TED Conversations

Bernard White


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Can God be defined?

I find that after debating with many people, many don't have a definition of what "God" is. (For even when you go to a church many people have different definitions ; and not many have a "shared definition".) And I find that many people only list Gods, but (and correct me if I am wrong) that listing gods is just like listing various variations of Meats or dogs, you still haven't told me what a "dog" or a "meat" is! Or for that matter : What "God" is!
Also on the same matter, I am genially interested, what is the definition of "existence"?
Because these two issues are vital to the debate : "Does God exist?"
And I hope this question will be taken in good spirit, and that no offence is taken.

Strongly recommend you join my debate on this ( Can we ever design an experiment which can determine whether God exist or not?) on this link : http://www.ted.com/conversations/17451/can_we_ever_design_an_experime.html


Closing Statement from Bernard White

God mostly only have subjective definitions. (And very few have a "shared (objective) definition" of what "God" is!) And usually reflects the moral code of that individual! (And the society's values).
Yet God does hold many mystical properties, and is sometimes defined as emotions such as "Love", which is dependent on the human mind and relies in all of us.
While others choose to define God as being more of a "Personal God", which is external (independent) to the body, A God of intervention.
And other choose to define God as a more of a Impersonal God, one of pure logic and maths. (If I can say that!)
However I will not comment much more, due to the fact that I have a feeling I would not do a good job of it!
This is my closing comment. :D
Hope you liked it!

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  • Mar 21 2013: WHO AM I supersedes WHAT IS GOD. Answer the first, and the second fades into irrelevance.
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      Mar 21 2013: Scott,
      I LOVE your comment, and feel that it is very true. If we (humans) spent as much time on evaluating ourselves, as is spent with the question of god/no god, it might be helpful to our global community:>)

      I like to "BE" HERE NOW, and experience all there is to experience in the here and now.

      Are we NOWHERE? OR NOW HERE?

      It seems like these debates that go on and on about god/no god take us nowhere, while being fully aware and mindful in the life journey reminds us of being now here.
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        Mar 21 2013: I sort of agree :)
        Yes living in the present does probably give more pleasure than worrying about the future.
        • Mar 21 2013: I like skepticism..... :-) As a side question for you, if you do not mind, I would ask: Do you perceive any Difference between the words Pleasure & Joy?
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          Mar 23 2013: I agree Bernard....living in the present, being aware in the moment, provides the opportunity for more pleasure, joy, and contentment. What does "worrying about the future" provide?

          "to touch or disturb something repeatedly; torment; to subject to persistent or nagging attention or effort; afflict with mental distress or agitation; make anxious; unceasing or difficult effort..."

          I perceive "being" in the present moment, and worrying about the future as choices. Worrying about something that is not yet reality doesn't make sense to me. Why would a human do that to him/herself?
      • Mar 21 2013: I dig your thoughts Colleen.....esp NOWHERE. I also like NO THING :-)
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          Mar 23 2013: I dig your thoughts, feelings, perceptions and ideas too Scott. One thing I LOVE about your comments, is that you often say a LOT with few words:>)
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          Mar 23 2013: To be honest I would probably ask Shakespear, what he meant by "Good" and "Evil".
          Because yes in a literal sense, there is no such thing as "Good" and "Evil". While once you have a definition of those things, then certain things can become "Good" and "Evil".
          Will explain this in more detail later!
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          Mar 23 2013: Perhaps you need to explain something to yourself Bernard? Do you ever think that you may be making things more complicated for yourself?

          Since you mention Shakespeare, I assume you are refering to Scott's other comment...
          "For there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
          -Willie Shakespeare"

          There is no reference to "evil" in the quote.
          My interpretation of the quote, is that we can think about something, constantly coloring it with our own perceptions, and "make" it :"good" or "bad" in our own perception.
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          Apr 2 2013: Will be spamming this message to all those who I think may be interested. (I want to raise awareness) I hope nobody minds "too much" :D : (To all those on these links such as : Can we define God)
          Strongly recommend you join my debate on this ( Can we ever design an experiment which can determine whether God exist or not?) on this link : http://www.ted.com/conversations/17451/can_we_ever_design_an_experime.html
          Many thanks.
      • Mar 21 2013: Okay! Thats why your now here going nowhere...... nah! Just teasin!
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        Mar 23 2013: What does worrying about the future achieve. It achieves a will to prepare and try and fight against the future, it achieves the ability to try and make the future a better place, so others won't have to worry about the future.
        While being optimistic ensures you ability to see your worries through and hope that you can conquer them.
        Your memories teach you what you should be worried and optimistic about. (From your own subjective experiences)
        And your perception (living in the present) makes you more aware.
        Just a few thoughts.
        I mean past present future to the human mind is memories, perception, and imagination.
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          Mar 23 2013: Hi Bernard,
          Why do you choose to "fight against the future"?

          "Fighting against the future, and making an effort to "make the future a better place", are two different concepts.....are they not?

          I don't have any worries, so there is no need to "conquer" worries. Personally, I think/feel worrying (disturb something repeatedly; torment; persistent or nagging attention or effort; mental distress...agitation; anxious; unceasing or difficult effort), is a waste of precious time and energy.

          We can plan for a future, dream, imagine, and work toward making the future better for all of humankind. Worrying uses time and enery that can be used for more productive purposes.

          No Bernard, my memories DO NOT teach me what I "should" be worried about. Memories certainly can provide lessons, and it is a choice regarding how I use that information. If YOU choose to use it as a reason to worry, that is up to you my friend. I see worrying as a misuse of MY time and energy, so worrying is not my choice.
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        Mar 23 2013: I'm afraid I have a slightly odd view of what you are saying, because I agree and disagree at the same time :)
        I mean I agree that "living in the present" and "optmism" should probably be encouraged, yet I do not think that happiness is a choice. I view that "choosing" to try and "achieve" happiness, increases the likelihood, but does not guarantee.
        While I do see how you could train yourself to become "more happy", and become more of an optimist.
        If you act out upon your worries, then I honestly don't see what is bad about worrying. I mean if you just "worry" then it probably doesn't achieve much.
        I feel that we could have different definitions of worry though. I mean with happiness, I view that it can be "achieved" and made more of a mean, rather than an end. (So in that sense I agree with you).
        Humans will always synthesise happiness and be poor predictors of what make them happy, while I can see your logic. Sorry to go on....
        I am finding this quite difficult to explain. :)
        (Did you watch those TED talks I gave you the link to? :
        Tali Sharot: The optimism bias :
        Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness :
        Dan Gilbert: Why we make bad decisions :
        I apologize if I am not making "complete" sense.
        Actually after thinking about it : I suppose you can teach yourself to be a satisfier. (Reference : Paradox of Choice!)
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          Mar 23 2013: Dear Bernard,
          What you describe....agreeing and disagreeing at the same time, is sometimes called the "split". It happens sometimes when people are bridging the gap between old and new thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs. It feels like you are exploring?

          I believe that happiness is a choice for ME. If you do not want to embrace that concept for yourself, it's ok:>) As I said to you in another comment....there are no guarentees in life.

          Being happy is not a matter of "training" in my perception. It is a matter of "being".

          I don't think I said that worrying is "bad"....I said it is not useful to me. If you feel that it is useful to you, then carry on!

          The definition of worry I provided is from the dictionary.

          Yes....I agree.....happiness is a way of travel....not just a destination.

          I don't think it is accurate to say that "Humans will always synthesise happiness and be poor predictors of what make them happy..."

          When we KNOW ourselves, are mindful and aware in the moment, we do not struggle or worry about happiness/contentment. It simply IS.

          I watched those TED talks a LONG time ago.....thanks:>)
        • Mar 23 2013: For there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
          -Willie Shakespeare
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          Mar 23 2013: There you go again Scott, with one of your short sweet comments that says it all!!!
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        Mar 23 2013: Actually after thinking about it.
        I would probably have to admit I was wrong.
        And that happiness is probably a choice in "most" cases, and it increases the chance of produticity and happiness. Yet it still doesn't guarantee happiness.
        While I can't help but think : if happiness is a choice, why aren't more people happy. And why do people seek material gain if they "know" it probably won't make them any more happy?
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          Mar 23 2013: Hello again Bernard,
          Here's another idea. How about being kind and loving with yourself and "admit" that you are a human being, exploring thoughts, feelings and ideas?

          I believe life is an exploration, and as we take in information from various sources, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate how the information impacts us. It's kind of like carrying baggage throughout our life experience. At each "station", we can re-evaluate what we want or need and maybe re-pack our baggage.....make any sense?

          You're right.....there are no guarantees in the life adventure.

          You ask..."if happiness is a choice, why aren't more people happy"?

          Could it be that some people do not believe it is a choice? Like you did not believe it is a choice?

          I suggest that those who are seeking material gain, thinking it will make them happy, are simply not ready to consider anything else. Sometimes, when people get "stuck" in their beliefs, it feels comfortable, and they are unwilling to explore another idea. Some folks do not want to consider different ideas because it is outside their comfort zone.

          Consider one of your questions in this discussion for example...""Does God exist?""

          Personally, I have been evaluating information since the time I was a child 60+ years ago. I was born into a catholic family, 12 years of catholic schooling and bible study, abandoned any religion and belief in a god for about 20 years. sustained a near fatal head injury, had a NDE/OBE, explored, studied, researched, and practiced several different religions and philosophical beliefs for about another 20 years, and with the information I have at this time, I do not believe in a god.

          That is simply MY story and perception, and there are many stories and perceptions with different individuals. Some people will try to convince us that what they believe is the one and only "right" belief. That simply tells me that they do not have a very open mind and heart. In my perception, life is a journey....an exploration.
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        Mar 23 2013: I'm not sure if I am repeating myself : But concerning God's existence I'm not really sure what to call myself....
        I mean I'm a cross between Ignostism (I believe that God and existence haven't really been properly defined) an strong agnostic (I view it can never actually be know,due to the fact that there isn't any way to prove or disprove any "Gods", and the fact that no matter how logical and rational something may seem it doesn't make it "true", just likely). Also my belief that so many things on life rely on "faith" (e.g Trust) rather than empirical evidence. I mean sure you can trust someone bases on certain assumptions (e.g their nice therefore they are "probably" trustworthy) but this doesn't mean that it is certain. I mean my definition of "Belief" is "most probable" and in that sense nothing is "certain".
        Just like I can't be "certain" that the external world exists, but "objectively" it is probably the best option to live my life as if the external world exists, because if I acted out upon this belief outside a philosophy classroom you would probably be put into a mental asylum. (basically it does no harm to live your life as if other people + the external world exists/ is real)
        I would be interested in your opinion on this. :)
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          Mar 23 2013: Bernard,
          Why do you need to call yourself something? Why do you need to label yourself? How about "explorer"? I don't like labels, and do not label myself.....works for me:>)

          You say..."nothing is certain". Can you let that idea "rest" in your mind and heart?

          You would like my opinion, and I'm not sure what exactly to address. You've written some interconnected thoughts, feelings and ideas.....could you be more specific?
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        Mar 23 2013: " Can you let that idea "rest" in your mind and heart?".
        Yes, and in an odd sense it makes me "happy"! :) Because it makes so much more logical sense to me.
        While this is not to say that we shouldn't make decisions and act "objectively" the best we can with the data and knowledge we had. And to be prepared to admit you are wrong, and allow all opinions (pluralism). As I have said there is no harm living my life as if everybody exists, even though this can't be certain.
        Actually there is a good specific detail : If something is logical and rational does that make it 100 % true? Or does it just make it more probable? :)
        I mean it is logic (and I may be wrong on this) that "low expectations lead to more happiness, because you would never be disappointed" but this is false (to a certain extent, even though there is still debate about this). Or here is a better example :
        1. All elephants are pink
        2 Lucy is pink
        3. Lucy is pink, and all elephants are pink, therefore Lucy must be pink.
        Now this is a rational and logical conclusion, due to the data you have, but is false once you bring in more and more data. I mean I am sure you could probably produce a better example yourself.
        This is why I feel that business is quite unpredictable!
        While I hope I have not got this example wrong, so in that sense "logic + Rationality" can be wrong. Another example would be : Before evolution was discovered, It would be irrational and illogical to view that evolution was true, why? Because there was no "evidence"! But This wouldn't have stopped evolution from being true! :)
        I hope I have explained this well enough.
        Would be interested on your opinion about this...
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          Mar 25 2013: I agree Bernard....when something makes sense to us, it "feels" good:>)

          You ask..."If something is logical and rational does that make it 100 % true? Or does it just make it more probable? :)"

          With the idea of something making sense to us and "feeling" good, consider that we all may have different information and preferences. What feels good, logical, reasonable, and rational to one person, may not feel the same to another person because of the information they are willing to consider.....make any sense?

          Based on the information I have at this time, it makes no reasonable, logical, or rational sense to believe in a god. A person who believes in a god, may say NOT believing in a god makes no reasonable, logical, rational sense. That's why I often refer to "my truth", which is a belief that is "true" to me, based on the information I have at any given time.

          I agree with you...low expectations, or no expectations may lead to more happiness/contentment because you would not be disappointed. Why do you say this idea is "false"?

          I think/feel it is true, and I observe that unhappiness and discontent often manifests BECAUSE of our expectations, which may not be consistant with reality.

          LIFE is unpredictable my friend. As soon as we discontinue trying to predict and expect, we may experience more happiness/contentment.

          23 years ago I was a competitive athlete, actor, singer, dancer in the best physical and emotional shape I had ever been in my life. I was honored by an international group as a "woman of the 90s", very active in the community and with my family. I felt like I was on top of the world. One day I went horseback riding, and regained consciousness two weeks later in a child-like state emotionally and physically.

          If I had been "stuck" with my expectation that I was in great shape and on top of the world, I probably would have been very disappointed. However, I had embraced the idea that life was about learning, so that's what I did...make sense?
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        Mar 25 2013: Very interesting indeed!
        However if you have watched the optimism bias, there are conflicting pieces of data.
        Tali Sharrot claims that low expectations can become a self-self-fulfilling prophecy and that it changes your perception and has data which suggests that even when people do well with low expectations they claim "they were just lucky" and don't take credit for it.

        Actually a lot easier way if for you to watch :
        Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice:
        Tali Sharot: The optimism bias:
        These two contradict eachother a lot. Yet they are both rational and logical assumptions from the data they both have...
        I like your idea of a sort of "subjective truth" (from the data we have, rational and logical conclusions).
        While I do believe in objective truth and morality, partly because I believe that defining morality is subjective, but once you have defined it it can become objective. (Even if there isn't a God) while we may not know it, but it is still there. In the way is beating your child going to encourage emotional growth? Probably not. You need to test your moral "hypotheses" and rational for them. And if you find they are wrong, try and correct them!
        Out of interest : Would you say I am irrational?
        Because Gail (formerly TED lover) keeps claiming that I am being irrational by claiming that "rationalization" is the fundamental cause of suffering, and that defining evil as : "An intentional action to harm someone physically, mentally or spiritually" as irrational as well.
        But I am not sure how this is irrational at all!
        I mean there are many definitions of happiness and "God" (as we have seen). And he is basically saying (to my interpretation) : If you don't agree with my preconceived definition you are irrational. I am finding it hard to understand his point of view! I was hoping you could help.
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          Mar 28 2013: Bernard,
          There are probably "conflicting pieces of data" about almost anything....don't you think?

          Glad you like my idea regarding subjective truth, often based on information we are willing to evaluate and accept.

          No, I would not say you are irrational, because I don't like to judge people. Do you think/feel a judgment could be another subjective truth based on information one is willing to evaluate and accept?
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        Mar 25 2013: Sorry to go on!
        But how did you get so many TED Cred points? :D
        Also the reason I feel you could help me understand GAIL is because in some area's you had quite similar thoughts.
        I mean my rational for Rationalization (Rationalizing your actions)being the heart of all suffering and evil (and not desire) is because :
        1. You desire to have a pencil.
        2. You steal the pencil
        3.. You realize it is just a pencil so it is okay to steal it and nobody will mind.
        You would only 3rd step if you could do the 3rd step!
        While yes desire is the fundamental cause of most things, but it is also important thing for pleasure and various other positive actions!!
        I mean rationalization of your actions can be achieved in lots of ways. E.G :
        1. The person i stole the pencil from deserved it (a slight dehumanization)
        2. Everybody was stealing pencils.
        3. I was ordered to steal a pencil/ had no choice.
        4. I was tired and I needed that pencil.
        5. Nobody stopped me from taking the pencil so it must have been okay.
        6. I helped someone from stealing the pencil.
        7. It was only a pencil! Get over it! :D
        I mean there are many ways we can "rationlize" our actions.
        I hoped I have explained this well enough!.
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          Mar 28 2013: Bernard,
          Re: TED Cred....as it says in our profile....it reflects a person's participation on TED. I've been participating on TED for quite awhile, and based on the feedback I get, it appears that some people agree with the ideas I share:>)

          The only way I might help you understand another person, is to suggest that you listen ......really listen and hear. More words, in defense of your argument is not always the best way to understand another person.

          That being said, what are you trying to express in the comment above from the first number 1 to the end? If you could put all that in a couple sentences, what would it look like? What is the message or question?
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        Mar 28 2013: I see your point. :).
        To be honest I would probably agree with you in the way that there is usually conflicting pieces of data for most things.
        What am I trying to express in number 1 to the end. I suppose all the different way you can rationalise your actions about stealing a pencil.
        I really like your thoughts though about judging people. Seems pretty accurate a s reasonable to me.
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        Apr 2 2013: Will be spamming this message to all those who I think may be interested. (I want to raise awareness) I hope nobody minds "too much" :D : (To all those on these links such as : Can we define God)
        Strongly recommend you join my debate on this ( Can we ever design an experiment which can determine whether God exist or not?) on this link : http://www.ted.com/conversations/17451/can_we_ever_design_an_experime.html
        Many thanks.
        I would be very interested in your opinion, and input in this subject Colleen Steen.
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      Mar 21 2013: I honestly don't know for now.
      I mean concerning God I would probably call myself an "ignostic" until you define God (which very few do) and then become an "strong agnostic" once you define God. And my own definition of God would sort of be a pantheist approach. Sorry to go on a little there.
      Now with the "Do you perceive any Difference between the words Pleasure & Joy?". Hmmm. I can imagine pleasure being more momentarily than joy, but from pure intuition they both sound roughly the same. But I suppose I would need to know your own definitions to tell you if I perceive a difference. (Sorry to not give you a very clear answer! :) )
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      • Apr 10 2013: The Ego is the only thing that is vain. Are you the Ego? If so, where did you come from? Only the Ego claims itself as the Ultimate Self. Quality of enquiry is the key. The ego Strives and a settles for tidy explanations........that reduce the likelihood of Deeper investigation.

        So, WHO is it that is Vain?

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