Why I believe in God

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Colin
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Post by Colin » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:36 am

Patrick, I'm sure there is a natural explanation for what happened to you on that day. Serendipity, not supernaturalism is what I perceive as the root cause of your bliss on that day. I'm sure that you believe that it was a divine experience and who am I to deny that it is. I don't know. Howerver, in the same way that you believe it is divine, I believe it must have a natural explanation. Neither of us can prove the other wrong. Such experiences are entirely subjective and as you pointed out you cannot describe the feeling of elation you felt that day.

But...

The fact you felt incredibly content (or happy or elated or whatever word you feel best fits), more content than you ever felt in your life. Even if you were more content than anyone else in the world, that is not proof that anything exists. Is it?

You are describing feelings and attributing that to the divine. Can you see the jump you made?
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Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:45 am

Hi
Colin wrote: Even if you were more content than anyone else in the world
Just to be clear: I absolutely didn't say, or imply that, in any way.

For the record, wrote this in earlier post (post 67):

Firstly, just like to say (haven't said it before in this thread, and think important to say) I don't believe I am any superior (or inferior) than others for such experiences.

I believe that such experiences are part of the many types of gifts that we are endowed with. I am a contemplative / introverted person (boring talking about one self - and in this way - but don't know how else to discuss this subject - the subject of such experiences in general not me - that I hope to be of interest / use to others), and believe that a practical / extroverted person, for example, is still open to such experiences but, perhaps, typically, not to such an intense degree. However, saying that, the practical / extroverted person has other gifts (that I / a person such as me doesnt have / have to such a degree) that enable him to experience, typically, God more intensely in other ways.


Saying that I don't retract anything I did say in regards to the experience. And with respect, nor did I ever suggest it was "proof" of anything (clues / pieces of evidence to the existence of God - clues / pieces of evidence that take on greater significance when they are considered in the light of other clues / pieces of evidence - in other words they take on greater significance when considered holistically, rather like looking at the overall pattern in a tapestry (with pieces missing) rather than looking at each mini piece of the tapestry on its own - written about all of this in previous posts on this thread).

Also you assume that I didn't scrutinize the experiences: I did (I wrote recently about this, in very recent posts on this thread). But came to the conclusion that it was divine in origin. With respect, you on the other hand, know next-to-little about me or of the experience (relative to what I know, the person who had the experience, and an experience that I consider to be largely metaphysical / subjective). If anyone is "jumping" to anything, it is more you than me, where you "jump" to assumptions about me, and from that ("jump" to) conclusions about the experience overall.
MichaelNugent
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Post by MichaelNugent » Fri Dec 26, 2008 1:05 pm

Colin wrote:You are describing feelings and attributing that to the divine. Can you see the jump you made?
Patrick Fowke wrote:And with respect, nor did I ever suggest it was "proof" of anything (clues / pieces of evidence to the existence of God, yes...)...
Patrick, you suggested this in your opening post, when you said:
Patrick Fowke wrote:I believe in God because I have had various metaphysical experiences that I believe were divine in origin.
You have since clarified that this is one of a number of factors that you look at holistically to explain your belief in a god. However, in your opening post on a topic you introduced yourself, which you titled "Why I believe in God", you attributed your belief in a god to these experiences alone. It is therefore reasonable to assume that these experiences are a very important factor, if not the most important factor, in your set of holistic factors that cause you to believe in a god. Hence the importance of identifying why you believe them to be divine in origin.

From my reading of your descriptions of your experiences, they are consistent with a natural explanation. I believe that they may be related to the experiences of flow as studied by Mihaly Czikzentmihayli and others. Or there may be other equally natural explanations.

Also, when you yourself are describing the experiences, you do not attribute anything divine to the experiences themselves. You do not, for example, describe sensing the existence of a supernatural deity that created everything that you are experiencing. I believe that you are attaching this extra meaning to the experiences, because of the other holistic factors that cause you to believe that such a being exists.

Perhaps we can approach this in a different way, with these two questions:
  • What are the other factors in your holistic belief that a god exists? and

    How do these factors strengthen your belief that these specific experiences are divine in origin?
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:35 pm

Michael
MichaelNugent wrote:
Colin wrote:You are describing feelings and attributing that to the divine. Can you see the jump you made?
- you appear to fail to appreciate that fact that (as already mentioned) I scrutinized the experience (and I didn't use the word "feelings" - "feelings" were certainly involved, as were intellectual thoughts, but "feelings" are, ultimately, material / physical in nature, and as I said, the experience was, largely, metaphysical in nature).

So I have scrutinized the experience and considered the experience being material in origin (and after much reflection come to the conclusion that the experience was, almost, certainly divine in origin). You appear not to entertain the possibility that it was anything but material / physical in origin (or, at least, so it appears to me).
Patrick Fowke wrote:And with respect, nor did I ever suggest it was "proof" of anything (clues / pieces of evidence to the existence of God, yes...)...
Patrick, you suggested this in your opening post, when you said:
Patrick Fowke wrote:I believe in God because I have had various metaphysical experiences that I believe were divine in origin.
I absolutely fail to see how this suggests "proof". Yes, it suggests "evidence of" but that is quite different to "proof". You are reading somthing into more than I suggest / claim.
MichaelNugent wrote:
You have since clarified that this is one of a number of factors that you look at holistically to explain your belief in a god. However, in your opening post on a topic you introduced yourself, which you titled "Why I believe in God", you attributed your belief in a god to these experiences alone.
I claim hardly any skill at all in philosophy. But I know a tiny bit about the philisophical approach (i.e that of Plato and his dialogues). There is nothing wrong in "clarifying". In fact people must clarify / qualify, and then go on to develop ideas. Not say everything they want in just one opening paragraph / post. That just seems a little absurd to me. It, also, goes against the idea that dialogue is a two-way learning process. Enligthenment (and, yes, I really do believe in such a word, and take it seriously) is not something didactic from one person, solely, to another - even though people may have quite strong ideas about things). Enlightnement is, surely, about sharing ideas, developing ideas, challening ideas, even and most importantly, perhaps, accepting you get ideas wrong / that ideas have to be tweaked, or ditched even, whatever). I get value out of debating with others because I am forced to chisel away at my own belief - and challenged to believe in things because I really believe not because of tradition etc .. (sorry, wandered a bit off the subject ..) - I want my belief to be something honest and real and hard-fought, not something sentimental, spongy, soapy - easy.
MichaelNugent wrote:
It is therefore reasonable to assume that these experiences are a very important factor, if not the most important factor, in your set of holistic factors that cause you to believe in a god. Hence the importance of identifying why you believe them to be divine in origin.
That's kind of right (don't want to be too prescriptive about its importance in relation to the holistic approach, overall, but certainly, very important, yes). I have described it as Road-To-Damascus-like experience.
MichaelNugent wrote:
From my reading of your descriptions of your experiences, they are consistent with a natural explanation. I believe that they may be related to the experiences of flow as studied by Mihaly Czikzentmihayli and others.


Not familar with
MichaelNugent wrote:
Or there may be other equally natural explanations.


I have, over the last 19 years, scrutinized the experience, thoroughly. I have considered the possibility that its origin could have been natural (but come to the conclusion that I strongly believe the experience was divine in origin). Do you consider the possibility that it could have been metaphysical and / or supernatural in origin, or not?
MichaelNugent wrote:
Also, when you yourself are describing the experiences, you do not attribute anything divine to the experiences themselves. You do not, for example, describe sensing the existence of a supernatural deity that created everything that you are experiencing. I believe that you are attaching this extra meaning to the experiences, because of the other holistic factors that cause you to believe that such a being exists.


But I don't suggest that things are that black and white. I mean I don't claim to have heard a voice saying "I am God", or seeing Christ, for example: "I am God". Even if I had, it would be fair to ask: "are you sure you weren't hearing voices or imagining it or something". The idea of "clues" as mentioned before, is that evidence is more in the realm of clues than proofs. I have no proof that they were divine in origin. But I do have clues that they were divine in origin.
MichaelNugent wrote: Perhaps we can approach this in a different way, with these two questions:
  • What are the other factors in your holistic belief that a god exists? and

    How do these factors strengthen your belief that these specific experiences are divine in origin?


- I've already answered the first question, elsewhere in the thread (don't worry, not expecting you to find it, I will and copy and paste into new post, where I will attempt to answer your second question as well.

In the meantime, perhaps you could get back to me to the points I make here, in particular, do you entertain the possibility at all that my experience could have been divine in origin. And if not, why not?
Colin
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Post by Colin » Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:20 pm

Ok, so I jumped to a conclusion without knowing enouh. So tell me, what about these experiences were beyond explanation by purely natural means? Being bored with exams, seems perfeclty natural. As does deciding to engage in a favourite past time to blow off exam steam. Feeling happy and content also seems natural, particularly given the boredom assocaited with study. If it was sunny, you might have gotten a hit of Vitamin D, which make you feel happy. Adding it all up, going from exam stress, to sunshine, vitamin D and carefree sketchin seems very nice to me. However, it all seems perfectly normal to me, but you feel it was more. Why?

I'm sure we've all had those experiences where we went wow, thats incredible/awesome/unbelievable. Is your experience beyond this and in what way? Is it that there were so many different steps in deciding to go sketching or what?

I've no doubt that we'll untimately have to agree to disagree as we both have examined our beliefs thuroughly, however; we came to drastically different conclusions.I'd just love to know why you believe and I don't.
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 26, 2008 7:05 pm

Colin
Colin wrote:Ok, so I jumped to a conclusion without knowing enouh. So tell me, what about these experiences were beyond explanation by purely natural means? Being bored with exams, seems perfeclty natural. As does deciding to engage in a favourite past time to blow off exam steam. Feeling happy and content also seems natural, particularly given the boredom assocaited with study. If it was sunny, you might have gotten a hit of Vitamin D, which make you feel happy. Adding it all up, going from exam stress, to sunshine, vitamin D and carefree sketchin seems very nice to me. However, it all seems perfectly normal to me, but you feel it was more. Why?.
- Ultimately, I can only speak for my own experiences - not for the experiences of others / how my experiences compare to others. Before this experience I would say that life was more-a-less average (in terms of happiness). Most days would be average (with bits of happiness / unhapiness). Sometimes days could be very happy / very unhappy, and so on).
But this day brought me a level of happiness beyond anything I could possibly have imagined. It wasn't just happiness of mind and body, but, above all of what I believe to be soul (in other words, somethig, ultimately metaphysical not material). Extraordinary happness (and peace). The only way to evoke: borrowing from Shakespeare:

'the clouds, methought, did open up and show riches ready to drop upon me that when I wak'd I cried to dream again'

- I have no doubt that Shakespeare had a similar kind of experience. In the same play (as the above quote is from) he writes about the transcendence of the soul (and in this case, passing from mortal life into divine bliss):

'Full fadom five thy Father lies,
Of his bones are Corrall made:
Those are pearles that were his eies,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a Sea-change
Into something rich, & strange:
Sea-Nimphs hourly ring his knell.'

We get similar language from Yeats, in arguably his greatest poem, Sailing to Byzantium:

'Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.'

William Blake was infamous for his poetry about metaphysical / mystical experiences.

And this brings me to people such as Francis of Assisi (of which we have a lot of historical evidence). His metaphysical experiences were sufficient for him to leave his comfortable, often care-free charming, bourgeois background to take to the streets as a begger, live with and help, the poor (including lepers) and so on - for over 20 years or so until he died.

As I have said before (earlier on in thread), I think ALL people are EQUALLY open to God. I believe I am neither superior (nor inferior) for such an experience. I, also, think that not all people are, necessarily, open (in such an intense way) to such an experience as this (this is more the type of experience that people of a certain contemplative nature experience, I believe). I think that if you are more of a practical nature, then God affects you in a different way - but the knowledge that God is behind is just as knowable, and the experience/s is just as powerful and valuable. Don't want to be too black and white, but to say, what you have heard before, no doubt, from other beleivers, that we are all given different (and similar) gifts - but we are all given gifts - and these gifts multiply as we get to know God better.

But if your attitude is to say No, No, No to such a possibility, well do you make such experiences more or less likely to happen? Remember Christ says: 'knock, and the door will be opened to you'. No, No, No is more like locking, than opening, the door. The nature of God is that He doesn't impose Himself on us (that would, in some way, take away from our free will to believe in God). He doesn't impose, however, He does give us clues to His existence. And we have to work at piecing these clues together (ultimately - but not exclusively) by ourselves, bearing in mind St Paul's: "you have to work out your own salvation"
Colin wrote:
I'd just love to know why you believe and I don't.
Going to get back to Michael (and you) on this.
Colin
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Post by Colin » Sat Dec 27, 2008 9:13 pm

Patrick Fowke wrote:Remember Christ says: 'knock, and the door will be opened to you'... bearing in mind St Paul's: "you have to work out your own salvation"
Jesus and St Paul... I assume you are a practicing catholic. If I'm wrong just say so.

Do you believe you are eating flesh every Sunday?
Do you believe you are drinking blood?.

And if you don't surely the experiences you describe make you a deist.
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Sat Dec 27, 2008 10:30 pm

Colin wrote:
Patrick Fowke wrote:Remember Christ says: 'knock, and the door will be opened to you'... bearing in mind St Paul's: "you have to work out your own salvation"
Jesus and St Paul... I assume you are a practicing catholic. If I'm wrong just say so.

Do you believe you are eating flesh every Sunday?
Do you believe you are drinking blood?.

And if you don't surely the experiences you describe make you a deist.
Yes, I am a practising R.C. (but not into the cult of saints, incense, bells, rosary, latin mass - things like that but don't criticize anyone who is etc ...).

Transubstantiation. Yes, I do believe in it, and take it seriously. It is, ultimately, a mystery (like many other aspects of Christian faith) but, I don't hold a black-and-white and prescriptive cannabilistic view of transubstiation. Yes, I believe it is the presence of God but since it is a mystery, and I am not a theoligian, the best I can do at this point is refer you to Catholic Encyclopedia on the details of this doctrine:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm

Transubstantiation deserves, i think, a thread of its own. If you would like to open a new thread to discuss, then feel free to do so, and I will come and discuss there (but for the moment, a lot has already been brought up already on this particular thread).

Although Catholics (and Orthodox) believe in transubstantiation, don't forget that most other Christians, including Protestants (except those of the Zwinglian tradition or related to) believe that the bread and wine are more than merely symbolic (although this isn't the same, necessarily, as transubstantiation).

Lastly, I firmly believe that prayer / trying to get to know God better and more-and-more through life, and following out God's will (i.e love God and neighbour) is at the heart of the Christian faith. I don't want to be prescriptive about the role of the sacraments (i.e the Eucharist) in Christian life other than that they are important, I take them seriously, and follow Catholic teachings on them. But direct prayer to God / knowing God / carrying out God's will in all things is at the heart of it all (and I believe that the sacraments are part of all of this).

Hope you enjoying your Christmas / holiday period so far ..
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Post by brianmmulligan » Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:00 am

Patrick Fowke wrote:

"What is beauty in the natural world (where there is no functional reason for there to be such a thing). What is human wit, humour, personality, and so on?"

Don't be too quick to say that there is no functional reason for something. Beauty, music and humour may be explained by the theories of Evolutionary Psychology. Like the peacock's tail, these are ways of showing off your fitness.
Brian
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Post by brianmmulligan » Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:07 am

Patrick,

you start ,a lot of statements with "I believe". Unfortunately a lot of Atheists do not rely on belief, even their own beliefs, so that is not going to be too persuasive here. They generally require repeatable evidence, and subscribe to the scientific approach that it is the weight of evidence built up over time that indicates what is most likely to be true. I would suggest that if you are making any arguments on this forum you put forward evidence.
Brian
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