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Re: Is there such a thing as an after life, the soul and gho

Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 9:14 pm
by MauEvig
OK I see what you mean now Pumpkin Man, thanks for pointing that out.

As far as a creator actually existing, that's one reason why I'm agnostic. It's because I'm not sure and don't really know what to believe. However, whatever creator might exist I believe is one with nature, and not above it.

I don't think that the conditions for life necessarily need to have a creator though, especially if the exact same conditions for life on Earth happened on another planet. Sure it might be unlikely mathematically, but it's definitely possible. But I myself have never been a fan of the abiogenesis hypothesis.

It's also possible that we were created, and then just left alone to do our own thing.

Re: Is there such a thing as an after life, the soul and gho

Posted: Thu May 15, 2014 11:17 am
by Murfreesboro
Interesting points, Mau & Mike.

I think you are right, Mau, in identifying our fundamental difference--you expect everything to be observable and measurable, whereas I do not.

I would not be satisfied with your pantheistic view, because it is important for me to believe in personal survival after death. I don't see that in pantheism, even though I share your love of animals. And, as I've said, I believe they are in Heaven, too.

When I was in graduate school, one of my closest friends converted to Christianity from Judaism. Her husband, who was also Jewish, was an atheist. She told me that it was painful for her not to be able to share the most important thing in her life with him. However, she also acknowledged that some of the most religious people she knew were atheists. I think her line of reasoning was that atheists are generally ardent seekers after truth.

I was raised in the Episcopal church, and besides that, I had a very literary turn of mind, ultimately getting graduate degrees in literature. So I always had a tendency to read the Bible in a literary way, including the Creation story, which I never needed to read as literally as some Christians do. I am very comfortable with the idea of "literary truth," in which a fiction (like, say, the plays of Shakespeare) can convey great truths about human nature and the human condition without being literally "true." Consequently, my mid-life journey with the Bible has probably been exactly the opposite of what many people experience, because I have been astounded at times by how much of it actually is, literally, true, including things I never thought needed to be.

A case in point might actually be the Adam & Eve story, which I was always quite content to read as a myth, replete with its mythic, literary truth. Yet I recall seeing a PBS special a number of years ago (early 90s?) postulating that all human beings do indeed have one common female ancestor, traceable through the mitochondrial DNA ( I believe that was the term) of pregnant women. Ten or twelve years later, I watched a different PBS special about the genetic link of all men, traceable through a gene carried on the Y chromosome.

Another study that appears to substantiate the literal truth of a much-questioned Bible story is the one made of the Bethlehem Star by a man named Larson. If you read through the material on his web site (, IIRC), it seems pretty definitive, at least to me, that he has found the star.

Obviously, we are not going to "prove" the validity of one POV over the other, but it is fascinating to speculate about this stuff.

ETA: My mathematician son does indeed move in a world of scientists, many of whom are atheist or agnostic. So far, my son has retained his religious faith, seeing his reasoning ability as a very valuable, but ultimately limited, tool. One irony he has pointed out to me a number of times is the ease with which modern people dismiss the impossibility of miracles. He says, "We are living in the most miraculous age since the beginning of history, and people are rejecting the miraculous even as it is all around them."

Re: Is there such a thing as an after life, the soul and gho

Posted: Sat May 17, 2014 11:44 am
by MauEvig
I actually wasn't sure, doctrine wise, what the Episcopal church practiced. From the description, they sound a bit more tolerant than other Churches might be.

Maybe if I wasn't taught to have such a literal view of the Bible at a young age, I'd still believe in God and Christianity.

Growing up my mom wasn't very religious although she believed in God, didn't go to church, and that was about it. My dad was a Christian but he was loosely such. I say that because my dad isn't entirely "rule based" when it comes to the Bible. His philosophy was always put God first, then yourself, then others, though he did take me to church a few times and vacation Bible school once. It was my Grandmother on my mom's side who imposed religious doctrine on me. She told me to pretty much take everything in the Bible literally, not to question it, and she was adamant in mentioning God in just about everything. She's a talented organ player, but she claims it wasn't due to her own talent and success, but to God. Thankful that she was getting a new skirting for her trailer? That was because of Jesus. It had nothing to do with the kindness of another human being. Anything good that happened was supposedly because of an answered prayer. I call post hoc ergo propter hoc, because good things can happen to bad people, and bad things can happen to good people. "Prayer" isn't a guarantee something good will happen. Now, people will say "It has to be God's will" but that's not what the Bible says. So if people really want to take a literal interpretation of the Bible, which says you need only the faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains, and they will move, then there's no excuses. The literal interpretation of the Bible contradicts what Christians will say. There's also much debate over the end times, and my Grandma is absolutely obsessed with the rapture doctrine. I for one, would be happy to never hear about the rapture again. It scared me as a kid, and it annoys me now. She kept saying it could happen any moment, at any time. In some ways, it made me fear for the future, that I would not have a future. I wouldn't get a chance to have a family and career down the road because I was worried about either getting left behind, or leaving members of my family behind. How could my grandmother tell my mom, her own daughter, that she was going to be left behind? I know she loves my mom and wants the best for her, but she shouldn't push her. I love my grandma, but this is why I don't call her very often. I'm afraid the conversation will turn to religion, and to the rapture. I can handle talking about God and Jesus, I just can't handle talking about the rapture.

This also means that wives had to be in submission to their husbands because if I was supposed to take a literal interpretation of the Bible, then I was meant to be a servant. Not a leader, not even an equal partner, but a servant. This verse in the Bible really made me start to question. How could God love me, if he didn't view me as equal to a man? It was no wonder then, that there were so few important women in the Bible in comparison to men. We already know from society's standards that "separate but equal" doesn't work, it's not true equality. "Gender roles" do not make us equal, but segregate us. It didn't matter how many Christians tried to explain this verse to me, or interpret it in a way that they thought I might understand or accept. It said that husbands also have to love their wives and be willing to die for them, but a woman absolutely MUST respect her husband. It doesn't say a man has to respect his wife, and I would expect that in such a situation, a woman would want respect from her husband. It does not say women have to love their husbands, and I would imagine a man would not want to marry a woman that didn't love him. If the Bible said husbands and wives should love and respect one another equally, I would not have had a problem with it. But that's not what the Bible says. So as you can see, taking the Bible literally means I have to accept that God views women as lesser creatures than men. If I ever needed an emotional reason not to believe in the Christian God, then this is it. Never mind the logical reasons why I don't. Since I was brought up to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, it's kind of an all or nothing deal for me. I guess I chose the "nothing."

I'm just trying to point out why I don't believe, and I apologize if I offend anyone. If being a Christian makes you happy, I'm OK with it. It's just not the right path for me. And it's OK to me that you can't accept a pantheistic view of God, I can because this sort of God isn't all knowing or all powerful, and therefore subject to some mistakes or not capable of answering some prayers. The Christian God is not the right God for me, if there is a right God for me. A God that views women as lesser, and can't even answer a small prayer from a little girl that wants her kitties to come home, either doesn't care, or doesn't exist. I'd hate to think that a God like that just wouldn't care, so it's easier to accept that he doesn't exist, or just not capable of doing everything.

You are right that I'm not going to disprove your point of view, over my own. All human beings are entitled to their opinion. Believe me, I really wish there was a loving God that watched over us all. I myself wouldn't even see God as male, but both male and female. I know that sounds strange, but it also doesn't seem fair that there would be only a male God. It sounds too imbalanced. I'd like to think a pantheistic God would be loving, fair and preserve balance and not take sides. Believing in a pantheistic God doesn't disprove survival after death. Believe me, that's important to me as well. I'm just not entirely sure that this is what will happen, and as fascinated as I am with death, I myself am just terrified of it. However, I will point out that if the soul does exist, and it's immortal, that doesn't necessarily mean there's an omnipotent God in charge of it. Instead, we would be responsible for our own destinies, and that may include what happens after we die. I think after I concluded that it's possible for an afterlife and the soul to exist without a God, I was able to let go of the Christian God. But if that's what you feel comfortable with, and want to believe, I respect you Murf. I hope you respect my beliefs as well. I respect everyone's beliefs. What a boring world it would be if we all believed the same.

On a side note, my Great Grandfather converted from Judaism to Christianity. He was disowned by his family and they had a funeral for him. They were orthodox Jews. He also married a Christian woman. I'm actually not sure if they had a funeral for him for marrying a Christian woman, or for converting to Christianity. The Jews really don't want their own people to believe in Jesus. I think it's sad because everyone has a right to believe what they want as long as it does no harm to others.

Despite being not religious, I think I have more friends who are either Christians, or Pagans, than I do Atheist friends. But I see myself more Animist and Spiritualist than Atheist, since Atheism alone seems rather empty, even if all it is is a lack of belief in a God or Gods. I'm not even sure if any label truly describes my beliefs. It's easier to just say I have my own beliefs.

Many scientists and mathematicians are religious. I don't think one necessarily needs to give up religion in favor of science, but sometimes I have a hard time seeing their compatibility, and any beliefs I do have I try to weigh them with science to see if they add up. If they do, I keep them. I know there are some that aren't religious, but as long as we're good moral people that try to better humanity, I don't think it matters. In Ken Ham's debate with Bill Nye, Ken Ham even pointed out that many Creationists have contributed to scientific advancements. It didn't however, disprove evolution. Perhaps people just get too hung up over the evolution versus creationism debate.
I have heard something about a mitochondrial “Eve” if you will. I do wonder how evolution could account for one of both sexes evolving and passing on the genetic traits that make us human. Often a new genetic mutation will pop up in one species, but in order to separate itself from that species, that species would only become capable of producing offspring that is capable of reproducing, with it's own kind. It wouldn't be able to reproduce with a member of the species of the previous generation. Science is too complicated sometimes lol. But it doesn't make it any less true.

Re: Is there such a thing as an after life, the soul and gho

Posted: Mon May 19, 2014 12:04 pm
by Murfreesboro
Mau, I hope you don't think I am arguing with you. I just think this is a very intriguing discussion. Obviously, no one who is able to type on a computer knows for a fact what awaits us after our death. I actually do believe in a personal God and a personal survival after death, but I can't prove it to you or anyone. Any supernatural experience I might have had would never withstand the scientific scrutiny of the experimental method, with its controls, etc.

You made me chuckle with your complaints about the rapture. My daughter actually shares your anxieties about it. She wants a life, too! But, as I expect you know, Jesus said to His disciples that even He didn't know when it would occur; only His Father in Heaven does (another mystery there, involving the Trinity). Of course, the churches with which I am most familiar don't really emphasize end-times talk that much. I do believe that is more of a concern in the more Fundamentalist groups, like the Pentecostals.

As for equality of the sexes--I am one of those Christians who prefers to emphasize what Jesus Himself did for women, like saving the woman taken in adultery (who should have been stoned according to Jewish law, and would have been, but for the intervention of Jesus). It is also quite encouraging to me that the very first people who witnessed the Resurrection were women, not men. That is an interesting point, because under Jewish law at the time, women could not testify in a court of law. They were treated like children, incapable of bearing witness. Yet those were the first witnesses of the Resurrection, without whom there would be no Christian religion. It is one of the reasons why I am willing to put my faith into the Gospel accounts, since I know those first writers, who were mostly Jewish (Luke being the exception, I think), would never have said it was the women who witnessed it if that's not the way it happened.

The contemporary American Episcopal church is one of the most liberal, theologically. So much so, in fact, that there has been a splinter group calling themselves "Anglicans," and looking for guidance, not to Canterbury in England, but to the Anglicans in the former British colonies in Africa, who are more conservative. I am actually in sympathy with the American Anglicans, who believe the current Episcopal church has gone too far away from the Bible. However, I attend my husband's Missouri Synod Lutheran church, which is a conservative branch of that denomination. They are more literal in their reading of the Bible than I care to be. And I really miss the aesthetics of the Episcopal church in which I was raised--its music, its liturgy, the old Prayer Book, which was replaced in 1976 by a more modern one (the older one was essentially unchanged from the 1640s).

I'm thinking that your unanswered childhood prayer about the kittens ties in to the more general issue of the problem of evil in the world. Why wouldn't a loving God answer a fervent prayer, say, for the health of a dying child? Or a dying parent, for that matter? Obviously I don't have the answer. A person ultimately finds that he can accept the answers he gets (and "no" is an answer) in an attitude of faith, or he cannot.

You know, I think as we go along in life, we all tend to construct a religious belief we can live with. If we also sometimes seem to have a private revelation, as has happened to me a handful of times, then we are blessed.

I think God is more interested in our honest questions, even perhaps our anger at times, than He is in our parroting a creed.

Re: Is there such a thing as an after life, the soul and gho

Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:21 am
by MauEvig
Hey Murf! I didn't ignore you on this, I just was busy with other things. I will say the subject is something I thought long and hard on.
I've come to the conclusion that maybe it doesn't really matter what happens when we die, the important thing is to enjoy and appreciate life now while we have it, regardless of how we got here or where we came from. Maybe we were lovingly created, or maybe this is all an accident. Death is something that will happen to all of us, and I should just worry about it when the time comes. If this really is it, then all the more reason to appreciate life while we do have it. If there is an afterlife, then maybe we'll finally find out all the answers to the whys and hows. If we're reincarnated, then I hope I come back rich and famous. lol I want to be prepared for whatever the outcome may be, if nothing at all.
So I'm just going to appreciate life, whether we're here due to chemical compositions that sprung together and formed the first cells, or because of a creator, regardless if that creator guided evolution or molded us together like clay. It doesn't matter. I don't need a reason to enjoy life, and I don't need there to be an ultimate purpose or reason. I'm just here today, and I'm going to enjoy today, and worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. I want to take one day at a time.
I don't think I'll ever really know the answer one way or the other anyway, and I just need to accept it and let life lead where it must. I'll probably still get excited if I hear a good ghost story though, if nothing else I can at least believe in ghosts, an afterlife and reincarnation, while accepting the uncertainty of it all. I'll still visit grave yards with wonder if their ghost is watching me, and wonder how a person died, or admire the creativity in a tomb stone. (This goes for Animals as well, because I firmly believe that the fate of animals is the same as humans. Either they have a soul that lives on, or they don't. Same as us. We are animals after all! And when a pet dies I cry just as much as I do when a family member dies.) Life is full of uncertainties. But rather than scary, maybe I should see it as an exciting new adventure around every corner. To those who have died, I am sure that's what they would have wanted me to do anyway.
I appreciate everyone's feedback here though. This was a great discussion! :)

Re: Is there such a thing as an after life, the soul and gho

Posted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 10:35 am
by Murfreesboro
I'm glad you've been able to arrive at some peace on the subject, at least, Mau. The other day I heard some comment Mark Twain had made (I think it was Twain), essentially, that being "dead" for all those centuries before he was born hadn't bothered him, so he didn't expect to be bothered after his death, either.

I agree with you about animals. It is pretty obvious to me that they have souls. What they don't have is our imagination, to envision a future different from the past. Our pets really do live in the present. They are not worried about what will happen to them when they die.

Then again, the God of the Bible lives altogether in the present, too (I am). So maybe the animals are showing us a glimpse of what that would be like.

I will never be able to believe that everything in our world just happened randomly.