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Author Topic: Science and religion: God did not make man; man made gods
Stephen
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Posts: 65
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Post Science and religion: God did not make man; man made gods
on: July 18, 2011, 13:27
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Haven't we heard this before? According to an Op-Ed in the LA Times, God didn't make man, man made gods. For this exciting, breathtakingly important new news, click http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-thompson-atheism-20110718,0,5682260.story.

I tried to submit some reasonable comments:

The idea that man made God has been around for a long time.

It has been the central argument of Buddhism for the last 2,500 years - overide your built-in conceptualizations that make you try to cram the transcendent into your limited perceptions. Or, consider Kant, Marx, and even folks like Scott Atran.

What this means is that the arguments to and fro about this most ancient of ideas are widely understood and should be addressed by the authors of this op-ed. That they do not suggests that they are straying into the "blinded by science" extremes of new-atheism and its secular religiosity.

Consider the following argument, familiar to physicists for some time now. All of our conceptualizations about the laws of nature are of the same type as those we use to conceptualize the existence of God. Nonetheless - and despite having a physical basis in DNA - these ideas are correlated to very real phenomena in the world around us.

A similarly valid arguments work for religion and God. That our terminology and conceptualizations used are rooted in human nature - the DNA of our author's perspective - has no impact on their validity. ALL arguments - including valid arguments of science - are rooted thusly.

Folks, including the authors of this op-ed, need to engage with this most basic and well-known of truths.

And

Hi Jillian, nice post. I'm a physicist and I believe in "invisible, omnipresent, eternal but ... detectable" laws of nature.

I'm also a Baha'i, and see the great teachers of the world's religions as evidence that God exists (and, yes, the laws of nature tell me that there is order, law, and logic in the universe). In their world-embracing systems of "socially-beneficial pursuit," the great teachers of religion made belief in God and the vigorous pursuit of spiritual growth an integral part of moral and learning systems that are source of much of the spiritual, economic, and artistic growth of the various peoples of the world.

Now, if we are to embrace reality - as you say - who is to define it? You and everyone else individually?

Then, this reality it is not going to be science, because science is a specialist's pursuit and the rest of us believe it on faith.

By contrast, everyone can do thinking about religion for themselves.

So which is it - blind faith and science or indidual investigation and religion?

I recommend both as they complement each other so well, and eliminate the excesses of each standing alone.

koinotely
Jedi Master
Posts: 92
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Post Re: Science and religion: God did not make man; man made gods
on: July 19, 2011, 10:02
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God made man and man "made" gods, the maker is ultimately incomprehensible to that which is made, which is why there are divine messengers which reflect its attributes in proportion to the capacity of the time and place to mirror the teachings.

‎"The world of ideas is not revealed to us in one stroke; we must both permanently and unceasingly recreate it in our consciousness." -René Thom

"In the Western religions, the highest reality is called God. In these religions, God is the creator of all that is. He is the Lord of all, who intervenes in human affairs and sends His prophets to bring laws and teachings to humanity. The duty of human beings is to recognize the prophet and to lead their lives according to these laws and teachings.

In the religions of the East, the highest reality has different characteristics. Whether we consider Nirvana or the Dharma in Theravada Buddhism, Shunyata in Mahayana Buddhism, the Tao in Taoism, or Brahma in Advaita Hinduism, the highest reality in these Eastern religions does not have the personal characteristics of God in the Western religions; it is impersonal in the sense that it does not exercise a will, and does not intervene in human affairs. Rather this highest reality is seen as the Absolute Reality of which our worldly reality is an aspect. If human beings could see things as they really are, they would recognize that their reality and the Absolute Reality are one and the same. This is expressed by various formulae in these religions, such as the truth that Atman (the individual soul) is Brahman (Absolute Reality) in Advaita Hinduism, or that Samsara (the contingent world) is Nirvana (the Absolute) in Buddhism.

Bahá'u'lláh's teaching about the highest reality starts with the basic statement that an absolute knowledge of this reality is impossible for human beings to achieve. The finite nature of the human mind cannot grasp and comprehend the infinite.

"So perfect and comprehensive is His creation that no mind or heart, however keen or pure, can ever grasp the nature of the most insignificant of His creatures; much less fathom the mystery of Him Who is the Day Star of Truth, Who is the invisible and unknowable Essence . . ."(1)

Since no absolute knowledge of the highest reality is available, all descriptions, all schemata, all attempts to portray the highest reality are necessarily limited by the point of view of the particular person making them. They are limited, relative truths only.

"All that the sages and mystics have said or written have never exceeded, nor can they ever hope to exceed, the limitations to which man's finite mind hath been strictly subjected. To whatever heights the mind of the most exalted of men may soar, however great the depths which the detached and understanding heart can penetrate, such mind and heart can never transcend that which is the creature of their own thoughts. The meditations of the profoundest thinker, the devotions of the holiest of saints, the highest expressions of praise from either human pen or tongue, are but a reflection of that which hath been created within themselves." (Bahá'u'lláh)(2)

Therefore, although the religions of the East and West have widely differing concepts of the highest reality, Bahá'u'lláh maintains that this does not mean that there is a difference in the reality that is being described. Rather the religions differ because they are each looking at that reality from different viewpoints. They have each constructed concepts and ideas from their own perspective. The source of the differences lies, therefore, not in what is being observed; rather it lies in the fact that those who have written on these subjects have each had a particular cultural or personal background that predetermines the way that they have looked at these matters:

"The differences among the religions of the world are due to the varying types of minds." (`Abdu'l-Bahá)(3)

`Abdu'l-Bahá has summarized this teaching by saying that whatever it is that all peoples, whether of the East or the West, have conceptualized, it is a product of their own minds and therefore limited by their minds. It can therefore never encompass the infinite and unlimited nature of God or Absolute Reality.

"This people, all of them, have pictured a god in the realm of the mind, and worship that image which they have made for themselves. And yet that image is comprehended, the human mind being the comprehender thereof, and certainly the comprehender is greater than that which lieth within its grasp; for imagination is but the branch, while mind is the root; and certainly the root is greater than the branch . . . Thus are the people worshipping only an error of perception.
But that Essence of Essences, that Invisible of Invisibles, is sanctified above all human speculation, and never to be overtaken by the mind of man. Never shall that immemorial Reality lodge within the compass of a contingent being. His is another realm, and of that realm no understanding can be won. No access can be gained thereto; all entry is forbidden there. The utmost one can say is that Its existence can be proved, but the conditions of Its existence are unknown."(4)

Bahá'u'lláh also asserts that nothing can be said about God or Absolute Reality. Any description that we try to make of Him or It is completely inadequate.

"To every discerning and illuminated heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the Divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery. He is, and hath ever been, veiled in the ancient eternity of His Essence, and will remain in His Reality everlastingly hidden from the sight of men."(5)

The only connection that human beings have with this highest reality, the essence of God or the Absolute Reality, is through the prophet-founders of the world religions. These persons although they appear in human form, are, in reality, intermediaries between the Absolute Reality/God and humanity. It is only through them that we can come to know anything at all about the highest reality.

"The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace . . . hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence."(6)

Bahá'u'lláh does not, therefore, condemn the various concepts of God or Absolute Reality held by the religions of East and West. He states that they are true but are only limited and relative truths.
 
Regarding the Western concept of God described above, for example, Bahá'u'lláh asserts that the Essence of God is "beyond every human attribute."(7) Where the scriptures of the Western religions appear to give God human attributes (such as being angry with one people and being pleased with another; or coming and going; or speaking; or having parts of the human body such as a face or hands or back), these are not references to the Essence of God, the unknowable Godhead. In fact all these are references to the spiritual reality of the prophet-founders of the world religions. Because these prophet-founders of the world religions perfectly reflect all of the names and attributes of God, Bahá'u'lláh calls them the Manifestations of God. These exalted beings stand for God in this world.

"[God] hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God . . . They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory."(8)
 
Since human beings can have no direct knowledge or understanding of God, these Manifestations of God are all that human beings can know of God in this world. All of the attributes of God recorded in the scriptures can best be conceptualized through the person of these Manifestations.

". . . viewed from the standpoint of their oneness and sublime detachment, the attributes of Godhead, Divinity, Supreme Singleness, and Inmost Essence, have been, and are applicable to those Essences of Being, inasmuch as they all abide on the throne of Divine Revelation, and are established upon the seat of Divine Concealment. Through their appearance the Revelation of God is made manifest, and by their countenance the Beauty of God is revealed. Thus it is that the accents of God Himself have been heard uttered by these Manifestations of the Divine Being."(Bahá'u'lláh)(9)
 
With regard to the conceptualization of the Absolute Reality in the Eastern religions, Bahá'u'lláh again does not condemn this view. On the contrary, he affirms that it is in some senses true. For example he states that "Absolute existence is strictly confined to God,"(10) and nothing else can be said to exist in any absolute sense apart from God.(11)
 
Regarding the conceptualization in the eastern religions of the Absolute Reality as identical with the human reality, Bahá'u'lláh makes many similar statements, for example:

"Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."(12)
 
Just as with the Western religious concepts of God, however, these statements hold true at the level of the manifestation of God. All of the divine names and attributes are manifested in the human being. In that sense, then, there is an identity between the human being and the Absolute, but it is an identity of attributes not of essence.

Since human beings can have no direct knowledge or understanding of God, these Manifestations of God are all that human beings can know of God in this world.

"All of the attributes of God recorded in the scriptures can best be conceptualized through the person of these Manifestations.
. . . viewed from the standpoint of their oneness and sublime detachment, the attributes of Godhead, Divinity, Supreme Singleness, and Inmost Essence, have been, and are applicable to those Essences of Being, inasmuch as they all abide on the throne of Divine Revelation, and are established upon the seat of Divine Concealment. Through their appearance the Revelation of God is made manifest, and by their countenance the Beauty of God is revealed. Thus it is that the accents of God Himself have been heard uttered by these Manifestations of the Divine Being."(Bahá'u'lláh)(9)
 
In brief then, Bahá'u'lláh takes the concepts of both Eastern and Western religions and asserts that those who hold these views are both wrong and right. They are wrong if they maintain that these views are the absolute truth about the essence of the highest reality (for human beings have no access to that truth); but they are right in that these views do express the truth from a limited viewpoint (they represent the truth about the Absolute Reality/God in the way that it manifests itself in this world). This is all the truth that human beings can comprehend. The fact that the various expressions of this truth have been different and even sometimes contradictory is due to the limitations of the human mind and the fact that we are only able to view these truths from a particular limited viewpoint."
http://www.northill.demon.co.uk/bahai/intro7.htm

 

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