoctrination, traditions, instructions, what they see others do in their society. Kids don’t see the big picture. Many adults – most – don’t see the big picture.

We all had to go through childhood. As we did – some things were learned and accepted as god’s truth. Parents taught some of it. Friends, other bits. Parents of friends, teachers, those in a religion, scout leaders, coaches, etc… A kid accepts a WHOLE lot just at face value. No questioning. It becomes part of that person’s mind from childhood. If not vigorously questioned and tested – it remains there – guiding the person like a computer program running in the background. Some psychologists call it – Private Logic. We all have one. Our private logic is roughly akin to what we think is reality. We may be FAR from the reality other people know. No 2 persons reality is ever the same.

Anyway – so… Are you truly free? Do you have free will? Not in the least. Everything you already learned, accepted, and didn’t question with all your energy – is guiding you.

You’re a pawn of the society you were born into. You’re a pawn of whatever situation caused you to come about. You’re a pawn of all the thousands – hundreds of thousands – millions of rules of this game.

I have a book coming out about these things… will let you know Stu!

Cheers…

Dally - 25 June, 2010

A thought-provoking question here…

If we have absolutely zero free-will, then are we capable of discussing whether we have free-will (as what we are doing now)?

11. paralleldivergence - 24 June, 2010

Thanks Mike. My new friend Dally and I have been having a discussion on this topic. Have you got a title for your book?

12. Mike | MikeFook.com - 24 June, 2010

Nope! It won’t be the next book – but the one after that I think. Hey, did you grab your copy of “What is the Point of Life?” yet?

paralleldivergence - 25 June, 2010

You’ll need to email me a link. Don’t think I got one.

13. macictsupport - 30 July, 2010

WOW this is awesome! Thanks for posting this Stu and encouraging a super interesting debate. Tidying up my twitter was worth it.

Concetta

paralleldivergence - 30 July, 2010

Glad you enjoyed it Concetta. Sorry about the “Dally” earbashing in the comments. :)


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