One thing I agree with Christianity: God never forces us to believe anything against our free will which is very important.
and I'll show you why in this post. This is an erroneous belief based on false assumptions which came about through a cultural religious moderation (born out of our progress in science and reason) which is exactly why I asked Jacob if he, as a Christian, read the Bible. I will get to the details at the end of this post but first I'd like to address something to Jacob about religion, free will and his attitude...Jacob...
I'm not arguing with you but I am curious as to how you fully endorse the belief in something which is so outdated in the minds of secularists and which remains tenuously hypothetical as far as the annals of science go.
The tenets of religion prevent people from thinking for themselves and take away any sense of free will just with the simple affirmation that God, gods, or divine beings, are watching us, reading our minds and that one day there'll be a judgement.
The subject of free will deserves a thread of its own. We have, however, discussed it here:
A lot of people think that we are really the masters of our lives and we get to decide on everything. The truth is that, as Sam Harris (earlier in this thread) pointed out, we have will
but it is not
free. We make decisions but we have no say on what will be decided. If there was free will we'd be able to predict our future decisions and we wouldn't say things like "I don't know what came over me" which reflect that even the decisions that arise in us have their roots in unconscious mechanisms. Everything is determined by clockwork.We
are clockwork very much effected by the world around it and its various events. Sure, free will seems real, an illusion most of us adhere to (reflected when we use the term in our language) as it is a political convenience and necessary for our current justice system.
But let's take a look at the facts: already, a scientific experiment demonstrated that relevant areas of the brain light up before we even become aware of deciding to move a limb. Either your God is a liar or He doesn't exist!
The simple fact that we move our hands away from a hot pan shows that there is a lot going on unconsciously which does not require thinking and contradicts free will. If we had free will we would know about all the thoughts that we are going to have in the future and how events may affect or influence us so we can prepare in advance. Already you can see that even the act of foreseeing has robbed us of any free will as we are forced to make a choice: to prepare or not prepare. The concept has just shown us that there is no escape in a deterministic universe. You are always forced to make a choice with your very much computerised brain (which stemmed from a particular genome that you did not choose) and this choice is stimulated by prior conditions within your organism which dictate how you feel about the situation at hand.
Like the proverbial good and bad consciences. Which one argues the best case and which one are we going to listen to. The truth is that we have many voices in our brain which reflect processes that we may or may not be aware of. As someone once said: a puppet feels free as long as he loves his strings. And who is pulling the strings? Not the Biblical God I can assure you. It is simple: cause and effect.
Finally, let me just highlight the fact that religions like Islam have influenced young men to blow themselves up and kill others. Their beliefs have brought down the twin towers - an attack on the infidels that the Koran speaks about. And while the goody religious moderates say those fundamentalists are wrong and nothing but terrorists, these "terrorists" think of them as false Muslims who take heed of some Koranic passages but ignore the rest. According to the Koran, the moderate Muslims whom we respect for not having committed any atrocities, will be judged on judgement day. Meanwhile, Allah's warriors, the martyrs who kill infidels, will bypass the judgement day rule and be awarded with the upgrade of immediate access of heaven at death.
The Bible is not so different. It was, for starters, written by men and women who thought that the earth was flat and such primitive and illiterate people also describe a wrathful God, who, paradoxically is described as all merciful and yet He has this to say about people who believe in other gods:"If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying; "Let us go and serve other gods", unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God"
A similar set of rules is found in the Torah of the Hebrew Bible. If you don't worship this God as a Christian, what God do you worship then? He commands you to kill others of different beliefs. He doesn't want you to even give polytheists such as Hindus a chance. Worship the monkey god Hanuman and you are a blasphemer who deserves to die and the ten commandments where killing is concerned won't help you as they do not apply to you. And you must not question Him when He orders you because He is God. You must do it without thinking (notice: where's the free will gone?):"Whatever I am now commanding you, you must keep and observe, adding nothing to it, taking nothing away"
- Deuteronomy 13:1
So don't tell me He wants you to ignore these passages and to love everyone and move on...
In answer to lucidinthesky
's quote, according to the Bible, He commands, He orders, and He threatens his followers with hell if they rebel against Him. If that is not forcing I don't know what is. He is a blackmailer as well as a briber when, in so many words, He says to mankind that if you are good you get to go to heaven and escape perdition. Hang on a minute... shouldn't people deserve to go to heaven because they are good and not because they are scared of going to hell? Fear is the common denominator here, folks! Fear is a form of control! Shouldn't people truly deserve heaven because they are pure of heart and full of empathy and not because they look forward to God's reward of happiness for their egos to indulge?
It's synonymous with an adult saying to a child: "be good and you will get sweets, be bad and you'll be punished". Who wants to be punished? Who wants the sweets? What are the reasons behind perpetrating whatever deed and how has the individual's prior history - which he did not pick - impact on his decisions? Already, you have robbed the child of a sense of free will as your words reverberate in his young mind and will certainly influence his behaviour: he will either be bad to spite you and because the bad deed seems more attractive in his mind at the time (and he may be willing to pay the price) plus the fact that he's not much for sweets anyway, or
, he will be good because he is scared of punishment after pondering on possible consequences had he chosen to be bad plus he adores sweets.
As we have seen, if you don't pick the stage, you can't possibly have free will. You don't even get to make decisions with what is thrown at you as these decisions arise all by themselves through clockwork for your conscious ego to hijack and 'sell' as its own like a supermarket stamping its own logo on fairtraded products harvested abroad...in 'unconscious land'... You do not choose, you are made to choose. Hence, the idea of Godly punishment already starts to stink and look absurd.
By reading the word of God in belief and faith we are forced to think about it, to focus on it and that will impact on our behaviour throughout our lives as opposed to the atheist or secularist who does not concern himself with such tripe and goes about his business still following the moral code. We don't need religion to be kind to each other if we treat others as we would like to be treated. In fact, as we have seen, the bad of religion outweighs the good and we could certainly do without many of us believing in a God like a child believes in the tooth fairy. Religion can bring about a kind of cruelty already inherent in people but which lies dormant...
It also worries me that the "somewhat religious" choice is currently beating the "atheist" one in the poll above when religious moderation in the world has silenced us and prevented the ones who would dare
from speaking against religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. The fact that in some Islamic country Muslim police prevented firemen from rescuing a group of girls trapped in a burning building simply because they were not covered with garments according to Koranic law accounts for nothing when such religion is still being widely defended by the moderates.
The girls died, but, in their eyes, better this than having them disgracefully coming out in a manner deemed indecent. This is also the reason why the US government declared war on "terrorism" instead of war on Islam. How could they when in their own country they harbour similar religions starting with Christianity. It would be hypocritical and offensive of them. Still, it doesn't take away from the fact that a war on "terrorism" is nonsensical. The "terrorists" were doing what they believed was right and were moved by their faith.
Imagine that Jared Loughner had succeeded in murdering Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the US Congress. Would it make sense if the government declared war on "murder"? People can be cruel without religion, granted, but, it is as clear as daylight that the root cause of the 9/11 atrocities was a dangerous religion in which many of its adherents believe in the literal word of their holy book.
Our tolerance is costing us, people. Our tolerance of this type of ignorance and superstition is costing us innocent lives...