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Dialogue on God


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Andrew Copson
September 19 at 4:36pm
Do you believe in a God?

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 4:38pm
Yes I do, but it's not always something that comes easily. Have you ever believed in God?

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 4:41pm
No. I don't think I've ever had any reason to. When I was growing up and wanted answers for why the world is like it is, I found that my questions were answered by my parents and teachers based on evidence and science and I always felt the answers were good and made sense. No one ever suggested God as an explanation for anything and so I just never had any reason to believe in it. What was your first reason for believing in God?

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 4:46pm
I suppose my questions were often answered with science etc. too and actually my first memory of my engagement with a God idea is of questioning it. I couldn't believe a God could exist in a world where so much pain happened, especially the Holocaust. I struggled with that for maybe 5 or 6 years I think. There were a series of events which basically led me to what I can only describe as an experience of God - and I know that it can only be proof for me. It basically left me with the overwhelming sense that it's ok not to understand, and that God is beyond me. I'm not sure I have a reason for believing in God - if anything there are more reasons not to, but i experienced God and so can't deny Her.

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 4:55pm
Can you describe the feeling you had at all? I find it difficult to understand how a feeling about something can make you believe that it exists and how proof can exist for one person and not another and still be proof of the existence of anything. I've certainly never had an experience that has made me think there was a God and so I have no reason to believe.

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 5:02pm
It wasn't really a feeling, more an experience of Gods presence. I had the overwhelming sense that God was holding me, and that it was all good. ultimately though i'm not sure it matters whether there is or isn't a God, what's important is that we behave well to each other. I think when we behave well we exhibit Godliness, but whatever motivates us to it is a good thing. What motivates you to behave well to others? Is there ever anything you've experienced that you think proves there's no God?

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 5:21pm
I don't think you can ever prove a negative so I can't think of anything that has ever made me not believe in God. I suppose what convinces me that there is no God is the weight of those arguments that disprove arguments offered for the existence. believe that advances in the sciences have eliminated almost all the good reasons that once made people believe in gods. We understand many of the natural phenomena and processes (such as what the sun is, or how human beings came to be) which once seemed inexplicable and were attributed to a supernatural entity. In the scientific method, we have a way of discovering how the universe works which has proved itself capable of generating many useful discoveries. The study of history and anthropology can show us how different cultures construct their Gods and why,

I agree that the question of god is not important compared to the question of how we should treat each other. When I think about that question I try to think about how I would like to be treated and that makes me think that I should treat others as they wish to be treated. I think that with empathy and compassion - two things that as humans we are capable of - we can work out ways of behaving well to each other.

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 5:29pm
I agree you can't prove or disprove God, and certainly many Jews practice without a belief because so much of Judaism is a way of life not only a faith. Do you not think there are things that we can't trace the source of? I think science can explain a lot and we have to endeavour to understand more, but that can exist along with God... life and nature just seem so incredible and awesome... but trying to prove God is hopeless... you either believe or don't. I think it's also important to me that my sense of God insists that none of us have got it right, and therefore God is not set aside for a select few (and I suppose that includes salvation etc. too).

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 5:40pm
What sort of things are you thinking of that we can't trace the source of?

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 5:42pm
well, what caused the big bang, what put natural processed into action, what makes us who we are?

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 5:50pm
Yes - I agree that the cause of the universe is a question we may never know the answer to. The question of what makes us who we are (in terms of consciousness, for example) I suppose we might one day answer with more research on the brain. But what's important for me is that we should keep looking and never think we can answer a question with the simple answer 'God'. Do you believe anything specific anout God (eg she is good, all-powerful etc) or do you just believe in God but that we can't know anything more bout God?

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 5:59pm
I tend to believe that we can't really know anything about God, because God is God and is beyond us (hence we've all got it wrong - we're all struggling to understand what we can't and therefore do the best we can, and tend to choose beliefs because of who we are). But I agree that we should always seek to know more... and I think that's not in opposition to the idea of God.
I think theologically I have come to believe in a God who has chosen to not involve Herself in the world to allow for human freedom, wit and endeavor, and while that opens the possibility for human evil, it also allows us to reach the limits of beauty and goodness. So the idea of God intervening in our lives is difficult for me (why would God help one person and not another, and how could God ignore the cries of those in the SHoah, or Darfur, or Tibet). I think religious texts offer us an insight into the ways others have tried to understand God, but ultimately we are all just doing the best we can.
How do you feel about believers? Do you think we're a bit sad?

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 6:09pm
Well there are certainly lots of people who are not trying to understand God - me for one! But to take your question about what I think of people who believe in God - no, I don't think they're sad. I certainly think they are incorrect in believing that there is such a thing as God. What do you think of people who don't believe in God.

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 6:12pm
I think if I'm honest I think people that assert their belief either way too strongly are maybe a little arrogant, because in fact we can't prove it either way, but I think it's important for each to believe what they need to to make the most of this life, and as long as whatever you believe allows you to create space for the other to believe what they need to believe, it's a good thing! I tend to be find it easy to let people believe whatever, as long as it's not damaging them

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 6:20pm
Are there any circumstances in which you would try to argue someone out of a belief you thought was incorrect even if you knew they got something out of it?

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 8:36pm
hmm good question. I am not sure i'd try and argue someone out of a belief, but i'm happy to enter a friendly debate with people as long as they are also able to hear my point of view - I recently entered a conversation in which someone asserted that Communism was pure evil (among other things) and when I tried to argue that perhaps pure evil didn't exist I was accused (in a derogatary way) of being post modern (I agree, I am) and gthat if i was going to be a rabbi i had to learn the lesson of pure evil. If there's no room for the other in a debate there's no point in trying. SO an absolute position either way on GOd is also pointless to debate.
One problem I've encountered is that often people assume if you believe in God there must be something wrong with you, psychologically for example, rather than just disagreeing with you. That seems unfair
.

 

Andrew Copson
September 19 at 9:00pm
I think this is because belief God is a comfort to many people and so it can seem that the comfort is the reason that they believe. I think it is unfair - there are lots of reasons why people do believe in gods or other supernatural things. From the other direction, one problem I've encountered is that a lot of religious people often say to non-religious people that their not believing on God must mean they have no morality.

 

Debbie Young-Somers
September 19 at 9:10pm
Some of the most moral people i've met have had no faith, but I suppose there might be questions about where does morality come from without guiding religious principles, especially as so much of western morality is based on judao christian morality, for better or worse