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Is There a Spiritual Reality?

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Rod Williams

on 8 April 2015

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Transcript of Is There a Spiritual Reality?

Thinking Philosophically About Religious Beliefs
It is very
possible
that you were raised in some type of religious
tradition
that has had some
influence
upon your life in a variety of ways. It may have been a
social
focus, it may have provided
moral
guidelines, it may have provided answers to life's most meaningful
questions
.

Philosophy
and
religion
have had a volatile and contentious relationship with one another
Socrates, Galileo, Darwin
What are your religious
beliefs
?
What is your
definition
of religion? What is its
purpose
?
Does your definition include a
concept
or
belief
in "
God
?" What is it?
Can science, philosophy, and religion
co-exist
? Many philosophers/scientists have had strong religious convictions
Kant, Descartes, William James, Kierkegaard, Albert Einstein
So, how do we think
critically
and
philosophically
about religions and religious experience?
Examining
epistemological
foundations for religious beliefs
Coherence of their
metaphysics
Appropriateness of
ethical
systems
Are there compelling
proofs
for the
existence
of God or gods?
Feuerbach: God is a Human Projection
Many
theistic
religions assert that God created humans in God's image
Ludwig Feuerbach
contended that humans
created

God
in their
own

image
We have two
selves
-
actual
and
idealized
(
the way we would like to be
)
Our
unconscious
solution is to
project
our idealized
perfection
into a divine being (
God
)
"Religion is the
dream
of the human mind."
Project human characteristics on God-
anthropomorphism
Ultimate goal of becoming
Secular Humanism
; betterment of all humans; called it "
Realized Christianity
"
Mary Daly
, feminist philosopher
Agreed that humans created God, but that we also made it a
patriarchy
, a male-dominated society
Myth of
feminine
evil; salvation through
male
figure
Nishitani: A Vital Quest
Keiji Nishitani
, strongly influenced by
Buddhism
, wanted to
synthesize
philosophical and religious insights from both
East
and
West
traditions
Religion is a
vital

personal

question
that everyone must face when he or she encounters
nihility
"
that which renders meaningless the meaning of life
";
nothingness
Each person is necessarily involved in the religious quest "
to search for true reality in a real way
"
Religion should not be considered from the viewpoint of
utility
Religion is a dimension of human
experience
with which we are all involved because it has to do with the fundamental questions:
Why do I exist? Does my life have meaning?
Not the
traditional
,
organized
religion, but rather a "
religious quest
"
Intensely
personal
and ultimately
profound
Challenge is to knowingly
embrace
this quest; involves
whole self
What is Religion?
There are few concepts more
complex
and
emotionally

charged
than that of religion.
Frederick Streng
researched the world's religions; looked for a
common

definition
that encompassed all; asked the following questions:
Does your definition
reduce
religion to an
accident of birth
&
socialization
?
"Relationship with Christ"; "adoration of God"; "worship"
Not all religions are
theistic
Based on
feelings
? Security?
Does your definition reflect a
bias
on your part (+/-) toward religion as a whole or toward a
particular
religion?
Does your definition
limit
religion to what it has been in the
past
, and nothing else?
Emerging religions
?
Does your definition have sufficient
precision
?
Vague
?
World Religions
Is There a Spiritual Reality?
Hinduism
A
complex
mosaic of religious beliefs and practices for the majority of the people in
India
; others include
Jainism
and
Sikhism
Evolved over a period of 4,000 years; has
no known founder
Central teachings come from the
Vedas
(ancient hymns) and the
Upanishads
(commentaries on Vedas)
Five
main
themes
in Hinduism:
Contemplation of the luminous self
- spiritual enlightenment is only achieved by turning one's attention
inward
to discover the transcendent reality from within
A pervading
reality
called
Brahman
(the Unknowable)
Reincarnation
- soul leaves the body at death and enters a new one
Occurs over and over; may be animal or other life form
Karma
- consequences of one's actions shape the future
Goal is to escape the wheel (cycle of birth, death, rebirth)-
samsara
Liberation (
moksha
) is the ultimate goal; many cycles
Yogic practices
- yoga means
union
; moral codes, meditation, physical exercises, breathing
Fire sacrifices
- ancient offering; mantras chanted
Thousands of gods; families usually choose one god
Buddhism
A
non-theistic
religion that has no supernatural God or Creator
Originated with
Siddhartha Gautama
(563 B.C.) in N. India- later named
The Buddha
(
Enlightened One
)
Left a life of nobility; embraced a life of
suffering
and
simplicity
Core beliefs are the
4 Noble Truths
&
Eightfold Path
Lead to
release
from birth, death, suffering-
Nirvana
Four Noble Truths
Life inevitably involves suffering, is imperfect
Suffering comes from desires
Suffering will cease if desires cease
The way to realize this state is the
Noble Eightfold Path
(
right understanding, right thought & motives, right mindfulness, right meditation, & more
)
Daoism (Taoism)
Daoism
appeared (along with
Confucianism
) in
China
about the same time as Buddhism
The "
Dao
" is the first cause of the universe; eternally real
force
that flows through life; believer's goal is to become one with the Dao
Founded by
Laozi
who wrote a book called
Daode Jing
Concerned with
harmony
in life; attuning oneself to the natural
energies
of the cosmos by being quiet and receptive
Daoists seek answers to life's problems through
inner

meditation
and observation
Cosmos is a manifestation of impersonal self-generating energy called
ch'i
Force has two aspects:
Yin
&
Yang
; pairs of opposites in the universe
Exercises
to seek balance-
Ta'i ch'i
Judaism
Traces its roots nearly 4,000 years ago; God entered
covenant
with
Abraham
Abraham's
descendents
would give God (
Yahweh
)
devotion
&
obedience
; God would provide special
protection
and
consideration
God promised the land of
Canaan
to them (
Israel
)
Monotheistic
; one Creator God; all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-loving; ever-present
Moral code-
Ten Commandments
Religious holidays and calendar are based on
lunar
events
Faith is codified in the
Torah
, first five books of the
Hebrew
scriptures
Given by God to
Moses
Judaism has divided into several categories over the centuries
Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed
Christianity
Emerged as
split
from Judaism about 1,800 years after Abraham
Core belief that Jesus is the
son of God
and
savior
whose sacrificial
death
and
resurrection
make it possible for souls to attain eternal life in
heaven
Scriptures are both the Hebrew TaNaKh and writings of Jesus's followers (
Old Testament/New Testament
)
Jesus was a
Jew
who lived in Palestine under
Roman
rule
His ministry focused on a
personal

relationship
with God; nurtured through
worship
,
reflection
, &
prayer
Jesus taught, preached, performed
miracles
His ministry emphasis created much
friction
with the
Jewish
authorities
Many Jews saw him as a
Messiah
that would liberate them from Roman rule
He promised a
spiritual
kingdom
Islam
Views itself as the
ultimate
expression of the
monotheistic
tradition emanating from
Abraham
Muhammad
570-632 AD, lived in Arabian Peninsula
Believed to be
last
prophet to receive the word of
Allah
(Arabic for God)
Believe Jesus is
prophet
, but not divine
Angel
Gabriel
delivered divine message to Muhammed, constituting the
Qur'an
Five Pillars of Islam
(main practices)
Shahadah
- "
There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet
."
Salat
- prayers conducted
5
time daily
Zakat
- charity, benevolence
Sawm
- observance of
Ramadan
; holy month; fasting
Hajj
- pilgrimage to
Mecca
in lifetime
Indigenous Sacred Ways
Religious practices by
original
groups (tribes); often in
isolated
pockets around the world
Australia, Native Americans, Africa, S. America
Rarely use
written
texts; passed on through
oral
traditions by spiritual leaders
Full
integration
into the lives of those practicing them
Profound respect for their
natural

environment
Religious beliefs promote
balance
and
harmony
between all dimensions of
life
Relationships with spirit
- spirit world is central;
ancestors
Kinship with creation
- "Mother Earth"; everything is alive (
pantheistic
)
Spiritual specialists
- priests, priestesses,
shaman
;
bridge
to spirit world
Group observances
- dance, ritual, drama, purifications, sacred rites
Can We Prove the Existence of God?
How does someone
justify
their
faith
to non-believers?
The idea of finding
proofs
for the existence of God has been of concern to philosophers since the
Middle

Ages
Some
merged
the
Greek
idea of a universe governed by
orderly

principles
and
knowable
through
rational

inquiry
with the
Judeo-Christian
idea that the universe was
created
and
governed
by an all-powerful, all-knowing
God
.
Not
all
people of faith feel that reason is the path to spiritual understanding-
faith is considered by philosophy as alternate pathway
Arguments
for the existence of God
The
Ontological
Argument
The
Cosmological
Argument
The Argument from
Gradations of Perfection
The Argument from
Design
The Argument from
Morality
The
Ontological Argument
- Saint Anselm (1033-1109)
Anselm
was a medieval Christian theologian, Archbishop of Canterbury
Argued that, in general, existence is "
contingent
," not "
necessary
."
The things that
currently

exist
in the universe don't necessarily "
have to
" exist
We can conceive of them as
not

existing
Does not apply to the
ultimate

reality
-
God
Ultimate reality is the
greatest

possible

reality
that we can
think
of
Nothing

greater
can be conceived than God
Because God's existence
must be necessary
, not
contingent
, God
must
exist
Not just in our
mind
but
outside
as well
Otherwise
God would not be the greatest being that we can conceive
Pg. 378, St. Anselm
Gaunilo's Criticism- pg. 379,
The perfect island

Gradations of Perfection
-
Thomas Aquinas
' fourth proof
Humans
judge
finite things in varying
degrees of perfection
; some are more perfect than others
There
must

exist
a
most perfect Being
; the perfect
standard
must be known
The Cosmological Argument
- The first proof by
Thomas

Aquinas
(1225-1274)
Based upon the
orderly, coherent, intelligible nature
of the
cosmos
Aquinas said that if we
examine
the world in which we live- the cosmos- we will find compelling "
proofs
" for believing in God's existence
Wanted to show that
faith
and
reason
were
consistent
with one another
Contingency
When we examine the universe, we see that everything that exists and occurs is
dependent
upon something
There must be some
ultimate
reality that is necessary, not contingent-
God
Motion
- evident that some things are in motion; whatever is in motion must have been
put into motion
by another-
prime mover
is
God
Nature of the Efficient Cause
- nothing can be found to be the
efficient

cause
of
itself
; the first efficient cause is
God
Possibility and Necessity
- if something is
possible
, it means that it is not
necessary
that it exist; it might just as easily have
not
existed
It did not exist at
one point
; it was only
possible
before it existed
Since the universe exists, it must
not
have existed at some point
Rational to assume a Being which is necessary and not contingent-
God
Argument from Design
- Aquinas'
fifth
proof
The universe is
orderly
and apparently
purposeful
or
teleological
It is
rational
to assume that this
purposefulness
did not simply happen by
accident
It is therefore the product of an
intelligent

Creator
-
God
600 years later,
William Paley
used the
Watchmaker
analogy
Suppose you found a
pocket

watch
on the ground
Upon inspection, you find numerous
parts
which are assembled just so for a
reason
or
purpose
Their
organization
creates a
motion
which causes it to show time
It is obvious that if the parts are not assembled in a specific
order
, the watch will not
function
We realize that the watch had to have a
maker
The
Argument from Morality
-
Immanuel Kant
Humans possess a
deeply

ingrained
sense of
morality
This moral sense must be derived from a
supremely

moral

mind
-
God
Others point to the
conscience
For Kant, morality is grounded in our ability to
reason
Reason allows us to recognize the "
highest good
"
This
world
often does not reward virtuous, moral lives-
suffering
Reason demands that an
afterlife
, in which
virtue
will be
rewarded
and
evil

punished
, must exist
Such a future life can only be created by a supreme being-
God
Kant's
Categorical Imperative
tells us that we
should
seek to further the highest good
The problem with Evil
- poses a serious threat to religion and to the concept of an all-powerful, all-loving God
"
How could God let this happen
?"
Natural
evil and
moral
evil in the world
Why
did God
create
humans with such capacity for evil?
Couldn't He have create us with sufficiently moral nature to
prevent
such evil?
Why
does God allow Hitler, Stalin, serial killers, child abusers?
God does
not

exist
; at least not a personal Creator
God is
not all powerful
; unable to influence events
God is
not all-loving
; not interested in preventing evil
If He
controlled
everything, would we not be just
robots
? No
free

will
?
If there's too much evil in the world, you have to
assume
there's
good
When you
assume
there's
good
, you
assume
a
moral

law
which differentiates between good and evil
If you assume moral law, you have to assume a
Moral Law Giver
No Law Giver, no moral law, no good....then, no evil either
For people who do not believe in a particular religion, all
proofs
and
evidence
offered are likely to
fall

far

short
of absolute
certainty
Appeal to
divinely
inspired
books
may not carry weight
Historical figures-
on what grounds do we choose to believe them?
An appeal to
miracles
- can we be sure they really happened?
Despite
the lack of absolute certain
proof
, many people commit to religious belief
Why
?
Faith
Faith is a
choice
; an act of
free will
; a different kind of "
knowing
"
Involves a certain level of
risk
Blaise Pascal
said faith was like a
wager
; bet on God, if we're right, we win regardless; bet against God, even if we win, we may lose in the long run- everyone makes "the wager"
William Clifford said that it was wrong to ever believe in something that lacked sufficient evidence; "
evidentialism
";
Agnostic
view
William James
believed we
must
act in faith in many areas to find
truth
; our
understanding
is not strong enough to exist without a "leap of faith"
Soren Kierkegaard
coined the term "
Leap of Faith
"; said it was
pointless
to attempt to prove God's existence...
requires a leap of faith
We must let go of our efforts to "
prove
" God's existence through rational means;
surrender
to
subjective
knowing by a leap of
faith
Regardless of what you believe, you still want to ask:

What is the meaning and purpose of my life?
What is my destiny?
How ought I to conduct my life? What values?
What happens to me when I die?

Transformation
occurs in our lives, either away from religion or toward religion.
Full transcript