Michael Battalio

Monday, June 29, 2009

This I Believe (11, comments from pt. 10)

I explicitly said that faith and hope were two different things in the last post. I don’t see why you’re now trying to convince me of this. I also never defined faith and hope, so I don’t see how it appears that I’m confused between the two. Also what you gave wasn’t a definition. “Faith is having [hope] in a faith dimension.” That isn’t helpful at all.

As far as children and religion goes, obviously it was a mistake of me to talk about Dawkins even once. The posts from a year ago where I talk about Dawkins were simply me expressing my thoughts on Dawkins. I do not agree with him on most things. So, I assure you, you don’t need to convince me that he says some stupid things. Two, there is no possible way those studies are unbiased because they are trying to quantify qualitative results.

Again, the church is more than the beliefs it espouses. The church is the people that make up the church. I attend church for more than participating in religious ceremonies. I attend for the people and the community.
I also stay because I love playing the music. Notice I said play and not perform. I do not care about showing off my talents. I do it because I enjoy it. The music I play in church is the closest I get to having faith anymore. If God exists, then I believe and am comfortable with what the Catholic Church does and says.

Again, I realize that faith and hope are different; I said that explicitly. But I disagree that if I don’t believe I can’t hope, because that’s exactly how I feel. For the very reason that hope is not faith, I can hope and still not have faith. And no, I’m not courageous. I am human; that’s why we need God isn’t it?

I keep going to church because I want everything the church says to be true. I do understand that wanting (hope) it to be true, believing (faith) it to be true, and it actually being true are completely different things. I also know, however, that after great moments of doubt there often come great moments of faith. I want to always have my foot in the door of the church so to speak. That’s why I don’t leave.
Question: you say that you will only make it to heaven “if [you] have faith, and inherently in [your] heart KNOW that He will take [you]”, but you say two sentences later that “No one knows, MBat!” I’m really confused. Do you know or don’t you? Or am I missing something?

A new thought: I do think that being a good person alone helps you get into heaven. 1 Corinthians 13:13-“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The greatest of these is love, not faith. The question is does being a loving, charitable and hopeful person make up for not having a strong faith. I would argue yes. Obviously others would argue no. Perhaps I’m being narcissistic, but I just don’t see how a God who gives us reason would then demand we have faith (which is contrary to reason) for salvation when there is a reasonable doubt whether God exists.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This I Believe (comments from last post)

I think it would be better for me to respond in posts instead of commenting because then there won’t be 100 comments on one post.

I agree that hoping that God exists will never help me; that doesn’t keep me from hoping though. Hoping and having faith are two different things. I hold out this hope because I want God to exist even though at this point I do not think he does. I want there to be an omnipotent, loving being that looks out for me and that created the universe. Isn’t hoping that God exists better (in your opinion as a Christian) than giving up on God altogether?

As far as childhood indoctrination, I don’t think this is an important point. I’m never going to be a child again, so I don’t particularly care if this is true at the moment. I will reconsider this when I have children. The main point of it is this: the child should not be forced into a religion. The problem is that it would be difficult for any child to choose a religion when they have no way of getting to nor communicating with other people from other religions. Children may not be forced into a religion, but at least all children are predisposed towards the religion of their parents. The thing about religious children being more well behaved children is that when children are not indoctrinated with religion it is because they are instead left on their own. Although many of the statistics sited are probably correct, the flaw is that when children are not indoctrinated with religion it is because the parents aren’t around enough to teach them anything. For those studies to be valid you would have to take a group of loving religious families and compare them to equally nurturing and loving atheist families. If you were to take atheistic parents that were around and showed just as much affection as religious parents, I would be the results on the child’s behavior would not be conclusive.

I am still Catholic because the Church is more than just what its beliefs are. The Church is also the people that are members of the Church. The feast for that concept is the Body and Blood of Christ that we celebrated not too long ago. I still call myself Catholic because while I do not espouse all the beliefs of the Church, I value the people and their ideals. One can be a member of an organization and not believe everything the organization believes.

I also agree that faith and reason are two different things, but just because they are different doesn’t mean I can’t use both of them. But yes, reason cannot help you in areas of religion, and faith is not useful in science and logic. Presently we can’t use reason because to find answers because we lack information. Should the answer in those situations automatically be faith? No (for example in deciding if the big bang proves the existence of a creator). As Wesley said every atheist is infinitesimally agnostic because there is the chance that God exists in the same way there is a chance that the force of gravity could stop working tomorrow. That chance is not a reasonable doubt, but merely a chance. That is where I hope. That is where I try to apply faith, but my faith is not strong enough to fill in this chance, and that is why I do not believe in a personal God, but that I hope.

The thing is though that there is free will. God doesn’t stop the heart of callous, blasphemers. And calling God a megalomaniac is probably blasphemy, but I don’t believe, so it doesn’t bother me.

I understand that prayer is two way conversation and that most prayers are asking for things that are not willed by God, but the fact is that most prayers are essentially wishes to God. I do still pray. Let me just say what I pray for. Under the hope that God exists, I ask him to show me the “Way and the Truth” wherever that may take me and to help others with that same goal. I also acknowledge my talents and gifts, and I express where I would like my life to go. Lastly I pray for the decrease of misery and pain in the world.
If God doesn’t exist there is still a use for prayer in my mind. It helps solidify my desires and wants, and makes me grateful for what I have been given and helps put into perspective the misfortune of others. I think that level of awareness is a good thing.
I have a question. Didn’t Moses convince God not to destroy the people of Israel when they made the Golden Calf? Wasn’t that changing the will of God?

The problem with saying that the Bible has 2,000 fulfilled prophecies is that those prophecies were recorded by the Bible and then purportedly fulfilled and recorded in the Bible. I would be much more interested in independently proven prophecies made by the Bible, and even then there is now no way to prove anything from 2000 or more years ago actually happened.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This I Believe (comments on the comments part 2)

        Let’s start from the beginning. This post will only deal with comments from “This I Believe (part 4)” and will thus be rather short. None of the anons had really joined yet, so this was really just a couple of points between myself and Wesley.
        Firstly, no, I don’t really believe in a personal God (as in a God that “…interferes in the physical world for [my] sake.”) anymore. I really want there to be a personal God. I want to believe that there exists an intelligence that if I only hope (pray) hard enough and in the correct way that he will grant me wishes, but this does not seem to be the case. (As an aside and I suppose to see if the anons are back, I’ll will say this: yes, there are some things that are beyond human control [e.g. natural disasters and a lot of other things], but most prayers are for silly things that would be more easily solved if people weren’t as lazy [e.g. oh God, please let me pass this test] or things that if God does exist He probably doesn’t care about [e.g. oh God, please let my foot/base/basketball team win]. If everyone took a bit more personal responsibility, the need for prayers to be answered would be greatly reduced.) Yes, a lot of “miracles” happen, but in the end, I think a lot of those “miracles” will be attributed to our own stupidity and lack of understanding. It seems far more likely that miracles are a lot of chance, coincidence and people taking the initiative to help themselves. Just because I don’t believe in a personal God does not mean I don’t hope there is something greater than myself.
        Secondly, I believe that the primary reason for the continuance of religion is childhood indoctrination. I think that if we let a child develop without religion and then try to teach that child any religion once that child has developed the logical part of the brain, the child would reject it as silly.
        I don’t believe in what Catholicism believes, but I do believe in the institution that is the Church - the “Body of Christ”, the people that make up the church. The Church has a lot of good, decent people that do good works, so while I don’t really espouse many of those beliefs, I do believe in the people. The Church (and when I say that I mean the people of the church) has helped me a great deal. And because of that, I will continue to support Catholicism.
        Wesley is absolutely correct in his summary of my methodology for “minimizing the possibility of ‘accepting things on faith that are wrong’”. Namely:
1. “Figure out as much as you can with reason.
2. Begin believing things for which you have no evidence (or even evidence of likelihood) and call it ‘faith.’”
        I use the all too familiar risk-reward idea. Here are the possibilities. One, God doesn’t exist, but you believe. You die; nothing happens. Two, God doesn’t exist. You don’t believe; nothing happens. Three, God exists. You believe; you live in “paradise” for eternity. Four, God exists. You don’t believe; you suffer in hell for eternity. (In a future post I’ll comment on how I think that if option four is true, then God is a petty, childish megalomaniac.)
Am I, if I were to become a atheist, willing to bet against option four for eternity? No, so I must still force myself to believe even though reasoning tells me it is silly. (I’m sure Wesley and the anons must be exasperated with me now.)
        I’ll end this part with saying that I agree that God seems infinitely improbable, but because we do not know for certain I cannot dismiss the possibility that a God, even a personal God exists. I simply have a difficult time believing that. Moreover, I want a personal God to exist. I want an omnipotent being watching out over me, but it does seems like it is a fairy tale.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

This I Believe (comments on the comments part 1)

The next few posts will deal specifically with the comments I have received to my previous posts. Only three posts had much discussion with them: “This I Believe (part 4)”, “Serious Conversations (part 6)”, and “Serious Conversations (part 7)”. I’ll deal with each set of comments separately. Firstly I’d like to make some general comments.
It is interesting to note the ratio of how much commentary everyone left to useful comments. I pasted all the comments into a word document and the result was 293 pages of 12-pt Times new roman font. However, I deleted a lot of it because I found it irrelevant (e.g. the name calling, arguments on specific authors, like Dawkins, the argument on homosexuality, anon. 2 soliciting five positive comments to speak intelligently [which I still maintain is a bribe], the argument of anon 2 actually being an agent of the devil [which I first interjected as a joke to demonstrate how childishly the anons were behaving], I could go on and on about the pointless items discussed.) or when people repeated themselves. The end result was only 24 pages of relevant, original discussion. So only about 8% of the comments posted were useful. A PDF of the comments I found relevant can be found at “http://www.battalio.com/comments.pdf” I’m sure many of you will be aggravated by me leaving out something you feel important. Leave it as a comment later on if you want me to look at it again.
In reference to specific Biblical passages, I ignored references to the Bible in arguments where the Bible was used to justify its own veracity, that being a fallacious argument. In cases, mostly between Ted and anon 2, where specific topics about religion were argued, for example what is hell or do demons exist, I considered those references because in those arguments the presupposition is that God exists and Bible is true.
I should also say I deleted or ignored comments I felt needed no reply - places where I find it obvious that the argument is true or false. Let me justify that statement. I’m certain both anon. 1 and 2 will condemn me as a narcissist. I will repeat; this is my blog. While others might find our commentary useful, I don’t think I need to justify myself for every thought I have. I’m not trying to convince anyone but myself. If I am comfortable with my own logic, I don’t care what condemning statement others have.
As well as deleting entire comments, I deleted sections of comments I found irrelevant, obviously true/false, snipes at one another’s intelligence, et cetera.
I am leaving comments off until I post my responses to the first set of comments. I suspect that to be complete in the next week or two. I again apologize for having to take that step. I felt that the conversation was being pointed toward places I really don’t want this blog to head, namely politics. I will end that discussion with this: Despite the prevailing opinions of many, politics has nothing to do with religion and vice versa. In political discussion most confuse ethics with religion. Politics should be a case were they are separate entities. If your ethics are defined by religion then fine, but do not directly inject religion into politics. I firmly believe in the separation of church and state.
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