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Old 10-06-2008, 03:13 AM
 
Location: Santa Monica
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Talk about the existence of God and His/Her characteristics presumes that the notion of a supernatural being or realm is a valid one. But that is a very large/significant notion to presume. Each of us should understand for him/herself what is the legitimacy of the notion of a "supernatural" being or realm.

[Note: I am defining 'religion' in the general sense of being a set of related ideas that addresses all of what exists in the universe, how to properly organize a human society, and the principles for the proper behavior of individuals.]

Questions:

1. What is the definition of 'supernatural'? Is the predominant definition today different that what was typical in the past?

2. What is the basis (or bases) for our acceptance of the notion that there exists a supernatural realm or being? How valid is each such basis?

3. In human history has there ever been a religion that doesn't presume the existence of a supernatural realm or being? Is Buddhism, taken in its simplest forms, an example of such a religion?

My answers:

1. The word 'supernatural' stands in contrast to the word 'natural'. The "supernatural" would refer to events that occur that are available to human perception and experience that fall outside the majority of human experiences known directly or by testimony of others. To the extent that the observer of such an event cannot account for the origin or cause of the event, the observer might be disposed to impute the origin to a "cause" that has the character of a living thing, such as a spirit or "god." If such an entity does exist, it must dwell in a level of reality that is outside "normal" human experience and knowledge. Thus, the observer imagines the true existence of an additional realm that is reserved to keepers of supernatural power.

I suspect that humans' understanding about what is "natural" in the universe around us has been changing for as long as humans have existed. By "what is natural" I mean, what are the forces and processes that are at work in the natural world. Addressing this problem is part of the agenda humans have been forced to undertake from prehistoric time in order to cope and survive as organisms on the Earth. Until the advent of the Scientific Revolution, the objects of humans' secure knowledge about the natural world were relatively disconnected and very rudimentary. There were some practices in domesticating animals, developing agriculture, constructing water courses and watering systems, constructing buildings, roads, bridges, etc., dealin with human maladies and diseases, and so on, where the gradual improvement in human understanding of principles and processes had achieved some success, to the extent that societies of a certain scale of settlement had been made possible. However, prior to the Scientific Revolution, there had been ample human ignorance about the processes underlying the natural world to allow for a plausible explanation of at least some "natural" forces to be found in the existence of a "supernatural" being or realm.

Thus, the word 'supernatural' pertained to forces and events whose origin and character was unknown and whose scope, scale, and power/energy were beyond the measurement of humans, thus effectively "infinite" in character. This is the beginning of the notion of a "supernatural" reality that is within the experience of human beings.

This definition does not address the explorations into human experience and "raised consciousness" that occurred in fits and starts as human societies developed and progressed. These activities reinforced some aspects of the notion, already prevailing in some human societies due to external natural forces, of the existence of a supernatural realm. How do we understand these exploratorations? Some experiences were caused by ingestion of substances that lead to specific effects on the human body. Some of these have been investigated and proven in our time; others are still not sufficiently investigated to have produced a reliable understanding. Other radical changes in human consciousness could be elicited by stressful situations of various kinds that impinge on the human senses and that lead to what are today called hallucinations. Yet other kinds of intensified human experience have been shown in our time to be "psychosomatic" or spontaneously and endogenously produced by the human body itself without the introduction of any external stressors or ingestion of any physical substance. Much of this category of experience is yet to be probed and sufficiently characterized. So to summarize here, ignorance of the character and origin of extreme human consciousness also made it reasonable to accept the notion of a supernatural realm of existence in the "near" universe that humans inhabit.

2. As implied in Answer #1, the basis for humans' acceptance of the notion of a "supernatural" being or realm is one of unexplained forces or events that have been directly experienced by some human individuals at certain points in the history of that society. So it based both on having some sense of what are "normal" and "natural" processes and patterns found in the natural environment and on the experience of events and consciousness that fall outside that pattern of "normal." Both of these can be assumed to be investigated as instances of humans' ignorance about themselves and the universe around us. It was not until the advent of the Scientific Revolution that mankind had a method of investigation of the natural world that would lead to reliable knowledge of "natural laws" that by definition are independent of the observer, time, and place.

3. I will leave this question to be answered by this forum's participants.

Last edited by ParkTwain; 10-06-2008 at 03:29 AM..
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Old 10-06-2008, 05:22 AM
 
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If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him. ~ Voltaire

ParkTwain, interesting topic, and I would like to post more later, no time at the moment. You might look at a thread I started some time ago called "Why not a natural explanation?"
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Old 10-06-2008, 08:42 AM
Status: "Selling homes...." (set 21 days ago)
 
Location: Sarasota, Florida
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I agree with 2 first questions and your explanations. As you stated, if we can't give an explanation, then it must be "godly" thing. We as humans are developing and will progress, discover and understand things that are deemed supernatural now. Just like it has been for all those years. We will answer current mysteries, but we probably will come to experience other unexplained once, but as we grow, we learn, we use logic and science. It takes times, thousands of years, may be more.

Buddha.
From what I know about Buddhism, it is not a religion but more of a philosophy, a culture if you wish. I don't know much about it, but from what I understand Buddhism has no god, as Christian religion does. In Buddhism, things come to exist and then fade away as they're being replaced by other things that come to existence, things recycle themselves, there is no original cause to any of that. There is nothing permanent, so there is no such things as God which always is always will be, it's not believed to be true as everything always changes and replaces itself. Everything is influence by experiences of the past. Buddhism is more of a teaching about nature of existence, about one self, about death. Buddhism is not just blind faith, you have to really experience the teachings, explore them, understand and test them. It is not to close your eyes and blindly follow what is said/believed to be. I like Buddhism and that might be more of my line of thinking then any other religious out there.
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Old 10-06-2008, 01:00 PM
 
Location: Wisconsin
521 posts, read 807,274 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ParkTwain View Post
3. In human history has there ever been a religion that doesn't presume the existence of a supernatural realm or being? Is Buddhism, taken in its simplest forms, an example of such a religion?
I think that Buddhism is pretty close, but that it even still has some supternatural-like qualities.

For example, Nirvana, while it is described as a state of mind where one is completly free from suffering and the cycle of rebirth. Being free of rebirth is see as strictly supernatural, I dont not believe our lives are part of a cycle. We are merely sparks of a fire, and it is up to us to shine as brightly as we can.

But even maintaining a mindset where one is free of all suffering i see as some what supernatural. I am not disputing the powers of the human mind, all you need to do is look at science and technolodgy to see what the human mind is capable of, but i do not think that the mind has the ability to "rise above" all wordly cravings. Or to be free of all "suffering".

The idea of suffering its self, at least in this instance, is exremely vague.

It is our wordly concerns and cravings that have lead mankind to make some of the most astonishing discoveries and advances
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Old 10-06-2008, 03:44 PM
 
Location: Nashville, Tn
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A supernatural being would have the ability to defy the laws of physics and literally do anything. All of the miracles that are described in the Bible such as turning people into pillars of salt, raising the dead, turning water into wine, etc. are clearly actions that defy nature and which I don't believe have ever happened. I'd love to be able to turn water into wine but that is obviously impossible.
Of course there was a time in our history in which people thought that a bolt of lightning accompanied with a loud noise was supernatural but we've explained many but not all of nature's mysteries and have come to realize a great deal about the natural world. This has also left less room for the actions of gods to explain anything we don't quite understand. Science and rational thought have largely replaced superstition although people are still very religious. I honestly don't know why, I personally don't believe the existence of a supernatural being or realm is necessary and based on the complete lack of evidence that would support such a thing I'm completely convinced that nothing supernatural exists in the universe.
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Old 10-06-2008, 03:49 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
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Well, like the "Amazing Randy" says, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." That goes for spoon benders, telepathy, UFOs, ghosts, Big Foot, and yes, even god.
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Old 10-06-2008, 03:53 PM
 
Location: Mississippi
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My main problem with supernaturalism is that people often refer to it as a "realm" in the first place as if it were a place that you can go to. While the notion of this seems sprawled out throughout all of religion, I can only ask myself what constitutes a supernatural realm as opposed to a natural realm.

My main point is that if a "realm" - as in a place that you can go to either metaphysically (spiritually) or physically - exists than it must be constituted of something. To be constituted of something it must also be tangible in some form or fashion.

Simply saying that a supernatural realm exists but is beyond the plain of natural makes no sense because a realm is indeed a constitution of something after all. In essence, what this leads me to believe is that the answer to whether or not there is a supernatural world actually becomes a question of the natural world and, to me, that means that the answer to whether or not God exists becomes a scientific question rather than a faith-based question.

Presently, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that a supernatural realm (whatever that actually is), a God, or other things of similarity even exist. I suppose the closest thing to it would be the intricacies and bits of quantum physics that no one really understands.

In essence, I find the concept of a supernatural realm to be fundamentally flawed in logic because if we're saying that it does not need to be constituted of something but we still call it a "realm" than it resides somewhere - if only in our minds as a random mixture of chemical reactions - and therefore the only thing, in my mind, that makes up a supernatural realm is absolutely nothing at all and that makes supernaturalism completely unnecessary and the notion of God rather finite indeed.
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Old 10-06-2008, 05:26 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ParkTwain View Post
Questions:

1. What is the definition of 'supernatural'? Is the predominant definition today different that what was typical in the past?
I don't think the definition per se is different--"supernatural" refers to anything that seems to be inexplicable by the current knowledge. Exactly what events are viewed as supernatural have changed. In the Dark Ages, an eclipse was viewed as supernatural, but not in the centuries since we've developed a scientific explanation.

Truly, I go along with everyone who says there can't be anything "supernatural" because if it actually exists, it is then natural by definition! I posited in another thread that what appears to be currently mysterious (quantum behavior, energy, consciousness, for examples) is indeed "natural" and may be woven into, or even be the fabric of the universe.
Quote:
2. What is the basis (or bases) for our acceptance of the notion that there exists a supernatural realm or being? How valid is each such basis?
Well, you could probably write an encyclopedia on how valid each basis might be! I would surmise the fundamental reason for human belief in the supernatural is fear of the unknown combined with ignorance. And to take it a step further, since we are a species that has become aware of its own mortality, fear of death (the unknown, oblivion) is the main basis for the necessity to believe we will not really die. Human suffering, which has been plentiful over the ages, can be borne if we believe that at the end lies another life of joy--heaven. Our fear of death, disease, and other events is naturally mitigated by thinking that a loving father figure is watching out for us.

Quote:
3. In human history has there ever been a religion that doesn't presume the existence of a supernatural realm or being? Is Buddhism, taken in its simplest forms, an example of such a religion?
I am not a religious scholar, so I can't say for certain, but I think Buddhism is the closest--in its purest form, sans symbolic gods and other trappings. That's why I find it appealing as an agnostic. I think most of us have a strong desire to believe we are part of something meaningful, and that the universe is not just a cold, pointless entity with us as insignificant specks. This is another basis, I suppose, for belief in God. Yet this need to avoid nihilism and despairing existentialism does not require an interventional "God" in the traditional sense--I prefer to interpret undiscovered Nature as the fabric of which we are tiny threads, but threads that have a connection with every other thread, and we can manifest the consciousness to reflect on it all with a sense of awe, and to try by any means we can muster to figger it out.
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Old 10-06-2008, 05:52 PM
 
Location: Nashville, Tn
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If I was suddenly in a life threatening situation like drowning I think it's very possible that I would cry out for help from God or anything that could save me but that doesn't make it real. Human beings are vulnerable and are going to die at some point and all of us realize the situation we're in. I have no doubt that our inability to change the reality that our lives are temporary and could end at any time as the result of an accident or illness play a major role in why people choose to become religious. I know that it's make believe but I can understand why a parent who's lost a child or loved one could seek an answer and some hope in religion and I don't think they deserve to be ridiculed for it. It's part of the human condition. The human brain that has evolved to such an extent that each and every one of us has an awareness of our own existence and our own fraility as a physical being and when confronted with our own death and the end of our existence as a conscious entity it's really not surprising that our inventive imaginations have produced God, the afterlife, and a more pleasant alternative to the end of our existence.
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Old 10-07-2008, 11:21 AM
 
Location: In the North Idaho woods, still surrounded by terriers
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Your post is interesting to me, Montana, because it was the death of my son that actually cemented my Agnosticism, or whatever I am. It was the final straw that broke my Christian back...a state of belief I had been struggling with for a very long time. His senseless death "proved" to me that, indeed, there is no god who really cares what's going on down here, and after giving up that thread I really felt more at ease and more able to accept losing my son. I now look at it as "what was" or "what is" and I do not hold god accountable or responsible or even involved with his passing. I no longer wonder what I did wrong to anger god, or if I should have prayed differently or if I used a curse word without apologizing for it. My feeling and belief now is that it was simply the Universe working as it was meant to. There IS no questioning...just sad acceptance. It's all okay.
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