Can someone with faith explain something to me please?

(198 Posts)

This isn't intended to be offensive or goady, I'm asking out of curiosity.

I was on the thread about atheists posting on believers' threads the other day. Someone commented that having their (Christian, I think) faith compared to believing in Thor, Zeus, Apollo etc was offensive.

It made me wonder - what convinced you that your faith is the true one and all others are false? I mean, the Romans and Ancient Greeks were convinced of the authenticity of their pantheons (and I know someone who believes in the Norse pantheon). So why is the comparison offensive? (Obviously I understand that 'sky pixie' and 'imaginary friend' are offensive because they imply a degree of childishness).

Polyethyl Sun 24-Mar-13 12:55:16

Thank you ginger. Eloquently put.

Headinhands- the thing is I do see evidence of God's existence. It is everywhere. It is his creation. I see it in my newborn daughter. In the tree outside my window... and since god is omnipresent I also see him in the rubbish stuff about me, from the washing up I haven't done to the snow preventing me from going to church this morning.
But you probably think that's daft or childish or illogical.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 12:55:41

Whether you have personally done a test for oxygen is irrelevant, the tests are there to be done, they are often easy and very predictable. There are many, many ways to test for oxygen and they are always consistent with atomic theory. This is about as far removed from having a feeling that there's a god that you can get. It's not testable in any way, it's not predictable, there's nothing whatsoever you can do to link the two.

Until relatively recently we had no concept of quantum mechanics and subatomic particles, we didn't sit there thinking, "well, it just feels right so there must be something there". Most of us just didn't even think about it and those who did sought to understand it. Religionists seem happy just to accept that sometimes things happen and sometimes they don't but as long as they believe that God is in control, there must be a reason and that fuzzy feeling they get now and again is 'obviously' god trying to tell them something, except they don't really know what it is and so the message doesn't mean much anyway.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 12:58:57

"Headinhands- the thing is I do see evidence of God's existence. It is everywhere. It is his creation. I see it in my newborn daughter. In the tree outside my window... and since god is omnipresent I also see him in the rubbish stuff about me, from the washing up I haven't done to the snow preventing me from going to church this morning.
But you probably think that's daft or childish or illogical."

You obviously don't understand what evidence is. I could tell you that I look at a tree and see evidence of the magical tree pixie who makes all the trees, it would hold as much ground. In fact, I might even write it in a book to make it all the more credible.

But - and this is a genuine question - if you truly believe you've 'heard a voice' in your head, how do you know that it's the voice of God and not that you are suffering from some kind of psychosis? I don't know how to ask that without it sounding offensive, but it's not meant that way!

I should have realised this would turn into an atheists vs believers thread hmm although that wasn't my intention.

Some interesting replies to my OP, thank you.

Pedro you seem to be saying that believers are childish for believing, have I understood you correctly? What about those who come to faith later in life, or who overcome a crisis of faith and still believe?

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Mar-13 13:02:05

There are religionists who are scientists pedro. Fewer than the atheists certainly, but there are still some. And many, many more in the past who have both believed in God and sought to explain the world/universe in which we live.

Polyethyl Sun 24-Mar-13 13:03:49

And here we have another example of an atheist and a believer being unable to explain to each other. Debates like this happen again and again and get nowhere.

headinhands Sun 24-Mar-13 13:04:43

So you're a creationist Poly? The main problems I have with seeing nature as evidence for a personal loving god are a, how do you know which god did it? Is not like there's a label on it. b, you have to be very careful where you look, its all very well looking at pretty things but how do you explain stuff like that African eye worm that survives by eating a human eye from the inside out. That's just as much a part of nature no?

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 13:08:23

"Pedro you seem to be saying that believers are childish for believing, have I understood you correctly? What about those who come to faith later in life, or who overcome a crisis of faith and still believe?"

It's still a childish trait regardless of when you come to it. Most are indoctrinated in childhood and end up just continuing to blindly believe. Others come to religion for comfort because it feels nice for someone to convince you that whatever you have been through is just god's way of saying he loves you rather than actually facing up to realities of life. This comfort factor is also something you find in children, DS asks me to kiss things when he's hurt them, it doesn't make it better, but it comforts him. But this is temporary. Of course we all need comfort now and again, but we shouldn't let this run our lives.

Polyethyl Sun 24-Mar-13 13:10:50

Badtasteflump asks an interesting question I would like to know more about. Scientists have looked at nun's brainscans, and they are different. Why? What does this mean? Also I've read that people with brain injury can become very religious. Also in my experience I've been surprised by how many of the very religious people I know have aspergers.
I am interested by the idea that religiosity might be linked to differences in the brain.

zzzzz Sun 24-Mar-13 13:13:04

You can't test for love either and yet those who are "in" love or "feel" loved know it is there. Those who have never felt loved or been in love, find the concep difficult to understand/comprehend/prove.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 13:13:25

"There are religionists who are scientists pedro. Fewer than the atheists certainly, but there are still some. And many, many more in the past who have both believed in God and sought to explain the world/universe in which we live."

Of course there were more in the past. Almost everyone followed a religion in the past. That's completely irrelevant. We haven't quite eradicated religion from science but we're getting there. Plus it really depends what branch of science you are studying and what your religion is as to whether they conflict.

There is no denying though, that there is a direct negative correlation globally between IQ and religiosity.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 13:15:17

Badtasteflump asks an interesting question I would like to know more about. Scientists have looked at "nun's brainscans, and they are different. Why? What does this mean? Also I've read that people with brain injury can become very religious. Also in my experience I've been surprised by how many of the very religious people I know have aspergers.
I am interested by the idea that religiosity might be linked to differences in the brain."

Instances where this is the case are usually attributed to reduced brain function and a restriction on rational thought.

Polyethyl Sun 24-Mar-13 13:16:11

No I am NOT a creationist and I am perfectly aware of sir david Attenborough's quote about all the unpleasant things in creation. Which is why I specifically included unlovely things in my examples. The lord god made the lot- as the monty python gang sing.

I don't understand either - I don't find it an offensive comparison.

I'm not convinced all other faiths are false. I think that we are all probably seeking after the same thing. This is something that's doctrine in a lot of faiths - for example, lots of Christian denominations believe other Christians are not entirely wrong. The 'religions of the book' have a lot of mutual acceptance, though it's not perfect. And so on.

With Thor and Odin specifically - I have a friend who works on the early Christian writings in Old Norse, so writings coming from a culture where Thor and Odin were still gods people very much believed in. She finds a huge amount of crossover between how people interpreted what Christ mean, and how Odin and Thor were presented in their culture. Effectively people were translating this God from a Middle-Eastern culture, into a Northern European idiom, they same way languages translate. So you get Christ being presented as more of a Norse warrior type.

I think that sort of thing must have to do with how our imaginations are able to grab onto an idea. Everyone, including (especially?) some athiests I've known, is fascinated by concepts that are outside our conceptual reach. Eternity, or the nature of time, or where we come from. I think it's all part of the same thing.

For me, personally, being C of E just fits best. But I couldn't pretend to 'know', because that is not in the nature of faith. I like the idea that religion is not about passively 'being faithful', but about actively praying, meditating, attending services - doing the things that put you in the right frame of mind. You don't always have a certainty 'yes, I believe', but you don't have to have it all the time, either.

Gingerandcocoa Sun 24-Mar-13 13:19:18

I think this thread has taken a different direction...

Going back to the original question, I second the answer that the Bible teaches us that there is only one God and only one way to God (Jesus), and if you take that as your truth -please note, IF you take that as your truth, I know most of you don't- then you will not like to have God compared to, say, faith in spiritualism or other religions. You want to defend what you love so it's a natural reaction to not like that comparison.

Btw: 'The Christian faith teaches through the bible that all other religions are false and therefore from satan (hugely simplified!) so comparing our God to other Gods is comparing him to satan.'

This isn't just simplified, it's untrue.

Not all Christians are Biblical literalists. Not everyone who reads the Bible interprets the commandments about 'one God' in the same way as you do.

Not everyone interprets 'Satan' the way that statement does, either.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Mar-13 13:26:53

If you are going to say that "Religionists seem happy just to accept that sometimes things happen and sometimes they don't but as long as they believe that God is in control, there must be a reason and that fuzzy feeling they get now and again is 'obviously' god trying to tell them something, except they don't really know what it is and so the message doesn't mean much anyway" in the context of scientific advances, then the fact that in the past (and indeed in the present) people with a religious faith have made such advances is entirely relevant. Because clearly they did not think it didn't matter much that they didn't understand.

Writing off religious belief as a function of low IQ is a bit questionable really. Objectively.

HotCrossNaanAndRessurectiOn Sun 24-Mar-13 13:27:21

There is actually a field called "neurotheology" where studies have discovered passing electrical pulses through certain parts of the brain they are able to induce experiences that some may describe as a religious experience. (This is a massive précis of the whole thing).

The link to the brain and also mental health is an interesting one for me. For those with mental health issues, believing that you are seeing signs from god, that there is something controlling life etc. etc. is called psychosis. In religion its called faith.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 13:28:12

"Not all Christians are Biblical literalists. Not everyone who reads the Bible interprets the commandments about 'one God' in the same way as you do."

And this interpretation problem is exactly why most, if not all religions are wrong. At the very best there might be one interpretation of one religion which turns out to be correct, of course the likelihood is slim. So much more rational to dismiss them all and ask for some evidence before you carry on.

Even if it were true that religious belief were a function of low IQ, one would have to doubt the intelligence of someone who accepts IQ as a good measure. Should you not be questioning and interrogating? wink

(Actually, seriously, IQ is a dubious measure of intelligence, it really is.)

If religious belief were a function of some kind of intellectual lack - would that make it ok to mock it or question it? I'm not sure it would, for me.

pedro - how do you mean? What's wrong with saying there may be several correct interpretations?

You are assuming that there can only be one right answer. I don't believe that.

hiddenhome Sun 24-Mar-13 13:30:25

My father was an ordained Catholic priest (he left the priesthood before he met my mother before you all start) so no matter how hard I fought it I was always destined to be a Catholic. I was baptised after his death when I was five. From then on I felt a pull towards God.

Gingerdodger Sun 24-Mar-13 13:30:40

badtaste I can't prove that what I believe isn't delusional. I can only state that in my experience it feels absolutely real. That is what faith is, it isn't based on the need to prove it in a scientific way.

That said it is also impossible to prove God does not exist.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 13:31:33

"Writing off religious belief as a function of low IQ is a bit questionable really. Objectively."

Unlike religion, there are actual studies and evidence for this.

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