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Old 2008-07-27, 12:19   Link #1121
TinyRedLeaf
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I think, ultimately, all humans need a reason to live, a meaning to their existence. Some find it through religion, others find it through a simple faith in humanity. I'm agnostic, but I can also probably describe myself as a secular humanist. I believe in humanity's capacity to do good. I believe that that the times can bring out the best in us, just as easily as it can bring out the worst in us.

I believe that many theists make the mistake of thinking that, without God, humans are doomed to meaningless evil. I think, on the other hand, that history provides ample examples of societies that thrive without paying much heed to God. This is part of the reason why I'm fascinated with the religious aspects of Japanese culture, the ethos and pathos that led to highly thoughtful anime such as Haibane Renmei and Spirited Away.

For atheists who triumphantly dismiss religion as belief in silly fairy-tales, I think it's worth asking what they find meaningful in life. I've walked the path before, and I've become aware that, if you're not careful, it'd lead to a hollow life devoid of meaning. If life is meaningless, what's keeping me from jumping off the roof right away? If I'm afraid to die, it ought to mean I want to live, but what am I living for?

Theists find their meaning from God. For atheists, the challenge is a lot greater. You have to define everything from scratch. What's good, what's evil. What is worth celebrating, what should be condemned. As such, the onus is on an atheist to be more open-minded than theists. You need to be, because it's useful to learn from "best practises" in the personal quest to find your own way.

I found mine, I think, some time ago. It wasn't something that came in a moment of epiphany. It was more of a gradual realisation, about things that are important to me. And, through that realisation, I noticed that belief in God wasn't necessary. God, to me, is just another point of view, another opinion about the nature of existence. Like all opinions, it can be challenged.

So, my advice to people who like to make sport of religions, I issue this challenge first — have you examined your own disbelief? Always criticise yourself before criticising others. That is a good way to learn, I find.

Last edited by TinyRedLeaf; 2008-07-27 at 12:29.
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Old 2008-07-27, 13:16   Link #1122
james0246
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Originally Posted by Backwards Blues View Post
Says...who? The more "minor" details and ideals in Judeo-Christian beliefs are so scattered between denominations that there's no legitimate way you could make a generalization that broad.
To clarify, the quote I put forth earlier (""governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed") is derived from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church (which also has many close connection with Protestant doctrine: the Catholic commandment states that one must not kill, whereas the early Protestant commandments clarified that one must not murder, but both frown upon acts of aggression). The Decalouge, of course, exemplifies that any act of murder is a capital sin that must be punished, and the Noahide Laws literally force the death penalty for all those who commit the act of murder. So, from these basic facts, I feel more than safe to generalize that war is bad.

Last edited by james0246; 2008-07-27 at 13:52.
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Old 2008-07-27, 13:38   Link #1123
Reckoner
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
For atheists who triumphantly dismiss religion as belief in silly fairy-tales, I think it's worth asking what they find meaningful in life.
I have a question for you (I'm agnostic as well by the way). Does life need a meaning? If other animals can live just for living, why can't humans live just for living? I do not feel that life needs a meaning.

However I do realize that many people find peace in themselves through spiritual or religious beliefs as you have said. I have no intention to ever take away something like that. And heck, you never know that they may actually be correct.
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Old 2008-07-27, 13:42   Link #1124
Anh_Minh
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Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
Then at least let's agree on something: The people who were meant to read that (well, better put, to hear that, since most people couldn't read) were people living a long, long time ago. And repeating what I said, they had a very different set of tools with which they could understand and interpret their surroundings. Don't you think "God's word" would have to be "adapted" to their different understanding?
Nope, or we'd have gotten revised editions. If you're (not you personally) going to believe it's divinely inspired and capital in helping understanding God and so on, believe all the way!

Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
I think, ultimately, all humans need a reason to live, a meaning to their existence. Some find it through religion, others find it through a simple faith in humanity. I'm agnostic, but I can also probably describe myself as a secular humanist. I believe in humanity's capacity to do good. I believe that that the times can bring out the best in us, just as easily as it can bring out the worst in us.

I believe that many theists make the mistake of thinking that, without God, humans are doomed to meaningless evil. I think, on the other hand, that history provides ample examples of societies that thrive without paying much heed to God. This is part of the reason why I'm fascinated with the religious aspects of Japanese culture, the ethos and pathos that led to highly thoughtful anime such as Haibane Renmei and Spirited Away.

For atheists who triumphantly dismiss religion as belief in silly fairy-tales, I think it's worth asking what they find meaningful in life. I've walked the path before, and I've become aware that, if you're not careful, it'd lead to a hollow life devoid of meaning. If life is meaningless, what's keeping me from jumping off the roof right away? If I'm afraid to die, it ought to mean I want to live, but what am I living for?

Theists find their meaning from God. For atheists, the challenge is a lot greater. You have to define everything from scratch. What's good, what's evil. What is worth celebrating, what should be condemned.
No, we don't. To reduce the complexity of life and morals to small set of simple basic principles is work for a genius. I'm not that kind of genius (or any kind, alas), or I'd have made a fortune writing self-help books. Therefore, I'll continue just winging it.
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Old 2008-07-27, 15:19   Link #1125
monster
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Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
Okay, let's clear something up, and pronto:

The Bible was written by men. Anyone who doubts that is instantly barred from any kind of discussion possible.
I don't think anybody has ever disputed that, WanderingKnight. It's just that Christians believe that those men were inspired by God.

But I do not see why that should bar people from having a discussion.
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Likewise, even if you are a Christian, and even if you do believe in God over every other thing in this planet, you should realize that the Bible was written a long, long time ago, for people who had a very different set of values and tools with which understand and interpret the world.
Isn't that all the more reason to carefully study the Bible?
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Though I'm wary of thinking that the main purpose of writing the book was simply "spreading the word of God" (isn't it too much of a coincidence that the word of God is spread by those in power?),
Are you calling a tent maker and fishermen, men in power?
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either way, it's a book that was meant to be read and understood a very long time ago.
While the people of that time may posses the knowledge to understand the Scriptures more easily, it does not mean that today's people are hopeless in understanding it at all.
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Now, let's go back to Israelites raping women in Canaan (I believe I was the one who mentioned that in the first place). If only you used your head, even for a bit, to think in historic terms, rape is something extremely common throughout several (if not all) ancient people. Thinking that there wasn't even a single rape committed during the invasion of Canaan is, at the very best, terribly naive. But, whether God or not had "ordered" it is completely irrelevant: such acts were automatically justified by the Bible in the idea that pursuing such a war was a God-given right.
There are many acts told in the Bible that God permits to happen. That does not mean God justifies them. But even if God did, the implication to the readers today is still the same: we are not them, we were not told to go wage war and settle in Canaan, just because they did it does not mean we can do it too, etc.
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Think, people, think. This is not about denying that God exists, this is about using your damn head for a moment. You're trying to literally accept the words of a book that was written by men more than 2000 years ago! Do you realize just how much has society changed since then? How difficult it is to understand how people of that era thought?
Society may have change, but that does not mean we are totally disconnected from the people in the past. Like when God told Abram to go out of his country to a place God will show him. Do we really need to be people living at that time to understand that? I mean, sure, we may not appreciate the full cultural significance of that one command (isn't that why there's people who study ancient cultures?). But we can understand it, as well as its theological significance, well enough.
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As someone said already, how would you know none of the current wars are divinely justified? How would you know that Bush was actually right and that the invasion of Iraq (with all its civilian casualties, and all the tortured Iraqi and American soldiers) was his God-given right?
I don't know about you, but for me, the fact that neither Jesus nor any of his apostles spoke about planning a physical war is a telltale sign that war is no longer an active part of God's plan (at least, not until the end).

It does not mean that God could not justify a war, but since he did not specifically mention a war, it is not a concern for me to ponder whether a war is divinely justified or not. So whether or not Bush's war (or the Crusades, or any other conflict) is divinely justified is irrelevant. Jesus told us to love each other. But wars happen and there are other justifications people can use for them. Did God let it happen? Yes, otherwise, it would not happen. Did God justify it? I would not know for sure until I meet him in Heaven, although I'm leaning on the answer being no for most wars based on the teachings of Jesus.
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Old 2008-07-27, 15:50   Link #1126
WanderingKnight
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Just to clarify my position:

I am not saying we should not understand and interpret the Bible. If you got that from my words, it was either my poor phrasing or your misunderstanding. The fact that it was written a long time ago is more than reason enough to consider a much more careful study of the Bible, and not simply absorb it literally.

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And since you, like me, agree it requires interpretation, don't you think it should be interpreted in context?
As I said already, I don't know how that isn't directly derived from what I posted earlier, or how what I said contradicted it in some manner.

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Don't get me wrong... but if any texts were meant for an audience, instructing them in the religion, then wouldn't a secular interpretation miss some key cultural-religious points?
Secular interpretation has to do with interpreting how the events took place in a historical setting. It does not need to deal with the existence of God.

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It is fine to question the authenticity of the Bible, but it is easy to see why Backwards Blues and other Christians would be offended when non-Christians attempt to discredit the Holy Book.
Questioning our deepest beliefs is a mark of intelligence.

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For one thing, there are people who spend a lot of time studying and interpreting scripture from its relevant historical contexts to understand better how the Word is meant to be applied in everyday life. As such, it's rather presumptuous for secular individuals to criticise a text they haven't studied to the same extent.
Hey, I have read the Bible and several studies dealing with it. And, as I mentioned already, Asimov's study of the Bible is extremely extensive, even if he keeps it with a low entry bar for its audience. Not trying to understand the Bible secularly would hinder any kind of understanding we might have about how Christianity as a religion came to be.

And either way, that's besides the point. Science and history deal with issues completely unrelated to religion. If you can't separate those two, then you have Creationists and their wacky (and somewhat dangerous, as proved by some school boards in the US) ideas.

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Are you calling a tent maker and fishermen, men in power?
You're quite ignorant of the Bible if you believe a couple of the New Testament books can speak for the whole of it

Besides, by the time we can do a recollection of what happened during the Gospels, the Romans had already embraced Christianity and were taking advantage of its popularity, so it still doesn't disprove my point.

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While the people of that time may posses the knowledge to understand the Scriptures more easily, it does not mean that today's people are hopeless in understanding it at all.
Read carefully: It was not "easier for them" to understand the Bible. They understood it differently. What we cannot do is take that understanding literally and apply it to today's standards--because it just doesn't work that way. Our society is vastly more different than what it was during the time the Torah was completed.

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Society may have change, but that does not mean we are totally disconnected from the people in the past. Like when God told Abram to go out of his country to a place God will show him. Do we really need to be people living at that time to understand that? I mean, sure, we may not appreciate the full cultural significance of that one command (isn't that why there's people who study ancient cultures?). But we can understand it, as well as its theological significance, well enough.
Let me just clear this up once more, and to put it in prettier words: society has progressed. We don't condone slavery anymore, for example, which was a perfectly acceptable thing during biblical times.

I really don't understand how everyone got the idea that I didn't support making an effort to understand people of the past. However, understanding people of the past also means understanding how much has society in general progressed since then. Even coming from me, a Marxist, capitalism is much, much better for the collective whole than what the monarchy of biblical times was.

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I don't know about you, but for me, the fact that neither Jesus nor any of his apostles spoke about planning a physical war is a telltale sign that war is no longer an active part of God's plan (at least, not until the end).
Again, I was talking about the Old Testament. But tell me, what made you give me the example of Jesus and the New Testament? Couldn't it be that there's a clear difference in origin and cultural construct that gave way to the writing of the gospels and the books of the New Testament? Could it actually be that they were written by different people in different historical moments?

That's what means trying to understand the Bible.
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Old 2008-07-27, 16:19   Link #1127
Gemstar
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The bible was not written by Jesus himself but by his followers so who knows what crap that could've put in there. We don't know what kind of people they are and how they've been brought up. Who knows if the bible is written by those people even. All of this can be a big illusion. Back then and up to this day, how true or false can the bible be ?
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Old 2008-07-27, 16:22   Link #1128
Reckoner
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Originally Posted by Gemstar View Post
The bible was not written by Jesus himself but by his followers so who knows what crap that could've put in there. We don't know what kind of people they are and how they've been brought up. Who knows if the bible is written by those people even. All of this can be a big illusion. Back then and up to this day, how true or false can the bible be ?
My pet peeve with Christians is that one of Jesus's main teachings were to love and respect thy fellow man, most cannot even do that.
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Old 2008-07-27, 17:37   Link #1129
Liddo-kun
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
For atheists who triumphantly dismiss religion as belief in silly fairy-tales, I think it's worth asking what they find meaningful in life. I've walked the path before, and I've become aware that, if you're not careful, it'd lead to a hollow life devoid of meaning. If life is meaningless, what's keeping me from jumping off the roof right away? If I'm afraid to die, it ought to mean I want to live, but what am I living for?
I think that depends for each atheist. Meaning in my life is all about having a good paying job to earn money for the family, being able to do most of the things I want (this of course includes enjoying anime ) and steadily pursuing my dreams.

A belief that doesn't help me reach my goals, it's a belief that I don't need.

*used to be a Catholic but I've thrown religion out of my life years ago after graduating college.

Last edited by Liddo-kun; 2008-07-27 at 19:51.
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Old 2008-07-27, 18:17   Link #1130
monster
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Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
You're quite ignorant of the Bible if you believe a couple of the New Testament books can speak for the whole of it
I am not talking about a couple of New Testament books. I'm talking about people who spread the word of God, which was what you said. But even if you go to the Old Testament, Moses and most of the others who spread the word of God were not exactly what I would call people in power when they were called to do so.
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Read carefully: It was not "easier for them" to understand the Bible. They understood it differently. What we cannot do is take that understanding literally and apply it to today's standards--because it just doesn't work that way. Our society is vastly more different than what it was during the time the Torah was completed.



Let me just clear this up once more, and to put it in prettier words: society has progressed. We don't condone slavery anymore, for example, which was a perfectly acceptable thing during biblical times.

I really don't understand how everyone got the idea that I didn't support making an effort to understand people of the past. However, understanding people of the past also means understanding how much has society in general progressed since then. Even coming from me, a Marxist, capitalism is much, much better for the collective whole than what the monarchy of biblical times was.
Alright, let me get this straight (please correct me if I've misunderstood you).

But your whole argument boils down to: Whatever bad things were acceptable then is no longer acceptable in today's society.

If that is what you meant to say, then I don't see what the problem is. The way God deals with people have changed throughout the Bible, leading into modern times. It's called dispensation.

Christians were not asked to kill non-believers, quite the opposite actually. And no one was told to pillage, rape, etc. Whatever bad things people do in the name of God nowadays is unfortunate, but it's not a case to blame Christianity itself. They have simply misused it. There is a distinction between what God gave to specific people in the Bible and what God gave to all of us now.
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Again, I was talking about the Old Testament. But tell me, what made you give me the example of Jesus and the New Testament? Couldn't it be that there's a clear difference in origin and cultural construct that gave way to the writing of the gospels and the books of the New Testament? Could it actually be that they were written by different people in different historical moments?

That's what means trying to understand the Bible.
I used the New Testament because that seems, to me, the appropriate answer. Why would you use the Old Testament when talking about a God-given right to war as it relates to today's society when those rights in the Old Testament were given for a specific group for a specific reason? (This is what I meant before about the distinction that exists.)
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Old 2008-07-27, 19:14   Link #1131
WanderingKnight
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But even if you go to the Old Testament, Moses and most of the others who spread the word of God were not exactly what I would call people in power when they were called to do so.
That's what the Bible said... but history is written by the victors (that is, those in power). You just can't take everything in it literally. The veracity of Moses as a historical figure is in doubt (unlike other Jewish heroes), for instance. But even if you take Moses out of the picture, the fact that the leading tribes wrote the Bible many years after the events had passed, and the fact that there are a lot of different metaphors for leaders (for example, each tribe is originally represented by a single man in the Bible, which even if you don't take historicity into account, is highly unlikely) scattered throughout the Torah give you another way of interpreting the situation.

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But your whole argument boils down to: Whatever bad things were acceptable then is no longer acceptable in today's society.

If that is what you meant to say, then I don't see what the problem is. The way God deals with people have changed throughout the Bible, leading into modern times. It's called dispensation.
The problem is when things are taken too literally and you end up with Creationists. It's those people the ones that end up being taken advantage of by those in powers. The ones that lack any sort of critical thinking ability.

I don't have a problem with people believing whatever they might. I cannot say I'm free of any sort of irrational belief--I am but a man, after all. But putting things into perspective and questioning whether things are really what they appear to be demonstrates intelligence. I have a lot of Christian friends, and our friend Kyuusai right here is the perfect example of a level-headed Christian who manages to be devout and critical at the same time.

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Christians were not asked to kill non-believers, quite the opposite actually. And no one was told to pillage, rape, etc. Whatever bad things people do in the name of God nowadays is unfortunate, but it's not a case to blame Christianity itself. They have simply misused it. There is a distinction between what God gave to specific people in the Bible and what God gave to all of us now.
I am not blaming Christianity. Where did you get that idea? Of course, the way I see it, religions were created by man, but even if I take that out of the way, there's no reason for me to hate the religion itself. The problem I have is with those who take advantage of other people using religion as a tool... which has happened with every major religion throughout its history. Hating religion as a concept is as stupid and pointless as hating math because I suck at it.

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I used the New Testament because that seems, to me, the appropriate answer. Why would you use the Old Testament when talking about a God-given right to war as it relates to today's society when those rights in the Old Testament were given for a specific group for a specific reason?
Why don't you read the thread and realize we were talking about the Old Testament? Or is it less Christian? Why don't you take it off your Bible then?
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Old 2008-07-27, 20:27   Link #1132
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Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
The problem I have is with those who take advantage of other people using religion as a tool.
This is a pitiful condition that will continue on in society for as long as society exists. Because too many people have too many open, unchecked & out-of-context interpretations of religion. Christians are guilty of this crime - as much as anyone else is. Which is why I'm wary of quoting throwing Bible verses around & am for proper exegesis of any religious text.

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Why don't you read the thread and realize we were talking about the Old Testament? Or is it less Christian? Why don't you take it off your Bible then?
I believe what monstert is trying to say is that: while we debate & argue over the exactness in interpretation & purpose of particular Old Testament passages, his response includes Jesus Christ's teachings because He is the ideal to how Christians should live their lives.

After all, reading both the Old & New Testaments should allow one to see the whole Bible in context: the Old Testament points towards the coming of the Messiah/ Saviour & the New Testament describes His coming. Feel free to disagree with me on this point because, again, many people have different thoughts on continuity.

He is also probably trying to refer to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus talks to His disciples on wars & rumours of wars in the future - which would be an attempt to answer the (yet unresolved) question of whether modern warfare is divinely-ordained.

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Originally Posted by Gemstar View Post
The bible was not written by Jesus himself but by his followers so who knows what crap that could've put in there. We don't know what kind of people they are and how they've been brought up. Who knows if the bible is written by those people even. All of this can be a big illusion. Back then and up to this day, how true or false can the bible be ?
They were teachers, prophets, kings, chroniclers or history, men of the Jewish law & people who, at the basic level, were convinced something worthy needed to be recorded for posterity. Only the New Testament was written by His followers; the Old Testament was written much earlier by people who had a relationship with God, but who did not know Jesus personally.
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Old 2008-07-27, 21:03   Link #1133
TinyRedLeaf
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Originally Posted by Reckoner
If other animals can live just for living, why can't humans live just for living? I do not feel that life needs a meaning.
Because unlike animals, humans are self-aware. I contend that you do know what is meaningful for you, only that you haven't articulated it yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anh_Minh
To reduce the complexity of life and morals to small set of simple basic principles is work for a genius. I'm not that kind of genius (or any kind, alas), or I'd have made a fortune writing self-help books.
Try harder. Or rather, you don't have to try that hard. Life is "complex" because, sometimes, we think too much.

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Originally Posted by Reckoner
I have a question for you (I'm agnostic as well by the way). Does life need a meaning?
What's stopping you from ending it all, right here, right now?
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Old 2008-07-27, 23:20   Link #1134
Vexx
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Sometimes.. the meaning of life is a good lunch and laying under a tree in the meadow while the breeze trips over you. Just being able to be *aware* of that feeling is sufficient meaning.
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Old 2008-07-27, 23:31   Link #1135
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
What's stopping you from ending it all, right here, right now?
As an agnostic my answer is "I don't want to." I don't think I will find a true 'meaning' to my life, nor do I really need one. I enjoy my life, even if I don't know its meaning; it's really as simple as that.
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Old 2008-07-28, 00:10   Link #1136
Anh_Minh
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Try harder. Or rather, you don't have to try that hard. Life is "complex" because, sometimes, we think too much.
Yeah? When is it alright to kill? How do we balance our duties to society with our rights? What is "property"?
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Old 2008-07-28, 00:17   Link #1137
TinyRedLeaf
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Originally Posted by Vexx
Sometimes.. the meaning of life is a good lunch and laying under a tree in the meadow while the breeze trips over you. Just being able to be *aware* of that feeling is sufficient meaning.
For me, it's health, family, friends and empathy.

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Originally Posted by ChainLegacy
I enjoy my life, even if I don't know its meaning; it's really as simple as that.
Exactly.

The Meaning Of Lifetm doesn't have to be complicated. What's the use of complex teachings if no one can understand it, much less put it to practise?

Be content. That gives valid meaning to life, as I see it. Knowing this simple truth, however, is one thing. Living its reality, is another thing altogether.

For a start, what does it mean to "enjoy life"? Someone intent on self-gratification to the exclusion of all else is also enjoying life. But is he truly happy?

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Originally Posted by Anh_Minh
Yeah? When is it alright to kill? How do we balance our duties to society with our rights? What is "property"?
What would you do?
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Old 2008-07-28, 00:20   Link #1138
Abashi
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I am a believer in science, who religiously believes in evolution and global warming >>> really. Since this is on topic, you should check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_lis...3481305829426D
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Old 2008-07-28, 00:42   Link #1139
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I have a question for you (I'm agnostic as well by the way). Does life need a meaning? If other animals can live just for living, why can't humans live just for living? I do not feel that life needs a meaning.
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As an agnostic my answer is "I don't want to." I don't think I will find a true 'meaning' to my life, nor do I really need one. I enjoy my life, even if I don't know its meaning; it's really as simple as that.
I am an agnostic (technically, an ignostic), and have been for decades (since I was a boy of 12 or 13), so let me attempt to answer your questions/comments.

As we get older, the desires that originally held us over tend to become less meaningful (not that being older necessarily makes one wiser or somehow better than a younger person, rather our perspectives simply change as we age). Both of you are still young, so the lack of a specific meaning, or searching for a specific meaning, does not currently seem important. But, as you age, you might find that your accomplishments, whatever they may be, may not live up to your original aspirations, hopes, and dreams. It is then that these question concerning meaning really matter, and an answer becomes important for further emotional and mental development. This answer could be as simple as living for your family (your wife or husband and your sons and or daughters) or it could become complex as you seek to establish a record of your existence in the annals of history. Then again, you could simply turn to religion or all of the above . Suffice to say, the question of meaning will matter eventually, especially as a way of creating and shaping an identity.
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Old 2008-07-28, 00:58   Link #1140
Reckoner
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Santa Barbara
Age: 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Because unlike animals, humans are self-aware. I contend that you do know what is meaningful for you, only that you haven't articulated it yet.
Trying to seperate humans from animals. That is another topic of debate for me so I will just drop that.

I guess you are implying that life can have several meanings.

I can make some grand hypothesis on what is meaningful, but it is probably wrong. I do not know if anything is meaningful. Nothing has meaning to me. I live simply because I do not desire death. I only have one life as far as I know so I might as well try to enjoy it though.

To me the idea of existence is just a sick little joke.
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