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The Spiritual Compass Discussion

Barliman Butterbur

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

I was watching the Larry King show on CNN last night. The subject was, "Where do we go when we die?". There was a panel including an imam, a rabbi, a Catholic priest, an evangelical, and the head of some American atheist association.

I tried to listen objectively, but finally couldn't take it after maybe 15 minutes and turned it off. First: all the believers maintained that God exists, which can't be proven. Then they all stood by their own renditions of what happens when one dies, which also can't be proven. Then the atheist chimed in that God doesn't exist, which can't be proven, and that death is the end, which can't be proven.

I think the rabbi inadvertently came closest to the truth when he said that a man born blind is ready to sign a legal document that color doesn't exist. What he meant by that of course is that the blind man hasn't the equipment to even conceive of color or light. And of course, the man born deaf can't even conceive of sound. So all of them — believers and nonbeliever alike — stood stubbornly by their own individual dogmas.

Besides that, it was lopsided: there was no Hindu swami, no Buddhist monk to represent mainline Eastern religion. There was no American Indian of any type to represent that viewpoint.

It's been a long time since I've seen this type of "ecumenical council," and my reaction was one of total frustration with all of them.

But again, the rabbi came closest to it — for me at least — when he said that "God" grants the righteous person of any faith or no faith into heaven, and that that righteousness is based on deeds done here on earth.

The evangelical on the other hand said that Jesus' grace is the only way to heaven; that the saved serial killer will get into heaven via a last-second accepting of Christ, and no amount of good deeds by a saintly (but unsaved) person will keep him out of everlasting hell, which I thought sheer insanity.

I saw more clearly than ever that there is nowhere for me to go among all of these paths. I am an agnostic. I say that none of the assertions about an afterlife can be proven one way or the other, since we lack the necessary physico/mental abilities to grasp and solve the question. I can say that it is a settled issue with me at least that the God of holy books is a mind creation of man's hopes and fears, and exists nowhere else.

Barley
 

Arthur_Vandelay

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Barliman Butterbur said:
I tried to listen objectively, but finally couldn't take it after maybe 15 minutes and turned it off. First: all the believers maintained that God exists, which can't be proven. Then they all stood by their own renditions of what happens when one dies, which also can't be proven.
Barley, this reminds me of the discussion we were having in the thread on Pope John Paul II about the difference between (religious) belief and knowledge. Maybe some of those on the panel who did affirm a belief in God's existence would nevertheless acknowledge that this does not equate to certain knowledge (i.e. proof) of God's existence--insofar as God's existence is not knowable (in a Kantian sense).
 

Barliman Butterbur

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Arthur_Vandelay said:
...Maybe some of those on the panel who did affirm a belief in God's existence would nevertheless acknowledge that this does not equate to certain knowledge (i.e. proof) of God's existence--insofar as God's existence is not knowable (in a Kantian sense).
Perhaps if you got them in private, individually, they might make some sort of admission that they wouldn't make in public. But they were on world-wide satellite! They were each locked into representing their own official doctrines. I'm sure they believed what they professed to be true. If not, then they would be the prisoners of their doctrines, not spiritually liberated by them.

I don't want to start a big argument here (maybe later ;) ). But I found each of their minds, to use a phrase of William James, to be "set like plaster." They all sounded equally dogmatic, and some more than offensive. And again: who's to say that these particular men were the best representatives of their views? I don't think they were. It just never ends... All we can do is to make sure that "your freedom ends where my nose begins."

Barley
 

Arthur_Vandelay

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Barliman Butterbur said:
Perhaps if you got them in private, individually, they might make some sort of admission that they wouldn't make in public. But they were on world-wide satellite! They were each locked into representing their own official doctrines. I'm sure they believed what they professed to be true. If not, then they would be the prisoners of their doctrines, not spiritually liberated by them.
But what I wonder about is how these guests--or any believers, for that matter--understand the concept of belief, or whether they would draw a distinction between religious belief and (let's call it, for lack of a better term) scientific knowledge (i.e. evidence-based knowledge). Perhaps the realm of religious belief is beyond the limits of what is "knowable" to us. As dogmatic as they were, did you get the sense that the guests would be prepared to make such a distinction?
 

Barliman Butterbur

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Arthur_Vandelay said:
...what I wonder about is how these guests--or any believers, for that matter--understand the concept of belief, or whether they would draw a distinction between religious belief and (let's call it, for lack of a better term) scientific knowledge (i.e. evidence-based knowledge). Perhaps the realm of religious belief is beyond the limits of what is "knowable" to us. As dogmatic as they were, did you get the sense that the guests would be prepared to make such a distinction?
Well, it brings up the question: how much does any spiritual leader believe what he or she says? False messiahs, phony gurus and fraudulent monks come by the thousands, which is enough to raise the suspicions of anyone. And who knows what goes on in the "smoke-filled back rooms" of churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples? It has been my personal experience that the closer one gets into the inner circles, the more one sees corruption and hypocrisy, despite all the good folks at the level of the ordinary seeker. (One of the guests [which I only just now remembered] was Marianne Williamson, who can spout spiritual platitudes as slickly as lard coming through a goose.) I think that the more fundamentalist the religious profession of "faith," (and let's not forget: "faith" itself means belief in the existence of something that has never been proven nor disproven — how intelligent is that) the less likely there is room for scientific knowledge unless it is something like Creationism, Divine Intelligence, etc., and then we're back into a "truth" which is nothing more than delusion.

What disturbs me is when we have a sincere believer who believes in things which, to anyone not in thrall to the belief, is sheer nonsense. When you have such people by the millions, and when they believe it is their divine mission to convert every single soul to their beliefs whether they want it or not — when they believe in an apocalyptic future where it's OK for the environment and social structures to go be destroyed because it fits in with their beliefs — then it becomes a kind of religious persecution — the kind of thing that the evangelicals are engaged in now: a war with everything and everyone that is outside of their circle.

And you can't reason with such people, you can only control them. And we need to control them.

The religous and political right love to crow about Democrats standing in the way of the majority in the Senate — conveniently leaving out the fact that the Senate has been co-opted by a religious extremist minority which does not represent the rank-and-file American by any means whatsoever.

This is a redux of the 12th Century...

Barley
 

Arthur_Vandelay

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Barliman Butterbur said:
What disturbs me is when we have a sincere believer who believes in things which, to anyone not in thrall to the belief, is sheer nonsense. When you have such people by the millions, and when they believe it is their divine mission to convert every single soul to their beliefs whether they want it or not — when they believe in an apocalyptic future where it's OK for the environment and social structures to go be destroyed because it fits in with their beliefs — then it becomes a kind of religious persecution — the kind of thing that the evangelicals are engaged in now: a war with everything and everyone that is outside of their circle.

And you can't reason with such people, you can only control them. And we need to control them.
To be honest with you, I find this latter sentiment very disturbing. No doubt many in Religious Right (as well as fundamentalists in other faiths) view those whom they term "secular humanists" in the same way--as people who--if they cannot be turned--need to be controlled.

But our opponents are not animals, or automatons. I don't think we should lose "faith" (so to speak) in our ability to reason with anyone--even our opponents. The moment we do so, it seems to me, we become as bad as our enemies.
 

Varda35

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Barley, It's like you're in my head man!!! What are you doing in there?!?! :)

I agree with almost everything you are saying, but I agree with Arthur about the control issue. If we seek to control the fundamentalists we become no better than they are. And as much as I hate to say it, as Americans they do have the right to be as crazy and ignorant as they want to be. What we need to do is neutralize them, get the power away from them. I disagree with Arthur on the reasoning issue. You cannot reason with fundamentalists and Evangelicals because they have no reasoning capabilities. If they did, well they wouldn't be fundamentalists and Evangelicals. The only Fundamentalists that have reasoning capabilities are those that are leading their little crusade. I say this because I firmly believe that those people who are at the top of the Evangelical food chain do not actually believe everything they preach. I believe they are just power hungry individuals who found a great way to get control of people and are using religion to further their quest for ultimate power and supremacy. And these guys will not listen to reason because to do so they would have to give up some of their power and that my friends is just not going to happen.

I'm sorry if I'm not making much sense, I have this stuff floating around in my head but when I go to write it down it just doesn't seem to always come out right. My writing isn't always as eloquent as I'd like it to be, but I chalk that up to the fact that I'm an engineer :eek:. But I guess I don't need to say much, Barley here seems to be saying everthing for me, yay Barley:D
 

Arthur_Vandelay

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Fundamentalists and evangelicals have that same capacity to reason as do you or I (unless you're suggesting that fundamentalism and evangelicalism are manifestations of mental illnes of intellectual disability). The problem isn't a lack of capacity to reason--rather it is a lack of willingness to step into another's shoes, to question authority, to engage critically with the world but also to be self-critical. And that's a problem that isn't limited to fundamentalists--or perhaps I should say that fundamentalists come in more than one flavour. The point is, if we tar fundamentalists and evangelicals as "crazy and ignorant", we are subscribing to the same simplistic, black-and-white and vision of the world we decry in our opponents.

Want to defeat the Religious Right? Defend the separation of church and state. Defend intellectual and religious freedom. Question authority and defend the right to question it. Cultivate a climate of critical thinking and awareness.

"However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise.
There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious
beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than
Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme
being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's
behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are
growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with
wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following
their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups
on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a
loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the
political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if
I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.'
Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to
claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even
more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every
religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my
vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today:
I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their
moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.' "
-- Barry Goldwater, (1909-1998) US Senator (R-Arizona) (source)
 
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Barliman Butterbur

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Re: The Spiritual Compass

Arthur_Vandelay said:
To be honest with you, I find this latter sentiment very disturbing. No doubt many in Religious Right (as well as fundamentalists in other faiths) view those whom they term "secular humanists" in the same way--as people who--if they cannot be turned--need to be controlled.

But our opponents are not animals, or automatons. I don't think we should lose "faith" (so to speak) in our ability to reason with anyone--even our opponents. The moment we do so, it seems to me, we become as bad as our enemies.
I understand your being disturbed. However, I merely point out what has happened, and by extrapolation what is likely to happen if the religious right is not "controlled" or "stopped," however you like to put it, in their attempts in the Senate, the House, the Judiciary, the public schools, libraries, universities and elsewhere. What other word would you think more appropriate? It really comes down to control in my view. How would you put it?

Arthur_Vandaley said:
Want to defeat the Religious Right? Defend the separation of church and state. Defend intellectual and religious freedom. Question authority and defend the right to question it. Cultivate a climate of critical thinking and awareness.
Is this not control? And it's not enough just to do what you suggest here. We must take legal steps to prevent their co-opting the laws and the Constitution to fit their religio/political agenda. What I say and what you say are what I consider means of control.

Barley
 

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