definition: par•a•digm (pār'ə-dīm', -dĭm')

3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is four-fold:
to recognize that every person functions within a basic paradigm, which affects how all information is processed;
(2) to understand the paradigms of others;
(3) to discuss, in particular, paradigms which are related to science, religion, and philosophy.

(4) to reveal the paradigm shifts in my own life, a process that has completely changed the direction and purpose of my existence.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to convince anyone that their paradigms or beliefs are correct or incorrect. I am hoping for an honest dialog, but the discussions must remain respectful of others, even if there is profound disagreement. If any comments are not respectful, they will be removed.
(Revised 1/13/09)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What about those who say "I don't believe this 'Born Again' stuff!"?

When I was young, my family went every Sunday to a big-city Presbyterian church and, I must admit, I don't ever remember hearing the term "born again" there. My family was part of the academic science community and I followed right along, going to college and graduate school and then entering a science profession. As soon as I left home, I stopped going to church completely. To my knowledge, I never saw a miracle, or anything even faintly miraculous. I was taught evolution as a fact of science, not a theory. My day-to-day experience was completely explainable by science and not at all explainable by God. By college, I had at least heard of the
term "born again" but I usually heard it in the same sentence that might include "Jesus Freak." Born-again Christians were a strange lot who had clearly gone off the deep end. Back then, I didn't know enough about them to think they were hypocritical, but I probably would have, if it were today. My point in telling this story is to illustrate how a typical, educated, science-oriented American thinks. The idea of a spiritual rebirth is just not rational.

In order to accept the concept of being "born again," a Christian has to have a fairly literal approach to the teachings of the Bible. Many people who identify themselves as Christians believe that, although there are certainly some historical facts in the Bible, the Bible is primarily symbolic and should not be taken literally.

For example, here is what one person wrote, during a recent book discussion: "The vast majority of Christians worldwide of the various denominations understand that the Bible is allegorical rather than literal. When you lump Jesus in with ghosts, Zeus, and goblins, are you trying to say he did not exist at all? You are incorrect. Did he do everything attributed to him in the Bible? Probably not.... And 'rational' people have an open mind as to what did or did not happen."
[Posted by Ron Gross, on:]

There is also a rather large school of thought among both Christians and non-Christians that the Bible was not directly influenced or inspired by God, but rather is a creation of the thoughts of men, who are fallible, regardless of how spiritual or well-meaning they may be. Reknowned atheist Emmett F. Fields carried on a two-day, moderated debate with a fundamentalist Christian minister about whether the Bible is the inspired word of God. The text of his dissenting viewpoint is presented on the following web page: . In this debate, he states why he thinks the myth of God was developed as a form of self preservation by ancient cultures:
"And yet, while wisdom seeks and searches in vain for a trace of God, ignorance found God. Or, at least, believes it has found God, Ignorance not only found God, but has direct information as to what God said and did, what God wants, what God thinks, what God likes, and what God hates.
"The ignorance that found God has nothing to do with religious believers today. God, or the illusion of God, was found long ago; in the childhood of the human race. Ignorance found God long before mankind found science; even before the wheel was invented, or fire was captured and made a friend of man. In that barren, cold, dangerous world stood our remote ancestors. Humanity was in its infancy, struggling to understand the forces of nature, to escape its enemies, to feed itself, and to reproduce its kind. The human mind was emerging from the darkness of animal instincts into the beginnings of reason. Its only thought: Survival!"
He states that the Bible is contradictory and that even Christians cannot agree on its interpretation:
"Personally, I believe it is asking too much of us to believe that God would write, or inspire, a book that mankind could not agree upon. A book that has caused endless wars, persecutions, torture, bigotry and hatred. A book that is so unintelligible that not only do "non-believers" reject it, but those who believe it to be the true word of God cannot agree upon its interpretation. There are hundreds of different Christian sects in the United States alone, and that does not include the countless thousands of private individuals who have their own, personal, interpretations of the Bible.
"The very fact of this debate, or any debate about the Bible, is irrefutable proof that the Bible cannot be 'the word of God.'"

Emmet Fields also wrote a paper on what he called an "Affirmative View" of Atheism, presented on this web page: .

Christians who disagree with Emmett Fields' negative view of the Bible assert that he has not read it with an open mind--that the conclusions he draws are not at all the same conclusions that most Christian theologians draw, even reading the very same passages.

I think the real debate boils down to two very different paradigms: God either exists or He doesn't. If one thinks God does exist, then His actions and Spirit are manifest everywhere. If one thinks that He doesn't, then no amount of evidence will convince him otherwise. Even the Bible confirms this dichotomy:
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6 (New International Version)

In short, in order to see evidence, the faith has to come first, which is ludicrous to a non-believer who can't conceive of having faith withOUT evidence.

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