Richard has a great series of articles about Existentialism over at DeConversion blog (Here is Part I). I highly recommend all of the parts, especially for those philosophobes who are afraid to dip their toes in the existential waters. Go on…don’t be afraid…
If your life was totally free from role expectations and limitations, and you had unlimited resources at your disposal, what would you do with it?
We have spent our entire lifetimes trying to fit into someone else’s idea of what is right for us; assembling our bodies according to society’s formula of the perfect women, forming our thoughts and opinions to suit our audience, limiting our feelings to what’s acceptable, and formulating our behavior and actions according to the expectations of others. We have become emotionally crippled as a result of habitually abandoning ourselves to fit into the shapes of others. Each surrender of our feelings, our truth, and our originality becomes a mini-abduction of who we are (Patricia Lynn Riley)
At Talking Philosophy blog, Jean Kazez writes about the Conservative Soul as it pertains to a British Parliament bill concerning the mixing of animal and human embryos in cloning. I must have a conservative soul, because this sounds abhorrent to me. Some say that new ideas are always abhorrent to people at first, until they get used to them. What I wonder is how far do we go? Where is the line where NOBODY crosses and where all are in agreement about what should never be done. Is there a line? If not, why not? Sometimes I think that the only difference between the liberal and the conservative mind is the notion of limits; who sets them and where are the boundries?
Over at the Washington Times, Julia Dunn brings up the problem of theodicy on her Belief Blog. Leaving aside this age-old question for a moment, one thing that has bothered me no end about the Steven Curtis Chapman tragedy is that news reports ALWAYS mention that his daughter was struck by an SUV. Now, this may mean nothing, but why is the type of vehicle always mentioned? No one ever says people are killed by a sub-compact car do they? Why is it any more of a tragedy to say she was run over by an SUV? Sometimes I think that environmental folks are putting the idea out there, that SUVs are evil, non-green, killing machines, so that this meme will be picked up in order to effectively kill the SUV sales industry.
There’s an eye-opening and scary article at Junkfood Science by Sandy Szwarc about the BIG business of the weight loss/obesity shills/wellness industry. This industry has gotten very BLOATED and are promoting some frightening ideas; things that threaten the freedoms of everyone. Perhaps these social managers should go on a DIET themselves and curb their APPETITES for telling others what to do. For some reason, people have gotten it into their heads that they can control EVERYTHING; genetics, behavior, global climates, animal reproduction, you name it. Humankind HATES to admit that there are some things beyond their control and if you don’t agree….well watch out.
Most everyone I know around the Internet has a “problem” with spirituality. The atheists have a problem figuring out why some people are not content with materialism or naturalism and the religionists have a problem understanding why people cannot believe in the supra-natural. I think the “problem” goes deeper than that. The problem is the philosophy of dualism, which informs every religion from Christianity to Islam. Without the idea of dualism all religious questions about the afterlife would be a moot point. So what is “dualism?” There are numerous definitions of dualism depending on your focus on morals, philosophy, or materialism, but for my purposes I am defining dualism as the belief that our “soul” or our consciousness is separate from our bodies. Many religions base their entire belief systems on the concept of the dual nature of humans, one nature which is related to God or the gods or the supra-natural and the other based in the material world, always opposed to spirit and in the control of evil, Satan, etc. Paul and the other writers would be out of business if dualism weren’t true because the entire New Testament is based on dualism.
Dualism is seemingly everywhere. We see in “twos” all the time; sky:earth, up:down, mind:body, male:female….. but we know, deep down, that two is not the final number for any of these things. Why do we insist that it is? I contend that the only reason people believe in gods is because they so desperately wish for an afterlife, a place after death in which our consciousness lives on in the presence of someone or thing and that we are preserved eternally. And I most vehemently further contend that the belief in dualism and moreover a belief in an afterlife are the SOLE reasons people believe in God. Nothing else makes belief in such an entity worthwhile. In other words, there’s nothing in it for us if the afterlife is a lie. People will be moral without gods. That’s been proven. So we don’t need gods for that. Now some will argue, equally vehemently, that they most certainly would believe if heaven or hell did not exist, but I don’t believe them. As humans we desperately want our actions to have meaning in equal measure with our wish for vengeance. Both sentiments, which come naturally to humans, automatically ensure that our religions will reflect this.
There is a Synchro-blogging event going on concerning this very topic and there are some excellent posts out there. You see, I don’t think we can over-think this issue of duality at all! It’s the key to how we will think about the world and it will guide our thoughts toward or away from believing in Gods or the super and supra-natural realm. Christians accept the duality of humans automatically. So do Muslims. I’m not sure that Jews do. There are monistic hints and patterns in the Old Testament and I’m not conversant enough in Judaism to know for sure. I sure would like to ponder some questions though:
- Can there be an afterlife and not be a God that “presides” over it?
- Can an afterlife exist without the concept of reward or punishment?
- What does it mean for us if we truly face the concept that there is no division between our minds and our bodies? How do we then live?
- Doesn’t morality become truly “moral” if there is no heaven or hell?
Just some thoughts to ponder on a Sunday morning.
I found an excellent article in The Philosopher’s Magazine this morning. In it, Mark Vernon explains why he is an agnostic after having left the Anglican priesthood. This article, more than anything else I have found, explains why I still discuss popular culture and events in religious terms, why I still devote my energies to bible reading, and why I still go church. I no longer believe that religion should hold any role in politics. I no longer believe that the bible is inerrant (which doesn’t mean it holds no truth) and I take church going with a grain of salt, knowing full well that, like any dysfunctional and/or abusive family, what heals you one day gob-smacks you the next. Vernon finally clarified for me why I still cling to this “god-talk.” Describing Socrates’ agnosticism as opposed to Bertrand Russell’s, Vernon writes,
Socrates is an agnostic figure for a different reason. From what can be gleaned via Plato, he came to understand that the key to wisdom is not being able to prove beliefs, but understanding the extent of your ignorance. He was agnostic in not assenting to philosophical systems, and instead went around ancient Athens asking awkward questions. For him, the importance of reason was not that it could potentially understand all but that it exposed the limitations of all our understanding. Hence the word philosopher was invented for him; he was a lover of wisdom that is desired precisely because it is lacked. Philosophy, it seems, was not about establishing truths. And its aim of thinking clearly was a means to an end. That end was a matter of learning what it is to be an “in between” animal – in between the brute ignorance of the beasts, and the true wisdom of the gods: ignorant but not pig ignorant.
Now, Socrates differs from Russell in all sorts of ways, of course. However, their different “agnosticisms” are illuminating. For if Russell’s agnosticism made him tend towards atheism, Socrates’ agnosticism made him want to hold onto god-talk and religious practice: it did not leave him “atheistically inclined”. Quite the opposite, in fact. It intensified his sense of what it was to be religious. For in theology, “god-talk”, he found the perfect reflection of human uncertainty since matters divine are nothing if not ultimately unknown. It richly reflected his conviction of the “in between” status of human beings. Unlike the orthodox believer, Socrates’ uncertain attitude undermines any certain beliefs. But equally, unlike the committed atheist (or “near” atheist), his agnostic sensibility remains open to what god-talk might reveal about being human. Socrates’ agnosticism lies at the heart of his fascination with the big questions of how to live and where to find meaning in life.
Vernon goes on to discuss morality, knowledge, and all the bugaboos of atheist/theist debate. For a short article, it’s well worth the time to read it. It coalesces in my mind what I cannot say in words; how you can claim to know and not know at the same time and to accept what that means in public discourse. Good stuff.
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In the immortal words of Randy Quaid’s character in Independence Day, “Remember me boys? I’m Baaaaaaaack!” Me? Stay away? This persona is the closest I come to actually revealing the “real me” online. I tested other blogs. Started them. Deleted them. Wrung my hands in frustration and found them all wanting. Take me or leave me, this is “me” at my most obnoxious and stubborn. And, I might add, my most true. So with that caveat, let’s tour where I’ve been lately:
I love this rumination about the ethical questions surround ebay and their decision not to “sell” “virtual items” from Warcraft or Second Life on their web site. The discussion eventually moves to a philosophical level.
All the Golden Compass brouhaha has made me want to go out and buy Pullman’s books, although my daughter says they are boring. Still, whenever Christians boycott, I’m there buying, reading, or investigating what scares them so much. It’s a sure sign that something needs to be discovered! Read this delicious review from Mark Morford of SFGate. All the Protestant and Catholic fundies enraged by the movie fail to grasp the point: that if their god needs them to defend “him” (sic) from a movie or a book or any other pop culture phenomenon, what does that say about their god?
Pagans are celebrating Winter Solstice today and Wild Hunt Blog has a good summation of what that means for them.
It looks like Killing the Buddha has a new format. What was once a magazine style page has now transformed into blog format. I think I like it.
Let’s not forget some Christmas fun with my absolute favorite musical Christmas light display:
There are many other places I’ve been and to quote Seuss “Oh, the places I’ll go” but for now, enjoy the season! Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, and Blessings for the Holiday!