I can't really stand it when Tom discusses atheism/agnosticism

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And the same here...I think this is a great conversation.

Antifascist's picture
Antifascist
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote Laborisgood:
Quote D_NATURED:

I believe in religion, as in groups of people sharing a spiritual time with each other. It can come in many forms, though, and needn't be declared to be in any god's name.

D-Natured:

We really are not so far apart on this issue. If you could see into the hearts and minds of any given group gathered at any given church for a service, I believe you would find anything but homogeneous uniformity of faith, doubt, belief, intellectual scrutiny, etc. Certainly, organized religion has a goal of creating uniformity, but it probably achieves it no better than any other group of humans in any organization. Good clergy can facilitate that spiritual time you mentioned, but clergy are human and often fall short.

While it may be true that there is no homogeneous emotional state in any given church, the intellectual state is a given. I disagree that the religious aren't a problem as a group, for that reason. What happens is, though everyone doubts at times or believes at times, the church becomes a source of identity for people that is easier to convey than simply telling a stranger all of your opinions. If you say, I'm a Catholic, there are automatically some things I can assume about you, such as, that you believe there was a person named Jesus who lived two thousand years ago and was the son of a supernatural being named "god". I can also assume that the catholic person will eat wafers and drink wine on command and will pretend that that wafer is the flesh of their god and the wine is his blood. It's also not a stretch to assume the person is anti-gay and anti-choice. Some aren't but their religion is. Countless religious exercises will also be part of this person's repertoir, even though none of them make any sense in the human world-expecially as a reason to feel superior. What it all boils down to, though, is that I can assume they will think less of me for not having a religion than they would if I believed in the same crazy shit that they do or some subset of their beliefs.

I don't really ever intend to win people over to my point of view, I'm a horrible evangelist. I've never been too comfortable with the exclusionary nature of religion either. Self-proclaimed Christians who so easily play the exclusion card can truly lay no claim to being a follower of Jesus. Jesus, if nothing else, stands for inclusion. I see all the specific Christian denominations clamoring to lay claim as the one true path as missing the whole inclusion message as well and would just leave Jesus shaking his head.

I agree. That's not what my interpretation of Jesus' words are, either. However, it matters little what one or the other of us has to say about it. There are millions and millions of Christians who feel no need to agree with us at all. What matters is that, when you meet a person on the street and find out their faith is the same as yours, you will automatically trust them more than if you didn't know their faith. Similarly, when someone you initially like admits to a faith or lack of faith that you find distasteful, you will assume bad things.

The contradictions that are most apparent in this country concern how the various flavors of Jesus worship have done nothing to advance the agenda of the Jesus Character, and very few of the participants in Jesus worship are willing to admit that. Jesus specifically said not to stand around praising god in a loud and public mannor, but that's exactly what the majority of Jesus followers do. Jesus said to take care of each other but the American Christian right is against any policy that achieves that. Jesus said that we shouldn't judge each other's soul as that is god's job, but so many christians want to treat gay people like the walking damned. Again, I am speaking of the positions of the institutions and not every follower. When it's crunch time, though, those followers will self identifiy with the church of choice, rather than face being outcast.

Maybe, given a long enough life span, I could figure out where to focus my disdain. Maybe if I had enough time to talk to people and if people were willing to consider my doubt as they request I consider their theism, we might have a chance to agree. Yet, not only am I not having conversations with theists on a regular basis, I don't think theists of different stripes spend a lot of time conversing with each other over their potentially false or potentially enlightening ideas. This group sticks together and so does the other with a lot of bullshit talk about tolerance (by the minority religions) without any tolerance being practiced in reality. If there is no real dialoge and no real desire to establish the true from the false, then religion is-as Zenzoe said-mental masturbation. It's just about what feels good.

I'm not opposed to people feeling good as long as they don't do it at my expense. Feeling good about overpopulation-as a gift from god- or the suffering of others whom we war against - experiencing god's wrath- is the religious way for many. IT becomes a way for people to accept things they never should. That world view of "god does it all" excuses a lot of inhuman shit. We may not have to get rid of religion to fix that, but we need to drastically change the way religion is practiced. The outward looking need to look at themselves for it to work. The current religious atmosphere encourages a rethinking of what it is to be human but not what it is to be Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, etc. That is where they all fail the same way. It is not enough for the world to be a better place, it must be a better *fill in religion's name* place.

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D_NATURED
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Oct. 20, 2010 7:47 pm

This is just an argument against magic and fantasy when being realistic is the challenge. It does not mean that we have an objective realism or that our ideas become more certain than existentially provisional. They are provisional in the sense that we are continuing to think and imagine, so even our best ideas can be blown up, but not exactly 'destroyed' as they are transcended. Tradition can be the living faith of the dead rather than a rejection of the now and new.

Do you need to have me say that the sales of religion these days are not exactly what the "community of faith" is about. Most of them do sell God and niceness instead of reality and bearing power. Being open to what tells us that everything we thought we knew for sure is wrong and seeing that as good news is not how to keep a congregation paying the bills and in line, or so these leaders think. I think it would be a good idea to try a "community of faith" for the rest of us because the 'spirituality' thing is just too isolated in the individual to be enough.

DRC's picture
DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

As I said earlier D-Natured, we really are not so far apart. My only gripe with your comments would be the assumption of the rubber-stamping of anti-gay, anti-choice platforms by members of a church which espouses such doctrines. People tend to act in ways which are true to themselves and their circumstances and not necessarily that which their church might desire.

I have some friends at my church with a son who is gay. Our church doctrine says it's a sin. They find a way to come to terms with that and still attend and are very active in the church. They have no designs on changing their son and love him as he is. I have twin girls who are going through confirmation class and one of the other kids asked the pastor about homosexuality. He gave the answer he is obligated to give per his specific employer, but I made it clear to my daughters that it is not a sin. I gave them a similar talking to on evolution when that subject came up.

Not everything is as cut and dried as I would prefer. I take the good with the bad.

Laborisgood's picture
Laborisgood
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote DRC:

OK, the problem with your spiritual journey recipe is that when you end in "spirituality" you have not done anything about getting from Me to We. You just grow up in a family with myths and stories and Santa, reject them as you demythologize and discover science and go on to choose to be You on the basis of pleasure and to a large degree, convenience. How does the "spiritual" move toward maturity, and how would that be lived out?

It does matter how we see "things working." Affirming love is more than choosing to be loved because it is nice. Recognizing it as a need raises all the moral issues of relationship, and what does your "spirituality" do to embrace the mutuality of need in deep intimacy? If you want to treat justice as the abstraction of love, how we are our 'brother's keeper' beyond the personal and familial, why it is necessary goes to the heart of your vision of self in community. I do not find anything that requires spirituality to include the reality of community and what it requires of the self in your formula. I do not think that you are oblivious to it, but it comes as an add on extra and not as a necessary part of the whole.

Again, my goal is not to resurrect theism or to suggest that we cannot work out a new understanding of the sacred/secular formula for reality. I will confront the 'modernism' that believes that the secular has it all and that we can catalog and order our world. But, I will also ask the "new age' sprituality to get some flesh, bone and blood into its ethereal forms.

Ah, I see. The problem is that you're looking at this personally and I'm simply delivering a messege from the transpersonal. Here, look at this again (or perhaps for the first time and you can read about it too), study it, contemplate upon it. Or use a variety. Ya see, the we has been there all along. The me and the we are mutually dependent along with the it and its.

It's not my recipe. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. Look around again. There are a myriad of maps, models, recipies, developmental schemes, etc. call them what you will. I didn't make the distinction between spiritual and religious, but millions of people use it. I recognize that WE are defining and refining these issues and I am merely an agent of that process. Part of "spiritual" is responsibility and the development of empathy/ broad and deep compassion. It's lived out in countless ways. People volunteer and donate.

This is a hard post for me because your communication isn't clear. Look at your 2nd sentence. Are you refering to me specifically or should you have written one instead of you? But yeah, that's roughly what happens. and after that if all goes well, one learns that love, patience, tolerence and other timeless virtues make the world a better place. We hopefully also learn that these traits may be inherent within the human condition, but they can be repressed or cultivated. But it takes maturity to get that masters degree.

What's up with your 2nd sentences anyways, wtf?, "embrace the mutuality of need in deep intimacy" Huh? My spirituality incorporates the notion that development is basically a growth from selfishness to selflessness. I have a big buddhist streak so part of my spiritual directive is proper use of language and proper thinking so....which kind of love are you refering to? agape, eros, familia? something else? I would never treat justice as an abstraction of love. Where did you get that? You must be confusing me with selfish narcissic new-age idiots, DRC.

If you haven't noticed, I was a big fan of Ken Wilber, an emergent integral culture, spiral dynamics, and stuff like that. I kept asking myself, "what would an enlightened person do if one was on this planet?" it was like a koan for me. The conclusion was that the person would behave more like Thom Hartmann than what Ken Wilber was doing in recent years. That my friend is why I am here. I am sorry that your exposure to new-age bullshit has left you with a prejudicial cynicism and blinds you. Drop your bias my friend. Embrace your spirituality and help preach the new gospel. Albert Einstein told us that the problems we face wont be solved with the same mindset that created them in the first place. It's time to upgrade brother. Dont ask other to flesh it out, help us to flesh it out. Deal? We'll learn to fish together.

MEJ's picture
MEJ
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote Laborisgood:

As I said earlier D-Natured, we really are not so far apart. My only gripe with your comments would be the assumption of the rubber-stamping of anti-gay, anti-choice platforms by members of a church which espouses such doctrines. People tend to act in ways which are true to themselves and their circumstances and not necessarily that which their church might desire.

I'm sure there are gay mormons. However, to be mormon and have a gay child, you have to understand that your tithes are going to support anti-gay legislation around the country. The religion you freely choose would make your child a second class citizen. By self identifying with and joining that group, you take part in its faults as well as its virtues. You make your child a second class citizen.

Be aware of the faults, is what I'm saying. They define a church as much as the stained glass. How far does any particular version of the inerrant word of god have to stray from your personal feelings before you abandon the whole thing?

I have some friends at my church with a son who is gay. Our church doctrine says it's a sin. They find a way to come to terms with that and still attend and are very active in the church. They have no designs on changing their son and love him as he is. I have twin girls who are going through confirmation class and one of the other kids asked the pastor about homosexuality. He gave the answer he is obligated to give per his specific employer, but I made it clear to my daughters that it is not a sin. I gave them a similar talking to on evolution when that subject came up.

Wouldn't it be better to support a belief system-or a version of what you have-that doesn't disagree on such big issues as homosexuality and young-earth creationism? I know you understand not only that the church is wrong but that there are severe social implications, because of the philosophy they teach, to the education system and equal protection.

Not everything is as cut and dried as I would prefer. I take the good with the bad.

Look, I understand that there is a community there. It's better, if you decide to stay connected to the church, to be a voice of reason when the subject comes up. The world needs strong people who are willing to stand up to convention. At least I know there's a few good people on the inside.

D_NATURED's picture
D_NATURED
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Oct. 20, 2010 7:47 pm
Quote D_NATURED:

At least I know there's a few good people on the inside.

You make it sound like a prison D-Natured. I'll contact you first if I plan a break out. It's all good ..... let it ride!

Laborisgood's picture
Laborisgood
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

theism is not a religion. [theism = belief in god or gods.]

atheism is not a religion. [atheism = not-theism, ergo disbelief in god or gods.]

a religion can be centered around theistic doctrine.

a religion can be centered around atheistic doctrine.

tomas.savage's picture
tomas.savage
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Dec. 27, 2011 9:29 am
Quote DRC:

This is just an argument against magic and fantasy when being realistic is the challenge. It does not mean that we have an objective realism or that our ideas become more certain than existentially provisional. They are provisional in the sense that we are continuing to think and imagine, so even our best ideas can be blown up, but not exactly 'destroyed' as they are transcended. Tradition can be the living faith of the dead rather than a rejection of the now and new.

Yes. A beautiful sentiment...if only it were possible on a large scale.

Laborisgood proved my assertion that people identify with religions they have major disagreements with, which bodes poorly for any such spiritual transformation for humanity. He hasn't had time to respond yet to my previous post so I will leave it there in case he clarifies something. The bitch of it is that I know what his issues are and I don't blame him for compromising, if that's what you call it. He is playing his part to his family and his friends and that's probably what most people do. I guess that's why I'm the black sheep is because I have spoken up a few times.

Do you need to have me say that the sales of religion these days are not exactly what the "community of faith" is about. Most of them do sell God and niceness instead of reality and bearing power. Being open to what tells us that everything we thought we knew for sure is wrong and seeing that as good news is not how to keep a congregation paying the bills and in line, or so these leaders think. I think it would be a good idea to try a "community of faith" for the rest of us because the 'spirituality' thing is just too isolated in the individual to be enough.

I think that we need to somehow encourage the evolution of religion. Like I said in another post, the answer is not to do away with religion. That is as ridiculous as doing away with hands because people beat each other with them. We have to find a better and a better religion until one works. I hope we last that long.

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D_NATURED
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Oct. 20, 2010 7:47 pm

the evolution of religion is spirituality, mature spirituality, not ignorant (childish) spirituality. It's a pre/trans fallacy. that confuses the matter....that and the beer....but until you address the pre/trans thing, ..you really haven't done your homework

MEJ's picture
MEJ
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote MEJ:

the evolution of religion is spirituality, mature spirituality, not ignorant (childish) spirituality. It's a pre/trans fallacy. that confuses the matter....that and the beer....but until you address the pre/trans thing, ..you really haven't done your homework

The pre/trans thing seems pretty common sense. Some people want to see/project god into everything and some people want to diminish genuine spirituality as being no better than the god fantasies that conflict with the sanity and humanity of many. I like the thought but I'm not sure how it changes anything for me. I was already on board.

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D_NATURED
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Oct. 20, 2010 7:47 pm

OK, MEJ, you are really mature in this spirituality stuff, and you have this pre/trans analysis. I am not about inserting "God" into anything. The question of what it takes to make and keep human life human in this world does require a sense of one's humanity to address. It is not a biological term, it is a moral one. How we grow up and become mature is not how we 'become human.' We have to be in touch with that all along.

Some know what is missing. Others are able to affirm what is there. In many ways it is easier to know the former than the latter. But yearning from need is not the best way to know love. The paradox is in the human mystery. Those who grow up in privilege, with all the advantages and support systems money can buy don't get what those who grow up in mutual need get. Poverty is not to be romanticized, but doing things that mean something to others does. Most of our kids do not have that experience growing up.

I have been around long enough to know that wisdom happens, but it cannot be forced or presumed by any spiritual journey map. The mouths of babes and the silence of saints both speak volumes. If I ever have any to impart, I regard it as the same miracle that happens when I play music I can listen to afterward without flinching.

I found the piece from Ken Wilbur to be a lot of logistic barf. It is not that I don't think he is trying to get at anything, it is just that he is deeply snagged in his own stuff. For me, the missing piece is community/society and how there is any political point to spiritual maturity. This game is not about a few individuals achieving some heroic spiritual quest.

DRC's picture
DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

DRC wrote...

The question of what it takes to make and keep human life human in this world does require a sense of one's humanity to address. It is not a biological term, it is a moral one.

I like that juxtaposition of the biological and the ethical.

That reminds me of an argument that I forgot to include in the post about Materialistic Naturalism (post #129) so I will rhetorically state it here.

So we can refer to this school as Materialistic Naturalism and is really a family of allied philosophical schools of thought that embraces logic, empiricism, behaviorism, materialism, atheism, secularism, humanism and even political conservatism. Each school reinforces the other and understands Humans as unique by virtue of being more complex than animal life.

Dennett and Dawkins point to biological complexity of the human nervous system and brain that elevates humans above other biological entities. However the term “complexity” is ambiguous—a linear ambiguity like “more,” “far,” ‘tall,” and “simple.” Could it be that it isn’t the organism that is complex, but our thinking that is simple? Further, if we were able to define ‘complex,’ how does that entail a higher ontological status of human existence? Wouldn’t a complex organism be less likely to survive in the struggle for life in the evolution of biological organisms since a failure of any of its components, let us say its immune system, make its mortality more vulnerable? And again, how does complexity entail the human being as a moral agent? Or to state it in another way, “How do we derive the ethical 'ought' from the ontological fact of 'is'?"

Antifascist's picture
Antifascist
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote MEJ:

Albert Einstein told us that the problems we face wont be solved with the same mindset that created them in the first place.

That's always been one of my favorite Einstein-isms. Sort of a variation on insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Do you suppose the 40 years Einstein spent unsuccessfully pursuing the Unified Field Theory was proof of that statement being right or wrong? Perhaps his younger and fresher thinking-outside-of-the-box mindset worked to his advantage with relativity and photoelectric effect and and after he "learned too much" later in life he was not able to readjust his mindset accordingly. Or maybe he was just old.

Laborisgood's picture
Laborisgood
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Quote D_NATURED:
Quote Laborisgood:

As I said earlier D-Natured, we really are not so far apart. My only gripe with your comments would be the assumption of the rubber-stamping of anti-gay, anti-choice platforms by members of a church which espouses such doctrines. People tend to act in ways which are true to themselves and their circumstances and not necessarily that which their church might desire.

I'm sure there are gay mormons. However, to be mormon and have a gay child, you have to understand that your tithes are going to support anti-gay legislation around the country. The religion you freely choose would make your child a second class citizen. By self identifying with and joining that group, you take part in its faults as well as its virtues. You make your child a second class citizen.

Be aware of the faults, is what I'm saying. They define a church as much as the stained glass. How far does any particular version of the inerrant word of god have to stray from your personal feelings before you abandon the whole thing?

I have some friends at my church with a son who is gay. Our church doctrine says it's a sin. They find a way to come to terms with that and still attend and are very active in the church. They have no designs on changing their son and love him as he is. I have twin girls who are going through confirmation class and one of the other kids asked the pastor about homosexuality. He gave the answer he is obligated to give per his specific employer, but I made it clear to my daughters that it is not a sin. I gave them a similar talking to on evolution when that subject came up.

Wouldn't it be better to support a belief system-or a version of what you have-that doesn't disagree on such big issues as homosexuality and young-earth creationism? I know you understand not only that the church is wrong but that there are severe social implications, because of the philosophy they teach, to the education system and equal protection.

Not everything is as cut and dried as I would prefer. I take the good with the bad.

Look, I understand that there is a community there. It's better, if you decide to stay connected to the church, to be a voice of reason when the subject comes up. The world needs strong people who are willing to stand up to convention. At least I know there's a few good people on the inside.

"How far does the inerrant word of God have to stray from your personal feelings before you abandon the whole thing" is an excellent question. In my particular case it hasn't even come close. In the 18 years I've been going to this church (and I don't miss too many Sundays), homosexuality has only been mentioned once in a church service and young-earth creationism has not even been mentioned once. The homosexuality mention was just a throw-in on a list of sin including pornography, drug-abuse, violence, etc. The pastor actually seemed uneasy with mentioning homosexuality in the same breath with the others, but he did. He is burdened with that occupational hazard due to his chosen denomination. Fortunately, I am not. Either way, they don't beat us over the head with some of those thorny issues. I assume they do so to keep more asses in the pews. These "big issues", as you call them, are relegated to confirmation classes, school or people who may seek personal advice on such matters. As I said, I've already made my correction to official church doctrine relative to my children on those issues.

The social implications due to the philosophies taught in the parochial school are an issue with me as well. Our oldest daughter went to the parochial school for a few years, but we eventually got her into our local public schools when we felt she was going to get short-changed in her education. The additional Jesus time is not enough to offset the baggage attached with the "big issues" as they collide with science and social maturity.

I like way you put it D-Natured, that I can be the voice of reason on the inside. If I do have a useful purpose related to spirituality and religion, it is not so much to draw outsiders into the church as it is to rectify the faults within the church. Kinda like Luther, I guess. Just as Jesus wanted to expand the Kingdom beyond just the Jews, Luther wanted to expand the reading of scripture beyond just the select clergy who could understand Latin, Greek and Hebrew. To be honest, the single most important part of my modern American Reformation, is to rescue Jesus from those Pharisaic Republicans. For the Left to concede Jesus (the most avid liberal of all time) to the Right is not just bad politics, it's an insult to Jesus' legacy. I think Thom picks up on that theme very nicely.

P.S. It's funny that you feel you are the black sheep D-Natured when it comes to your stance on religion, when I feel that you are much more in tune with the general Thom crowd than myself. Certainly, anybody who condones organized religion in Thomville is the black sheep, don't you think?

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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

It will take some time for American religion to rediscover the authentic doctrines of biblical authority. What we have at present is an Age of Reason, logical positivist obsession with texts, much like the Originalists are about the Constitution.

The old bumper sticker goes, "God said it, I believe it, and that's it." It is just a rough version of what most Bible interpreters do today. They may be more scholarly about asking what the text really means with lots of Hebrew and Greek. They may even give more room for disagreement about the precise meaning of a text. But they will never concede that the text read with the best intellectual rationality could be anything other than the Word of God because the Bible is 'infallible.'

Too bad they don't know where that idea came from and what it meant there. It is in the First Chapter of the Westminster Confession, on the Authority of Scripture, and it really means, don't blame the Bible for the problem of the human mind. The problem is not what the Bible says, it is what you read it to say and what you do with it. Unless you have "the illumination of the Holy Spirit, working by and with the Word in your heart," you will only have a rational, human reading of a Holy Book and not "the Word."

The Confession makes a big deal of why it not the erudition of the authors, the literary style or even the fine points of doctrine being debated by us. You have to have the Holy Spirit in there or you will not "get it." Plus, the Holy Spirit is an active interpreter, not just the rubber stamp given to reason by uber-belief. The epistemology of Heart and Mind in fusion is a lot different than what we find in the culture of Belief. This is really about intellectual and moral integrity and the openess to hear something unexpected or even undesired. Today, people on both sides go to the Bible to find ammunition for the polemic. Hard to hear the Word of God with that attitude.

I do not get any antagonism from Thom for 'organized religion.' We all see a lot of religious pathology, and Chris Hedges indicts the AWOL Mainstream liberals along with the American Fascists on the Religious Right. Thom actually knows about the social justice ministries of the churches and the legacy of the Social Gospel. I would love to see a revival in our churches where doing ministry in a world of need restored their sense of meaning and purpose and connected them with the critique of power. The conflict between patriotism and faith could lead to some serious reflection based in their own pain and confusion about being American Christians. The New Rome is not exactly the beloved community of the Bible.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Damn Anti, what have you been smoking? There's nothing ambiguous about complexity. What, do ya need numbers or something? At least your last question is good. The golden rule aplies for for pagans and christians and dogs....and most mammals who all have limbic systems. It's spiritual stuff...

It was sad watching Ken Wilber twist and implode. There was some wonderful magic early on into Integral Naked, the discussion boards. So many expressed profound feelings of belonging with some of the others. We found the soul family for which we'd longed for so many years....it's funny, Wilber got kinda right-wing weird, and cultish. He said that cognitive development often outpaces the other lines of development. He ought to know, greedy, paranoid, ethically challenged as he may have been.

I don't confuse the man with his works, not anymore. There have been plenty of jerks who produced magnificent stuff throughout history. Leibniz might have been an asshole but calculus is none the less useful.

I don't understand what you are asking when you write of becoming human, DRC. I thought we simply are human mammals. Are you asking how people become good moral agents?

Well said, D_NATURED. It's a useful tool. Try this,...two people eat organically for different reasons, one for their own personal health, the other for concern of the environment....aw, never mind, you could loose your buddha nature if ya tried to answer.

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MEJ
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
There's nothing ambiguous about complexity

My taste for pizza is complex.

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Antifascist
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote Laborisgood:
Quote D_NATURED:
Quote Laborisgood:

As I said earlier D-Natured, we really are not so far apart. My only gripe with your comments would be the assumption of the rubber-stamping of anti-gay, anti-choice platforms by members of a church which espouses such doctrines. People tend to act in ways which are true to themselves and their circumstances and not necessarily that which their church might desire.

I'm sure there are gay mormons. However, to be mormon and have a gay child, you have to understand that your tithes are going to support anti-gay legislation around the country. The religion you freely choose would make your child a second class citizen. By self identifying with and joining that group, you take part in its faults as well as its virtues. You make your child a second class citizen.

Be aware of the faults, is what I'm saying. They define a church as much as the stained glass. How far does any particular version of the inerrant word of god have to stray from your personal feelings before you abandon the whole thing?

I have some friends at my church with a son who is gay. Our church doctrine says it's a sin. They find a way to come to terms with that and still attend and are very active in the church. They have no designs on changing their son and love him as he is. I have twin girls who are going through confirmation class and one of the other kids asked the pastor about homosexuality. He gave the answer he is obligated to give per his specific employer, but I made it clear to my daughters that it is not a sin. I gave them a similar talking to on evolution when that subject came up.

Wouldn't it be better to support a belief system-or a version of what you have-that doesn't disagree on such big issues as homosexuality and young-earth creationism? I know you understand not only that the church is wrong but that there are severe social implications, because of the philosophy they teach, to the education system and equal protection.

Not everything is as cut and dried as I would prefer. I take the good with the bad.

Look, I understand that there is a community there. It's better, if you decide to stay connected to the church, to be a voice of reason when the subject comes up. The world needs strong people who are willing to stand up to convention. At least I know there's a few good people on the inside.

"How far does the inerrant word of God have to stray from your personal feelings before you abandon the whole thing" is an excellent question. In my particular case it hasn't even come close. In the 18 years I've been going to this church (and I don't miss too many Sundays), homosexuality has only been mentioned once in a church service and young-earth creationism has not even been mentioned once. The homosexuality mention was just a throw-in on a list of sin including pornography, drug-abuse, violence, etc. The pastor actually seemed uneasy with mentioning homosexuality in the same breath with the others, but he did. He is burdened with that occupational hazard due to his chosen denomination. Fortunately, I am not. Either way, they don't beat us over the head with some of those thorny issues. I assume they do so to keep more asses in the pews. These "big issues", as you call them, are relegated to confirmation classes, school or people who may seek personal advice on such matters. As I said, I've already made my correction to official church doctrine relative to my children on those issues.

The fact that it isn't talked about says something by itself.

The social implications due to the philosophies taught in the parochial school are an issue with me as well. Our oldest daughter went to the parochial school for a few years, but we eventually got her into our local public schools when we felt she was going to get short-changed in her education. The additional Jesus time is not enough to offset the baggage attached with the "big issues" as they collide with science and social maturity.

Oh, then you have taken a stand before? Good for you.

I like way you put it D-Natured, that I can be the voice of reason on the inside. If I do have a useful purpose related to spirituality and religion, it is not so much to draw outsiders into the church as it is to rectify the faults within the church. Kinda like Luther, I guess. Just as Jesus wanted to expand the Kingdom beyond just the Jews, Luther wanted to expand the reading of scripture beyond just the select clergy who could understand Latin, Greek and Hebrew. To be honest, the single most important part of my modern American Reformation, is to rescue Jesus from those Pharisaic Republicans. For the Left to concede Jesus (the most avid liberal of all time) to the Right is not just bad politics, it's an insult to Jesus' legacy. I think Thom picks up on that theme very nicely.

It's obvious that to reform (evolve) religion, it has to be done by an adherent. You can't force people to believe something they've been told is the absolute truth is now a lie through anything but respectful dialogue. You have to demonstrate, through acts of love that we all deserve that, even gay people.

P.S. It's funny that you feel you are the black sheep D-Natured when it comes to your stance on religion, when I feel that you are much more in tune with the general Thom crowd than myself. Certainly, anybody who condones organized religion in Thomville is the black sheep, don't you think?

Yes, I'm the black sheep in the real world and you are that on this and any forum with an intellectual appeal (please don't take that as an insult...but the religious tend toward being incurious). I have no doubt that you would not feel insecure about revealing your religious identity to an acquaintance, at work or in public, but I hesitate. Some of the reactions I've recieved when I told the truth have been highly insulting. So, I have compromised by not admiting I am atheist. But you also admittedly have compromised yourself to some degree to stay "in" the church. Like the mormon parents you, in part, support the very institutions that you would not allow to miseducate/opress your own children. Yet, you fund the miseducation/opression of other's children. One can argue, after all, that deliberately false information is the equivalent of cooersion and the church is not innocent of that. My point is not to tear down any particular church or religion in general, though, but to make them better, and certainly not accept them as an establishment when they are stupid.

I was thinking about the whole pre/trans rationalism article that MEJ posted, I believe. At the time, I thought it made sense but there is something that isn't right about it. Rationalism isn't transcendent, rational people are. But what of rationalism anyway. You can't pop it in the toaster or put it in the tank. The article trys to imply an external spiritual source for the transcendent idea (or, maybe I'm misinterpreting) that I don't think exists. If so, I think he should have given more credit to humans for the spiritual knowledge that we have. I've never seen a dog pray. Our philosophy as humans should not be a stake in the ground. It should be a wheel.

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Quote D_NATURED:

... No man really knows anothers spiritual perspective, though, outside that person's ability to articulate their feelings, which at the end of the day are just feelings...even if we feel they are something more than that.

...

Quote D_NATURED:

...

I was thinking about the whole pre/trans rationalism article that MEJ posted, I believe. At the time, I thought it made sense but there is something that isn't right about it. Rationalism isn't transcendent, rational people are. But what of rationalism anyway. You can't pop it in the toaster or put it in the tank. The article trys to imply an external spiritual source for the transcendent idea (or, maybe I'm misinterpreting) that I don't think exists. If so, I think he should have given more credit to humans for the spiritual knowledge that we have. I've never seen a dog pray. Our philosophy as humans should not be a stake in the ground. It should be a wheel.

"Feelings; Nothing more than feelings..." OK, the whole pre-trans thing looked more to me like a discussion of the type of approach different people have taken towards spirituality's relatinship to rationality. Whether or not one pushes rationality to its limit in order to supercede it or one relinquishes rational thought in order to return to a spiritual awareness, that doesn't in itself answer to whether spirituality has an "external source." If humans are more spiritual because they are able to supercede their own rational capacities, this would imply a rational component to spirituality that would be unique to humans. If not, one could speculate that dogs don't pray because they don't feel disconnected from the greater spiritual being that is the world. Of course, we are part of the world, so internal and external are perspectival in that sense. I think the Wilber's idea then is that the spiritual faculty is involved in both of these types of processes, each of which has their own unique value but neither of which nor both together exhaust the potential for spiritual experience.

As far as an "external source" not being there I have to wonder what our perception is related to. The feelings of spirituality in themselves are not perceptions of external objects but are part of a subjective awareness that contains various shades and modes of distinction between self and world. I think it is generally admitted that there is an outside world, as in the american school of transcendentalism. One thing about feelings is that there seem to be once-removed type feeling. Like when you can tell someone is feeling exhilerated and maybe you get a little verklemt yourself, so you sense in some sense their sensations but you don't feel their sensations themselves. On the other hand, while I have my own direct perception of objects they are isolated in myself. Other's agreement with my perceptions relies on their perceiving the same thing from their own perspective and while there are ways of telling what they are perceiving, like when they get out of my way I know they see me, I don't have a sensation of their perception itself. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself with the once-removed feelings thing? The more complex, the more opportunity for self-deception...

What is the origin of, mode of development of, feelings that are not related to "fight or flight" or easily explainable in terms of relationships to others, ie so-called "sublime feelings?" What is their evolutionary value?

from the Wikipedia "Transcendentalism" article:

Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest to the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both man and nature. Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions - particularly organized religion and political parties - ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. They had faith that man is at his best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed.

...

Transcendentalism was in many aspects the first notable American intellectual movement. It certainly was the first to inspire succeeding generations of American intellectuals, as well as a number of literary monuments.[5] Rooted in the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant (and of German Idealism more generally), it developed as a reaction against 18th Century rationalism, John Locke's philosophy of Sensualism, and the manifest destiny of New England Calvinism. Its fundamental belief was in the unity and imminence of God in the world. The Transcendentalists found inspiration for their philosophy in a variety of diverse sources such as: Vedic thought, various religions, and German idealism.[6]

The transcendentalists desired to ground their religion and philosophy in transcendental principles: principles not based on, or falsifiable by, sensuous experience, but deriving from the inner spiritual or mental essence of the human. Immanuel Kant had called "all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects."[7] The transcendentalists were largely unacquainted with German philosophy in the original, and relied primarily on the writings of Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Victor Cousin, Germaine de Staël, and other English and French commentators for their knowledge of it. In contrast, they were intimately familiar with the English Romantics, and the transcendental movement may be partially described as a slightly later, American outgrowth of Romanticism. ...

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Wilber's work has to be taken as a whole to really be appreciated. He was a great synthesizer(sp?, word?). whatever...unfortunately he was quite prolific and it's a challenge to read through his loquacious style. His works are grand conflations of others and is founded on holon theory. Ya might find the twenty tenants interesting and pleasantly brief.

rationality transcends prerational. trans or hyper-rational transcends conventional rationality. I spent years trying to figure out what the devil was/is transrational. Here are a couple of my conclusions...Jesus can be viewed as a transrational thinker for his day. It must have seemed crazy in light of the conventional wisdom of his time to do stuff like turn the other cheek. New Testament morality is quite different tha Old. Note: Old testament morality is right wing conservative and the liberal morality of the New was a later development. Einstein's theory of relativity can be used as an example of a hyper-rational insight that remains a transcedent leap from Newtonian physics.

now I digress because D-NATURED hasn't properly observed enough dogs. They do prey and pray.

The reason that dogs and cats don't usually get along is a religious difference and should be a lesson to us all. Ya see, one gives a dog food, shelter and attention and the dog thinks, "You master are a god". Ya do the same for the cat and the cat thinks, "I must be a god".

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Hey nimble, KW had a hard time wth the whole spirituality thing because there are different ways to define spiritual and we cant really get (haven't yet defined) an established definition. Without a concensus, there can't be a quality conversation. It was kind of a cop out in my opinion.

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As my old buddy used to say, non sequitur, insufficient response.

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Quote D_NATURED:

I have no doubt that you would not feel insecure about revealing your religious identity to an acquaintance, at work or in public, but I hesitate. Some of the reactions I've recieved when I told the truth have been highly insulting. So, I have compromised by not admiting I am atheist. But you also admittedly have compromised yourself to some degree to stay "in" the church......... Our philosophy as humans should not be a stake in the ground. It should be a wheel.

I understand the aversion to public admission of atheism in America, but admission to theism is not without it's pitfalls. I am hesitant to divulge too much about my religion/spirituality to others as well. Most people throw out a "God bless you" or a "thank God" so much that you can't justify any spiritual credit to them. Just showing up in church can be just as hollow of an experience. I'm convinced that churches are loaded with closeted atheists that choose to not go down that road. Perhaps they'd rather hedge their bets, just in case.

Public divulgence of religion cuts both ways. If I were to make some definitive statement about my true beliefs to some devout member of my own church and an average not-so religious person on the street, I could simultaneously make one person think I'm deficient in by religion and the other that I'm a zealot. What about a statement to a member of my church and a member of some other church? They might both find me deficient. Obviously you could say the same for various combinations of atheists or any other faith. Just where is the correct place?

I believe the net that Jesus was casting was far bigger than most people give him credit for. As if the bickering between various factions of Christians isn't sad anough, the schism between Judaism and Christianity is devastating. I've never really been able to see Jesus as anything but a radical Jew in ancient Palastine who wanted to bring us all together. And as so many stories in the Bible and history tells us, a 100% kumbaya for all of humanity is no so easily done. However, it's an excellent goal to strive for. The more we see ourselves as the spokes in a wheel and not the stake in ground, we can move towards that goal.

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As far as an "external source" not being there I have to wonder what our perception is related to. The feelings of spirituality in themselves are not perceptions of external objects but are part of a subjective awareness that contains various shades and modes of distinction between self and world.

Well put (Jesus, there's some smart cats on this forum). I think there is no real debate over whether there IS something called spiritualism. The only argument is really the source. I think the argument has not served humanity well.

One area where traditional theistic religion has failed humanity is by clouding the issue. I doubt that cave men sat around debating whether that buffalo that Og killed and is sharing, that spiritual act of caring for his people, was inspired by an external god or an internal transcendence. Yet, once religion was introduced, Og's tribe no longer needed to thank Og for anything because he couldn't have possibly done such a brave thing without divine interference. It is that reassigning spiritual truths to something external to humans that I believe has tarnished spirituality so. It turns humans into god's robots and not beings with a choice to do good.

Spirituality can only exist in humans. I doubt that dogs or even the great apes have any spiritual sense about an external source. They may do good things for the beings they care about but their caring is as much a part of their being as any other physical trait they posess and has been enabled through the evolutionary process just as ours has. Thus, human spirituality-in the way humans do it- is as much a part of human-ness as a trunk is part of elephant-ness. To give credit to the sky for the wonderful or horrible things we do is equally bad for our species. It allows us to deny responsibility for ourselves and that is antithetical to any spiritual philosophy that could possibly work for us.

So, instead of thanking god for the fact that you're loved by others, thank them by loving them back. Instead of thanking god that you're not poor, give to those who are and your riches will be augmented by a spiritual truth that you made the world a better place.

Humans are spiritual beings. I don't think any amount of atheism can change that. Theism and atheism are not spiritual ideas, after all, they are religious beliefs. And, as atheists, if that's how you self identify, it should not be your goal to diminish what power our human spirits posess to change our situation. It should be nutured where it is genuine and abandoned where it has become dependent upon dogma to support it. We are the source of our own spirit. Don't give that power away to any one or any god.

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you haven't spent lots of quality time with the other mammals have you? What would Saint Francis say?

Haven't any of you had a spiritual experience that was inspired by the beauty of nature? a sun rise or set, amazing landscape, scary storm, etc? Are such things not objects? How about a divinely inspired artifact of artistic production? Music, art, literature? What about those holy books, holy places, etc.?

Nature mysticism, psychic mysticism, theistic mysticism, nondual mysticism can all be said to be spiritual. Why do you all work so hard to disqualify divinity in so many domains? Funky question coming from an atheist, eh? Then again, I'm also post-atheist.....

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G-d's Away On Business

He's one of my favorite Theologians.

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Hey, MEJ, how about you tell me about "post-atheist," and I will try to make sense of why "human" is a moral and spiritual term and not just our species designation. It does go back to that Imago Dei idea, but it is more about how we embrace being "beloved Creation in beloved Creation." Are we merely beasts of burden or dogs who eat dogs, at great insult to canines to ask? When we look at our beasts of burden, there is more than labor extraction involved in the herders and less as it gets to making money.

What I like about this frame is that it is dogmatically neutral. "Being Human" is what we are all called to be no matter where we come from. Christian ethicist Paul Lehmann asked this question in his very inside theological case for context in ethics, "What does it take to make and keep human life human in this world?" (Ethics in a Christian Context). Lehmann makes his case for a Christian sense of conscience, not exclusive, but with an authentic vision of our humanity. I love the question, no matter where it takes us.

For example, what is the Imago of any defined "realism?" If Power is defined by Money and Guns, then Mammon and Mars are really Gods to whom we must bow down and sacrifice. I am not exactly sure what the Minerva complex in our New Rome is, but I know that Jesus got left by the side of the road a long time ago in the Megachurches.

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Quote MEJ:

you haven't spent lots of quality time with the other mammals have you? What would Saint Francis say?

Haven't any of you had a spiritual experience that was inspired by the beauty of nature? a sun rise or set, amazing landscape, scary storm, etc? Are such things not objects? How about a divinely inspired artifact of artistic production? Music, art, literature? What about those holy books, holy places, etc.?

I've had such experiences. They were, of course, dependent upon my ability to perceive them with my human senses and also upon my state of mind, at the time. Thus, my spiritual experiences were inspired by external sources but what made them spiritual was my perception of them, which can vary based upon physical and emotional variables-all based within my person.

Nature mysticism, psychic mysticism, theistic mysticism, nondual mysticism can all be said to be spiritual. Why do you all work so hard to disqualify divinity in so many domains? Funky question coming from an atheist, eh? Then again, I'm also post-atheist.....

Divinity? I don't recognize that word outside a human context.

These are not strange questions for an atheist to ask, as long as the atheist is not as sure of his situation as a theist is of theirs. What theists often misunderstand is that we atheists are not universally mired in the dogma of reality. Saying that is different than saying we have doubts about reality, though. For me, it's about trying to understand my humanity that, like I said, includes a spiritual component. To ignore that part of myself is impossible as it would be to ignore the part of me that gets queasy at the thought of stupid religious practices.

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I've had spiritual experiences at Grateful Dead concerts (many times over). I don't see that as conflicting with my involvement in organized religion either. Arguments over how and where one should find spirituality or whether it exists at all are pointless. By definition, it can't be proven in a physical sense. I think we are all capable of tapping into it, but I think many people don't see it when it jumps up and bites them in the ass. It's all around us if we care to partake.

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Our habit of leaving childhood behind us as quickly as possible thoroughly uproots such childhood experiences for people of our culture. We then label those experiences as craziness or silliness and then hide or trivialize them in terms of our "nothing but . . ." formulae. Such experiences are explained away as an overactive imagination, indigestion, overexcitement, and the like. By banishing them from our children, we destroy them within ourselves at the same moment. The trivialization of life is perhaps the strongest antimystical force among us. Some people are literally obsessed by the compulsion to trivialize everything. What an allegedly correct way of thinking, censorship, falsifying history, and suppression was supposed to achieve in the former countries of the Eastern Bloc is accomplished in our system by the trivialization that gently lulls us. One can try to think, feel, experience, and communicate everything, but the moment such expressions see the light of day, they are robbed of their significance and meaning and are thrown on the dump. They have no cash value in relation to the currency that dominates our culture. "It amounts to nothing" expresses (Dorothee Soelle. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, pp. 12-13, Kindle Edition.)
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In spite of my not seeing eye to eye on specific church doctrine, I believe that getting my childrens spiritual feet wet (via exposure to church doctrine through confirmation class) is an important step in their human development. Where their spiritual path takes them later in life is up to them. Besides, it will help them establish a good foundation of authority to rebel against as they become so emboldened. You can't properly rebel against something you don't fully comprehend, can you?

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L, you are probably going to get some fun posts about the contact spirituality at the Grateful Dead concerts, and I know that back in the daze it was both the music and the air up in the balcony that produced the good times at Berzerkley Community Theater.

The experience of real Joy is a deep spiritual experience, and it refreshes us and gives us energy to face stuff that is not filled with fun and pleasure. It reinforces the good thing about feeling deeply at both ends so we do not trivialize what is wrong and glorify what we find to escape it.

I agree about the value of knowing my religious tradition. For me, it is a family affair as I am the third ordained generation Presbyterian. What I know about my tradition and have learned from within it is how to criticize a lot of what is wrong with it and appreciate a different take on realism from our modern secular world. It is not an alternative reality to substitute; it is a more critical appreciation of the assumptions made in the secular world and their limitations.

Chris Hedges says most of what I think about the contemporary churches. My Roman Catholic friends are even more pissed than I about the Culture War substitution for good Catholic social justice and peace teaching. Were the RC's being militant about peace and justice they would not have to hang out with our creepiest Protestants.

I also hope for a lot more than "rebelling against" the known deficiencies of the 'church.' I think we need a community of faith in pluralist form, and not just a bunch of religious people acting out their own delusions, fantasies and alienations. What I find missing on the Left is anything other than an individualistic prescription for spiritual development. We can get a lot of activists against war and for democratic rights, but we need a community of faith to experience deep joy and to hold together in deep tragedies. Doing this as a group of spiritual individuals will not get us either.

I would love to see religion discussed more objectively and with more interest in learning instead of demolition. I think it would help expose the crappy theology and practice that abounds on the Right and still paralyzes the Mainline.

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I also hope for a lot more than "rebelling against" the known deficiencies of the 'church.' I think we need a community of faith in pluralist form, and not just a bunch of religious people acting out their own delusions, fantasies and alienations. What I find missing on the Left is anything other than an individualistic prescription for spiritual development. We can get a lot of activists against war and for democratic rights, but we need a community of faith to experience deep joy and to hold together in deep tragedies. Doing this as a group of spiritual individuals will not get us either.

I disagree. It's one thing to attempt to define a spiritual path as a group (which is essentially what religion is) but to walk it, it's every man for himself. Even within communities of the faithful (who have faith in different things) there is no way to establish a uniform group spirituality. We are not all spiritual equals. Laborisgood may like most of the church experience but walks an independent path on some big issue. I'm sure the same is true of others within the group. The rub is, it is more spiritual for him to walk an independent moral path than it is for him to just do whatever the church says, though the latter action will recieve more praise from his spiritual source.

In my opinion, truth must be true. It cannot be called "truth" when it is the subjective interpretation of a book. And, as far as I know, nobody has written an ethical/ spiritual guide that appeals to everyone. If you tried to create one that said killing people is wrong, for instance, there would be a lot of people that could not get on board with that. Some would not like that idea because they were hoping to bomb Iran some day soon. Others may feel the commandment should be broader to include other animals.The point is, no matter what the book of choice says, if you disagree with an idea within, only an idiot would do it anyway.

Spirituality cannot be legislated, though. It exists when it exists and not when it doesn't, even if you're following the letter of some "spiritual" law, your actions can be immoral and decidedly un-spiritual. The fact that the religious law is consistent, as in just as wrong on Thursday as it was on Tuesday no matter what happens on Wednesday, fools some into thinking it is inerrant because it never changes. I think-to the contrary-that that is evidence of its inherent erring.

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D NATURED, it is not an either/or about individual and community, and truth can be truth and still be proximate in our comprehension and expression. Claiming to "have the truth" is to venture on Sacred Ground. It is not forbidden; it is even encouraged. Do it with humility and courage.

Your individual spirituality stuff is very nice, but what I mean about a "community of faith" is some bond among those who hold intellectual and moral integrity as their guide. I think we are smarter together and more likely to catch each others' errors than we are by ourselves. If we are encouraging each other to intellectual and moral inquiry and reflection, we also support each other in acting where called. You may have good reason to fear the power of the cult, but the need it exploits and perverts is for community. We are social beings, both individuals of uniqueness and related to those around us and to those who have gone before and who will come after us.

Community honors individuality and vise versa. It is the healthy alternative to the cult or to being loners. I am not prescribing any cure for solitude, a great thing, but loneliness makes us vulnerable and/or a bit closed in. Being "responsible individuals" is kind of lonely compared to loving and compassionate, forgiving and accepting forgiveness.

Anyway, I think the spiritual path has to go through Me to We without losing the me. To the contrary, the "me" in relationships of mutuality and respect is a whole lot more than "me" by myself. American culture does not get past Self to Mutuality very well, and it produces cults for those who find being an individual a bit too much. "Belonging" is a powerful part of our being, and mutuality keeps it from being back to the womb.

You have a lot of positive things going, and I think you might rethink what community means even if "faith" continues to bug you. It is really about caring about being human together and supporting our individuality too.

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You are right D-Natured that spirituality cannot be legislated. Organized religion is all too capable of missing the mark on spirituality, but that's not to say it is incapable either.

Jesus central goal was an inclusionary process that strove towards a more "We" based structure that focused less on exclusionary specifics of the legislation and more on the essence of the Law which had been around for thousands of years. Of course, the New Testament writings decades after his death, subsequent canonization process hundreds of years later as well as thousands of years of organized Christianity has, ironically, brought many who claim to be followers of Jesus back to being overly focused on exclusionary specifics of legislation while losing the essence of the Law.

Jesus gets a bad rap when he gets slapped with the thousands of years of organized religion done in his name. I'm convinced that if Jesus had editorial powers over the scriptures, we would have ended up with less of an organized religion textbook devoted to Him and more of a spirituality for dummies reference guide devoted to us.

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Two men can do-as a team-much more than three individuals. And, there is nothing more beautiful than people caring for each other, as a community. The Amish realized that in their barn raisings. Closer to home, the Salvation Army and church groups helped my mother as a child, who grew up very poor and would have gone hungry or naked without their charity.

THOSE are the examples of honorable behavior. That is people loving (selfless actions) each other...deliberately. We should reserve our parades for those who heal and those who help rather than those who kill and profit from our fears. There are all kinds of communities, after all, and some are actually trying to make things better.

I'm glad for the work they're doing in many cases but, too much, human cooperation is a mechanism of liability distribution. They can be one third a murderer or one three hundreth a rapist. Some communities are not good for humanity. Some others are parasitic.

So, making good communities being so important, why focus on the spiritual self? In my opinion, when we treat spirituality like some external force that you have to be in tune with, if a person never feels in tune with it, they think that there is nothing to be in tune with, which is wrong. If we treat spirituality as a human gift, that we can and should simply question our own actions, we will have a logical path to a better community through the power of individual truth. We are lucky enough-and yes I say "lucky", in contrast to the bible that claims that ignorance is bliss-to be able to form a rational moral path for ourselves as individuals and as members of a community.

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Spirituality is ever present, even if we choose to not acknowledge it. I see it as the catch-all that is not subject to pure human reasoning or pure animal instinct. Love and compassion are not reasonable or instinctual. Acts which bring us together are spiritual by nature and those that keep us apart are not.

The words spiritual and religious are often conflated. Religion does not guarantee spirituality, but it can and has been used successfully to achieve spirituality. Religion is also very capable of being the antithesis of spirituality when it tends towards dividing and not uniting.

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I would not be so sure that compassion and love are not instinctual. Love is so much better than "reasonable" that it is funny. What we are talking about is realizing our humanity and embracing our full nature. We are naturally interdependent as well as individual. The both/and dynamic is the way to get beyond autonomy to relational, and community is about our human need to connect and belong while still being ourselves and unique.

American culture is short on community and interdependence. This economic theology is all about individuals in a 'free market' of rationalist harmony; but it is not about the real world.

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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Loving a significant other and our children is instinctual and perhaps reasonable. Love and compassion for our neighbors, strangers and, God forbid, our enemies are not acts our instinct compels us to do. In fact, reasoning only reinforces the withholding of those actions more often than not. Those types of acts require something more.

The Amish, as D-Natured pointed out, are an excellent example of community and interdependence in action. It's interesting how they are always so associated with religion that they get short shrift when it come to giving them props for the simple everyday actions which truly define them more than their religion. Is it strict adherence to their religion that makes them so communal or are they just so strictly in tune with that communal spirit that the religion just easily goes along for the ride?

What group of Americans is more unique, individual and self-sufficient than the Amish? So much so that they don't fit too well with the rest of us who delude ourselves into thinking we are self-sufficient. The average American's self-sufficiency would go right down the tubes along with the economy and infrastructure if the unthinkable were to happen, but the Amish would just keep truckin' on. I wonder how the Amish have fared over the past 30 years compared to the average slave wage earner in America? We all may need to pay closer attention to how to do it their way.

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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

The Amish make my point. They have a collective identity counter to the surrounding culture, and their mutuality is a model of community sustainability and symbiosis. I think you would find a similar sociology among the Mormons where they were organized as a mutual care and security society out in the middle of 'nowhere.' They had good reason to flee from persecution and to see themselves as God's specially set apart people. Affirming your own humanity against the stigmas and rejections of the world is a fine thing. Compared to the lone wolf individuals, the Mormon community could do a lot of things that matter.

I am not asking that our plural, human community of "faith" be defined by anything cultic. Faith continues to be intellectual and moral integrity, not a body of doctrine or disciplines. How the various members of our modern "spiritual" community find a common spirit and bond is not mine to define. It is what happens and it continues to mix and flow instead of congealing into a new religion.

A collection of separate individuals who have no sense of belonging or mutual obligation to one another is not a community, and I believe it represents a Liberal failing, not a strength. We wonder why the Right acts and we protest or some other less than substantively political 'act' instead of being a movement. I hope OWS brings the type of community we need along with the protest.

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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

OWS and Grateful Dead concerts do have much in common. It's funny how the Right's best smear campaign against OWS is exactly that ..... hacky sackin', bongo drummin', dope smokin', unshaven and aromatic hippies. Community is the key ingredient that really defines the commonality so much more than just the hacky sack or the bongos, but admitting to a burgeoning community of people feeling squeezed out of the American Dream is not the story FoxNews would like to spread around.

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Damn, I've been away too long...it's gettin' juicy.

DRC, you seem to equate spirituality with religous congregations, a reductionism in multiple dimensions. You accept the Amish, but dicard Greenpeace or other rmore secular orginazations as nonspiritual? Are loose affiliations or more secular affiliations less spiritual than more narrow and traditional associations?

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Quote D_NATURED:

Two men can do-as a team-much more than three individuals. And, there is nothing more beautiful than people caring for each other, as a community. The Amish realized that in their barn raisings. Closer to home, the Salvation Army and church groups helped my mother as a child, who grew up very poor and would have gone hungry or naked without their charity.

Even an atheist can appreciate the Amish communal ways as well as non-secular charity.

Is the community-minded ways of the Amish limited to only helping other Amish or does it extend further. Does an atheist who is unwilling to accept Amish (or other eligious people) into their "commuity" any different. We could all benefit from an expansion of our community boundaries, couldn't we?

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The analogy would be to Mission Agencies and Greenpeace, and while I am more than all for mission, what I miss on the Left is the "community" as something other than a "cause." The problem I have with the latter is that, like cults, they are movements defined by the common goal and not by the people who comprise the community. While "we all believe in..." does unite them 'spiritually,' it is like being in a peace movement instead of having peace be part of a larger sense of the community of faith.

No question that this is a high aspiration if taken as what the "church" really ought to be. It is certainly not what our institutional religion has produced under their brands. I do not want anything that apes the "god shops" selling religion as if it were faith. I do want us to include reflection on what it means to be human together in what we are "called" to do together. Losing ourselves in something bigger than us is not the same as finding ourselves in a community of shared vision and calling. Celebrating unity in diversity, and vise versa, means living it out and not just "sharing the Dream."

The problem with "loose associations" is that they are casual relationships. If there is a center, these become part of the energized projection rather than a way to be slightly involved rather than deeply committed to others as well as yourself. In developmental theory, we are taught that it is OK to be anywhere in the process, and I agree. There are times when we are in transition and need to find nourishment as travelers rather than residents or "members." Being "in the center' and never getting outside it is not a great idea either. Eating at the cafeteria does not equate with home cooking and family around the table.

But also understand that I am looking for how this can be happening in movements and the outbreak of OWS, etc. There is a yearning for more, and unless we are aware of it and ready to offer something substantial, it is a yearning that can be hooked on cultural and political meth. My experience of the Left is that we do not take the humanity of ourselves and others seriously enough and get caught up in the justice of our causes. If we are volunteering our time for something "bigger than we are," how dare anyone criticize us! Disagreements on fine points become personal and factions focus more on those who don't get it within the family than what is not gotten at all outside it.

I like Slow Food because it combines issues of industrial ag, food security and the pleasure of sharing real food around a table with conversation. Food forces a human interaction that doing political action can miss. I also think our parties need to be more than ways to relive adolescent irresponsibility. Where are the great celebrations and liturgies to process our shared joys and griefs? Is American Idol our deepest emotional identification with others? Or is it a shared list of cult favorite films that define "the enlightened" from the rest?

I would not be raising this question were you all not skating in some serious places. It is not as much criticism as extension of what you are thinking. At least, that is my intention. Community is not a Liberal strength yet.

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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Is it an enlightened path for a highly intelligent Greenpeace worker who achieves great accomplishments for the environment of our planet, to also look down upon large groups of people for reasons of their involvement in organized religion? Shouldn't they get a spiritual demerit for that? Perhaps they should look at those "misguided" religious people as if they were dolphins caught in a tuna fishing net. Judging others to be of lesser value than ourselves is no different than killing dolphins for a tuna salad sandwich.

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Mr. de Botton, an atheist, argues that rather than mocking religion, atheists and agnostics should steal the best ideas from world religions, such asthe methods for building strong communities, overcoming envy, and forging a connection to the natural world. The philosopher essayist discusses his concepts with former seminarian and author Chris Hedges.

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Alai

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A person called into Thom's radio show today (middle of the third hour) to argue for determinism and against human free will. I just wanted to review my arguments against mechanistic determinism and add a good summary of arguments given by the theologian Paul Tillich in support of indeterminism.

In post #114, I wrote,

And the best strategy in this debate of Free Will is to question the assumption that technical, or instrumental reason-- which is so good at manipulating objects-- can be validly applied to the self-reflective, self-transcending subject.

And in my post #129 there is a long discussion concerning the deterministic ontology known as Mechanistic Naturalism by which arguments of determinism often rely. Paul Tillich points out that such mechanistic arguments for determinism are merely tautologies, and therefore, are flawed. Also, scientific epistemology is impossible in this mechanistic view of a rational subjective being. Also, determinism confuses the meaning of deterministic necessity and indeterministic freedom.[Italics is in the original quote, and the bolded text is my emphasis.]

Man is man because he has freedom, but he has freedom only in polar interdependence with destiny. The term “destiny” is unusual in this context. Ordinarily one speaks of freedom and necessity. However, necessity is a category and not an element. Its contrast is possibility, not freedom. Whenever freedom and necessity are set over against each other, necessity is understood in terms of mechanistic determinacy. Neither of these interpretations grasps the structure of being as it is experienced immediately in the one being who has the possibility of experiencing it because he is free, this is, in man. Man experiences the structure of the individual as the bearer of freedom within the larger structures to which the individual structure belongs. Destiny points to this situation in which man finds himself, facing the world to which, at the same time, he belongs.

The methodological perversion of much ontological inquiry is more obvious in the doctrine of freedom that at any other point. The traditional discussion of determinism and indeterminism necessarily is inconclusive because it moves on a level which is secondary to the level on which the polarity of freedom and destiny lies. Both conflicting parties presuppose that there is a thing among other things called “will,” which may or may not have the quality of freedom. But by definition a thing as a completely determined object lacks freedom. The freedom of a thing is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, determinism always is right in this kind of discussion; but it is right because, in the last analysis, it expresses the tautology that a thing is a thing. Indeterminism protests against the deterministic thesis, pointing to the fact that the moral and the cognitive consciousness presupposes the power of responsible decision. However, when it draws the consequences and attributes freedom to an object or a function called, “will,” indeterminism falls into a contradiction in terms and inescapably succumbs to the deterministic tautology. Indeterministic freedom is the negation of deterministic necessity. But the negation of necessity never constitutes experienced freedom. It asserts something absolutely contingent, a decision without motivation, an unintelligent accident which is in no way able to do justice to the moral and cognitive consciousness for the sake of which it is invented. Both determinism and indeterminism are theoretically impossible because by implication they deny their claim to express truth. Truth presupposes a decision for the true against the false. Both determinism and indeterminism make such a decision unintelligible. (Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology Vol. I. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951, 1957 & 1963. pages 182-183.).

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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

That is intelligeble. The words he is using are not defined. Consider:

"Man is man because he has freedom"

This statement is not logical. a logical statement might be like this:

1) If A then B
2) Here is B, therefore A

Not, A is B because I said so.

That is, you make a hypothesis '1' and prove it by showing '2'.

The Evolutionist would say Man is Man because of he is the sum of random occurances. Whatever choices he makes is because of evolutionary advantages which developed his brain, which were caused by the familiar sum of random occurances. Hence, Man is not truly 'free', but simply does what his genetics and environment tell him do.

You see, that is a logical paragraph. It says something. It quickly restates the theory of evolution that we all learn in high school and concludes that if that theory is correct, then man is simply another animal. IF A then B, note B, then A.

It might be possible to refute this theory. You could say that man is not the sum of random occurances. You might say that there is no such thing as a sum of random occurances. But at least start there and not 'Man is Man because he has freedom'.

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Dr. Econ
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Dr. Econ wrote:

...a logical statement might be like this:

1) If A then B
2) Here is B, therefore A

Not, A is B because I said so.

Dr. Econ, you just committed the formal logical deductive fallacy known in baby logic as "Affirming The Consequence."

  1. If P, then Q.
  2. Q.
  3. Therefore, P.

An argument of this form is invalid, i.e., the conclusion can be false even when statements 1 and 2 are true. Since P was never asserted as the onlysufficient condition for Q, other factors could account for Q (while P was false).

The name affirming the consequent derives from the premise Q, which affirms the "then" clause of the conditional premise.

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