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[Philos]"Is it ever possible talk meaningfully about God or religious experiences?"

Discussion in 'Opinions, Beliefs, & Points of View' started by Abacus21, Feb 9, 2008.

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  1. Abacus21

    Abacus21 Staff Alumni

    This is a Philosophy essay that I wrote last night for work after half term (I'm getting ahead of the game :tongue: ) - Anyway - I just wondered what you all thought. Debate is the essential point, but no ''my religion is better than yours'', or ''Christians / atheists are all wrong'' etc, please!

    Anyway, here it is - 'tis quite short, but see what you think:

    Is it ever possible to talk meaningfully about God or religious experiences?

    I believe it is not an easy question to answer – one cannot define God Himself, or religion, so how therefore can one talk about a religious experience, or know what one truly is, without having just experienced it themselves – a tad like falling in love: it’s fine to think you know what it is, but nine times out of ten, when you finally feel it, it’ll be nothing like you imagined it to be. However, to even attempt to answer this question, one must have a go!

    What, though, is God? Is it, as the media and to an extent, our imaginations, has conjured up – a giant with a big long beard? Is it what Christians think of Him – as the one true creator of Earth, and all that’s on it? One could say yes, but who is to say they, or indeed anyone is correct? While we struggle with this thought, can we actually talk about God, yet alone meaningfully? Many would say no, we can’t. Is it merely as atheists believe – it is nothing, and is non-existent? If one takes the Christian belief, then it is effectively what a single person makes of him, for – even if you put two devout Christians together, then it is practically guaranteed that their views of what God is, are not going to be the same. Why? Because all religion is open to a degree of interpretation, even when reading from exactly the same text / religious scripture, because we’re not all robots – we have free will and individual thought processes. Surely, without any actual understanding of what God is – merely interpretation and assumption from scriptures that, while they’re very important, are thousands of years old, when values and ideals were a far cry from today’s ‘high’ standards of society – we cannot talk in any meaningful way about God – merely what we think He is; ‘think’ being the key word there.

    What, therefore, about religious experiences? If we cannot define God, how could we define religious experiences? As it happens, that conundrum is solved nicely for us:
    no-one can define an experience, as an experience is what we, ourselves have been through, no-one else. That said, just because it is not initially possible to define it, doesn’t mean we cannot attempt to. The small difference between God and a religious experience, despite the obvious creator vs. a mere experience, is that one can have an experience, so who can say that it cannot be talked in a meaningful way? There have been many books, debates and indeed, even a group at a research centre has been attempting to see if religious experiences are real or not; but, until every one of us has experienced one, who can say if they happen or not? No-one can.
    That said, the accounts of people who have experienced them, have been that they’ve improved their lives, made them live being more conscious of others, and a generally ‘better’ person than they were beforehand. We simply have to take their accounts at face value and accept them, until God appears before all our eyes, or science proves us right, or wrong. We are not to judge until that day.

    In conclusion, I believe that God cannot be talked about meaningfully, whereas religious experiences can be, as it is, for want of a better phrase, all in the mind.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 9, 2008
  2. Re: [Philos]"Is it ever possible talk meaningfully about God or religious experiences

    That was good! I had to re-read it a few times, yet not without pleasure. It brought to mind (hopelessy sarcastic as I am, yet with humour nevertheless) a line I heard many years ago..."There's a difference between God and Religion!" You're very right that each experience - actually, whether trying to define ones perception of God - which IS after all - a perception! OR describing ones experiences - it IS uniquely personal...

    I suppose (sadly) therein lies humanity's perpetual pitfall, our long-time 'occupational hazard' in that what we see or experience, or 'perceive', we often feel (also sadly) must be the defininitive, penultimate interpretation of our given perception... and hence, applicable to everyone else (!)...

    That being said, to me at least, it is an [NECESSARY] ongoing journey - and I, merely ONE of 6 and a half billion people presently on the planet, and in my VERY short time here, cannot possibly ever conceive of having the answer/definition of either. Some see this as being 'wishy washy', noncommittal, or decidedly indecisive. That rather only makes me smile...because neither does anyone else possess the definitive interpretation. That is simply hubris...

    I, personally, very much liked your opening paragraph - it's a marvellous/effective analogy (though it may inevitably fail to hit home with some...). I can only hope that your stated wishes are adhered to in this thread...

    (Aside - It also made me smile in your reference to the thoughtful example of 'two Christians' - especially since the Christian Church alone - and not to be singled out - is divided into an estimated 58,000 denominations! But I digress - perhaps?... perhaps not... Might hopefully add to your very relevant point)

    Good job! :smile:
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2008
  3. Ziggy

    Ziggy Antiquitie's Friend

    Re: [Philos]"Is it ever possible talk meaningfully about God or religious experiences

    But who am I? If people on this board described me, they would all describe me differently. So who would be correct? Can you talk about me in a meaningful way - you can say who you think I am, and I could say who I think I am, but are any of us correct? So if nobody can define me, not even myself, then can we talk about anyone in a meaningful way?
  4. Abacus21

    Abacus21 Staff Alumni

    Re: [Philos]"Is it ever possible talk meaningfully about God or religious experiences

    Very good point.. I guess we cannot, if it's look at from that perspective.. But equally, from another, it may be that we can define each other, or at least ourselves.
    At this hour (it's 1am here), I can't exactly think what that perspective would be though..

    I'll think it over, and get back to you!
  5. nedflanders

    nedflanders Well-Known Member

    Re: [Philos]"Is it ever possible talk meaningfully about God or religious experiences

    Well this is refreshing. I doubt our discussion will be all that enlightening, but thanks for offering the opportunity.

    Having tried on occasion to talk about that sort of thing with people here who disagree with me, I'm tempted to agree with you. It's certainly frustrating, at best, to try to talk about God.

    But then again, it's also frustrating to talk about the nature of time. And ad-men might even find it difficult to describe the experience of ice cream. That doesn't make time or ice cream less real.

    Kant would disagree. Experiences (of any sort, religious or otherwise) are not daydreams invented wholly by the experiencer. Rather, they arise from the interaction of the experiencer and something external.

    So talking about God is no more difficult, in principle, than talking about ordinary things like ice cream: No matter what the experience, you need to get beyond your observer bias and so forth.

    But when the external subject is important, and emotionally charged, people are naturally less willing to make the effort.

    Now this is just silly. Several thousand years of theological arguments among people with quite different views of the Gospels immediately suggests that it is possible to communicate about God in the absence of shared experience. Many theological discussions take the logical form of plane geometry--Given these postulates A, B, and C, none of which I can prove, let's talk about how to proceed from them to some interesting conclusions X, Y, and Z.

    And because you're making this observation about Christians specifically, I get to throw a little scripture at you (Matthew 18:20):

    So God Himself seems to encourage this impossible discussion, perhaps because it can be difficult for us.

    No, we don't. David Koresh had plenty of religious experiences, but he still ended up on the wrong end of that ATF raid back in 1993. And I would argue that Mohammed is another example of someone with plenty of religious experiences, who still ends up making things worse. And I just finished telling Anya (in another thread) that people who take near-death experiences as evidence of the afterlife are making a great error, precisely because the appearance of fact that these stories have encourages the naive to skip over the hard questions of faith.

    In the absence of faith, we are reduced to relying on our reason and our conscience to make wise decisions about who's a prophet and who's a nut. Just because you don't like being judged yourself doesn't mean that you get a pass on judging others' statements.

    So yes, I think you're an idiot. Feel free to agree.
  6. ggg456

    ggg456 Guest

    Re: [Philos]"Is it ever possible talk meaningfully about God or religious experiences

    Yes and yes.
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