RE: Are we Gods yet?

From: mike99 (
Date: Sat Aug 10 2002 - 19:47:56 MDT

NOTE: This post, responding to samantha, is heading off-topic and will be
the last one I post on this aspect of the thread.

> mike99 wrote:
> > Since we're dealing here with relative benefits of different religious
> > beliefs, I would urge not being too hard on the Calvinists.
> Though Calvin's
> > theology was rigid and severe, it also had the benefits of
> commending hard
> > work, capitalism (including lending money at interest) and most
> important of
> > all, the rational and scientific investigation of the natural world.
> > Catholicism (the religion in which I was raised) got all of these wrong
> > until recent times.

> I release it is a bit off-subject but please support these
> statements on or off-line. I see no way that a belief structure
> that claims your ultimate fate is utterly outside your control
> would be conducive to any sort of extra efforts. I certainly
> don't see how it is conducive to can in any way claim to have a
> direct benefit on promoting science and technology. The
> enlightenment promoting naturalism, reason and freedom did not
> arise from Calvinism. If you read the documents of the time of
> America's founding and a few decades thereafter you will not
> that many of the founders were at most Deist, if not atheists.
> You will also note that many Calvinist and other Protestant
> churches were utterly in arms over some of the general tenets of
> the founders and over the idea of a secular state.
> - samantha

I was not referring to American developments being influenced by Calvinism
directly, but rather to the preceding European developments in the 2
centuries before the founding of the American Republic. We in the USA
started as a branch of Europe, and even after severing our official ties
with the Old Countries, we continued to be influenced by the ways of life
and thought we inherited from there.

It seems to me that you are having difficulty with the doctrine of
predestination because you find it, shall we say, "dispiriting." So let me
ask: Do you believe in causality or in randomness in this universe? (When I
use the term "causality" I mean conformation to natural laws which make all
phenomena deterministic but not necessarily predictable.) This issue is at
the core of the free will vs. determinism debate. In terms of human behavior
and the supposed Divine predestination thereof, what Calvin claimed was that
we could only know if we are among the Elect predestined for salvation if
and only if we lived our lives in accord with the moral dictates of the
Bible and, furthermore, showed evidence of enjoying Divine favor by our
apparent material success in the world. Thus, one had to work very hard,
plan carefully, save, invest and rein in one's appetites in order to meet
these criteria. The very effort to do these things would often produce the
desired results.

Now you may, along with me, disbelieve in the notion of Divine favor, but
you must admit, I think, that these efforts had a salutary effect on the
development of Western economic and technological and, yes, even scientific
endeavors. To be sure, Calvinism also had many negative aspects, such the
prohibitions on dancing and so forth. (And these continued in many
fundamentalist sects in America.)

Finally, to close out this part of the thread, let me say that Calvinism was
not unique in its encouragement of many useful behaviors that went beyond
its religious roots. In Judaism, the Talmudic disputation method taught in
the religious schools would ultimately encourage the kind of critical
thinking that led many bright Jews, such as Baruch Spinoza and later John
von Neumann, to look at the whole world of phenomena with a critical eye and
a discerning mind.

Michael LaTorra

Extropy Institute:
World Transhumanist Association:
Alcor Life Extension Foundation:
Society for Technical Communication:

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