I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that people assume that there is no difference between the way they experience the world and the world as it exists.
I’m surprised people are willing to assume that metaphysical claims (i.e. claims outside of the purview of human testability/experience) are absolutely true.
It seems that the only honest position one can have on “God” (in quotes to emphasize the lack of consensus on its definition) is to hold that “God” or “The Kingdom of Heaven” or “enlightenment” seem to be possible states of human consciousness; as such they may have individual normative value and seem to me to be generally socially desirable.
I’m surprised that people don’t recognize the obvious utility of a meme like “hell,” and that that conceptual convenience isn’t found more troubling more often. How convenient that what “you” believe will lead “you” to salvation and that anyone who doesn’t believe what you do will burn for eternity. How could the doctrine of hell possibly be consistent with a just God? A lifetime in comparison to eternity is infinitely smaller than a blink of an eye compared to a life. Can you imagine blinking your eye wrong and spending the rest of your life being tortured for it? Does that sound remotely just?
Pascal’s wager has always been a bad bet. How could one choose which mutually exclusive claim to absolute truth/God (ie Religion) to follow?
The obvious fact that people have had subjectively divine experiences in all the major religious contexts doesn’t seem to have occurred to many people.
Even a brief glance at history should be enough for a single prominent fact to strike us. Unimaginable pain and suffering is most easily inflicted by those who “KNOW” that they have a monopoly on TRUTH (with a capital “T”), be they religious dogmatist or centralized state communists. If I believed in Satan, I can imagine Him to be the first to say, “the ONLY way to God is through me.”
And seriously people. Have you read the bible? You really don’t think God could write better and not contradict himself (It isn’t weird to you that Shakespeare is so obviously a better writer?). You do realize that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all give conflicting accounts right? And you’d think that he’d at least get slavery right, but no, it’s ok as long as he or she is a foreigner. If you’re willing to pick and choose what’s worth paying attention to in the bible, you should be willing to admit that you have a moral standard independent of the bible (see Euthyphro’s Dilemma). How many Christian’s do you know that make sure to never cut the hair at their temples and never wear clothes of mixed fibers? How many Christians have stoned their neighbors to death for working on the Sabbath? (The list obviously goes on)
Increasingly in debates of high intellectual caliber the only remotely justifiable space left for believer is toward the stance, “these are the holy books that seem to work for me.”
What we really need to agree on is the unacceptability of ending discussions through methods of eliminationism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliminationism).
On Consciousness and the Brain:
On “God” or Now or Enlightenment (with the least amount of baggage I’ve seen so far):
On Morality that limited human creatures should be able to agree on (were it not for our holy books):
The best religious debate I’ve seen so far: