No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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tiltbillings
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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:36 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Where does the belief in a god come from, what drives it?
and
So, the question is what gives rise to a belief in a god, an omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos?
One would think, from the way you ask the question, that you have a convincing answer to offer. But you don't, and the "Damdifino" stuff looks like you want to reconsider such an offer unless it is accepted. Your point that a belief in self supports a belief in God is well made in the upanisadic case of "Thou art That". Brahmanism posits a literal identity between Atman and Brahman, so the case makes itself.

This is not so, however, when there is no literal identity: as, for example, in most forms of the Abrahamic religions. There, we have the problem of showing how the belief in a God who is somehow different from self, is dependent upon a belief in that self. I thought that your conviction that this is so would be somehow communicable, but I fully understand that it might not be.
Now you have spent a few words not answering the question I now asked you twice. Try answering the question and you may very answer the question.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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tiltbillings
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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:38 am

Sam Vara wrote:Mkoll:

Sorry, you've lost me here. I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. My original point is merely that a person does not need a belief in a self in order to believe in God. At least, they don't need to believe in a permanent personal existent in order to think that there is such a thing outside of them (i.e. a God). They do need ignorance, though...
If they are ignorant, then the belief in god is grounded in ignorance, and what is the key feature of avijja?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Sam Vara
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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:53 am

tiltbillings
Now you have spent a few words not answering the question I now asked you twice. Try answering the question and you may very answer the question.
You didn't ask me any question. You asked yourself a rhetorical question, as this clearly demonstrates:
Where does the belief in a god come from, what drives it? Simply, I would say, working from the Buddha's teaching that what drives it is the precarious sense of self that we have.
You answer it with an assertion that you do not back up. If it were a question to me, rather than a professorial flourish, then you would not have answered it. That's fine - as I said, if you can't communicate it to me, then I'm happy to leave it there as an issue of mutual incapacity rather than you having to take refuge in pretense.

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Feb 01, 2014 2:41 am

Sam Vara wrote:tiltbillings
Now you have spent a few words not answering the question I now asked you twice. Try answering the question and you may very answer the question.
You didn't ask me any question. You asked yourself a rhetorical question, as this clearly demonstrates:
Oh, my. Since I wrote what I wrote, I can say that it was not a rhetorical question, nor was I asking it of myself. Now, if you do not want to have a dialogue, that is your choice. The answer to my questions that were put to you was partially answered in your response to Mkoll. To repeat:
tilt, asking Sam Vara a key question, wrote:
  • Sam Vara wrote:Mkoll:

    Sorry, you've lost me here. I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. My original point is merely that a person does not need a belief in a self in order to believe in God. At least, they don't need to believe in a permanent personal existent in order to think that there is such a thing outside of them (i.e. a God). They do need ignorance, though...
    If they are ignorant, then the belief in god is grounded in ignorance, and what is the key feature of avijja?
And from here you could actually address the non-rhetorical question, and from there we can continue.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by Mkoll » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:59 am

Sam Vara wrote:Mkoll:

Sorry, you've lost me here. I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. My original point is merely that a person does not need a belief in a self in order to believe in God. At least, they don't need to believe in a permanent personal existent in order to think that there is such a thing outside of them (i.e. a God). They do need ignorance, though...
I agree that a person does not need an explicit or doctrinal belief in a self, e.g. that one is a soul in a body or that the Atman of Brahman is the universal Self, etc.

My point was that there is an implied belief in a self when one believes anything or takes any position because every position is in relation to a sense of self. It's like when you lift your arm, your hand will always come with it. Here are some examples of what I'm trying to say.

I say or think: "God exists." God exists for me.
I say or think: "The sky is blue." The sky is blue for me.
I say or think: "Sitting here is painful." It's painful for me.

In my understanding, only the arahant can say things without any reference at all to a sense of I because he's completely destroyed ignorance which is a condition of this implied belief in self. For everyone else, everything we think we attach a sense of "I" to automatically, and whether it's subtle or gross depends upon our spiritual faculties and development. Also, when someone says they believe something, there is always a pronoun that comes before the word "believe" and that's "I".

I'm sorry if I'm not making my position clear, but this is about as clear as I can make it.

:anjali:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:09 pm

Mkoll wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Mkoll:

Sorry, you've lost me here. I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. My original point is merely that a person does not need a belief in a self in order to believe in God. At least, they don't need to believe in a permanent personal existent in order to think that there is such a thing outside of them (i.e. a God). They do need ignorance, though...
I agree that a person does not need an explicit or doctrinal belief in a self, e.g. that one is a soul in a body or that the Atman of Brahman is the universal Self, etc.

My point was that there is an implied belief in a self when one believes anything or takes any position because every position is in relation to a sense of self. It's like when you lift your arm, your hand will always come with it. Here are some examples of what I'm trying to say.

I say or think: "God exists." God exists for me.
I say or think: "The sky is blue." The sky is blue for me.
I say or think: "Sitting here is painful." It's painful for me.

In my understanding, only the arahant can say things without any reference at all to a sense of I because he's completely destroyed ignorance which is a condition of this implied belief in self. For everyone else, everything we think we attach a sense of "I" to automatically, and whether it's subtle or gross depends upon our spiritual faculties and development. Also, when someone says they believe something, there is always a pronoun that comes before the word "believe" and that's "I".

I'm sorry if I'm not making my position clear, but this is about as clear as I can make it.

:anjali:
No, you are now putting it in a way that I can understand, and I agree entirely - thank you. We were talking at cross-purposes, and it was to do with the implied sense of self, rather than the explicit belief in an eternal existent. My point is that many Christians, for example, do not attribute permanent aseity to the soul, whereas they do to God. But this, as you point out, is entirely consistent with a level of ignorance which means that both are implicitly seen as existing in the here and now "for them".

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:17 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:tiltbillings
Now you have spent a few words not answering the question I now asked you twice. Try answering the question and you may very answer the question.
You didn't ask me any question. You asked yourself a rhetorical question, as this clearly demonstrates:
Oh, my. Since I wrote what I wrote, I can say that it was not a rhetorical question, nor was I asking it of myself. Now, if you do not want to have a dialogue, that is your choice. The answer to my questions that were put to you was partially answered in your response to Mkoll. To repeat:
tilt, asking Sam Vara a key question, wrote:
  • Sam Vara wrote:Mkoll:

    Sorry, you've lost me here. I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. My original point is merely that a person does not need a belief in a self in order to believe in God. At least, they don't need to believe in a permanent personal existent in order to think that there is such a thing outside of them (i.e. a God). They do need ignorance, though...
    If they are ignorant, then the belief in god is grounded in ignorance, and what is the key feature of avijja?
And from here you could actually address the non-rhetorical question, and from there we can continue.
I don't need to answer the question, thanks - I was asking you to justify an assertion, which you are not going to do. It's lovely of you to offer, but I'm not really interested in being catechised by you.

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by binocular » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:31 pm

tiltbillings wrote:So, the question is what gives rise to a belief in a god, an omniscient, omnipotent, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos?
/.../
what drives such a belief?
Statistically, for the most part, that appear to be habit and acculturation.

From an inconstruable beginning come habit and acculturation. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are acting on habits and acculturation & wandering on ...

I don't know of anyone who claims to believe in God who has in fact developed that belief for themselves, all alone, from scratch. All people who claim to believe in God appear to have picked it up from other people, or developed a variation thereof on their own, but did not invent it.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:43 pm

Sam Vara wrote: I don't need to answer the question, thanks - I was asking you to justify an assertion, which you are not going to do. It's lovely of you to offer, but I'm not really interested in being catechised by you.
I was simply offering dialogue. At that I can only shrug my shoulders. And I could easily justify my assertion, but a discussion often more interesing.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by binocular » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:55 pm

Sam Vara wrote:There can be a belief without a believer in the same way that there can be any mental activity without an enduring self. "Thoughts without a thinker", etc. As you say in your second paragraph, "believing" arises upon conditions.
It depends on what one means by "belief" and "believe". This word has an interesting etymology and etymological meanings:
belief (n.)
late 12c., bileave, replacing Old English geleafa "belief, faith," from West Germanic *ga-laubon "to hold dear, esteem, trust" (cf. Old Saxon gilobo, Middle Dutch gelove, Old High German giloubo, German Glaube), from *galaub- "dear, esteemed," from intensive prefix *ga- + *leubh- "to care, desire, like, love" (see love (v.)). The prefix was altered on analogy of the verb believe.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=belief

believe (v.)
Old English belyfan "to believe," earlier geleafa (Mercian), gelefa (Northumbrian), gelyfan (West Saxon) "believe," from Proto-Germanic *ga-laubjan "to believe," perhaps literally "hold dear, love" (cf. Old Saxon gilobian "believe," Dutch geloven, Old High German gilouben, German glauben), ultimately a compound based on PIE *leubh- "to care, desire, love" (see belief).

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?all ... hmode=none
Given this background, "believe" has very little to do with the strictly cognitive meaning of "to hold as true or real." So when we read older texts, but assume that "believe" meant then what we tend to mean by it now, we're acting in an anachronism that can produce many new problems.

I'm not sure what the Pali equivalent to "believe" is or would be, or even if there is any.


Secondly, whether a self is seen as needed or not may have to do with how one understands sentences in terms of whether one focuses on the subject of a sentence or on a noun. To some extent, this is predisposed with one's native language:
Highly inflected, synthetic languages, such as modern Slavic ones and many older languages tend to focus on the verb in a sentence, ie. on what is being done.
Analytic languages with less inflection, like English, tend to focus more on the subject of the sentence, the doer.
Last edited by binocular on Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by binocular » Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:08 pm

Mkoll wrote:Also, when someone says they believe something, there is always a pronoun that comes before the word "believe" and that's "I".
In a language like English, yes. But different languages handle this differently.

I don't know much Thai, for example, but I do know they have a very interesting way of expressing (grammatical) person. Maybe someone fluent in Thai can explain this.

In a language like Latin or Slavic languages nowadays, the marker for the person is already expressed in the verbal form: "credo" or "vjerujem" are the equivalent of "I believe". On principle, "ego credo" or "ja vjerujem" are possible, but rarely used*, and would convey an emphasis on the "I" (*they are typically used only in sentences that talk about a contrast - "he doesn't, but I do").

In these languages, sentences are common where the verb is in the first person, but there is no subject in the sentence. The subject is implied in the verb.
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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by Mkoll » Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:44 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Mkoll:

Sorry, you've lost me here. I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. My original point is merely that a person does not need a belief in a self in order to believe in God. At least, they don't need to believe in a permanent personal existent in order to think that there is such a thing outside of them (i.e. a God). They do need ignorance, though...
I agree that a person does not need an explicit or doctrinal belief in a self, e.g. that one is a soul in a body or that the Atman of Brahman is the universal Self, etc.

My point was that there is an implied belief in a self when one believes anything or takes any position because every position is in relation to a sense of self. It's like when you lift your arm, your hand will always come with it. Here are some examples of what I'm trying to say.

I say or think: "God exists." God exists for me.
I say or think: "The sky is blue." The sky is blue for me.
I say or think: "Sitting here is painful." It's painful for me.

In my understanding, only the arahant can say things without any reference at all to a sense of I because he's completely destroyed ignorance which is a condition of this implied belief in self. For everyone else, everything we think we attach a sense of "I" to automatically, and whether it's subtle or gross depends upon our spiritual faculties and development. Also, when someone says they believe something, there is always a pronoun that comes before the word "believe" and that's "I".

I'm sorry if I'm not making my position clear, but this is about as clear as I can make it.

:anjali:
No, you are now putting it in a way that I can understand, and I agree entirely - thank you. We were talking at cross-purposes, and it was to do with the implied sense of self, rather than the explicit belief in an eternal existent. My point is that many Christians, for example, do not attribute permanent aseity to the soul, whereas they do to God. But this, as you point out, is entirely consistent with a level of ignorance which means that both are implicitly seen as existing in the here and now "for them".
:anjali:
binocular wrote:
Mkoll wrote:Also, when someone says they believe something, there is always a pronoun that comes before the word "believe" and that's "I".
In a language like English, yes. But different languages handle this differently.

I don't know much Thai, for example, but I do know they have a very interesting way of expressing (grammatical) person. Maybe someone fluent in Thai can explain this.

In a language like Latin or Slavic languages nowadays, the marker for the person is already expressed in the verbal form: "credo" or "vjerujem" are the equivalent of "I believe". On principle, "ego credo" or "ja vjerujem" are possible, but rarely used*, and would convey an emphasis on the "I" (*they are typically used only in sentences that talk about a contrast - "he doesn't, but I do").

In these languages, sentences are common where the verb is in the first person, but there is no subject in the sentence. The subject is implied in the verb.
You've shown that my argument there was a weak one. And it was. That's one of the disadvantages of only knowing one language fluently: I can easily make the mistaken assumption that the effect of the English language on my mind is applicable to others.

:anjali:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by binocular » Sat Feb 01, 2014 6:02 pm

I can only rampantly speculate as to how much Dhamma teachings by native speakers of English and their understanding of the Dhamma have been shaped by the grammatical specifics of English. But possibly not just a little.
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Re: No believing in God is not such a good idea.

Post by suttametta » Sat Feb 01, 2014 6:36 pm

SarathW wrote:I see that there is a trend, many people live in western countries are not believing in god. As Buddhist we do not believe in creator god but believe in other forms of Gods. To me it appears that westerners are moving from eternalism to nihilism, both of which are rejected by Buddha. If I have only two choices, I will chose etrenalism over nihilism. I think nihilism make do damage to the social fabrication. In my opinion theistic religions has made a great contribution to the society. May be religious leaders should take note of this factor.
I am sure Dhamma wheel is making a great contribution to the society by closing this gap.
There are protector gods, and it's no problem to ask for their protection; there are protection charms in the sutras. Even YHVH is a protector god who provides many signs and omens to those who are devoted... Brahmas, Indras, Nagas, etc., all can provide different protections as well as the prayers of non-returners in the brahma-abodes, the various deities of the Mahayana, etc...

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