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Hereís some of my responses to some of the greatest contemporary philosophical questions on religion, god, spirituality, and morality. I will be adding to this collection of responses as I play more of the game. (courtesy of www.philosophersnet.com). The most important advice I can give you is to find your own answers to these questions, instead of setting out to agree or disagree with mine. If you have a unique view on what Iíve written, please do drop me a line. Remember, one right question is more important than any multitude of answers, because it will force you to think in ways that challenge who you are.

Religion is simply a tool used to gain self-advantage without the need for materials. Human beings choose to explain their view of the world in different ways. Religion does not necessarily imply a relationship with a God figure.

What really is religion? In particular, what if any, connection does it have to belief in God?
Religion is simply a tool used to gain self-advantage without the need for materials. Human beings choose to explain their view of the world in different ways. Religion does not necessarily imply a relationship with a God figure. Atheism can be qualified as a religion because it is an immaterial world-view. Any belief system that is outside the physical realm starts with an assumption. While theists may assume God's existence, atheists may assume the existence of eternal matter. Religion serves to fill rational as well as emotional holes. The starting point to religion is faith, which is basically an assumption relating to existence.

Whatever religion is as a belief system, it is also a social institution, and serves some useful social purpose. But what purpose?
Religions are definitely social institutions that result from the collective experience of groups. The individual, no matter how introverted, needs self-affirmation and one way to achieve that is by joining a religious system. However, religions purposefully serve as guides to how people should live moral lives. The basis for religions being societal institutions is moral law, with or without God. Chaos has been rejected by us and religion's morality provides ways to prevent and combat anxiety-provoking chaos in communities. For good and bad reasons, religion is used as a tool for social control. Religions have also been witness to the most altruistic human behavior. The point to remember is that individual humans use religious doctrine to further their own self-development, be it for englightenment purposes or for pure selfishness.

Is religion so needed that a society would collapse without it?
Religion has been intended and used by many individuals for many purposes. Some individuals use it to control society, while some intend to spread it to free society. Religion is viewed by some as the inspiration for law in society. By others it may be used as a tool, taking advantage of citizens who believe it to be an adequate law-giving system, to achieve selfish ends. Society does need religion to survive because it affects 98% of the population, who may have differing conceptions of God, but do believe in some divinely guided way of living. Religion gives individuals the realization that they have an obligation to demand justice for society. An atheist who fails in punishing an offender does not have the hope of ultimate justice, the kind of hope that religions offer believers. In this regard, religious believers have additional room in their security boxes and whether this is a false sense of security does not matter. Security is what makes people live on and hope.

Does every man and woman need the comfort of thinking that we reside in a meaningful place within the universe?
Individuals would not survive their constant psychological battle if they did not consciously believe in a non-material, beyond-the-evidence effect. In each individual lies beliefs that are ultimately based on an untestable assumption. The religious believer stands for an unseen God or realm. The atheist stands for unproven theories like the Big Bang and Evolution. Religion may serve man's ultimate self-affirmation, but so do scientific assumptions. What individuals cannot survive without is the need to make a simple assumption which would justify who they want to be and how they would get themselves there. Behind every simple religious or atheistic assumption is pure faith and hope. Every individual hopes that their chosen assumption is most valid.

Who is God? Without a definition of this central term, religious discussion may spiral off into complete confusion.
It is futile to describe God in the finitude of thought and language. What I do know is that all eastern, western, and other religions have amongst them, their mystics. Mysticism seeks to penetrate into an ultimate reality that is often described as God. All the great mystics respond the same way when asked about what the experience of God is. They only describe it by saying that the experience itself is simply ineffible, i.e. indescribable. Thus, God may not be a person, thing, or being that is provable in our world. The mystics may well be mistaking their psychological projection as God. This implies research into human consciousness. Consciousness is still a physiological mystery. Try to explain it in terms of physical processes when consciousness itself may not comprise of physical elements at all! To me, God may be an indescribable essence who's nature and acts are metaphysically part of a cause-effect system, occuring simultaneously a priori. God may be the perfect representation of love, mercy, justice, and good. Since these qualities are largely incomplete in our finite world, God completes it just by being. Having said this, I would maintain that I do not know who God is. But I would bet on a non-physical, rational existence ultimately in reality because I believe in the existence of a pure form of love, justice, and mercy. These are purely metaphysical concepts, devoid of any physical structure although they are undisputedly part of the human condition. As love just is, God just is.

Does it make sense to ascribe human traits to God? Given the progress of science, concepts such as God the Father and Creator sound backward.
There is a popular myth that scientific progress unravells the mysteries of the universe and the human mind. I believe that scientific discoveries are only grounds for more questions that inevitably come up. With every new discovery about our observable and testable world, new questions on unobservable and untestable concepts creep out. Thus, the question about anthropomorphising God is not naive. When scientists assign names to new theories, the process of exchanging ideas with the scientific community gets simpler. Religious believers also have their standards of describing the attributes of their deity so that worship among the community can be done with a united cause. Thus, a standardized system of semantics is useful at the group level where religious believers as well as scientists can conduct their group activities in order to facilitate a shared understanding of belief.

How would one come to know God at all? Intuition, rationality, or emotion?
Knowing God is epistemology's ultimate failure. There are questions about God's existence that precede questions about knowing Him. However, the closest to knowing God has been ineffably described by the mystic. Love, devotion, and meditation has seen many mystics claim that there indeed is a divine experience possible which goes beyond cultural perceptions. Knowing God cannot be taught. It is wholly an individual experience whether through rationality or emotion. It is entirely possible for the same person to rationally express the lack of evidence for God's existence in the daytime, while praying for peace and happiness at night. The potential rational-emotional divide will remain in every person and God is one such phenomenon Himself. Knowing God requires knowing oneself first.

Besides any personal belief, is there a convincing objective argument that proves the existence of God?
Religious traditions offer their respective takes on God's existence. The eastern traditions focus on metaphysical elements while western beliefs lean more toward a rational and practical explanation. The Intelligent Designer argument has been criticized due to the overwhelming likelihood of Darwin's Natural Selection. But intelligent design could still be a valid argument. The biggest proof for God could be the fact that humankind will probably never find out the original source of the universe. Contemporary philosophers are comfortable placing bets on theories that do not involve God. Proof itself is a subject of debate. Scientific axioms are no more than assumptions about the physical world. The Hindus call these so-called axioms 'Maya', a big fat grand illusion. If scientists consider the Intelligent Design argument to be false, it is equally valid for the theist to ask this of the scientist: How do you expect me to present material proof for an immaterial God?

What role can reason play in religion? Can we reason our way into religious zeal?
The human mind cannot escape from the faculty of reasoning. I firmly believe in the reasoning process whether it be for decision-making or consolidating spiritual beliefs. Reason does not have to go against religious belief and a lot of does not in reality. Reason can bolster one's faith more than emotional instinct, especially during trying times. There are people who maintain reason-based faith, balanced individuals with religion as their frame of reference. Then there are people who have gone away from religious notions because of emotional reactions to personal tragedies. I say reason is more than relevant because both religion and science would have died out a long time ago were it not for cause, meaning, and reason.

Religions have made faith the paradigm of all virtues. Can something so illogical deserve such exhalted status?
Like the process of reasoning, human beings cannot escape from faith. Even those who swear by hard facts need to eventually lean on faith for their existence. Assumptions of science like the apparant reality of numbers and physical laws are based on faith that these assumptions are true. Religious faith does not deserve to be called a flaw as it is a primary criterion for believers. Faith is about trust, not only necessary for belief in a higher power, but also for everyday life. Faith plays a part in building life-long relationships and also has an impact on sportsmen, performers, and artists who rely on self-belief in their vocations. Scientists believe in change even though they can only truly see the effects of change. Religious believers tend to openly admit belief in the unseen.

Does religious faith mean a person should literally believe in Holy books like the Bible?
The Bible or any other religious text cannot be taken as the literal word of God simply because they have been transcribed by humans. There are a lot of common religious principles in the Bible, the Qur'an and the Torah. A case for reliability can be made here but the human factor must be accounted for. The Bible has been passed down many generations and has evolved into many versions with varying scripture. However, the holy books can be used as a guide to organize one's own morality and lifestyle. The fables might not have literally happened, but their lessons could have value. Scripture may serve as a starting point in developing a sense of self and view of our place in the world. Knowing oneself does not necessarily require a quest to determine an absolute religious truth. Those who believe that the Bible is the literal word of God need to be educated about the numerous instances in history where the text has been altered by those hungry for power.

What is the relationship between religion and science?
The relationship between science and religion gets defined by how people perceive the events in their life. Individual psychology has a bearing on the reasoning processes within each person. Some devote their belief to science more than religion due to their experiences with religion and vice versa. Science does not have to contradict religious belief. Both disciplines are part of the human psyche and seek to achieve the same goal of having control and explaining events. People choose different routes to explain events that define them. Just because scientific breakthroughs seem to be more easily explainable than religious miracles, it still does not justify science as superior. Science and religion both hold truths because they affect the psychological state and lives of human beings.

One area of disagreement between science and religion is the afterlife. What might the afterlife be?
Scientific explanations of human existence have focused on physics, chemistry, and biology. Religious explanations are based on some form of foundational ethics. A point can be made that one cannot successfully argue for or against a discipline that has a different premise on which its argument is based on to begin with. The belief in an afterlife is logical for most religions while illogical for physical scientists. From a religious standpoint, an afterlife assures a person justice after death. Scientifically speaking, an afterlife hasn't been proved and will probably never be due to the physical immaterialism of this phenomenon. Scientists have not been able to pinpoint the experience of dying which is a physical event. Thus, there is still no evidence for arguing against the mere belief in an afterlife, which according to religious notions does not require physical proof for believers to know it exists.

Besides heaven and hell, what connection does religion have to morality?
Morality is an instrument to measure the worthiness of people to receive prize or punishment. Morality is used for learning and incorporating values in life itself, not just in the afterlife heaven and hell scenario. Morality in religion gives the believer a solid frame of reference by which to make decisions, take actions, and build people relationships. Boundaries in life are defined which people may refer to when dealing with dilemmas. With a strong set of morals, a person sticks to courses of action that are free of guilt and which offer the person peace of mind and a consolidated belief in his/her faith or religion. Morality is what pushes a person sitting on the swing of religion. Morality is religion personified, religion in action.

 


 
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