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you might enjoy feynman's take on the matter...
3 months, 1 week ago on BOOK REVIEW – “Unweaving the Rainbow” by Richard Dawkins
I've never really thought much about angels - they were never really emphasized much in my Protestant upbringing. But this post did get me thinking about their origins. It seems strange to have demigods of sorts in a monotheistic faith (assuming you don't have an issue with the trinity). Here's my brainfart theory: they were vestiges of syncretism. The key lies in their names. Michael and Gabriel are the main guys. Notably, their names end in "-el". Which is a curious word of seeming Semitic extract. Bel or B'el or bel-prefix (e.g. bel-zebub) was a cognate implying 'master'. Bel was associated with Marduk. A variant is B'al, coming from Hebrew, which became Ba'allah and ended up simply as 'Allah. El-Shaddai was an import from Mesopotamia into Judaic lore. So my thought is that perhaps angels started out as separate gods and were assimilated into a single master (El), the eventual God of war of the Old Testament. Some of them retained thir separate status and became demi-gods. Others actually came to characterise the eventual nature of the final deity.
It's interesting to note that the Islamic god isn't as exclusive as the Christian one. If you worship the wrong god, but are righteous, there's a chance that the real God won't mind because you were kind of worshiping him indirectly. A similar concept comes up in Pauline theology with the "what then of those who have not heard?..." clause in Romans. And then we end up with the addition of the trinity to Judaism, while retaining the angels. If only we could travel back and figure out where all this stuff came from.
6 months ago on Q: How Many Angels On The Head Of A Pin?
@martinspribble @blamer I've had a conversation with a pretty savvy Muslim friend who doesn't see it this way, and argues that most mainstream scholars don't see it this way either. It's basically the Pauline loophole appeal to mankind's 'conscience' in Romans 2:15. Theologically, both inclusive and exclusive doctrines can be moulded from the same book. Necessarily so with syncretic religions who wanted to offer something unique, but didn't want to exclude their largest audiences at the time of conception (and needed to address the problem of those damned before the 'Final Revelation').
I don't really want to get into theological minutiae more than to say that dissonant stances can be defended from the same scripture. Things aren't always binary. Vagueness is sometimes the strength of religion - allowing cultural norm and rite to be more easily assimilated. Also, sola scriptura is largely protestant, so in many ways, catholic and orthodox streams are better equipped to co-evolve with culture.
I like your observations about achetypes, religion as a meme, mythological syncretism, and god as a superego/ubermenschean contrivance. I would really love to create a survey which highlighted the disparity of belief within a congregation at a philosophical level. It's my contention that even within the most cohesive groups, issues like free-will vs determinism; natural law & rights; the problem of evil; dualism vs monism etc are largely avoided or ignored because they're simply too difficult to resolve without risking disintegration.
6 months, 2 weeks ago on The Many Faces of God
@AlbertJlet me understand. neurons aren't subject to the regular cell lifecycle, but the molecules are still replaced? how does this happen? from my understanding, the cells = the molecules (i'm talking about the cell structure here). please explain the mechanism whereby the molecules disintegrate and reintegrate from neuronal structure, without the cell undergoing apoptosis.
even were neurons to undergo mitosis, the point is that the regular life-cycle of cells doesn't impede organ function anywhere else in the body, so why should it impede the functioning of the brain? i don't subscribe to a 'pearl' view of consciousness, but more of a Humean/bundle theory of embodied consciousness. theory of mind however, is really an awfully vague pursuit, which has little relevance here. if you're suggesting descartian dualism, you're going to have to contend with modern neuroscience.
7 months, 3 weeks ago on Yes, Another Post About Atheism
@AlbertJ "Your molecules replace each other every 100 days or so. You cells every 7 years. You can't possibly be the body. You aren't even the source of thoughts. "
it's my understanding that certain cells (e.g. neurons and corneal endothelia) don't undergo cell division. unless you have evidence to the contrary.
"The enemy of faith is critical thinking and availability of good information."
True. The enemy of faith may also be humility (when confronted with the unknown or unknowable).
i guess it's okay for culturally descriptive holy books to be culturally prescriptive as long as the society they describe doesn't ever change. unfortunately (for men), things have changed. we need to pen down a new revelation of the status quo - it's high time for another final prophet/messiah :)
8 months ago on Eve, Pandora, and the Afterthought Woman
I stopped when Ken Ham argued that humanism and evolution imply atheism. Please can the Vatican open an evolution museum already. Then Ratzinger and Ham can argue in the Theology dept and we can keep the Science faculty out of it.
8 months, 1 week ago on Bill Nye vs Those Who DeNye – A Discussion