A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
binocular
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by binocular » Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:32 pm

Aloka wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:11 pm
My question was for the person called "pathofsincerity", binocular.
I wasn't answering for them, Aloka. It's a discussion thread.

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Crazy cloud
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by Crazy cloud » Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:49 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:08 pm
Aloka wrote:
Thu Dec 12, 2019 1:04 pm
Why do you even want to do that?
Because one wishes to be a peaceful, accepted person, peacefully, harmoniously co-existing with others, in a prospering human community, but without being silent all the time or talking merely about superficial nothings.

:group: :group: :group:
If one starts from a common ground like emptiness, then most of the personal needs evaporate. And my experience is those sincere spiritual seekers one finds on that ground, unites in spirit regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. Therefore I state that all religions are pointing to the same plane, and is the same one.
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

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No_Mind
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by No_Mind » Thu Dec 12, 2019 2:00 pm

pathofsincerity wrote:
Wed Dec 11, 2019 7:36 pm
And so here's my question:

How do I explain to someone, practically, down-to-earth, without needing to talk about jhanas or magga-phalas or lobha-dosa-moha, and without any undertones of buddhist superiority, the different impacts of various spiritual paths. Like, "this is where christianity will take you, this is where hindu bhakti practice will take you, and this is where buddhism will take you. Even though these paths have many similarities, like patience and kindness, don't you see the difference in these mountain tops, or even in the general terrain?"

Assuming we're talking about genuine, committed & virtuous spiritual practitioners, what do you see as those differences in mountain tops or terrain of various spiritual paths?
First of all, why should you explain?

Your Dhamma is precious to you not others.

A great Hindu saint from the 19th century Sri Ramkrishna said "The Dhamma must be practiced in three places - in the forest, in the closet, and in the mind. No one must know that you are Dhammic unless they closely observe your actions."

Jesus said -
"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Matthew 6:6

Stay contented in yourself.

:namaste:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

PeterC86
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by PeterC86 » Thu Dec 12, 2019 4:25 pm

pathofsincerity wrote:
Wed Dec 11, 2019 7:36 pm
And so here's my question:

How do I explain to someone, practically, down-to-earth, without needing to talk about jhanas or magga-phalas or lobha-dosa-moha, and without any undertones of buddhist superiority, the different impacts of various spiritual paths. Like, "this is where christianity will take you, this is where hindu bhakti practice will take you, and this is where buddhism will take you. Even though these paths have many similarities, like patience and kindness, don't you see the difference in these mountain tops, or even in the general terrain?"

Assuming we're talking about genuine, committed & virtuous spiritual practitioners, what do you see as those differences in mountain tops or terrain of various spiritual paths?
If you haven't experienced Nibbana, you can only assume that it is different.

If they haven't experienced Nibbana, they can only assume that it is the same.

sentinel
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by sentinel » Thu Dec 12, 2019 5:07 pm

You refute yourself , you refute everyone else without exception .

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Bundokji
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by Bundokji » Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:32 am

pathofsincerity wrote:
Wed Dec 11, 2019 7:36 pm
How do I explain to someone, practically, down-to-earth, without needing to talk about jhanas or magga-phalas or lobha-dosa-moha, and without any undertones of buddhist superiority, the different impacts of various spiritual paths. Like, "this is where christianity will take you, this is where hindu bhakti practice will take you, and this is where buddhism will take you. Even though these paths have many similarities, like patience and kindness, don't you see the difference in these mountain tops, or even in the general terrain?"

Assuming we're talking about genuine, committed & virtuous spiritual practitioners, what do you see as those differences in mountain tops or terrain of various spiritual paths?
I think you raised very legitimate question, which has to do with the nature of choice. By definition, choosing Buddhism over other spiritual paths implies that there is something about it which makes it better or superior to other paths. It is unclear if the endeavor to justify ones own beliefs is rooted in humility or conceit because it can be both. To simply dismiss such questions as "i don't need to justify my beliefs" is as arrogant as "i am better than others by virtue of following a superior religion".

My own answer is: it is the way Buddhism deals with the issue of believing:

1- As description if the objective world and how it operates in which we can distinguish right from wrong
2- As reflections of our own psyche and what it says about our condition, which does not reduce things to right or wrong, but describes how things come to be.

Buddhism seems to have a very balanced approach to the issue of believing, utilizing the above two approaches. If adherents to other spiritual paths claim that the same thing can be found in their religions, then good for them. As human life is finite in terms of time and energy,hence studying every single doctrine out there before making a choice would be impractical.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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No_Mind
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by No_Mind » Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:49 am

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:32 am
pathofsincerity wrote:
Wed Dec 11, 2019 7:36 pm
How do I explain to someone, practically, down-to-earth, without needing to talk about jhanas or magga-phalas or lobha-dosa-moha, and without any undertones of buddhist superiority, the different impacts of various spiritual paths. Like, "this is where christianity will take you, this is where hindu bhakti practice will take you, and this is where buddhism will take you. Even though these paths have many similarities, like patience and kindness, don't you see the difference in these mountain tops, or even in the general terrain?"

Assuming we're talking about genuine, committed & virtuous spiritual practitioners, what do you see as those differences in mountain tops or terrain of various spiritual paths?
I think you raised very legitimate question, which has to do with the nature of choice. By definition, choosing Buddhism over other spiritual paths implies that there is something about it which makes it better or superior to other paths. It is unclear if the endeavor to justify ones own beliefs is rooted in humility or conceit because it can be both. To simply dismiss such questions as "i don't need to justify my beliefs" is as arrogant as "i am better than others by virtue of following a superior religion".

My own answer is: it is the way Buddhism deals with the issue of believing:

1- As description if the objective world and how it operates in which we can distinguish right from wrong
2- As reflections of our own psyche and what it says about our condition, which does not reduce things to right or wrong, but describes how things come to be.

Buddhism seems to have a very balanced approach to the issue of believing, utilizing the above two approaches. If adherents to other spiritual paths claim that the same thing can be found in their religions, then good for them. As human life is finite in terms of time and energy,hence studying every single doctrine out there before making a choice would be impractical.

Forgive me for butting in but you surely cannot be claiming that Mahayana has a balanced approach or is a superior path than say Hinduism?
The Dalai Lama, a spry, shaven-headed man of thirty-eight, strode onto an impromptu stage. The audience spontaneously prostrated itself as one onto the muddy ground. He read a speech, which was barely audible above the wind, delivered in rapid-fire Tibetan, a language I did not yet understand, at a velocity I would never master. Every now and then a drop of rain would descend from the lowering sky.

I was distracted from my thoughts about the plight of Tibet by the harsh shriek of what sounded like a trumpet. Perched on a ledge on the steep hillside beside the Library, next to a smoking fire, stood a bespectacled lama, legs akimbo,blowing into a thighbone and ringing a bell. His disheveled hair was tied in a topknot. A white robe, trimmed in red, was slung carelessly across his left shoulder. When he wasn’t blowing his horn, he would mutter what seemed like imprecations at the grumbling clouds, his right hand extended in the threatening mudra, a ritual gesture used to ward off danger. From time to time he would put down his thighbone and fling an arc of mustard seeds against the ominous mists.

Then there was an almighty crash. Rain hammered down on the corrugated iron roofs of the residential buildings on the far side of the Library, obliterating the Dalai Lama’s words. This noise went on for several minutes. The lama on the hillside stamped his feet, blew his thighbone, and rang his bell with increased urgency. The heavy drops of rain that had started falling on the dignitaries and the crowd abruptly stopped.

After the Dalai Lama left and the crowd dispersed, I joined a small group of fellow Injis. In reverential tones, we discussed how the lama on the hill—whose name was Yeshe Dorje—had prevented the storm from soaking us. I heard myself say: “And you could hear the rain still falling all around us: over there by the Library and on those government buildings behind as well.” The others nodded and smiled in awed agreement.

Even as I was speaking, I knew I was not telling the truth. I had heard no rain on the roofs behind me. Not a drop. Yet to be convinced that the lama had prevented the rain with his ritual and spells, I had to believe that he had created a magical umbrella to shield the crowd from the storm. Otherwise, what had happened would not have been that remarkable. Who has not witnessed rain falling a short distance away from where one is standing on dry ground? Perhaps it was nothing more than a brief mountain shower on the nearby hillside. None of us would have dared to admit this possibility. That would have brought us perilously close to questioning the lama’s prowess and, by implication, the whole elaborate belief system of Tibetan Buddhism.

from Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
:namaste:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

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Bundokji
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by Bundokji » Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:23 am

No_Mind wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:49 am
Forgive me for butting in but you surely cannot be claiming that Mahayana has a balanced approach or is a superior path than say Hinduism?
The Dalai Lama, a spry, shaven-headed man of thirty-eight, strode onto an impromptu stage. The audience spontaneously prostrated itself as one onto the muddy ground. He read a speech, which was barely audible above the wind, delivered in rapid-fire Tibetan, a language I did not yet understand, at a velocity I would never master. Every now and then a drop of rain would descend from the lowering sky.

I was distracted from my thoughts about the plight of Tibet by the harsh shriek of what sounded like a trumpet. Perched on a ledge on the steep hillside beside the Library, next to a smoking fire, stood a bespectacled lama, legs akimbo,blowing into a thighbone and ringing a bell. His disheveled hair was tied in a topknot. A white robe, trimmed in red, was slung carelessly across his left shoulder. When he wasn’t blowing his horn, he would mutter what seemed like imprecations at the grumbling clouds, his right hand extended in the threatening mudra, a ritual gesture used to ward off danger. From time to time he would put down his thighbone and fling an arc of mustard seeds against the ominous mists.

Then there was an almighty crash. Rain hammered down on the corrugated iron roofs of the residential buildings on the far side of the Library, obliterating the Dalai Lama’s words. This noise went on for several minutes. The lama on the hillside stamped his feet, blew his thighbone, and rang his bell with increased urgency. The heavy drops of rain that had started falling on the dignitaries and the crowd abruptly stopped.

After the Dalai Lama left and the crowd dispersed, I joined a small group of fellow Injis. In reverential tones, we discussed how the lama on the hill—whose name was Yeshe Dorje—had prevented the storm from soaking us. I heard myself say: “And you could hear the rain still falling all around us: over there by the Library and on those government buildings behind as well.” The others nodded and smiled in awed agreement.

Even as I was speaking, I knew I was not telling the truth. I had heard no rain on the roofs behind me. Not a drop. Yet to be convinced that the lama had prevented the rain with his ritual and spells, I had to believe that he had created a magical umbrella to shield the crowd from the storm. Otherwise, what had happened would not have been that remarkable. Who has not witnessed rain falling a short distance away from where one is standing on dry ground? Perhaps it was nothing more than a brief mountain shower on the nearby hillside. None of us would have dared to admit this possibility. That would have brought us perilously close to questioning the lama’s prowess and, by implication, the whole elaborate belief system of Tibetan Buddhism.

from Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
:namaste:
I have no personal interest in justifying that Mahayana is superior to Hinduism, but Stephen Batchelor, through sharing his personal experience, was somehow justifying why he broke away from Tibetan Buddhism, and this is the crux of the matter.

It is because our conscious experience is divided into the internal and the external, we need to somehow be able to explain why we made a certain choice over another. This also can be useful to avoid clinging to our beliefs when we are challenged/presented with better choices than the ones we already picked.

Not all choices, by the way, can be explained through appealing to objective reality, but to practicle reasons as i mentioned in my reply. For example, the fluidity of our post-modern age can provide good justification for choosing a path to walk in. So, even a mundane understanding of the Buddha's teachings (which lacks certainty about ultimate truth) can be the basis for arguments as to why Buddhism is better than other religions in terms of morality and improving the quality of the individual's life.

It is understandable why some practitioners would avoid engaging in such arguments, but avoiding them altogether can signal unacknowledged fears (similar to fears triggered by any evidence that shows a self exists). Everything else being equal, being internally justified helps maintain a coherent belief system and conducive to worldly intelligence. I don't see any virtues in not knowing what we are doing.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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No_Mind
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by No_Mind » Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:32 am

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:23 am
I have no personal interest in justifying that Mahayana is superior to Hinduism, but Stephen Batchelor, through sharing his personal experience, was somehow justifying why he broke away from Tibetan Buddhism, and this is the crux of the matter.

It is because our conscious experience is divided into the internal and the external, we need to somehow be able to explain why we made a certain choice over another. This also can be useful to avoid clinging to our beliefs when we are challenged/presented with better choices than the ones we already picked.

Not all choices, by the way, can be explained through appealing to objective reality, but to practicle reasons as i mentioned in my reply. For example, the fluidity of our post-modern age can provide good justification for choosing a path to walk in. So, even a mundane understanding of the Buddha's teachings (which lacks certainty about ultimate truth) can be the basis for arguments as to why Buddhism is better than other religions in terms of morality and improving the quality of the individual's life.

It is understandable why some practitioners would avoid engaging in such arguments, but avoiding them altogether can signal unacknowledged fears (similar to fears triggered by any evidence that shows a self exists). Everything else being equal, being internally justified helps maintain a coherent belief system and conducive to worldly intelligence. I don't see any virtues in not knowing what we are doing.
My point was if the OP was to meet someone in real life and claim Buddhism was "balanced" .. would he be justified in doing so?

I can think of several arguments to trip him up.

Buddhist stance that the butcher is the sinner not the fellow slurping pork broth. I have never heard of such hypocrisy in my life.
Buddhist stance about soul - is there or is there not?
Buddhist stance about inaction. If anyone attacks my family and tries to rape my wife I cannot kill him.

and several more similar inconsistencies.

I am playing the Devil's Advocate. So please no one get hot under the collar about the danged Hindu-Buddhist hybrid kicking up a fuss :weep: since he is suffering from existential angst.

:namaste:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by Bundokji » Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:43 am

No_Mind wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:32 am
My point was if the OP was to meet someone in real life and claim Buddhism was "balanced" .. would he be justified in doing so?
It would depend on the arguments one provides to justify his claims, such is the nature of justification.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

binocular
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by binocular » Fri Dec 13, 2019 2:38 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:32 am
It is unclear if the endeavor to justify ones own beliefs is rooted in humility or conceit because it can be both.
Or self-defense.
To simply dismiss such questions as "i don't need to justify my beliefs" is as arrogant as "i am better than others by virtue of following a superior religion".
It's not clear how such refusal to justify one's beliefs could possibly have anything to do with arrogance.
A person in position of power (or a bully), will accuse you of ignorance if you don't justify yourself (and the only way you can actually justify yourself, is on their terms).
Bundokji wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:43 am
It would depend on the arguments one provides to justify his claims, such is the nature of justification.
Justification doesn't exist in a vacuum, as if arguments would somehow "sort themselves out, amongst themselves", without people having any say in the matter.

For all practical intents and purposes, justification always takes place on the terms of the person with more power.

If you take a class in criticial thinking, for example, as an exercise in critical thinking, you have to give some justification of a belief of yours, and you have to do it on the terms of the teacher, who then decides whether your justification is satisfactory or not (and whether you have passed the grade or not).

If you are a minority living among a majority, the majority will expect you to justify your beliefs on their, ie. the majority's terms, or they will exert (even more) repression over you.
Bundokji wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:23 am
It is because our conscious experience is divided into the internal and the external, we need to somehow be able to explain why we made a certain choice over another.
But it depends on to whom (or with whom in mind) we are doing the explaining.
I don't see any virtues in not knowing what we are doing.
Not explaining oneself to others doesn't automatically mean that one doesn't know what one is doing.

For example, you could try to explain your choice of Buddhism all you want to a militant Christian, but he would always dismiss your explanations as mere excuses. A Hare Krishna would tell you something like "We don't accept fancy explanations for refusing to believe in Krishna".

That doesn't necessarily mean that you don't know what you're doing.

binocular
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by binocular » Fri Dec 13, 2019 2:44 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:43 am
It would depend on the arguments one provides to justify his claims, such is the nature of justification.
I remember once at a Catholic forum, a Catholic lady presented an argument for why the Catholic Church is the one and only right one. In terms of the standards of critical thinking usually taught in secular academia, she made some mistakes in her argumentation. I forgot how exactly her argument went. The thing is that someone pointed out to her that her conclusion doesn't follow from her premises. You know what she replied? She said that she has the constitutionally granted freedom of speech, and that as such, she can say that her conclusion follows from her premises and that she has provided a correct argument.

And there's really nothing to defeat that kind of reasoning, other than changing the Constitution and deleting the freedom of speech clause altogether.

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Bundokji
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by Bundokji » Fri Dec 13, 2019 3:56 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 2:38 pm
Or self-defense.
And there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. I would differentiate between "self defense" and "being defensive" of which, surprisingly, the criteria has to do with the extent the individual is justified. If i can justify my beliefs, i don't have to get defensive when my beliefs get challenged.
It's not clear how such refusal to justify one's beliefs could possibly have anything to do with arrogance.
A person in position of power (or a bully), will accuse you of ignorance if you don't justify yourself (and the only way you can actually justify yourself, is on their terms).
Obsession with power can take positive and negative forms, both are nonetheless obsessions. The more obvious one is the positive obsession where the individual tries to get to the top. The negative obsession is mostly prevalent among left wingers and idealists, who oppose/show a knee jerk reaction to any hierarchical structure where power plays a role, overlooking the fact that their version of truth is their tool to dictate.

A more realistic approach is to see how power structures influence actions and beliefs in the world we live in. For example, i can argue with my manager, but due to the organizational power structure, she has the final say. That, in itself, does not reduce worldly truths to power.
Justification doesn't exist in a vacuum, as if arguments would somehow "sort themselves out, amongst themselves", without people having any say in the matter.

For all practical intents and purposes, justification always takes place on the terms of the person with more power.

If you take a class in criticial thinking, for example, as an exercise in critical thinking, you have to give some justification of a belief of yours, and you have to do it on the terms of the teacher, who then decides whether your justification is satisfactory or not (and whether you have passed the grade or not).

If you are a minority living among a majority, the majority will expect you to justify your beliefs on their, ie. the majority's terms, or they will exert (even more) repression over you.
I still don't think truth can be reduced to power. History provides examples where individuals were proved to be true against the collective or the power structure in their times. Galileo is often provided as an example.
But it depends on to whom (or with whom in mind) we are doing the explaining.
Context is essential for meaning.
Not explaining oneself to others doesn't automatically mean that one doesn't know what one is doing.
I ve never claimed otherwise.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Bundokji
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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by Bundokji » Fri Dec 13, 2019 4:03 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 2:44 pm
I remember once at a Catholic forum, a Catholic lady presented an argument for why the Catholic Church is the one and only right one. In terms of the standards of critical thinking usually taught in secular academia, she made some mistakes in her argumentation. I forgot how exactly her argument went. The thing is that someone pointed out to her that her conclusion doesn't follow from her premises. You know what she replied? She said that she has the constitutionally granted freedom of speech, and that as such, she can say that her conclusion follows from her premises and that she has provided a correct argument.

And there's really nothing to defeat that kind of reasoning, other than changing the Constitution and deleting the freedom of speech clause altogether.
She is simply not skilled in the art of arguments/justifications. Her poor and incoherent justifications simply made her less persuasive to the audience.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: A Down-to-Earth Refutation of Spiritual Universalism???

Post by chownah » Sat Dec 14, 2019 2:49 am

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:32 am
. To simply dismiss such questions as "i don't need to justify my beliefs" is as arrogant as "i am better than others by virtue of following a superior religion".
People feeling no need to justify their beliefs to others should not be taken as a sign of arrogance.....I think that usually it is not a sign of arrogance but I don't really know the state of others minds ususally.....
chownah

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