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Mata
What criteria should you use to decide what's the best religion? Here are a few I've thought of:

Effect on the physical life of the individual
Effect on the happiness of the individual
The number of wars made in the name of the religion
Tolerance of other faiths
What you are promised in return for your belief (does heaven trump reincarnation? How about 9,432 virgins waiting for you after death to have awkward and slightly clumsy sex?)
Impact on others around you
Adult stability of children raised in the faith
Functionality in wider society

Personally I think Buddhism scores pretty highly on these criteria (not having any wars helps). Protestants do fairly well compared to Catholics I think due to the general happiness of not going for the whole 'original sin' thing. Muslims have got a lot of wars on their hands and the impact on others around them can be difficult, but generally it seems to help the happiness of the individual a lot.

What other criteria should be in there? Should some of these be removed?
vicrawr
Well, why does there have to be a best one?
Novander
QUOTE (IrishGuy @ Mar 4 2008, 02:04 PM) *
Well, why does there have to be a best one?

So I can judge people based on their beliefs more efficiently.

Surely "number of celebrities who endorse it" is a good measure?

(Sorry I don't have anything serious to add.)
Daria
The best religion would be free, give impartial advice on living, sex and... wait. The best religion is no religion.
mooooooooooopo
My one...

...or at least a lot of people seem to think that way.
Mata
QUOTE (IrishGuy @ Mar 4 2008, 02:04 PM) *
Well, why does there have to be a best one?

Given that it's potentially our immortal souls on the table then there should be some way of working out which one is right. They mostly claim that they are the one true religion, and it would be a pretty odd god that decides to allow a multitude of religions without any way for humans to work out which is the right one. That's just logic, so it leads to two possibilities: either there is a way to tell which is the true religion (which would in itself be a support for god) or there isn't (which doesn't disprove god's existence, but it puts some doubts about its interest in letting humans get to heaven/enlightenment).
pgrmdave
Mata, I would argue that the best religion is true. It doesn't matter if it makes you feel good if it's false. I realize that many on these boards may feel that all religions have truth in them, or none do, but let's assume that religious truths (there is a God/Heaven/Afterlife) are as true as physical truths - in that case, the "best" religion is the one that is closest to reality.
Mata
I'm not sure that approach really advances the debate, because we still need some criteria on which to judge 'truth'. It's not like there is a universal Truth somewhere that we can refer to when we need a judgement call.

A fair number of tribal societies around the world have believed that cannibalism is a sign of respect for the dead, and to them that seemed logically true and reflection of reality. Does this mean that we should take up eating our own dead? It doesn't seem to reflect our view of reality. The Muslim faith encourages strict divisions in the roles of men and women. There are many Muslim women who are happy in this situation, possibly because it is useful to have boundaries of responsibility (I'm guessing here). Christianity seems to pick and choose which bits of the Bible it follows and which it does not - to some followers of Christianity and other faiths such inconsistency is heretical and ungodly, but others would say that they are developing a faith that reflects reality.

What moral absolutes should a religion respect: heterosexuality, cannibalism, capitalism, communism, incest, murder, war? If there could be some way to decide which rulings of religions are correct and which meaningless dogma, then it would be possible to find one faith out there that subscribes most closely to those moral absolutes.
Daria
There are many running themes in almost every tribe and religion in the world. You will usually find that the "rules" therein are for heath and safety reasons. For example: even in the tribes with the most basic naming and counting systems for family, name brother, sister, mother, father. The main hypothesis on this is so they can distinguish between immediate family (i.e people they should not have children with) and the rest of the tribe (with which it would be fine to have children) to lessen the risk of genetic defects due to incest.
Islam: in Muhammed's time, it would be very unsafe for women to go out alone. They could be mugged, murdered, raped and stolen to be used as slaves. Muhammed said that a woman must not travel alone for more than three days without telling her husband- for pretty obvious reasons. The problem now comes when in safer modern societies, people are following the scriptures word by word and their wives must still report back to them.
Meat: in many religions, certain types of (if any) meat is not to be eaten. In Islam and Judaism, pork is deemed unclean and disgusting. "Back in the day", telling people not to eat a certain meat that had a high possibility of making you ill (unbeknown at the time, due to bacteria) was pretty sensible.
Mata, I think it is unfair to only point out that Christianity seems to pick and choose which bits of the bible it follows. I believe that in every religion, you will get people following the main book/ scriptures to the word and other people will choose parts of it. (My Muslim and Jewish friends who drink alcohol, eat pork and have premarital sex will attest to this.)
From my exceedinly cynical point of view on this topic, religions were seemingly only created to control people from a 3rd person. Whether this was so they could give them a set of rules to want to live by, or whether this was to mainupalte the general masses to favour a select few at the top, it was still to control them.

To add in a kind of personal note at the end of my rambling post- I have thought a lot about religion over the years. I went to a VERY C of E primary school, and even at highschool the head would get the students to pray for whatever cause that week. Growing up as a child, my dad would have magicians and pagans over (family friends) and he used to keep a bag of runes in his pocket (he was also an inventor and would make computers)- my mum wasn't really anything (religionwise) but a strong willed woman. I was taught to believe, but not what to believe in: which seems to have left me with some odd theories about fate, maps* and self awareness but mainly overall that it is totally unnecessary to have a religion if you just live like a good person. Be selfless, loving, kind and forgiving (what was I saying about those themes, earlier?) and helpful to others and you should go through life a-ok.
I do understand that some people may feel they are missing something in life, or that they need to be part of something bigger, and kudos to them for actually being able to 100% believe in something. But they already ARE part of something.
(one last thing, I promise!)
*Even with my own theories, I find it hard to actually believe in them. I'm a scientist at heart, and although it is nice to have thoughts about how existance might work, I can't actually believe in any belief system fully. It just seems... well, silly!
Mata
I didn't mean to imply that Christianity was the only religion that picks and chooses what to follow. I used it as an example because it's one I'm sure about. I've also seen a lot of it in Judaism, but often Jews seem to do it consciously, whereas I've seen a lot of Christians doing it unintentionally, which I found interesting.

I agree that many religious teachings were the Health & Safety laws of the times. Eating shellfish when you mostly live in deserts? Well, they would have gone off by the time you get them, so that would be a bad idea. It's sometimes very sensible stuff.
Sir Psycho Sexy
Aren't they all right?
Mata
Yes, except for the ones that are left.

In my scale of things, I have doubts about any religion that tells you to put up with suffering in this world because you'll get a reward in the next one. If we had always thought like that then we'd never get anywhere:

Caveman1: What are you doing?
Cavement2: Inventing fire!
C1: No, we're meant to be cold so we can be happy on the hunting planes of the afterlife!
Wytukaze
Just as an aside (I'm not quite ready to be drawn into the matter yet), Catholicism effectively no longer has the concept of "original sin". Unbaptised babies no longer go to Limbo, which also no longer exists; instead, they go to Heaven. Since the reason newborn babies couldn't get into Heaven was the whole original sin deal, it is de facto not an issue.
Radaga
I would say that the best religion is the one that, first and foremost, doesn´t forces itself on others. That exclude islamic, protestant and catholic right away.

Besides, it should have a neutral approach to "other truths", being more a philosophic path to understand an universal God than the self proclaimed Bearer of Truth,

More so, it should respect the individual, not forcing it into absurd or way too strict practices. It can, however, have those "hard ways" for those who seek further illumination and/or contact with the Divine, but it shall never be mandatory for the average follower.

Presently speaking, two come into my mind as suitable for those standards.

Taoism

QUOTE
Principles

Taoism theology emphasizes various themes found in the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzi, such as naturalness, vitality, peace, "non-action" (wu wei), emptiness (refinement), detachment, the strength of softness (or flexibility), receptiveness, spontaneity, the relativism of human ways of life, ways of speaking and guiding behavior.


and

Zen-Budhism, distinguished from Budhism for not having the rigid set of dogmas.

QUOTE
In distinction to many other Buddhist sects, Zen de-emphasizes reliance on religious texts and verbal discourse on metaphysical questions. Zen holds that these things lead the practitioner to seek external answers, rather than searching within their own minds for the direct intuitive perception of Buddha-nature. This search within goes under various terms such as “introspection,” “a backward step,” “turning-about,” or “turning the eye inward.”


But, opinions, as religions are personal, so, those are just my 2 cents for the discussion wink.gif

As usual, forgive the bad English. Stupid Brazilian typing here.
Mata
I'm pretty sure that both of those count as philosophies, not religions, due to the point that they don't require the worship or belief in god/s. That raises the question as to whether religions can actually be as reasonable as philosophies.

My personal thought is that, so far as I have seen, they can't.

(And your English is as excellent as ever.)
Radaga
Philosophies seek answers to questions regarding the self, universe, ethics and morals and even, when comes to metaphysic, God.

Therefore, would philosophies be religions without dogmas? Thats another interesting question.
-TheKasbah-
I am currently against the Church of Scientology. Not blaming beliefs and stuff, but the Church if it even can be called one kills people and cons their believers amongst many other things. Plus the founder was a science fiction writer.

Search 'the unfunny truth' on Google and look for the Scientology related one, it's quite sick. 0.o But truthful.
Daria
QUOTE (-TheKasbah- @ Apr 9 2008, 11:22 PM) *
I am currently against the Church of Scientology. Not blaming beliefs and stuff, but the Church if it even can be called one kills people and cons their believers amongst many other things. Plus the founder was a science fiction writer.

Search 'the unfunny truth' on Google and look for the Scientology related one, it's quite sick. 0.o But truthful.

Welcome to the bandwagon! First stop- /b/.
-TheKasbah-
I knew someone would agree, the internet is full of people hating Scientology =] You protesting this Saturday? (12th) It's funny that a world wide protest against Scientology started on /b/. but then again there are lots of users.
Mata
Hey! What's wrong with science fiction writers starting religions? I don't discount that as a future career for myself biggrin.gif
-TheKasbah-
QUOTE (-TheKasbah- @ Apr 9 2008, 11:22 PM) *
I am currently against the Church of Scientology. Not blaming beliefs and stuff, but the Church if it even can be called one kills people and cons their believers amongst many other things. Plus the founder was a science fiction writer.

Search 'the unfunny truth' on Google and look for the Scientology related one, it's quite sick. 0.o But truthful.


Mata: Note the killing, conning among other things and then try the Google search. =]
selina
QUOTE (Mata @ Apr 8 2008, 06:50 PM) *
I'm pretty sure that both of those count as philosophies, not religions, due to the point that they don't require the worship or belief in god/s. That raises the question as to whether religions can actually be as reasonable as philosophies.

My personal thought is that, so far as I have seen, they can't.

(And your English is as excellent as ever.)

erm... i dont know about zen buddhism,but i know taoism worship a certain god, which they believe is a universal God. With regards to both being a religion. I've talked to Buddhist monks and they say buddhism is more like a way of life rather than a religion,so i guess it counts more as philosophy than religion. but they do pray/believe in certain "gods".
-TheKasbah-
I don't see there being a 'best religion', I wish there was like a way of life rather than religion that took all the good points from each religion and everyone kind of lived by these rules. Such as not stealing, killing etc.
Mata
Kas, I was joking about the sci-fi writers thing. Although I've not done much research about Scientology, I am aware of enough problems with the methodologies that they admit to for me to be concerned about it, and that's without looking at the things that they don't publicise.

Then again, I'd make a great religious leader smile.gif

Selina: there are different types of Taoism, some have gods, others do not, much like Buddhism. The first line of the Tao Te Ching pretty mcuh summarises it:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao

In other words, as soon as you try to describe something that is infinite you start going wrong. This can be read to mean that people should accept that they won't be able to understand God/s so shouldn't try, or that they should try because the effort improves their character even if it is ultimately hopeless. Others say that it means that even the concept of 'god' is basically flawed. Like most things, it's open to interpretation!

Kas: your latest post reflects the point of my first question. Is there such a thing as a religion that doesn't naturally bring about flawed judgements? Do they only instruct a healthy way of life when you take God out of them?

'A way of life' inpsired by religions avoids the point: is there such a thing as a religion that isn't harmful? On what criteria could we judge it? Or does the involvement of gods always eventually mess things up?
Radaga
Then again, is there such a thing of a religion, in the way it encloses a set of beliefs not entirely (or not at all) based on scientific truths, that will sound reasonable, or, in other words, "right" and "best"?

Or people will agree on philosophy, but never on something that someone says it is the truth, but cannot ultimately prove it?
-TheKasbah-
QUOTE (Mata @ Apr 14 2008, 01:56 PM) *
Then again, I'd make a great religious leader smile.gif


Matazonology possibly? =] You'd get plenty of followers tongue.gif

QUOTE (Mata @ Apr 14 2008, 01:56 PM) *
Kas: your latest post reflects the point of my first question. Is there such a thing as a religion that doesn't naturally bring about flawed judgements? Do they only instruct a healthy way of life when you take God out of them?

'A way of life' inpsired by religions avoids the point: is there such a thing as a religion that isn't harmful? On what criteria could we judge it? Or does the involvement of gods always eventually mess things up?


I wouldn't really say that it always mess things up, I mean, if you believe in the God of that religion then ofcourse this will help you follow the rules set by the Chruch of that particular religion. But is may mess it up in the case that someone does not believe in the God and thinks that if they follow the rules then they will been seen as members of the religion which may scare them away.

& you posted that like 3 times, use almighty admin powers to delete 2. =]
Mata
So do you believe that one religion could ever logically argue their superiority over another, or would this have to be a decision that was taken by an atheist?

If it has to be done by an outsider, a non-believer, then doesn't that rather defeat the point of religion in the first place? How can anyone make the decision about what religion they should follow if there is no way of judging them in any rational sense?

Can I write anything in this topic that isn't a question?

(The forum was being odd so posted multiple times then refused to load when I tried to delete them - fixed now.)
-TheKasbah-
I don't really think that anyone could argue which Religion is actually the best one as everyone who is part of them would think that their own is the best. Plus, if an athiest was given the choice, they couldn't really say which one was a good one to follow as they don't believe in it and therefore many people wouldn't take them seriously and would probably say that if they don't believe in any, how can they say which is the best.

I don't really think that someone could decide on the religion which is best as this would involve them having to try them all so they know themselves what it is like rather than just taking anothers word for it, but the way of life that they promote could possibly be argued as it could be basic things that could be used to say which is best such as health benefits, happiness etc. Although no one is perfect and I dount that any relion is either.
Daria
QUOTE (-TheKasbah- @ Apr 10 2008, 06:09 PM) *
I knew someone would agree, the internet is full of people hating Scientology =] You protesting this Saturday? (12th) It's funny that a world wide protest against Scientology started on /b/. but then again there are lots of users.

If anyone asks, I wasn't there. A friend of mine took a load of pictures, though ph34r.gif
-TheKasbah-
If you weren't. Niether was I, *cough*
CrazyFooIAintGettinOnNoPlane
QUOTE (-TheKasbah- @ Apr 15 2008, 01:43 PM) *
I don't really think that anyone could argue which Religion is actually the best one as everyone who is part of them would think that their own is the best. Plus, if an athiest was given the choice, they couldn't really say which one was a good one to follow as they don't believe in it and therefore many people wouldn't take them seriously and would probably say that if they don't believe in any, how can they say which is the best.

Yeah I mostly agree with this. The atheist could maybe make some judgment based on the behaviour of the followers e.g. using Mata's criteria in the first post. However it's going to be difficult for an outsider to determine how much something is influenced by a persons religion and whats down to cultural/individual differences. Plus there is so much variation in what people believe even within religions. Also there could be effects of practicing a religion which don't really have anything to do with the religion itself, for example, going to church presumably (being an atheist I wouldn't know) brings a community closer together, which is a good thing regardless of what the religion teaches.

QUOTE (Mata @ Apr 14 2008, 01:49 PM) *
Is there such a thing as a religion that doesn't naturally bring about flawed judgements? Do they only instruct a healthy way of life when you take God out of them?
Well I think believing in the supernatural and living your life based on a bunch of claims about what God wants you to do is a flawed judgment in itself. But I wouldn't say the religious way of life is 'unhealthy'. I don't think religious people have a monopoly on magical thinking and faulty reasoning - I can make plenty of flawed judgements all by myself thank you. tongue.gif
Mata
Me too! biggrin.gif

Maybe the best religion would be the one that really gives its followers the most direct sense of the divine, but that sounds way too subjective to be a useful criteria.

By 'healthy' I mean encouraging people to take emotional responsibility for their life, and to act in ways that benefit both themselves and others.

Apparently a frequent trigger depression is seeing causes for events as being outside of yourself (rather than understanding that you not only have the ability to change them physically, but also that your attitude towards events changes the scale of their effect on you). Thinking that there is a God out there, shaping the world and testing you, sounds like pretty psychologically rocky territory to me.
nordelen
hmm....
this topic i something that i have been thinking about for a while now (about ten years at least!) and so far all i have come up with is that the best religion is the one that suits your own beliefs/philosophy/mindset etc. i havent found a religion that i can totally believe in yet, but then again, im in no hurry.
for the moment i'll say what i believe to be true; the universe is an amazing place, so have fun exploring it!! hehe.
Izzy
We're doing this Greek and Roman mythology thing in Language Arts with all the gods and stuff, so I was thinking, does anyone know if that's actually a religion? Because I could see myself going for something like that. I wouldn't necessarily believe in it, but I think the "best religion" should be something people want to learn about and something that teaches values. But then again you don't need religion to do that, that's why we have a bunch of fairy tales that people tell little kids.

Which is why I'm agnostic, because though I see the point in religion (*cough* fairy tales...) I don't find myself believing in them/it/whatever. Not 100% sure though which is why I'm not atheist.
I_am_the_best
Previously, religion provided answers. Why does the sun rise? Ra the sun God's doing his thing. Nowadays, with much improved science we want to know why we suffer, how we came to be, what happens when we die, et cetera. Religion can fill these gaps - however, as science has progressed, religion has remained (in terms of philosophies and beliefs) somewhat stagnant. The majority of people will agree that the idea of Ra sitting in a boat with the sun seems a little too fantastical and that this belief is out of date. Nonetheless many people are happy to fill their knowledge-gaps with stories which are over 2000 years old. Surely human knowledge has progressed?

This isn't a rant on religion, people can believe whatever they want as far as I'm concerned (within reason, I would gladly tell people when they are being an idiot). But I think that the best religion would be one in constant change, the ideas of it being regularly updated with the modern world. To an extent, Christianity does this. The pope regularly updates the Catholic church's stance on moral issues (abortion, stem cell research, original sin...), but this isn't enough. Humans are still made from clay, homosexuality is still a sin... The Bible is pretty old.

I would also judge a religion on its contribution to society. Most religions provide the most beautiful architecture (e.g. the Baha'i gardens in Haifa, Westminster Abbey in London, Neasden Temple...). They have provided a beginning to Western Classical music as we know it today through plain chant, Bach's (and other composers') masses and psalms. (Also more popular music such as Rastafarian music, gospel music and so on).

Finally, I'd judge it on flexibility. Everyone's different. Yes you need standard 'rules' and beliefs but give people freedom - it's essentially up to the followers as to what they do. An absolute moral code, for example abortion is ALWAYS wrong, doesn't take into account that maybe the woman was raped and cannot live with the constant reminder of it, or that maybe the child will have a disability and not only have a poor quality of life himself but will decrease the parents' quality of life too.

I don't think that any religion can necessarily fit this. Possibly Baha'i or Jainism. I would quite like a pick 'n' mix religion going on.

Mm pretentious Belgian waffle.
-TheKasbah-
QUOTE (I_am_the_best @ Apr 19 2008, 08:56 PM) *
An absolute moral code, for example abortion is ALWAYS wrong, doesn't take into account that maybe the woman was raped and cannot live with the constant reminder of it, or that maybe the child will have a disability and not only have a poor quality of life himself but will decrease the parents' quality of life too.


As you said, the Pope keeps updating it, the Christian Churches are still against the abortion when a person gets raped but they updated it so that under circumstances of the parents life being negatively effected, abortion may be allowed. Especially if the birth will be a threat to the mothers life in any way. I'm personally a Christian and against abortion in most cases, but I couldn't say I agree on everything that the church does. The only type of abortion that I am fully against is when someone has sex knowing that they may get pregnant and then get an abortion whereas they could have used something like contraception to prevent it.
Mata
While it's good that the papacy is showing hints of being more flexible on this issue (and about bloody time too) it does somewhat undermine the pope's position as a mouthpiece of god who is incapable of being wrong. If the word of god needs to be updated to fit the modern world then then does lead to questions about what else might need revising.
-TheKasbah-
Yeah, I agree. There is loads of stupid thinks that the Church says which are unfit to the modern world and really need overlooking. Which is why I wouldn't call myself a 'hardcore' Christian so I kind of do what I think is right rather than checking the Bible every five minutes. An example is 'Thou shalt not swear' being a commandment, whats the harm if you're expressing yourself? Unless it's against someone else.
Phyllis
QUOTE (-TheKasbah- @ Apr 23 2008, 07:55 PM) *
An example is 'Thou shalt not swear' being a commandment, whats the harm if you're expressing yourself? Unless it's against someone else.

Uh, not to be a pedant (which, of course, means I'm totally going to be a pedant), but I am pretty sure that "Thou shalt not swear" isn't one of the ten commandments. huh.gif
I_am_the_best
But taking God's name in vain is.
trunks_girl26
QUOTE (I_am_the_best @ Apr 23 2008, 06:29 PM) *
But taking God's name in vain is.


That's two different things, methinks.
Izzy
^ Well, 'god dammit' would be both.
I_am_the_best
It's one of those 'open to interpretation' things. Some people think that swear words are offensive to God, I would hope to believe that God is slightly more sensible than to be offended by a bunch of syllables.
Radaga
We could go further, and argue: How can a monotheism portrait a good god?

The thing is, if God is absolute, and cannot make mistakes, is almighty and have no counterpart on it’s wholeness, how can he permit evil to exist?

We could go further, and think about, since the only God is ood, pure and ineffable, he could permit evil to exist only if it aims a greater good, and have no other way to avoid such course of action.

Therefore, if such was the case, and now I am getting the closest monotheistic good god example available, Christianity, if evil exist to provide a greater good, the agents perpetrating the evil deeds are just doing so to make his world better. As such, they are playing the "untouchable" role in creation: the greater the monster he is, the greater the glory of the world of god.

Since they are his most faithful servants, then, the evildoers, sinners and such, once they only exist to fulfill his own directives, q.e.d., the afterlife for them should be one of joy and reward.

The other argument to allow evil, free will is totally incompatible with god being almighty.

If god is almighty, what makes redundant to say he is all seeing and all knowing, once those attributes are inserted in the context of almightiness, there mustn’t be free will. If he knows in anticipation every single thing that will ever happen, no matter what one does, he is simply following a known path. The fact the individual does not know the path himself no matter. It only gives him the illusion of having free will, which is even more cruel, for makes him torture himself about choices made, not knowing he was powerless to take any other path.

Conclusions:

If god is one and all powerful, there cannot be free will
If god is one, all powerful and good, there also cannot be evil in the world, except If said evil is for a greater good.
God being all powerful, good, and letting evil into the world, the ones acting evil would only be doing his bidding, without the chance to choose. Moreover, since he is good, the evil beings cannot be punished for being what he designed them to be.
Roadkillgerbil
Would you say that many polytheistic religions manage to have a 'good' deity?

I've always considered one of the advantages of polytheism to be the fact that a single deity does not have to be all things to all men, so to speak. No deity has to be 'the good one'. They can all be a little grey.

One of the things I've noticed about the more 'fluffy' modern pagans is that they have a tendency to see one deity (usually female. Often in an 'earth mother' or 'the holy moon' template) as intrinsically good. Or to take what they see as an 'edgy' deity and only focus on that aspect of them.

Can people cope with the concept of a multi-faced deity? Should this be worth considering when making a judgement about the best religion?

I would normally have said that, for me, a polytheistic religion would be preferable over monotheism. This is partly because of the difficulties of having a omnipotent, omniscient being while the world goes to hell in a handbasket but also because, traditionally, they have seemed to have deities as well-rounded individuals with outside interests. An all-powerful god may have a better CV, but I wanna employ with the one I can share stories about the weekend with after work.

QUOTE
Moreover, since he is good, the evil beings cannot be punished for being what he designed them to be.


As a side note, is it possible to say how far our perceptions of 'good' are culture-specific? Can culture-specific values be applicable to the divine? Does 'good' = 'nice'?
Radaga
QUOTE (Roadkillgerbil @ May 6 2008, 11:13 AM) *
Would you say that many polytheistic religions manage to have a 'good' deity?

I've always considered one of the advantages of polytheism to be the fact that a single deity does not have to be all things to all men, so to speak. No deity has to be 'the good one'. They can all be a little grey.

One of the things I've noticed about the more 'fluffy' modern pagans is that they have a tendency to see one deity (usually female. Often in an 'earth mother' or 'the holy moon' template) as intrinsically good. Or to take what they see as an 'edgy' deity and only focus on that aspect of them.

Can people cope with the concept of a multi-faced deity? Should this be worth considering when making a judgement about the best religion?

I would normally have said that, for me, a polytheistic religion would be preferable over monotheism. This is partly because of the difficulties of having a omnipotent, omniscient being while the world goes to hell in a handbasket but also because, traditionally, they have seemed to have deities as well-rounded individuals with outside interests. An all-powerful god may have a better CV, but I wanna employ with the one I can share stories about the weekend with after work.


Polytheism, or even dualism copes with the Problem of Evil (Theodicy) If there are two equivalent deities, of course none can be omnipotent, since the omnipotent one would eliminate the other. Hence, this issue exist only when dealing with monotheism (any kind).

A single God, if indifferent, or neutral, would eliminate the first problem: the existence of evil, BUT it would not eliminate the omnipotence versus free will. I would go further, and say that, if there is an omnipotent deity, then cause and effect are, effectively, broken. That would make creation pointless, once the dice are all cast from the beginning.

QUOTE
As a side note, is it possible to say how far our perceptions of 'good' are culture-specific? Can culture-specific values be applicable to the divine? Does 'good' = 'nice'?


Once we are dealing with a specific set of beliefs, in the present case, Christianity, it is simple enough, evil is what is defined as evil by it. And suffering is also evil, once suffering is the punishment you get for going against god. If suffering was good, there would be suffering in paradise.
Radaga
Let’s add more spice to the mixture:

I’ve said, before, that evil would be allowed in creation if it exists to further the cause of good. That is a simplification to explain, for those who does not delve deep in such questions, why there is suffering and evil in the world. The explanation is simple: no pain, no gain. If you don’t fight and pay the price for it, you would not value it.

This explanation could satisfy some. But let’s dig in.

You must realize that, when dealing with a single all-powerful entity (god) you must consider he is the creator of all things, including the rules that this creation abides to.

Well, god, in this case, being good, and as such, committed to extinguish all evil, including, q.e.d., suffering, and also being the being responsible for writing the rules, added to the particularity of almightiness of being all-knowing, would make rules that demand evil and suffering, no matter the reward, in the first place?

(this is almost deserving a dismemberment from original topic)
Roadkillgerbil
QUOTE (Radaga @ May 6 2008, 05:12 PM) *
Once we are dealing with a specific set of beliefs, in the present case, Christianity, it is simple enough, evil is what is defined as evil by it. And suffering is also evil, once suffering is the punishment you get for going against god. If suffering was good, there would be suffering in paradise.


But Christianity is not a single set of beliefs. I don't think there is necessarily consensus between Christians as to the precise definition of evil. They will almost always (though only almost) agree on the 'big picture' stuff (I can't believe I just typed that in cold blood. Kill me quick, before I become a manager) but details will always differ.

Think of Christianity over the ages. Once it was considered holy to burn witches at the stake. This wasn't just something you did to protect yourself or whatever. This was you carrying out The Will of God. I think many of us would now say that setting light to people who believe different things to you would qualify as evil. Imo, it's not possible to divorce our ideas of good and evil from our culture, time, place OR religion. All of these have a role to play and we can't say that our views are due to just one aspect.

Perhaps a clearer example of differences between Christians in their views of good and evil would be that family in America where they protest at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq with placards saying that God killed this man/woman because America supports homosexuals. I saw a utube video which had the closest thing to evil I think I've seen in a long time. It was a child of about 6 or so lisping her way through a version of 'God loves the world' entitled 'God hates the world'. It included lines about how 'you're all gonna burn in hell forever' and so on. This kid clearly didn't understand what she was saying. The evil was them teaching her this and having a child singing words of hate before she could understand or even correctly pronounce them. It sent cold shivers down my spine. To many Christians this was evil. To the family concerned, this was them saving her soul and trying to save the souls of others.

Is suffering necessarily evil? I'm not convinced. Where does the definition of suffering as the consequence of going against God come from? Just because something would not be found in paradise does not, to my mind, mean it is evil. It might just mean that it's a tool to grow and develop, which might not be necessary in paradise. Then again, the idea of a place where you can no longer develop and grow and learn seems more like my idea of hell, but I'm odd like that. I would certainly say that pain falls into the category of a tool. Pain forces us to move beyond what we've always done. It forces change. I would argue it's not evil in and of itself.

Must a good god aim to eliminate all evil? I hold nothing to be self-evident. Could we ever understand the overall aims of such an entity?

Must deity be different in kind to us? Must they always be greater/wiser/stronger than us?

This is fun.
Radaga
Very nice points. I dont have much time now to skim them, but the easiest one I will address to, so discussion can proceed.

The principle of exclusion dictates that, if something is not evil, it must exist in paradise. Paradise must encompass the plenitude of possible good experiences, once beings inside it are to be fulfilled on their plenitudes.

So, it is not a matter of asking that whether something not found in paradise is evil. The question is that: can something not evil be absent in paradise?
selina
yeah, this is really fun to read. anyway,
with regards to radaga's question of good and evil. should the lines between good and evil be clearly defined first, and what will be considered not evil, but not necessarily good.

isn't the concept of paradise a place of perfection, a place where nothing could change because perfection, wholeness, is achieved. nothing more can be improve because there is nothing better than perfection itself. roadkill has a good point though. if improvement is a good thing, then shouldn't it exist in paradise, as its the way to get closer to perfection. then again. perfection cannot be attained as long as there's a room for improvement, hence, wouldn't the concept of paradise be a paradox in itself?

with regards to the radaga's question of whether something good is absent in paradise. i have a very confusing thought on that because, everything i think good and evil is somehow relative.in itself, it is good, but when put to practice, it always has its both ends. like pain, as what roadkill said.
Pain is suffering, which is in itself "evil' and must be avoided. but in order to avoid the same kind of suffering, one must grow, which means it becomes a tool for growth, so it is good as well.

The genius of Einstein led to invention of atomic bomb. good and evil, i think is also cultural. like the muslim believe that a holy war is good, but christians/most people, i think believes that all types of wars are bad.
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