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Thread: God(s) are real...

  1. Top | #11
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Especially if it is the case that Gods do not frequently directly intervene directly in human affairs aside from what they do through human agents, but even if it isn't, I would go so far as to say that what is said of gods is more real than any sort of ontological existence beyond human comprehension. I'm personally resolutely agnostic on the latter sort of existence, but symbolically, gods are incredibly important, both for understanding society and for understanding the archetypical realities they stand in for. I have profited from my conversations and interactions with deities despite my agnosticism on their true nature, because what they represent is more important to me than what they are in some materialist sense anyway. Artemis is real to me as a person, not as a scientific fact. There is no way I could comment on her physical body if she has one. I know her as a character in myth, a voice in ritual, the nominative source of a particular kind of strength and wisdom. Not as an object, which I obviously couldn't grasp with my two hands even if I were entirely confident that it existed somewhere.

    The truth about stories, is that's all we are. Most of our social life is founded on our perception of what others are, not what they "really" are. Every time you make a generalization about someone's character or motivations, or define them by the social class you think they belong to, you've made them a character in a story you are telling about the world, a story bound and fettered by the common assumptions of your time and culture. A god is as real as any other person, because personhood is an essentializing myth in any case. Are you your brain? Your mitochondria? Your possessions? The fecal matter you've left in various landfills over the years? The literary works you have produced? When someone says "I admire Shakespeare", do they mean whatever layer of organic debris happens to be left in (for instance) Sir Edward de Vere's ossuary box to materially mark the former physical frame of a certain nervous complex? Or some stray oxygen atoms that paused in his lungs for a few seconds while that nervous system was mobile, and now wander carelessly in the lower atmosphere? Or do they mean the mostly imagined character we call the Immortal Bard, the author of beloved works and a character in the complex, pathos-ridden psychodrama historians have concocted from the documentary remains of the Elizabethan court? Which is the real Shakespeare? He and the deities are in a similar position, especially once we have so named him as an immortal. No doubt many gods began in just such a fashion: from human, to portrayal of a human, to portrayal of a character, to characterization of a fundamental archetype in which we all participate.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

  2. Top | #12
    Stephen T-B
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen T-B View Post

    They are not more real; the OP suggests that they are peculiar (and by implication, not to be compared with "any other fictions") because they ride on wishful thinking and imagination. People desire them to be real, and for all sorts of reasons. And the reality they give them is not passive; it requires them to act.
    That's not peculiar to religious fictions though.

    There are plenty of people who think non-religious fictional characters are real. Ask any TV star - they all know of fans who don't grasp that the actor isn't the character, and/or think the actor should have the same abilities as their character, even where those abilities are impossible.
    The crucial difference being that fictional characters which people come to think are real do not make demands on them; they do not require obedience, behavioral changes, to be worshipped nor proselytising missions.
    I have never heard of someone who imagined a fictional character wanted him/her to kill or torture people who didn't have the same devotion.

  3. Top | #13
    Stephen T-B
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    I like that Politesse.
    Thank you

  4. Top | #14
    Stephen T-B
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    posted in error

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    Stephen T-B
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    Interesting thoughts, abaddon.
    Thank you.

  6. Top | #16
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen T-B View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen T-B View Post

    They are not more real; the OP suggests that they are peculiar (and by implication, not to be compared with "any other fictions") because they ride on wishful thinking and imagination. People desire them to be real, and for all sorts of reasons. And the reality they give them is not passive; it requires them to act.
    That's not peculiar to religious fictions though.

    There are plenty of people who think non-religious fictional characters are real. Ask any TV star - they all know of fans who don't grasp that the actor isn't the character, and/or think the actor should have the same abilities as their character, even where those abilities are impossible.
    The crucial difference being that fictional characters which people come to think are real do not make demands on them; they do not require obedience, behavioral changes, to be worshipped nor proselytising missions.
    Nor do gods. Those demands come from priests - and fanfic communities have priests just as religious ones do. They're just less popular and numerous.
    I have never heard of someone who imagined a fictional character wanted him/her to kill or torture people who didn't have the same devotion.
    I have.

    Indeed, it has been said that the definition of fame is when people you have never met want to kill you.

  7. Top | #17
    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    The greatest difference between gods and the monster I (when I was a child) knew was lurking in my closet is that more people (billions) believe in gods than people (one) who believed in my monster.

    Of course when billions of people believe something a great commercial opportunity arises to capitalize on that belief.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    The greatest difference between gods and the monster I (when I was a child) knew was lurking in my closet is that more people (billions) believe in gods than people (one) who believed in my monster.

    Of course when billions of people believe something a great commercial opportunity arises to capitalize on that belief.
    From my perspective, "demon" and "devil" is just the name people gave to the common experience of the monster in their closet.

    There is a reality insofar as while the terrible faces that something deep in my psyche wears may be stolen from the images of my life, the fact that something in me wears those faces when I venture into those parts of my mindscape is a certainty.

  9. Top | #19
    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarhyn View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    The greatest difference between gods and the monster I (when I was a child) knew was lurking in my closet is that more people (billions) believe in gods than people (one) who believed in my monster.

    Of course when billions of people believe something a great commercial opportunity arises to capitalize on that belief.
    From my perspective, "demon" and "devil" is just the name people gave to the common experience of the monster in their closet.

    There is a reality insofar as while the terrible faces that something deep in my psyche wears may be stolen from the images of my life, the fact that something in me wears those faces when I venture into those parts of my mindscape is a certainty.
    I think we have very different understandings for the word, 'reality'. Personally, I make a great distinction between 'reality' and 'mental concepts'. Really, really believing something does not make it reality even though, as a child, the distinction escaped me.

  10. Top | #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jarhyn View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    The greatest difference between gods and the monster I (when I was a child) knew was lurking in my closet is that more people (billions) believe in gods than people (one) who believed in my monster.

    Of course when billions of people believe something a great commercial opportunity arises to capitalize on that belief.
    From my perspective, "demon" and "devil" is just the name people gave to the common experience of the monster in their closet.

    There is a reality insofar as while the terrible faces that something deep in my psyche wears may be stolen from the images of my life, the fact that something in me wears those faces when I venture into those parts of my mindscape is a certainty.
    I think we have very different understandings for the word, 'reality'. Personally, I make a great distinction between 'reality' and 'mental concepts'. Really, really believing something does not make it reality even though, as a child, the distinction escaped me.
    Let me break it down in a way that I did for Emily:

    We have a real phenomena in the world where some people hear voices. While we can identify the voices people hear are not coming from real people they are definitely a phenomena observable by the sufferer.

    They have some shape in reality. Perhaps this shape is "somewhere in a normal neural connectivity graph of a->b; c->d, this person is plagued by a graph of a->b,c;c->d." Of course this is a gross simplification, but the point is that this is a commonly shared, observable thing. We, today call it schizophrenia. In the past, we didn't know what brains did, or that they could create perceptions of external stimuli that were purely internally simulated.

    In the same way, something in the human mind wears those faces and takes those roles offered it, and it is a common phenomena across people. Across time it has emerged as an idea again and again because it is a reflection of some real neurological phenomena. Not that some actual thing that only you can see is really doing things in the real world, but that some actual thing composed of neurons exists as a part of the brain that comprises "who you are" and that actual thing is a single implementation of what humans have called at some point "demons".

    And that there are similar shared hardwired insanities that are roughly analogous to gods, and angels.

    There are no demons in any literal hell.

    My expectation is that bad understandings of the reality of it is what motivated such concepts as "original sin" and "the fallen state of man".

    Personally, I try my best to understand how the evolution of such a mental construct could possibly be adaptive.

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