Enlightenment vs. Faith: A Religious Discussion Between An Agnostic and A Born Again Christian

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Agnostic: Enlightenment is not for everyone, some find a paternal solace in the chains of falsehood that have comforted them with the illusion of safety, order, and certainty all their lives. They say “ignorance is bliss,” and “knowledge is power,” but with greater knowledge, greater suffering is also inevitable. Why? The sudden realization that so many fundamental lessons you once believed true, are nothing more than naive notions you wanted to believe with all your heart, but your mind simply wouldn’t let you.

Christian: May I point out that ones truth may not be another ones truth. I have knowledge and power from the “Most High” and have been enlightened. How does that work. I’ve had experiences that could only have been produced by “the Most High” that gives me a physical and concrete reason to believe the knowledge I have to be truth, even beyond faith. But, you neither understand, believe or wish to believe, because you’ve been “enlightened”. Could you explain that to me? How my enlightenment could be so different from your enlightenment? Does God lie? Does he give one truth to the Dalai Lama, another to you and another to me? How does that all work? You claim to be enlightened with no question that you could be wrong and I Know I am right with no question that my fundamental beliefs could be wrong. I am open minded, willing to listen and even have and could change my mind about some things but not about the relationship I have with my Lord God, and who He is and the relationship He has with this world He created. Please Enlighten me.

Agnostic: I learned long ago there can be many different interpretations of the truth, but only one actual truth. In my post above I make no claim to enlightenment. You assume a great deal about me in your last post. Also, you appear to be guilty of something you have accused me of before, getting your ire up. But to answer some of your questions to the best of my limited ability… Wait, before I do, I must answer your first question by asking you a question myself. Do you have a telepathic connection to my mind that allows you to somehow determine what I do and do not understand, believe or wish to believe? Now then, regarding your second question: revisit my first sentence in this post. Regarding your third question; no, probably not. Regarding your fourth question; God gives us nothing but the blessing of existence for but a short time, we must seek/pursue enlightenment on our own, and true enlightenment knows no cultural or religious barriers to “entry” or perhaps “exit” would be a better word. Regarding your fifth question; see my response to your fourth question.

Regarding my claims, once again I made none, just that “enlightenment is not for everyone.” Your decision to capitalize the “Know” in your “I Know I am right,” is interesting and perhaps telling. Which leads me to my next question; if you do not question, how can you obtain enlightenment or know you have obtained it? How can you both “not question,” and be “open-minded” all at the same time, that seems to be the primary contradiction in your reasoning. It would also appear your “willingness to listen” is being strained by my most recent post. Also, you make clear that there are some things you are not willing to change your mind about (i.e. your relationship with “my Lord God, and who He is and the relationship He has with this world He created”). Once again, your use of capitalization for emphasis and your use of a male persona for creation is telling, besides being a Christian perspective, it also suggests or implies a strong need in your life to believe in a male paternal figure that watches over you and cares for you. As we grow older Sigmund Freud suggested this is a deep psychological need most have when they lose their parents. For the record, I am not attempting to force you to question your faith, and I certainly do not wish to be the impetus for anyone to question their own faith. So please do not take my post personally. I am not so arrogant as to believe that I have reached enlightenment myself, or that I have “cornered the market” on the one true path. I have many questions myself, but I guess I just have far fewer answers than you do. I cannot enlighten you, but I never claimed I could, nor have I tried to preach to you or anyone else that my conclusions are the one true path towards enlightenment. I am not so bold as to assume I have all the answers. But I am truly sorry if my different perspective on life, and enlightenment upsets you.

Christian: First of all, my “ire” is not up you just made that assumption because I probably sounded accusatory when I stated “you neither understand or wish to understand because you’ve been enlightened”. I guess what I was trying to convey was: how can you make an assumption that “some find solace in the chains of falsehood that have comforted them with the illusion of safety, order, and certainty all their lives”. You are saying someone’s understanding of the truth is false because you have determined that because you have been enlightened. That something that one had believed to be true all their life could be nothing more than naive notions. I was trying to point out to you that my view of the truth doesn’t come from Bible stories I learned as a kid, or something my parents crammed down my throat but from experiences I have had, my own study and my own experiences with God, which only could have been God (my assumption) and that you talk about enlightenment like you, the Dali Llama, etc are the enlightened ones and those who believe in the God of the Bible are only believing in fairy tales that where pounded into our heads because if you do believe in the God of the Bible, one must be held in chains of falsehood because we want to believe in a warm and fuzzy outcome.

There is truth, I believe what I believe to be truth. I am open minded enough to change my position or mind should I realize that what I thought to be truth is not. You said I assume a great deal about you from your last post. No, I don’t assume anything. I am simply trying to get you to see that what Billions of people believe about Jesus/Bible is not just something we believe because we want to be comforted with some pie in the sky illusion that there is some “big sugar daddy” up in heaven who takes care of us if we are “good enough”.and that will take us to heaven when we die. Re read what you originally wrote. It seems to me you are the one making assumptions… I refer to God as He only because it is customary. I don’t believe He/She is gendered. He/She had both male and female attributes.

I don’t have any need for a paternal figure to look after me, I’m pretty sufficient. I guess what I am trying to say is what you originally said in your post was somewhat condescending to people who believe, that if one does believe we have no interest in enlightenment and that we are happy and content in our chains of falsehood that have comforted us with safety, order and certainty. And no, I don’t have a telepathic mind and can see or know what is truly in your heart. I do know that when we write thoughts, ideas, etc. there is no way to convey completely what we mean so misunderstandings of what we truly are trying to convey are easily made without writing a book. It’s easy to misinterpret even a sentence because of not being able to see facial expressions, nuances etc.

In any conversation, if there is an exchange of ideas, theories, etc it sometimes can get heated. But hey, that’s debating. If we didn’t all have our own ideas, theories, beliefs etc we’d all be sheep, hopefully following the right shepherd. I decided to look up the actual definition of enlightenment:en·light·en·ment (n-ltn-mnt) n.1.a. The act or a means of enlightening.b. The state of being enlightened.2. Enlightenment A philosophical movement of the 18th century that emphasized the use of reason to scrutinize previously accepted doctrines and traditions and that brought about many humanitarian reforms. 3. Buddhism & Hinduism A blessed state in which the individual transcends desire and suffering and attains Nirvana.
Christian: Enlightenment is nothing more than ones opinion of truth. Nothing mind boggling.

Agnostic:You took the liberty to tell me what I was saying when you said, “You are saying someone’s understanding of the truth is false because you have determined that because you have been enlightened.” In response to you putting those words in my mouth, once again I will reiterate I never once said I was enlightened. Second, when you conveyed “you talk about enlightenment like you, the Dali Llama, etc are the enlightened ones and those who believe in the God of the Bible are only believing in fairy tales that where pounded into our heads because if you do believe in the God of the Bible, one must be held in chains of falsehood because we want to believe in a warm and fuzzy outcome.” My response to that is my comments were in reference to all belief systems based on blind faith rather than rational facts. So all the peoples of all the major religions listed below (and likely all political systems relying on blind patriotism rather than the ability to question authority) are to be included in my statement that “some find solace in the chains of falsehood that have comforted them with the illusion of safety, order, and certainty all their lives.” Also, that is an assertion, not an assumption. When you say, “I am simply trying to get you to see that what Billions of people believe about Jesus/Bible is not just something we believe because we want to be comforted with some pie in the sky illusion that there is some “big sugar daddy” up in heaven who takes care of us if we are “good enough”.and that will take us to heaven when we die.” My response to that statement is this: first, obviously the quotes are yours and not my words or argument. Second, your description and interpretation of my assertion is crass, but is it not a relatively accurate depiction of why most follow any religion, or moral code? Third, why do you feel the need to get me to “see” anything? I regularly hold my tongue when I see a religious post, and don’t feel compelled to respond to someone’s faith-based post with a comment like you “neither understand or wish to understand” my perspective, simply because I know we differ in opinion. Why should it be any different for the 1.1 billion (in third place currently) who hold a different view than yours? Are you really that put-off, energized, or intolerant to atheist or agnostic sounding comments that question the validity of “pre-defined mental constructs” we have been indoctrinated with since birth to “understand” our “reality” largely dependent upon where one was born? Also, if one’s faith is so strong, why should one need to always defend it or one’s ow beliefs to anyone?

I don’t feel like I was making a lot of assumptions, just several assertions you apparently disagreed with. I will readily admit my ideas on enlightenment have been borrowed from the study of Ancient Greek political philosophy (Socrates specifically), the 18th century “Enlightenment” era you quoted, and “Buddha’s” (Siddhārtha Gautama’s) views on transcending desire and suffering through reaching a mental state of “nirvana.” But I also think the tale of Jesus of Nazareth’s humble and perhaps even despised origins, and his lessons on “compassion” for all people’s is a mind-set and transcendent state that take us away from self-absorption, and towards an empathy and love that leads us in the same direction as “Nirvana” or “Enlightenment.”

My comments about “chains of falsehood” were actually inspired by Jean Jacques Rousseau’s famous book “The Social Contract” and the quote, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” It was meant to convey that we are all so often willing to believe what we are told, rather than question authority. So to be honest, I was actually making more of a political statement at the time rather than a religious one. So much for making assumptions, and understanding the true intent of one’s comments right? Thus, your point in reference to “words” so often failing us is a very good one.

Regarding what I think enlightenment is, whether or not my comments were condescending and/or whether or not “enlightenment” is as you say, “nothing more than one’s opinion of truth,” I can only say the following: 1) According to the Socratic perspective, enlightenment is breaking free from the chains that keep us looking straight forward at a stone wall where we are only allowed to see shadows of “reality” made by the shadow’s of puppets who dance in front of a great fire that always burns behind us, not bright enough to reveal the truth of our captivity, but bright enough to serve the purposes of the puppet-masters. And when we break free from the chains that keep us bound to an illusion of comfort, it is troubling to realize the truth of how we have been manipulated for all our lives, and that despite that harsh realization, we must escape the cave of ignorance, and emerge into the light of true knowledge. But ironically, we do not stay there, but rather, once enlightenment is gained, it is one’s duty to return to the cave of ignorance to free as many other mental slaves as possible, before the puppet-masters figure out what is going on and kill you. 2) I did not wish to be condescending, just thought-provoking. My apologies if you feel I went too far. and 3) Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, according to Socrates, once an enlightened individual returns to the cave of ignorance, if they try to teach others still chained and focused on the shadows to stop looking at the shadows of truth/reality for just a moment, and discover the chains that bind them, most will not be willing to budge an inch, for fear of the uncertainty and the immense waste of time they had endured gazing at the shadows on the wall, rather than in the light of knowledge. So, inevitably, an enlightened teacher who had seen the light would not likely live long back in the cave of ignorance trying to convince those who had been deceived for so long that they needed to escape. In other words, I think enlightenment is less about “one’s opinion of truth,” and far more about which “truth” is enlightened, and which “truth” is merely the “shadow of truth.” If you get my meaning.

Lastly, I was curious if your comment about “billions” of Christians was accurate, so I did some research.  Here are my findings:
Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents: (Sizes shown are approximate estimates, and are here mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective.)
Christianity: 2.1 billion
Islam: 1.5 billion
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
Hinduism: 900 million
Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
Buddhism: 376 million
primal-indigenous: 300 million
African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
Sikhism: 23 million
Juche: 19 million
Spiritism: 15 million
Judaism: 14 million
Baha’i: 7 million
Jainism: 4.2 million
Shinto: 4 million
Cao Dai: 4 million
Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
Tenrikyo: 2 million
Neo-Paganism: 1 million
Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
Scientology: 500 thousand (www.adherents.com)

Christian: Yay!! We are winning. Now, did you get what I was trying to convey to you in my last comments?

Agnostic: Yes, did you get what I was trying to convey to you?

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