Discussion:
The Religious Case against Belief
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Nobody in Particular
2009-11-25 05:58:19 UTC
Permalink
Finally finished the book by James P. Carse.
Here're my thoughts, not all necessarily from the book, except for
direct quotes:

Carse associates belief with "willful ignorance." "It is a
paradoxical condition in which we are aware there is something we do
not know, but choose not to know it." "Belief marks the line at which
our thinking stops, or, perhaps better, the place where we confine our
thinking to a carefully delineated region." Creationists will usually
prefer not to know details of evolution, as it might weaken their
faith. Galileo's colleagues refused to look through the telescope at
the moons of Jupiter. Some actually looked but said they did not see
them.

In religion, words are interpretation, they are not the actual
substance. Religion expresses something that cannot be found in the
actual words, like the experience of a symphony cannot be found in
the musical notes or in a critic's commentary.

Belief is the study of the pointing finger, describing and measuring
it, arguing about its shape, etc. Religion is finding what the finger
points to.

Religion has a deep resonance inside. There is no need to oppose
those who do not feel this resonance. The feeling of joy or bliss is
part of religion. There is no belief associated with it. Belief
often works toward dryness, coldness, emotional emptiness, "everything
is fluff"

Beliefs are not necessarily tied to religion. Nazism, Stalinism,
Maoism are non-religious belief systems. So is the doctrine of
Scientism, the belief that science is the *only* true way to acquire
knowledge about reality and the nature of things.

Belief must have an external authority, be it a person or a scripture.
However, "Authority does not precede its use, but is created by it.
It does not present itself spontaneously; it is *chosen* by those whom
it restricts, protects, authenticates, and guides."
Since authority is chosen by the believer, it has no power of its own.
If people do not accept a power as their authority, they may be cowed
for a while, but not forever. "The Soviet rulers confused authority
with power, failing to understand that power by itself has no
authority, and authority has only the power observers give it.
Collapse was inevitable."

Belief must have an opponent (or enemy). Since this opponent is seen
as a threat to the belief, he must be devalued. Namecalling is a
common way ("idiot", "woo-wooist", "nutter") "Belief systems thrive
in circumstances of collision." "We could go so far as to say that
belief is so dependent on the hostile other that it may need to
stimulate the other's active resistance. Belief has a confrontational
element built into itself that is essential to its own vitality."
-- Boy, do we see a lot of that in these groups! Especially in regard
to the belief system of American Triumphalism.

Another aspect is that of evil. This is an overwhelming problem for a
believer who "knows" the nature of God. "The fact of evil is
ultimately the undoing of all belief systems. Because of their
oppositional character, their attention is focused on the wrongs of
the other. To admit their own wrongs is to draw into question the
coherence of their beliefs and their trust in a chosen authority."

"Evil is nearly always an attempt to eliminate evil, as it appears in
those who oppose us. It therefore thrives in belief systems inasmuch
as it is easily ascribed to their enemies, the result being a
spiraling expansion of evil."

Religion concerns itself with mystery and wonder. Belief with
explanation and certitude. The two are worlds apart, but believers
(and their detractors) like to define religion as belief.

"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with which
they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point, inasmuch as
believers do regularly represent themselves as truly religious - or
impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious validation."
Love
2009-11-25 07:17:19 UTC
Permalink
In article <heih1s$f89$***@news.eternal-september.org>, ***@invalid.com
says...
Post by Nobody in Particular
Finally finished the book by James P. Carse.
Here're my thoughts, not all necessarily from the book, except for
From what you report I might quibble with Carse a little about
some things, but only a little. I think it's inevitable that
we will come to a newer and more functional understanding of
religion and the religious impulse. We will probably call it
something tacky like "The Reformation 2.0" but it will be a
good thing anyway.
--
Love

May Shai-Hulud clear the path before you.
DharmaTroll
2009-11-25 14:53:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nobody in Particular
Finally finished the book by James P. Carse.
Here're my thoughts, not all necessarily from the book, except for
Carse associates belief with "willful ignorance."  "It is a
paradoxical condition in which we are aware there is something we do
not know, but choose not to know it."  "Belief marks the line at which
our thinking stops, or, perhaps better, the place where we confine our
thinking to a carefully delineated region."  Creationists will usually
prefer not to know details of evolution, as it might weaken their
faith.  Galileo's colleagues refused to look through the telescope at
the moons of Jupiter.  Some actually looked but said they did not see
them.
In religion, words are interpretation, they are not the actual
substance.  Religion expresses something that cannot be found in the
actual words, like the experience of a symphony cannot be found in
the musical notes or in a critic's commentary.
Belief is the study of the pointing finger, describing and measuring
it, arguing about its shape, etc.  Religion is finding what the finger
points to.
Religion has a deep resonance inside.  There is no need to oppose
those who do not feel this resonance.  The feeling of joy or bliss is
part of religion.  There is no belief associated with it.  Belief
often works toward dryness, coldness, emotional emptiness, "everything
is fluff"
Beliefs are not necessarily tied to religion.  Nazism, Stalinism,
Maoism are non-religious belief systems.  So is the doctrine of
Scientism, the belief that science is the *only* true way to acquire
knowledge about reality and the nature of things.
Belief must have an external authority, be it a person or a scripture.  
However, "Authority does not precede its use, but is created by it.  
It does not present itself spontaneously; it is *chosen* by those whom
it restricts, protects, authenticates, and guides."
Since authority is chosen by the believer, it has no power of its own.
If people do not accept a power as their authority, they may be cowed
for a while, but not forever. "The Soviet rulers confused authority
with power, failing to understand that power by itself has no
authority, and authority has only the power observers give it.  
Collapse was inevitable."
Belief must have an opponent (or enemy).  Since this opponent is seen
as a threat to the belief, he must be devalued.  Namecalling is a
common way ("idiot", "woo-wooist", "nutter")  "Belief systems thrive
in circumstances of collision."  "We could go so far as to say that
belief is so dependent on the hostile other that it may need to
stimulate the other's active resistance.  Belief has a confrontational
element built into itself that is essential to its own vitality."
-- Boy, do we see a lot of that in these groups!  Especially in regard
to the belief system of American Triumphalism.
Another aspect is that of evil.  This is an overwhelming problem for a
believer who "knows" the nature of God.  "The fact of evil is
ultimately the undoing of all belief systems.  Because of their
oppositional character, their attention is focused on the wrongs of
the other.  To admit their own wrongs is to draw into question the
coherence of their beliefs and their trust in a chosen authority."
"Evil is nearly always an attempt to eliminate evil, as it appears in
those who oppose us.  It therefore thrives in belief systems inasmuch
as it is easily ascribed to their enemies, the result being a
spiraling expansion of evil."
Religion concerns itself with mystery and wonder.  Belief with
explanation and certitude.  The two are worlds apart, but believers
(and their detractors) like to define religion as belief.
"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with which
they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point, inasmuch as
believers do regularly represent themselves as truly religious - or
impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious validation."
Carse has always been one of my heroes and "The Religious Case Against
Belief" is a wonderful book, and I gave several copies to friends in
the past year. His distinction between willful ignorance and higher
ignorance is fantastic, which he took from Nicolaus of Cusa, of whom
both Carse and I are fans.

Btw, above: the namecalling of "woo-wooist" and "nutter" are exactly
my terms for "willful ignorance", as I don't go for any belief system,
and hence don't have any enemies, but I'll use any dogmatist as a
punching bag, if they'll let me (or if none are available, I'll hire
someone like Keynes as a straight man to set me up for my punch
lines). I think the key to Carse's thinking is his astute insight that
it's belief systems, dogma, that are the problem, and not religion,
which without belief can be a powerful positive force, a form of
poetry instead of division and repression.

Btw, Carse's earlier more intuitive poetic book "Finite and Infinite
Games" is by far his best work and is a masterpiece. This book maybe
comes in second. For an intro to Carse, listen to this mp3 (or see the
video but it's just a lecture without props) here:
http://www.longnow.org/seminars/02005/jan/14/religious-war-in-light-of-the-infinite-game/

And there was a nice interview with Carse a year and a half ago on
Slate, which I'll paste in below.

P.S. Ignore anything Fu says about Carse, as he will whine just as he
does about Karen Armstrong, and is pissed off by anyone who isn't a
hard-core atheist who insists religion has no redeeming value,
shunning Carse the way homosexuals often shun straight-looking
bisexuals.

--DharmaTroll



http://www.salon.com/books/atoms_eden/2008/07/21/james_carse/index.html


Monday, Jul 21, 2008 04:21 PDT
Religion is poetry: The beauties of religion need to be saved from
both the true believers and the trendy atheists, argues compelling
religious scholar James Carse.

By Steve Paulson

Take a snapshot of the conflicts around the world: Sunnis vs. Shiites,
Israelis vs. Palestinians, Serbs vs. Kosovars, Indians vs. Pakistanis.
They seem to be driven by religious hatred. It's enough to make you
wonder if the animosity would melt away if all religions were
suddenly, somehow, to vanish into the ether. But James Carse doesn't
see them as religious conflicts at all. To him, they are battles over
rival belief systems, which may or may not have religious overtones.

Carse, who's retired from New York University (where he directed the
Religious Studies Program for 30 years), is out to rescue religion
from both religious fundamentalists and atheists. He worries that
today's religious zealots have dragged us into a Second Age of Faith,
not unlike the medieval Crusaders. But he's also critical of the new
crop of atheists. "What these critics are attacking is not religion,
but a hasty caricature of it," he writes in his new book, "The
Religious Case Against Belief."

To Carse, religion is all about longevity; it's what unites people
over the millennia. He cautions his readers against looking for more
conventional explanations, like the search for transcendence or belief
in an afterlife. He writes that religion's vitality is based on
mystery and unknowability: "Religion in its purest form is a vast work
of poetry."

Carse dismisses attempts to find some underlying unity to all
religions. He says the major religions differ radically from each
other. He also shrugs off 2,000 years of Christian debate over who the
real Jesus was, claiming "it says nothing." He even speculates that
this religious tradition, with its 2 billion followers, may be
unraveling. "Christianity is losing its resonance," he writes. "Its
history looks to be more a matter of decades than millennia."

Is Carse the man to save religion from its enemies and false prophets?
I found him to be charming and good-humored in conversation, even as
he lobbed grenades into our conventional ideas about religion.


I think the vast majority of people would say belief is at the very
core of religion. How can you say religion does not involve belief?

It's an odd thing. Scholars of religion are perfectly aware that
belief and religion don't perfectly overlap. It's not that they're
completely indifferent to each other, but you can be religious without
being a believer. And you can be a believer who's not religious. Let's
say you want to know what it means to be Jewish. So you draw up a list
of beliefs that you think Jews hold. You go down that list and say, "I
think I believe all of these." But does that make you a Jew? Obviously
not. Being Jewish is far more and far richer than agreeing to a
certain list of beliefs. Now, it is the case that Christians in
particular are interested in proper belief and what they call
orthodoxy. However, there's a very uneven track of orthodoxy when you
look at the history of Christianity. It's not at all clear what
exactly one should believe.


So there's a lot of argument over which are the proper beliefs.

That's right. After the New Testament period, there was a lot of
quarreling over exactly how to formulate what Jesus taught, who he
was, and how to lead the Christian life. So early Christians began
forming creeds. By the year 325 there was so much division among
Christians about how to understand Jesus -- his work and his person --
that it was actually breaking up the Roman Empire and forcing the
emperor Constantine, who was a very recent Christian convert, to call
a conference in the small city of Nicea. In effect, he ordered all the
bishops and leaders of the church to settle these issues once and for
all. The result, the Nicene Creed, is basically a negative document.
Each phrase in the creed is intended to correct or argue against some
other belief. So it's a creed and a counter-creed at the same time.


It sounds like you're saying that belief doesn't need to have any
religious associations. You could just as well be talking about Nazism
or Maoism or Serbian nationalism.

Exactly. In fact, very passionate believers are often not at all
religious. However, it does happen to be the case that people who hold
on to beliefs with great passion begin to describe themselves as
religious. For example, the Nazis had a kind of pseudo-religious
understanding of themselves. Hitler talked about a 10,000-year Reich.
That's taken right out of Christian mythology -- the kingdom of God
going on forever and ever. The swastika is, after all, in the form of
the cross. So Hitler was a passionate believer -- not religious but
pseudo-religious -- ascribing to himself some sort of religious aura.


So what is it that holds together a belief system?

A belief system is meant to be a comprehensive network of ideas about
what one thinks is absolutely real and true. Within that system,
everything is adequately explained and perfectly reasonable. You know
exactly how far to go with your beliefs and when to stop your
thinking. A belief system is defined by an absolute authority. The
authority can be a text or an institution or a person. So it's very
important to understand a belief system as independent of religion.
After all, Marxism and Nazism were two of the most powerful belief
systems ever.


What, then, do you mean by religion?

Religion is notoriously difficult to define. Modern scholars have
almost unanimously decided that there is no generalization that
applies to all the great living religions. Jews don't have a
priesthood. Catholics do. The prayer in one tradition is different
from another. The literature and the texts are radically different
from each other. So it leaves us with the question: Is there any
generalization one could make about religion?


But aren't there certain core questions that religion grapples with:
God or some kind of transcendent reality? Evil and the afterlife?

Well, let's talk about the five great religions: Judaism,
Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Hinduism is 4,000 years
old. Judaism is hard to date but about 3,000 years old; Buddhism
2,600; Christianity 2,000. And Islam has been with us for 14
centuries. The striking thing is that each of them has been able, over
all these centuries, to maintain their identity against all kinds of
challenges. Let's say you're a Muslim and you want to know what Islam
is about. So you begin your inquiries and you find that as you get
deeper and deeper in your studies, the questions get larger and
larger. If people come to religion authentically, they find their
questions not answered but expanded.


In your book, you say the only defining characteristic of religion is
its longevity. It has to be around for a very long time to qualify as
a religion.

Exactly. That's a very interesting contrast with belief systems.
Belief systems have virtually no longevity. Think of Marxism. As a
serious political policy, it lasted only about 70 or 80 years. Nazism
only went 12 years. And they were intense, complete, comprehensive,
passionately held beliefs. But they ran out very quickly. The reason
the great religions don't run out as quickly is that they're able to
maintain within themselves a deeper sense of the mystery, of the
unknowable, of the unsayable, that keeps the religion alive and
guarantees its vitality.


But you've just used words that people associate with religion, like
"mystery" and "the unknowable." I would add "transcendent." Don't you
have to talk about these things if you're going to explain religion?

Take the term "transcendent." It's very difficult to find anything in
Buddhism that resembles what Christians or Western people think of
transcendence. The Buddha was not a divinity. He made it clear that he
really died. He wouldn't dwell with his students forever, but turned
over to them the discipline that he tried to teach them. So in
Buddhism, there's really no sense of the divine or the supernatural.
And the notion of transcendence in Judaism is not so large. To be a
Jew is really to be an active, practicing Jew. It's a way of living a
certain kind of life, not believing something. In my judgment, you can
be a very good Jew and have very little sense of transcendence.


Can you be a good Jew and not believe in God?

That's a good question. A lot of my Jewish friends would say yes.
Several of my Jewish colleagues at New York University were absolutely
obsessed with what makes a Jew. It turns out the question is very
complicated. It goes back into the Talmud. Is it ethnic or is it
religious? Does it apply to one practice but not another? So it's a
very difficult question to answer. As a matter of fact, you could even
say that Judaism itself exists as an attempt to find out what it means
to be a Jew.


You're also suggesting that there's no underlying unity that permeates
all religions, that, in fact, they're totally different from each
other.

I'm absolutely saying that. There have been a lot of fantasies about
putting all the religions together. Mahatma Gandhi was famous for
saying that all religions are, at their core, the same. But I have
spent my life studying these traditions. I am a historian of religion.
And the more I studied them, the more I saw that they were absolutely
different.


But if the only test of a religion is its staying power, are you
saying Mormonism, which has been around less than 200 years, is not a
religion? Or Pentecostalism, which some religious scholars say is the
most important religious movement of the last century?

Those are large questions. Will Mormonism hold out over the centuries?
It's a difficult judgment. I don't have an answer for that. What I'd
really like to focus on is how extremely long the great traditions
are. There are other traditions that aren't that long: Sikhism,
various kinds of Middle Eastern religions, mystical movements.
Mormonism is an open question. You could even talk about Scientology.
Does it really have staying power over the centuries? I would doubt
it, but we don't know yet.


Are you religious yourself?

I would say yes, but in the sense that I am endlessly fascinated with
the unknowability of what it means to be human, to exist at all. Or as
Martin Heidegger asked, why is there something rather than nothing?
There's no answer to that. And yet it hovers behind all of our other
answers as an enduring question. For me, it puts a kind of miraculous
glow on the world and my experience of the world. So in that sense, I
am religious.


What about God? If God is defined as some sort of transcendent
reality, do you think God exists?

[Laughs] Frankly, no. But there are so many different conceptions of
God. Take, for example, the medieval Christian, Jewish and Islamic
mystics. It's a very rich period from the 12th to the 15th centuries.
They began to realize that in each of their traditions, it was
impossible to say exactly who God was and what he wants and what he's
doing. In fact, human intelligence has a certain limitation that keeps
it from being able to embrace the infinite or the whole. Therefore,
every one of our statements about God and the universe is tinged with
a degree of ignorance. I would say that I am deeply moved by the
thought of an unnameable mystery. If you then ask me, exactly which
mystery are you then referring to? I can't answer. That's as far as I
can go. But it's got its grip on me, for sure.


Do you engage in any kind of regular religious practice?

I have, off and on, over the years. I find certain religious liturgies
very compelling, especially the Christian Eucharist, which is the
celebration of Jesus' last supper with his disciples. When you begin
to look into the aspects of that liturgy, there are some very strange
things. For example, breaking and eating the body of God and drinking
the blood of Jesus. What in heaven's name is that about? Once you
begin to inquire into it, what you find are very deep echoes with
ancient religious traditions. Primitive people sacrificed their gods
and literally drank their blood. They would elect someone to be a god
for a year or a season and would then sacrifice that person. You also
have to understand the art, the music and the rich culture that
surrounds these traditions. Think of Chartres, the Vatican, the Dome
of the Rock, the great temple in Jerusalem, which in its day was the
largest building in the world. And the music, the poetry, the great
scriptural texts; it's a very rich fabric. I find myself deeply moved
and endlessly reflective about it.


Given what's happening in the world right now, do you think there's a
lot at stake in how we talk about religion and belief?

Absolutely. In the current, very popular attack on religion, the one
thing that's left out is the sense of religion that I've been talking
about. Instead, it's an attack on what's essentially a belief system.


Are you talking about atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

Yes. There are several problems with their approach. It has an
inadequate understanding of the nature of religion. These chaps are
very distinguished thinkers and scientists, very smart people, but
they are not historians or scholars of religion. Therefore, it's too
easy for them to pass off a quick notion of what religion is. That
kind of critique also tends to set up a counter-belief system of its
own. Daniel Dennett proposes his own, fairly comprehensive belief
system based on evolution and psychology. From his point of view, it
seems that everything can be explained. Harris and Dawkins are not
quite that extreme. But that's a danger with all of them. To be an
atheist, you have to be very clear about what god you're not believing
in. Therefore, if you don't have a deep and well-developed
understanding of God and divine reality, you can misfire on atheism
very easily.


And yet, you've just told me that you yourself don't believe in a
divine reality. In some ways, your critique of belief systems seems to
go along with what the new atheists are saying.

The difference, though, is that I wouldn't call myself an atheist. To
be an atheist is not to be stunned by the mystery of things or to walk
around in wonder about the universe. That's a mode of being that has
nothing to do with belief. So I have very little in common with them.
As a matter of fact, one reason I wrote the book is that a much more
compelling critique of belief systems comes not from the scientific
side but from the religious side. When you look at belief systems from
a religious perspective, what's exposed is how limited they are, how
deeply authoritarian they are, how rationalistic and comprehensive
they claim to be, but at the same time how little staying power they
have with the human imagination. It's a deeper and much more incisive
critique.


It's interesting that you're going after the atheists. I would have
guessed that you wrote this book to criticize true believers who are
religious fundamentalists.

Oh yes, I'm very concerned with belief systems. Today, the world is
really being ravaged by conflicts between believers. Go to Bosnia,
anywhere in the Middle East, to China, Sri Lanka, the Sudan, Kosovo,
Chechnya, even in Europe. There are great crises in France and
Britain, even Holland and Denmark. So it's very important to
understand how different belief systems work and what's inherently
wrong with them.


But I have to wonder if your dichotomy between religion and belief is
simply your attempt to rescue religion from what you consider to be
ill-formed or dangerous believers. Is this just your way of separating
good religion from bad religion?

Well, you could see it that way. But my deeper point is that religion
doesn't need to be defended. I'm not going to make a whit of
difference to a tradition that's 2,000 years old and has 2 billion
people talking about it. That's a remarkable phenomenon. I don't have
a case to make for religion. In fact, as a historian of religion, I'm
very aware of the fact that religions die. They disappear. Hundreds of
them have over the centuries. I even believe that Christianity and
Islam and the other great traditions will themselves dissipate in one
way or another.


You say we're actually beginning to see the death throes of
Christianity. That's a startling comment, considering how many people
around the world identify themselves as Christians.

I think there's a fragmentation going on that's quite significant, a
tendency to identify with something outside their religious tradition.
Once they've married their Christian faith to a national or ethnic
identity, then it loses its deep historical Christian character. To
look at these huge mega-churches, for example, the startling thing to
me is when you go to their services, you don't have any sense of the
enormous complexity of the history. You have the feeling that Jesus
walked in here yesterday, and the minister will pick up a few
contemporary cultural phenomena, like popular music. You're seated in
something like an auditorium. There's no cathedral atmosphere. There's
no great chanting choir. I think it's lost that indefinability.


You refer to the period we're now living in as the Second Age of
Faith. What do you mean?

The so-called Age of Faith runs from the end of the 11th century to
the beginning of the 13th. It's a period in Europe in which all the
religions grew very rapidly. It was also a period of terrible
conflict. At the end of the 11th century, Pope Urban II gave one of
the most consequential speeches in Christian history. He called on
Christians to rise up and take Jerusalem back from the Saracens. And
it was with that speech that the Crusades began. The Crusades were an
ugly period. It was bloody and cruel. It exhausted people on both
sides. No one won or lost. And it went on for centuries.


And you think we're now in another period like that?

I would say we are back in that crusading spirit. In the modern era,
the great belief systems begin to think of themselves in more
militaristic ways. And they conceive of themselves more and more in
oppositional terms. Look, nothing equals the 20th century for its
bloodiness. Who knows how many people were killed? Two hundred
million? And the 21st century is not getting that great a start. At
the same time, there's a very rapid growth of belief. Islam is growing
faster than ever. Christian evangelicalism is probably one of the most
rapidly growing phenomena in religious history. Mormonism is just
racing along. The earth as a whole is getting more and more religious.
But it has nonetheless become more and more preoccupied with conflict.


You have a provocative view of Jesus. You claim that "the vast
literature on Jesus is not about anything; that, in fact, it says
nothing." That's hard to swallow, given that we've had 2,000 years of
inquiry and debate about who the real Jesus was.

The most difficult part of understanding Christianity is trying to get
at who Jesus was. The New Testament writers were very confused about
who Jesus was and what he was doing. And during the New Testament era,
there was great strife among Christians. They were quarreling with
each other over a number of questions. Was Jesus really God? Or was he
only appearing to be God? Was he simply a person of such perfect
morality that God adopted him? Was he created by God after the
creation? Where does he belong in the Trinity, Augustine asked in the
early 5th century?

Later on, St. Thomas, the great theologian of the Catholic tradition,
understood the church as the historical extension of the incarnation.
This is a very radical idea. So you know Jesus not through Scripture
and not through some kind of internal experience, but through the
existence of the church itself. And then you get Martin Luther, who
rejected that idea and said the only way you really get to know Jesus
is through Scripture. It couldn't be more different than Thomas'
conception. Then you get Calvin, a contemporary of Luther's, who
understood Jesus strictly in Old Testament terms, as prophet, priest
and king. And then you have Soren Kierkegaard, under the influence of
Hegel, who saw Jesus as "the absolute paradox," the eternal and the
human combined in one historical moment, which is in fact
unintelligible. I call this long history of how Jesus has been
understood and interpreted "an abundance of Jesuses."


And we're not even up to the 20th century. You could say this
convoluted history is a mess. After all, what are Christians supposed
to believe? Or you could say all this passion over competing
interpretations reveals the vitality of this religion.

What's striking to me is not that Christians keep disagreeing about
these things. They can't stop arguing with each other. The issue
doesn't go away. You'd think, we can't settle exactly who Jesus is, so
let's forget it. But the subject burns. It holds people's attention
and requires some kind of response. I think Christianity is the
attempt to answer that very question. And that's why I made what may
seem to be an outrageous remark: When you look at the way Jesus has
been interpreted over the centuries, it says nothing. What do we
actually know about Jesus? Well, there's only one historical
contemporary reference to Jesus. That's in the historian Josephus. All
he said was that Jesus lived, he was loved by his disciples, and was
executed for a crime that Josephus doesn't indicate.


Even the Gospels are not contemporary accounts. They were written
after the life of Jesus.

They were written many years later. The earliest is the Gospel of
Mark, probably written 35 years after the death of Jesus. The Gospel
of John is written anywhere from 60 to 65 years later. They were
written by Greeks, not by Jews. These were people who couldn't speak
Hebrew. They probably had never even been in Jerusalem, and they
certainly did not know Jesus personally. They probably knew no one who
knew Jesus personally. So if we have to get down to solid fact, what
we have is an illiterate young man, a homeless man, who wandered about
the area of Galilee -- a backwater in the Roman Empire -- who taught
some things, healed some people, and was executed by the Romans.
That's about it in terms of historical verification. That's not much.


Isn't this a point of great contention? Some biblical scholars say
Paul's letters were written just 15 to 25 years after the death of
Jesus. In Corinthians, Paul refers to hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw
Jesus after he rose from the dead. And the author of the Gospel of
Luke claims that he got his account of Jesus' life from eyewitnesses
who were still alive. Christian scholars point to these accounts as
evidence that the story of Jesus is grounded in history, not just myth
created long after he died.

It is true that Luke says he's basing his Gospel on the many stories
being told. Even more interesting, John closes his Gospel with the
remark that if all the stories being told about Jesus were written
down, the world could not contain them all. John also gives us a very
different Jesus from the other Gospels. Some of Paul's letters are the
oldest in the New Testament, written before the Gospels, and Paul does
refer to Jesus appearing to 500 witnesses. But Paul has nothing to say
about the life of Jesus, not a trace of his teachings or his healings.
If we had to rely on Paul for a portrait of Jesus, we would know
nothing more than Paul's personal reaction to a mysterious event.


In your book, you say the core of religion is the pursuit of
knowledge. But what you really celebrate is what you call "higher
ignorance."

Higher ignorance is one of the great philosophical concepts. Nicholas
of Cusa developed this idea. It comes out of the great mystical period
of the 15th century. It's the notion that we can never get outside
what we know to say something about it that's definitive. We're always
locked inside that body of knowledge. For example, we have any number
of theories about the origin and nature of the universe, but there is
no way we can place ourselves outside the universe and observe it
objectively. However learned these theories are, they contain a
profound ignorance that cannot be eliminated. Heidegger's metaphor is
that of the "house of language"; we can know nothing except by way of
language. There is no outside.


You also say poets are the real visionaries of the world. And you make
the case that religion, at its root, is inspired by its poets.

You know, my entire career was at New York University, but I only
taught the history of Christianity once. That's when one of my
colleagues was not available. So I went back to my graduate study of
St. Thomas Aquinas. And I loved it so much. When we got to Thomas in
the class, I began to notice that the students -- most of them were
Catholics -- had stopped taking notes. They stopped moving. It looked
like they stopped breathing. They'd never realized that there was so
much beauty behind the Catholic teaching. They thought it was about
doing something right or wrong, rather than this great cathedral of
language within which they could understand their very individual
experiences. It struck me that what was great about Thomas is not that
he was right or wrong, but that he's a poet. It's just beautiful work.
It's an artistic creation of the greatest achievement. And when you
take that insight and look across the traditions, you find people of
very great poetic insight. The great religious figures are not
philosophers, they're not historians, they're not institutional
leaders in any sense. They are people who inspire the imagination and
therefore deserve the word "poet."


So do we have those poets today -- poets in the religious sense?

That's a very good question. I have a dark view of what's happening. I
think our poets have lost their great voices. If you ask me to point
to a poet, I couldn't do it. We need them. I don't know where they
are. And, of course, there's no way of getting them. They come on
their own. They simply appear. There's no way you can train someone to
be a poet or a great original mind.


Why are you so pessimistic?

Let's look at Islam, as an example. There's no way of reducing Islam
to a single belief system, but what you have in Islam is a very active
series of belief systems. And they're in deep conflict with each
other. There's no poetry in this. It's all strictly hard belief, in an
oppositional voice. But if you go back in Islamic history, what you
get is a very deep sense of poetry. As a matter of fact, the Quran
itself is considered so poetically beautiful that it's a very high
value in Islamic life to memorize it and sing it. Muslims refer to the
Quran as a recitation, something to be repeated over and over again.

You go back to the medieval mystical period and you find Islamic
thinkers who say terribly beautiful things. There's a story told about
Abu Ali of Sind, a famous mystic. He made his annual trip across the
desert, which took days, to get his supplies in the markets on the
other end of the desert. Then he walked all the way back, opened the
packages that he bought and found that there were ants in his cardamom
seeds. Immediately, he wrapped the ants back up in the cardamom seeds,
walked back across the desert and returned the ants to their home.
That's a different Islam. That's a poetic Islam. It comes right out of
the heart of that religion.
Julian
2009-11-25 19:06:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Finally finished the book by James P. Carse.
Here're my thoughts, not all necessarily from the book, except for
Carse associates belief with "willful ignorance." "It is a
paradoxical condition in which we are aware there is something we do
not know, but choose not to know it." "Belief marks the line at which
our thinking stops, or, perhaps better, the place where we confine our
thinking to a carefully delineated region." Creationists will usually
prefer not to know details of evolution, as it might weaken their
faith. Galileo's colleagues refused to look through the telescope at
the moons of Jupiter. Some actually looked but said they did not see
them.
In religion, words are interpretation, they are not the actual
substance. Religion expresses something that cannot be found in the
actual words, like the experience of a symphony cannot be found in
the musical notes or in a critic's commentary.
Belief is the study of the pointing finger, describing and measuring
it, arguing about its shape, etc. Religion is finding what the finger
points to.
Religion has a deep resonance inside. There is no need to oppose
those who do not feel this resonance. The feeling of joy or bliss is
part of religion. There is no belief associated with it. Belief
often works toward dryness, coldness, emotional emptiness, "everything
is fluff"
Beliefs are not necessarily tied to religion. Nazism, Stalinism,
Maoism are non-religious belief systems. So is the doctrine of
Scientism, the belief that science is the *only* true way to acquire
knowledge about reality and the nature of things.
Belief must have an external authority, be it a person or a scripture.
However, "Authority does not precede its use, but is created by it.
It does not present itself spontaneously; it is *chosen* by those whom
it restricts, protects, authenticates, and guides."
Since authority is chosen by the believer, it has no power of its own.
If people do not accept a power as their authority, they may be cowed
for a while, but not forever. "The Soviet rulers confused authority
with power, failing to understand that power by itself has no
authority, and authority has only the power observers give it.
Collapse was inevitable."
Belief must have an opponent (or enemy). Since this opponent is seen
as a threat to the belief, he must be devalued. Namecalling is a
common way ("idiot", "woo-wooist", "nutter") "Belief systems thrive
in circumstances of collision." "We could go so far as to say that
belief is so dependent on the hostile other that it may need to
stimulate the other's active resistance. Belief has a confrontational
element built into itself that is essential to its own vitality."
-- Boy, do we see a lot of that in these groups! Especially in regard
to the belief system of American Triumphalism.
Another aspect is that of evil. This is an overwhelming problem for a
believer who "knows" the nature of God. "The fact of evil is
ultimately the undoing of all belief systems. Because of their
oppositional character, their attention is focused on the wrongs of
the other. To admit their own wrongs is to draw into question the
coherence of their beliefs and their trust in a chosen authority."
"Evil is nearly always an attempt to eliminate evil, as it appears in
those who oppose us. It therefore thrives in belief systems inasmuch
as it is easily ascribed to their enemies, the result being a
spiraling expansion of evil."
Religion concerns itself with mystery and wonder. Belief with
explanation and certitude. The two are worlds apart, but believers
(and their detractors) like to define religion as belief.
"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with which
they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point, inasmuch as
believers do regularly represent themselves as truly religious - or
impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious validation."
Carse has always been one of my heroes and "The Religious Case Against
Belief" is a wonderful book, and I gave several copies to friends in
the past year. His distinction between willful ignorance and higher
ignorance is fantastic, which he took from Nicolaus of Cusa, of whom
both Carse and I are fans.
Btw, above: the namecalling of "woo-wooist" and "nutter" are exactly
my terms for "willful ignorance", as I don't go for any belief system,
and hence don't have any enemies, but I'll use any dogmatist as a
punching bag, if they'll let me (or if none are available, I'll hire
someone like Keynes as a straight man to set me up for my punch
lines). I think the key to Carse's thinking is his astute insight that
it's belief systems, dogma, that are the problem, and not religion,
which without belief can be a powerful positive force, a form of
poetry instead of division and repression.
Btw, Carse's earlier more intuitive poetic book "Finite and Infinite
Games" is by far his best work and is a masterpiece.
There's a lot of it here http://www.glg.net/pdf/Finite_Infinite_Games.pdf
Déjà Flu
2009-11-25 23:21:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Julian
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Finally finished the book by James P. Carse.
Here're my thoughts, not all necessarily from the book, except for
Carse associates belief with "willful ignorance." "It is a
paradoxical condition in which we are aware there is something we do
not know, but choose not to know it." "Belief marks the line at which
our thinking stops, or, perhaps better, the place where we confine our
thinking to a carefully delineated region." Creationists will usually
prefer not to know details of evolution, as it might weaken their
faith. Galileo's colleagues refused to look through the telescope at
the moons of Jupiter. Some actually looked but said they did not see
them.
In religion, words are interpretation, they are not the actual
substance. Religion expresses something that cannot be found in the
actual words, like the experience of a symphony cannot be found in
the musical notes or in a critic's commentary.
Belief is the study of the pointing finger, describing and measuring
it, arguing about its shape, etc. Religion is finding what the finger
points to.
Religion has a deep resonance inside. There is no need to oppose
those who do not feel this resonance. The feeling of joy or bliss is
part of religion. There is no belief associated with it. Belief
often works toward dryness, coldness, emotional emptiness, "everything
is fluff"
Beliefs are not necessarily tied to religion. Nazism, Stalinism,
Maoism are non-religious belief systems. So is the doctrine of
Scientism, the belief that science is the *only* true way to acquire
knowledge about reality and the nature of things.
Belief must have an external authority, be it a person or a
scripture. However, "Authority does not precede its use, but is
created by it. It does not present itself spontaneously; it is
*chosen* by those whom
it restricts, protects, authenticates, and guides."
Since authority is chosen by the believer, it has no power of its own.
If people do not accept a power as their authority, they may be cowed
for a while, but not forever. "The Soviet rulers confused authority
with power, failing to understand that power by itself has no
authority, and authority has only the power observers give it.
Collapse was inevitable."
Belief must have an opponent (or enemy). Since this opponent is seen
as a threat to the belief, he must be devalued. Namecalling is a
common way ("idiot", "woo-wooist", "nutter") "Belief systems thrive
in circumstances of collision." "We could go so far as to say that
belief is so dependent on the hostile other that it may need to
stimulate the other's active resistance. Belief has a confrontational
element built into itself that is essential to its own vitality."
-- Boy, do we see a lot of that in these groups! Especially in regard
to the belief system of American Triumphalism.
Another aspect is that of evil. This is an overwhelming problem for a
believer who "knows" the nature of God. "The fact of evil is
ultimately the undoing of all belief systems. Because of their
oppositional character, their attention is focused on the wrongs of
the other. To admit their own wrongs is to draw into question the
coherence of their beliefs and their trust in a chosen authority."
"Evil is nearly always an attempt to eliminate evil, as it appears in
those who oppose us. It therefore thrives in belief systems inasmuch
as it is easily ascribed to their enemies, the result being a
spiraling expansion of evil."
Religion concerns itself with mystery and wonder. Belief with
explanation and certitude. The two are worlds apart, but believers
(and their detractors) like to define religion as belief.
"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with which
they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point, inasmuch as
believers do regularly represent themselves as truly religious - or
impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious validation."
Carse has always been one of my heroes and "The Religious Case Against
Belief" is a wonderful book, and I gave several copies to friends in
the past year. His distinction between willful ignorance and higher
ignorance is fantastic, which he took from Nicolaus of Cusa, of whom
both Carse and I are fans.
Btw, above: the namecalling of "woo-wooist" and "nutter" are exactly
my terms for "willful ignorance", as I don't go for any belief system,
and hence don't have any enemies, but I'll use any dogmatist as a
punching bag, if they'll let me (or if none are available, I'll hire
someone like Keynes as a straight man to set me up for my punch
lines). I think the key to Carse's thinking is his astute insight that
it's belief systems, dogma, that are the problem, and not religion,
which without belief can be a powerful positive force, a form of
poetry instead of division and repression.
Btw, Carse's earlier more intuitive poetic book "Finite and Infinite
Games" is by far his best work and is a masterpiece.
There's a lot of it here http://www.glg.net/pdf/Finite_Infinite_Games.pdf
I'm still waiting for Carse the Arse to explain what "religion
without belief" really means, since it seems he's got his own
dictionary and we all know how *that* works...
bonfils
2009-11-25 23:56:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Déjà Flu
I'm still waiting for Carse the Arse to explain what "religion
without belief" really means, since it seems he's got his own
dictionary and we all know how *that* works...
Heh. Exactly what I thought (and thought I'd already posted in a wordier
form, but I guess not).

OTOH, if it worked for Humpty Dumpty...
--
bonfils
http://kim.bonfils.com
To send me a massage, please remove your.underwear
Déjà Flu
2009-11-26 01:03:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by bonfils
Post by Déjà Flu
I'm still waiting for Carse the Arse to explain what "religion
without belief" really means, since it seems he's got his own
dictionary and we all know how *that* works...
Heh. Exactly what I thought (and thought I'd already posted in a wordier
form, but I guess not).
OTOH, if it worked for Humpty Dumpty...
The alethiometer never lies - it only answers what you ask it.

"We couldn't be further apart 'less one of us was on the moon,
but there's somethin' 'bout gingers that distance don't govern
if you get my meaning."
- Loki
Nobody in Particular
2009-11-26 02:10:14 UTC
Permalink
<snip>
Post by DharmaTroll
Carse has always been one of my heroes and "The Religious Case
Against Belief" is a wonderful book, and I gave several copies to
friends in the past year. His distinction between willful ignorance
and higher ignorance is fantastic, which he took from Nicolaus of
Cusa, of whom both Carse and I are fans.
Btw, above: the namecalling of "woo-wooist" and "nutter" are
exactly my terms for "willful ignorance", as I don't go for any
belief system,
Not even scientism (the belief that science is the *only* true way to
acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things)?
To me, at least, you come across as pretty dogmatic about this belief
system.
Post by DharmaTroll
and hence don't have any enemies, but I'll use any
dogmatist as a punching bag, if they'll let me (or if none are
available, I'll hire someone like Keynes as a straight man to set me
up for my punch lines). I think the key to Carse's thinking is his
astute insight that it's belief systems, dogma, that are the
problem, and not religion, which without belief can be a powerful
positive force, a form of poetry instead of division and repression.
Amen, brother. :-)
Post by DharmaTroll
Btw, Carse's earlier more intuitive poetic book "Finite and Infinite
Games" is by far his best work and is a masterpiece. This book maybe
comes in second. For an intro to Carse, listen to this mp3 (or see
http://www.longnow.org/seminars/02005/jan/14/religious-war-in-light-
of-the-infinite-game/

Thanks for the pointer. Very good talk.
Post by DharmaTroll
And there was a nice interview with Carse a year and a half ago on
Slate, which I'll paste in below.
P.S. Ignore anything Fu says about Carse, as he will whine just as
he does about Karen Armstrong, and is pissed off by anyone who isn't
a hard-core atheist who insists religion has no redeeming value,
shunning Carse the way homosexuals often shun straight-looking
bisexuals.
I noticed that.
Post by DharmaTroll
http://www.salon.com/books/atoms_eden/2008/07/21/james_carse/index.html
I snipped most of the interview, but only to make this post shorter.
Post by DharmaTroll
... human intelligence has a certain
limitation that keeps it from being able to embrace the infinite or
the whole.
To be an
atheist, you have to be very clear about what god you're not
believing in.
There's a story told
about Abu Ali of Sind, a famous mystic. He made his annual trip
across the desert, which took days, to get his supplies in the
markets on the other end of the desert. Then he walked all the way
back, opened the packages that he bought and found that there were
ants in his cardamom seeds. Immediately, he wrapped the ants back up
in the cardamom seeds, walked back across the desert and returned
the ants to their home. That's a different Islam. That's a poetic
Islam. It comes right out of the heart of that religion.
Great story. Reminds me of Ramana Maharshi, when he accidentally
stepped on a hornet's nest. The hornets, in a swarm, attacked the
offending leg. He said, "I am so sorry for stepping on your home. If
you'd like, you may have the other leg too."
Déjà Flu
2009-11-26 02:37:03 UTC
Permalink
...
Post by Nobody in Particular
Not even scientism (the belief that science is the *only* true way to
acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things)?
To me, at least, you come across as pretty dogmatic about this belief
system.
...

Is that what "scientism" is? Bit of a self-serving recursive
definition if you ask me, and surely not writ by scientists.
Is an "unbelief system" a "belief system"? Only for believers.
DharmaTroll
2009-11-26 04:15:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
Carse has always been one of my heroes and "The Religious Case
Against Belief" is a wonderful book, and I gave several copies to
friends in the past year. His distinction between willful ignorance
and higher ignorance is fantastic, which he took from Nicolaus of
Cusa, of whom both Carse and I are fans.
Btw, above: the namecalling of  "woo-wooist" and "nutter" are
exactly my terms for "willful ignorance", as I don't go for any
belief system,
Not even scientism (the belief that science is the *only* true way to
acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things)?
Nope, I'd say scientism is the caricature that religious believers and
pseudo-science woo-woo-ists create to pretend that science is simple
an arbitrary set of blind faith in superstitions just like their own,
so that they can legitimize their own woo-woo.

The word scientism, as I have known it, is supposed to refer to
blindly believing that current scientific theories are, like religion,
the final word, the ultimate truth. I don't know how the hell you
associate me with that, as while I take as the best working hypothesis
the existence of dark matter and dark energy and black holes, if some
new observations or new theories that better explain the present data
comes about tomorrow, I'll posit that and take it to be the best
working hypothesis. Same is true if Robert offers me the choice of the
blue or red pill -- I'll go for the truth and be happy to find out and
prove that we're in the matrix, and then I'll kick ass like Neo did.
So what the hell is this dumping accusations of scientism on me?
Zheesh.

I'm an empiricist. Science is just an extension of the senses, and
inferring as many real patterns in the world as possible given only
empirical data. I don't have any 'belief in' science, as if it were
dogma like most of the folks on these boards cling to, and I correct
my fucked up opinions when I'm given good evidence that's better than
mine.

Hell, I rant and raved last week that Bellichick was an idiot, with
his Patriots going for 4th and 1 at his own 29-yard-line up six points
with 2 minutes to go. He didn't make it because the receiver bobbled
the ball. "You have to punt," I raved, claiming that Bellichick (the
coach) was simply rattled by the idea of putting the ball in the
Colt's QB Payton Mannings' hands with 2 minutes left, as Payton's
brother Eli and the Giants destroyed the perfect season of the Pats
with that amazing Superbowl finish a couple of years ago. And that
Bellichick didn't have faith in his defense and was letting his
intuitions and feelings rule him instead of thinking rationally.

Well, after arguing it out, a bright Pats fan and grad student I know
argued that it was the right call, and I made fun of him for several
conversations and stuck to my guns while he even insulted me and
babbled about my always having to be right. Finally, he produced stats
and good ones. I went over the data, and he was right. I said, "Holy
shit, the numbers favor your claim. You're right, going for it was the
rational move. His analysis was as follows:

With 2:00 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful
conversion wins. A 4th and 2 conversion would be successful 60% of the
time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to
either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that field
positio...n. The total WP for the 4th down conversion attempt is:
(0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.80 WP
A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at
their own 34. Teams get the TD 30% of the time in that situation. So
the punt gives the Pats only a 0.70 WP.
That's 80% going for it, and 70% punting as I wanted to do.
Wow! The math says I was wrong, so I changed my view.

And if I do that immediately upon being given the math and convincing
data about something as emotional and intense as football, I'm going
to do it about silly shit like religion and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.
Post by Nobody in Particular
To me, at least, you come across as pretty dogmatic about this belief
system.
Well my friend admitted "wow, I'm impressed how objective you were and
were convinced by the data and changed your mind -- I haven't
convinced my other football fan friends of this". Hell, he even
invited me over next Monday for the Pats game against the undefeated
'Aints. I'll have to miss the new ep of "The Big Bang Theory" and
download it later, I guess, but it should be the game of the season.

Not accepting anything without good reason -- and good reasons don't
include gut feelings about strange experiences or beliefs that you can
dream about the future, or authorities or holy books -- isn't a belief
system, silly. It's simply thinking critically.

Too bad folks here make up a "belief system" that doesn't exist, call
it 'scientism' and then discount me by labeling me a believer -- of
course, that's because the hooligans around here present woo-woo and
cockamamie stories instead of real data and the math, so they don't
get to see how non-dogmatic and totally awesome I am. That's ok, I
enjoy kicking their Brahmanist Buttinskis anyway.
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
and hence don't have any enemies, but I'll use any
dogmatist as a punching bag, if they'll let me (or if none are
available, I'll hire someone like Keynes as a straight man to set me
up for my punch lines). I think the key to Carse's thinking is his
astute insight that it's belief systems, dogma, that are the
problem, and not religion, which without belief can be a powerful
positive force, a form of poetry instead of division and repression.
Amen, brother.  :-)
Thanks, but that wasn't a sermon! Heh.
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
Btw, Carse's earlier more intuitive poetic book "Finite and Infinite
Games" is by far his best work and is a masterpiece. This book maybe
comes in second. For an intro to Carse, listen to this mp3 (or see
http://www.longnow.org/seminars/02005/jan/14/religious-war-in-light-of-the-infinite-game/
Thanks for the pointer.  Very good talk.
Cool. I'm glad you listened.
An art not mastered by most of the folks around here.
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
And there was a nice interview with Carse a year and a half ago on
Slate, which I'll paste in below.
P.S. Ignore anything Fu says about Carse, as he will whine just as
he does about Karen Armstrong, and is pissed off by anyone who isn't
a hard-core atheist who insists religion has no redeeming value,
shunning Carse the way homosexuals often shun straight-looking
bisexuals.
I noticed that.
So why am I the one you hit with the labels then?
If it's because I agree with Fu a lot, well, he's on target a lot.
We disagree about this, however.
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
http://www.salon.com/books/atoms_eden/2008/07/21/james_carse/index.html
I snipped most of the interview, but only to make this post shorter.
Post by DharmaTroll
... human intelligence has a certain
limitation that keeps it from being able to embrace the infinite or
the whole.
To be an
atheist, you have to be very clear about what god you're not
believing in.
There's a story told
about Abu Ali of Sind, a famous mystic. He made his annual trip
across the desert, which took days, to get his supplies in the
markets on the other end of the desert. Then he walked all the way
back, opened the packages that he bought and found that there were
ants in his cardamom seeds. Immediately, he wrapped the ants back up
in the cardamom seeds, walked back across the desert and returned
the ants to their home. That's a different Islam. That's a poetic
Islam. It comes right out of the heart of that religion.
Great story.  Reminds me of Ramana Maharshi, when he accidentally
stepped on a hornet's nest.  The hornets, in a swarm, attacked the
offending leg.  He said, "I am so sorry for stepping on your home.  If
you'd like, you may have the other leg too."
Ugh, ok, but to me your Maharshi story sounds too moralistic and
politically correct. Or is it one of those "I don't care about my body
because I identify with the whole frakking universe tra-la-la" kind of
things. Ugh. Better to run the hell away and avoid as many stings as
possible. If you want to feel compassion for the stupid bugs later,
whatever. I don't like equating enlightenment or selflessness with
masochism. But in the Sufi story, rather than masochism, the fellow
wanted to simply return the little beasties to their home, the way I
trap spiders and put them outside. I like that story better.

I've been to Buddhist retreat centers where they don't deal with their
roach problems. I never visit such places more than once. I'm for
respect for all life, but only in terms of practical limits. Better to
spray the hornets' nests in your yard and kill the roaches, but don't
eat much higher and more sentient life forms, like, um, turkeys. Hope
some of you, as I, are planning vegan Thanksgiving dinners.

Oh yeah, and remember this fiasco?

What a Moronayanist!

--DharmaTroll
Nobody in Particular
2009-11-26 05:48:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
Carse has always been one of my heroes and "The Religious Case
Against Belief" is a wonderful book, and I gave several copies to
friends in the past year. His distinction between willful
ignorance and higher ignorance is fantastic, which he took from
Nicolaus of Cusa, of whom both Carse and I are fans.
Btw, above: the namecalling of "woo-wooist" and "nutter" are
exactly my terms for "willful ignorance", as I don't go for any
belief system,
I see that reversed. To me, denying the existence of anything that
cannot be proved by science is "willful ignorance." Can you prove the
existence of love?
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Not even scientism (the belief that science is the *only* true way
to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things)?
Nope, I'd say scientism is the caricature that religious believers
and pseudo-science woo-woo-ists create to pretend that science is
simple an arbitrary set of blind faith in superstitions just like
their own, so that they can legitimize their own woo-woo.
I'd say scientism is the belief that science is the *only* true way
to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things, nothing
more.
Post by DharmaTroll
The word scientism, as I have known it, is supposed to refer to
blindly believing that current scientific theories are, like
religion, the final word, the ultimate truth. I don't know how the
hell you associate me with that, as while I take as the best working
hypothesis the existence of dark matter and dark energy and black
holes, if some new observations or new theories that better explain
the present data comes about tomorrow, I'll posit that and take it
to be the best working hypothesis. Same is true if Robert offers me
the choice of the blue or red pill -- I'll go for the truth and be
happy to find out and prove that we're in the matrix, and then I'll
kick ass like Neo did. So what the hell is this dumping accusations
of scientism on me? Zheesh.
Well, that' a definition I haven't heard previously, and I don't agree
with. And I don't accuse you of *that* kind of scientism.
Post by DharmaTroll
I'm an empiricist. Science is just an extension of the senses, and
inferring as many real patterns in the world as possible given only
empirical data. I don't have any 'belief in' science, as if it were
dogma like most of the folks on these boards cling to, and I correct
my fucked up opinions when I'm given good evidence that's better
than mine.
Hell, I rant and raved last week that Bellichick was an idiot, with
his Patriots going for 4th and 1 at his own 29-yard-line up six
points with 2 minutes to go. He didn't make it because the receiver
bobbled the ball. "You have to punt," I raved, claiming that
Bellichick (the coach) was simply rattled by the idea of putting the
ball in the Colt's QB Payton Mannings' hands with 2 minutes left, as
Payton's brother Eli and the Giants destroyed the perfect season of
the Pats with that amazing Superbowl finish a couple of years ago.
And that Bellichick didn't have faith in his defense and was letting
his intuitions and feelings rule him instead of thinking rationally.
Well, after arguing it out, a bright Pats fan and grad student I
know argued that it was the right call, and I made fun of him for
several conversations and stuck to my guns while he even insulted me
and babbled about my always having to be right. Finally, he produced
stats and good ones. I went over the data, and he was right. I said,
"Holy shit, the numbers favor your claim. You're right, going for it
With 2:00 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful
conversion wins. A 4th and 2 conversion would be successful 60% of
the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a
TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that
field positio...n. The total WP for the 4th down conversion attempt
is: (0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.80 WP
A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at
their own 34. Teams get the TD 30% of the time in that situation. So
the punt gives the Pats only a 0.70 WP.
That's 80% going for it, and 70% punting as I wanted to do.
Wow! The math says I was wrong, so I changed my view.
And if I do that immediately upon being given the math and
convincing data about something as emotional and intense as
football, I'm going to do it about silly shit like religion and
metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.
I'm sorry, since my knowledge of football is pretty much zero, I don't
know what you're talking about. But I get the general idea.
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
To me, at least, you come across as pretty dogmatic about this
belief system.
Well my friend admitted "wow, I'm impressed how objective you were
and were convinced by the data and changed your mind -- I haven't
convinced my other football fan friends of this". Hell, he even
invited me over next Monday for the Pats game against the undefeated
'Aints. I'll have to miss the new ep of "The Big Bang Theory" and
download it later, I guess, but it should be the game of the season.
Not accepting anything without good reason -- and good reasons don't
include gut feelings about strange experiences or beliefs that you
can dream about the future, or authorities or holy books -- isn't a
belief system, silly. It's simply thinking critically.
Too bad folks here make up a "belief system" that doesn't exist,
call it 'scientism' and then discount me by labeling me a believer
-- of course, that's because the hooligans around here present
woo-woo and cockamamie stories instead of real data and the math, so
they don't get to see how non-dogmatic and totally awesome I am.
That's ok, I enjoy kicking their Brahmanist Buttinskis anyway.
I wonder about your opinion on Gandhi's spiritual message:
http://www.gandhiserve.org/information/listen_to_gandhi/lec_1_on_god/augven_spiritual_message.html
or:
http://tinyurl.com/yfldf6l

Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare.
But if you seek safety, it is on the shore.
-- Saadi of Shiraz (c. 1200 AD)

I admit that I only read a fraction of all posts, so I'm not sure of
what precisely you call "woo-woo." Is the awe I feel when watching an
incredible sunset "woo-woo"? If I feel some "power that pervades
everything (as Gandhi calls it), is that "woo-woo"?

<snip>
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
P.S. Ignore anything Fu says about Carse, as he will whine just
as he does about Karen Armstrong, and is pissed off by anyone who
isn't a hard-core atheist who insists religion has no redeeming
value, shunning Carse the way homosexuals often shun
straight-looking bisexuals.
I noticed that.
So why am I the one you hit with the labels then?
If it's because I agree with Fu a lot, well, he's on target a lot.
We disagree about this, however.
Fu is a special case. Years ago we traded emails and were pretty much
on the same wavelength. Since then I changed one way, and he changed
in a different way. But because of past history, I'm reluctant to
target him, even though I disagree with him now.

<snip>
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Great story. Reminds me of Ramana Maharshi, when he accidentally
stepped on a hornet's nest. The hornets, in a swarm, attacked the
offending leg. He said, "I am so sorry for stepping on your home.
If you'd like, you may have the other leg too."
Ugh, ok, but to me your Maharshi story sounds too moralistic and
politically correct. Or is it one of those "I don't care about my
body because I identify with the whole frakking universe tra-la-la"
kind of things. Ugh. Better to run the hell away and avoid as many
stings as possible. If you want to feel compassion for the stupid
bugs later, whatever. I don't like equating enlightenment or
selflessness with masochism. But in the Sufi story, rather than
masochism, the fellow wanted to simply return the little beasties to
their home, the way I trap spiders and put them outside. I like that
story better.
To me, the significant thing is that he *never* told anyone else to do
that. It was just how he felt.
Post by DharmaTroll
I've been to Buddhist retreat centers where they don't deal with
their roach problems. I never visit such places more than once. I'm
for respect for all life, but only in terms of practical limits.
Better to spray the hornets' nests in your yard and kill the
roaches, but don't eat much higher and more sentient life forms,
like, um, turkeys. Hope some of you, as I, are planning vegan
Thanksgiving dinners.
Tofurky.
Post by DharmaTroll
Oh yeah, and remember this fiasco?
http://youtu.be/eYxn2vlhtWo
What a Moronayanist!
The guy in the background is putting turkeys into some sort of giant
funnel and keeps them in there for a while. Then they smudge that
out sometimes. I have no idea what's going on there.
DharmaTroll
2009-11-26 06:32:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
Carse has always been one of my heroes and "The Religious Case
Against Belief" is a wonderful book, and I gave several copies to
friends in the past year. His distinction between willful
ignorance and higher ignorance is fantastic, which he took from
Nicolaus of Cusa, of whom both Carse and I are fans.
Btw, above: the namecalling of  "woo-wooist" and "nutter" are
exactly my terms for "willful ignorance", as I don't go for any
belief system,
I see that reversed.  To me, denying the existence of anything that
cannot be proved by science is "willful ignorance."
Science doesn't 'prove' anything.
You call rejecting magic and blind faith as "willful ignorance"?
No, you've totally misunderstood the term then.
And Carse's point.
Can you prove the existence of love?
You've just made a category mistake. There is no thing called love.
Love refers to relationship. You may as well ask me to prove the
existence of 'between'. That's as nonsensical. Relate this to how
thinking that when a cat goes out of sight the best explanation is
that the cat is behind the couch, or why belief in magic powers or
miracle cures without empirical evidence willful ignorance.
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Not even scientism (the belief that science is the *only* true way
to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things)?
Nope, I'd say scientism is the caricature that religious believers
and pseudo-science woo-woo-ists create to pretend that science is
simple an arbitrary set of blind faith in superstitions just like
their own, so that they can legitimize their own woo-woo.
I'd say scientism is the belief that science is the *only* true way
to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things, nothing
more.
By science, do you mean the senses? I am saying, yes, that the senses
and the extensions of the senses is the only way to get knowledge, and
blind faith in authority or holy books and simply coming up with a
story that feels good to me are not good ways. You call that
scientism? As that's what I'm saying, and you're using the term
wrongly.

Btw, the Buddha said what I do, that the senses are the only good
source of knowledge of the nature of things. Not that that matters,
but the Buddha would then be as guilty of 'scientism' as I. That is,
of intelligence and rationality.
Post by DharmaTroll
The word scientism, as I have known it, is supposed to refer to
blindly believing that current scientific theories are, like
religion, the final word, the ultimate truth. I don't know how the
hell you associate me with that, as while I take as the best working
hypothesis the existence of dark matter and dark energy and black
holes, if some new observations or new theories that better explain
the present data comes about tomorrow, I'll posit that and take it
to be the best working hypothesis. Same is true if Robert offers me
the choice of the blue or red pill -- I'll go for the truth and be
happy to find out and prove that we're in the matrix, and then I'll
kick ass like Neo did. So what the hell is this dumping accusations
of scientism on me? Zheesh.
Well, that' a definition I haven't heard previously, and I don't agree
with.  And I don't accuse you of *that* kind of scientism.
Well, make up some other word then. You can't use an insult and make
up your own definition. It's a word to stay away from anyway. It's
almost exclusively used by fundamentalists and pseudo-scientists who
are hurling personal attacks to cover up their own sloppy bullshit.
Post by DharmaTroll
I'm an empiricist. Science is just an extension of the senses, and
inferring as many real patterns in the world as possible given only
empirical data. I don't have any 'belief in' science, as if it were
dogma like most of the folks on these boards cling to, and I correct
my fucked up opinions when I'm given good evidence that's better
than mine.
Hell, I rant and raved last week that Bellichick was an idiot, with
his Patriots going for 4th and 1 at his own 29-yard-line up six
points with 2 minutes to go. He didn't make it because the receiver
bobbled the ball. "You have to punt," I raved, claiming that
Bellichick (the coach) was simply rattled by the idea of putting the
ball in the Colt's QB Payton Mannings' hands with 2 minutes left, as
Payton's brother Eli and the Giants destroyed the perfect season of
the Pats with that amazing Superbowl finish a couple of years ago.
And that Bellichick didn't have faith in his defense and was letting
his intuitions and feelings rule him instead of thinking rationally.
Well, after arguing it out, a bright Pats fan and grad student I
know argued that it was the right call, and I made fun of him for
several conversations and stuck to my guns while he even insulted me
and babbled about my always having to be right. Finally, he produced
stats and good ones. I went over the data, and he was right. I said,
"Holy shit, the numbers favor your claim. You're right, going for it
With 2:00 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful
conversion wins. A 4th and 2 conversion would be successful 60% of
the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a
TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that
field positio...n. The total WP for the 4th down conversion attempt
is: (0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.80 WP
A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at
their own 34. Teams get the TD 30% of the time in that situation. So
the punt gives the Pats only a 0.70 WP.
That's 80% going for it, and 70% punting as I wanted to do.
Wow! The math says I was wrong, so I changed my view.
And if I do that immediately upon being given the math and
convincing data about something as emotional and intense as
football, I'm going to do it about silly shit like religion and
metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.
I'm sorry, since my knowledge of football is pretty much zero, I don't
know what you're talking about.  But I get the general idea.
Perhaps. Do you get the point is that I deal with intelligent people
intelligently and with idiots idiotically? Here I'm always going to
look as low as the scoundrels I'm kicking around.
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
To me, at least, you come across as pretty dogmatic about this
belief system.
Well my friend admitted "wow, I'm impressed how objective you were
and were convinced by the data and changed your mind -- I haven't
convinced my other football fan friends of this". Hell, he even
invited me over next Monday for the Pats game against the undefeated
'Aints. I'll have to miss the new ep of "The Big Bang Theory" and
download it later, I guess, but it should be the game of the season.
Not accepting anything without good reason -- and good reasons don't
include gut feelings about strange experiences or beliefs that you
can dream about the future, or authorities or holy books -- isn't a
belief system, silly. It's simply thinking critically.
Too bad folks here make up a "belief system" that doesn't exist,
call it 'scientism' and then discount me by labeling me a believer
-- of course, that's because the hooligans around here present
woo-woo and cockamamie stories instead of real data and the math, so
they don't get to see how non-dogmatic and totally awesome I am.
That's ok, I enjoy kicking their Brahmanist Buttinskis anyway.
I wonder about your opinion on Gandhi's spiritual message:http://www.gandhiserve.org/information/listen_to_gandhi/lec_1_on_god/...
or:http://tinyurl.com/yfldf6l
You'll have to post it. I don't chase links from flamers. And we're
talking about a politician. Whatever he says, it's going to be like
asking me what I think about Obama saying "God Bless America". It's
what politicians say.
Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare.
But if you seek safety, it is on the shore.
-- Saadi of Shiraz (c. 1200 AD)
I admit that I only read a fraction of all posts, so I'm not sure of
what precisely you call "woo-woo."  Is the awe I feel when watching an
incredible sunset "woo-woo"?  If I feel some "power that pervades
everything (as Gandhi calls it), is that "woo-woo"?
No, that's a feeling, an emotion. If you say it's a mind-independent
Transcendental Beastie or Magical Force from another Realm, then I
call it woo-woo. I just call it awe. The Gandhi claim is fuzzy, as it
could be interpreted as a metaphor for powerful, meaningful feelings
or it could be woo-woo if he literally means some kind of deity. All
depends on the context and intention. I don't deny feelings, just the
opposite: I'm claiming that woo-woo is the denial of feelings, a need
to add literal magic or supernaturalism in order to legitimize
feelings: to feel that one's feelings are adequate. Woo-woo-ists use
terms like "nothing-but-" if you suggest that their woo-woo claims are
mistaken. I think awe can be maximally robust naturally without having
to add magic or transcendental beasties to satisfy some craving for
meaning. That's the difference.
<snip>
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Post by DharmaTroll
P.S. Ignore anything Fu says about Carse, as he will whine just
as he does about Karen Armstrong, and is pissed off by anyone who
isn't a hard-core atheist who insists religion has no redeeming
value, shunning Carse the way homosexuals often shun
straight-looking bisexuals.
I noticed that.
So why am I the one you hit with the labels then?
If it's because I agree with Fu a lot, well, he's on target a lot.
We disagree about this, however.
Fu is a special case.  Years ago we traded emails and were pretty much
on the same wavelength.  Since then I changed one way, and he changed
in a different way.  But because of past history, I'm reluctant to
target him, even though I disagree with him now.
So not knowing me, might as well accuse me anything and everything
then. Makes sense. Sort of. Not.
<snip>
Post by DharmaTroll
Post by Nobody in Particular
Great story.  Reminds me of Ramana Maharshi, when he accidentally
stepped on a hornet's nest.  The hornets, in a swarm, attacked the
offending leg.  He said, "I am so sorry for stepping on your home.
If you'd like, you may have the other leg too."
Ugh, ok, but to me your Maharshi story sounds too moralistic and
politically correct. Or is it one of those "I don't care about my
body because I identify with the whole frakking universe tra-la-la"
kind of things. Ugh. Better to run the hell away and avoid as many
stings as possible. If you want to feel compassion for the stupid
bugs later, whatever. I don't like equating enlightenment or
selflessness with masochism. But in the Sufi story, rather than
masochism, the fellow wanted to simply return the little beasties to
their home, the way I trap spiders and put them outside. I like that
story better.
To me, the significant thing is that he *never* told anyone else to do
that.  It was just how he felt.
No way. It was a moralistic story and it's also an attempt to show off
a sense of not caring about his body and infinite compassion and
identification with all beings, which are both part of his religion's
dogma and signs of a holy person. Don't pretend it's not a very
manipulative and deliberate story with a point told with a specific
audience in mind. This is a big-shot with a zillion disciples, and
stories like that are needed to keep up his image. Don't tell me
you're actually going to try to sell it to me as some innocent
recalling around the campfire of an event, are you? What's next, going
to insult me by pointing out how much extra infrastructure and
assumptions are even involved in your spinning the story that way, the
"it was just how he felt"?
Post by DharmaTroll
I've been to Buddhist retreat centers where they don't deal with
their roach problems. I never visit such places more than once. I'm
for respect for all life, but only in terms of practical limits.
Better to spray the hornets' nests in your yard and kill the
roaches, but don't eat much higher and more sentient life forms,
like, um, turkeys. Hope some of you, as I, are planning vegan
Thanksgiving dinners.
Tofurky.
Good for you.
Post by DharmaTroll
Oh yeah, and remember this fiasco?
http://youtu.be/eYxn2vlhtWo
What a Moronayanist!
The guy in the background is putting turkeys into some sort of giant
funnel and keeps them in there for a while.  Then they smudge that
out sometimes.  I have no idea what's going on there.
You can find the unedited versions with the blood if you wish. I
didn't want to force that version onto anyone without warning them.
And I think you know exactly what's going on there, especially given
our talk of "willful ignorance". Good one. Heh.

--DharmaTroll

"It was previously a question of finding out whether or not life had
to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary,
that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning."
-Albert Camus
Bodhidumba
2009-11-26 10:39:07 UTC
Permalink
"DharmaTroll" wrote in message (to Nobody in Particular):

[...]
Post by DharmaTroll
Btw, the Buddha said what I do, that the senses are the only good
source of knowledge of the nature of things.
=====================================

Is that so? Well let's see then:

"....So spoke the Lord and when he had so spoken the Happy One, the Teacher,
added further:

"The body's like a lump of froth,
Feeling's like a water-bubble,
As a mirage is perception,
As a plantain tree are activities,
A magical illusion consciousness."
(SN 22.95)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ireland/wheel107.html#passage-45

and,

"See it as a bubble,
see it as a mirage:
one who regards the world this way
the King of Death doesn't see."
(Dhammapada 170)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.13.than.html#dhp-170

So you claim that the Buddha said what you do - that "the senses are the
only good source of knowledge of the nature of things" - but how can that be
when above the Buddha says that perception is "as a mirage", and
consciousness is like a "magical illusion", and he also suggests that others
regard / see the world "as a mirage"? -- just how good of a source of
knowledge of the nature of things can the senses really be if perception is
"as a mirage", and consciousness is like a "magical illusion", as the Buddha
claims? And when the Buddha suggests to regard / see the world "as a
mirage" to escape "The King of Death", do you agree with him about that?
Please do tell, Your Trolliness!

And as if all that weren't enough, here's some more nuttery for ya -

"He who neither goes too far nor lags behind
and knows about the world: 'This is all unreal,'
- such a monk gives up the here and the beyond,
just as a serpent sheds its worn-out skin."
(Uraga Sutta)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.01.nypo.html

And at the above link Sid shows he's also, as you say, a "transcendental
snake oil peddler":

"He who neither goes too far nor lags behind,
entirely transcending the diffuseness of the world,
- such a monk gives up the here and the beyond,
just as a serpent sheds its worn-out skin."

So Sid says that the monk knows (about the world) that "This is all unreal",
and the monk transcends the "diffuseness of the world". Let's be honest
here, DT.... you must think that Sid is a Raving Nutter with what he states
above, don'tchya? Come on, admit it - you're just itchin' to blast the
Buddha with yer Pali Cannon, aren'tchya.... well you just go right ahead
now, let him have it!! :-)

- Bodhidumba
DharmaTroll
2009-11-26 12:49:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bodhidumba
[...]
Post by DharmaTroll
Btw, the Buddha said what I do, that the senses are the only good
source of knowledge of the nature of things.
=====================================
<skip more of Bodhidumba's blather>
Post by Bodhidumba
So Sid says that the monk knows (about the world) that "This is all unreal",
and the monk transcends the "diffuseness of the world".  Let's be honest
That'll be the day. Once again, you quote all sorts of snips out of
context, and you didn't even include my favorite, where the Buddha can
reach up and stretch his hand and touch the sun and not even get
burned.

Yeah, you can find all sorts of woo-woo religious stuff to quote, and
talk of devas and other beasties as well, too, in lots of sutras. Over
the centuries, sure, Buddhism became another superstitious religion
and tons of ignorant Buddhists throughout the world perform all sorts
of superstitious rituals and pay monks for 'merit' and so on and so
forth.

So what? Just goes to show how fucked up religion is. My claim is
simply that the historical Buddha was interestingly more of a radical
pragmatist and empiricist than any of his peers or predecessors, and
that the more I study it, the more pleased I've been to find this out,
and that his teachings are very practical and non-metaphysical. Sure,
you can quote at me all day with woo-woo from tons of sutras, and for
extremely superstitious folks like you as well as New-Age Hot-Dogma
Buddhists that just love talk of auras and energies and chakras and
spirits and past lives, they just eat up this stuff. But Sid, from
what I've read, was anything but the ancient Harry Potter who denied
the world and posited all sorts of beasties and magic realms.

The Buddha recognized three ways from which we get our knowledge: from
experience, from tradition and authority, and from reasoning. He
taught that none of them was foolproof. He gave examples of earlier
mystics who allegedly had supranormal powers but came to the
conclusion that there were eternal souls or that an omnipotent God had
created the world, and other stories, and he claimed that came from
their likes and dislikes, and recognized that you couldn't know
metaphysical truths like that for sure, and that
supernormal experiential powers alone didn't cut it. The Buddha took
an experiential view, but he realized that subjective likes and
dislikes colored our experiential view, so he advocated combining all
the sources, none of which was reliable, but with experience weighing
in most heavily.

Specifically, when the Buddha was questioned concerning the ways by
which right understanding (samma ditthi) can be gained, he named
experience as well as two other primary sources: (1) the testimony of
another (parato ghosa); and (2) proper reflection (yoniso
manasikara). The Buddha recognized testimony of others, experience
(both sensory and extrasensory), and reasoning and inference based on
experience all as sources of knowledge.

Sid emphasized that our experiences and perceptions tend to mislead
us, mostly because of the matter in which we have been previously
conditioned. He claimed that our internal intuitions and perceptions
can mislead us, as he pointed out that Brahmanists who had developed
amazing extrasensory perceptions such as retrocognition believed in a
metaphysical entity such as the 'self'
(atman) or in the creation of the universe by an omnipotent God, which
he did not accept. He attributed such interpretations to their
conditioned likes and dislikes and dispositions.

As for your love of world-denying and anti-realism, when asked what
exists in the universe (in the Sabba-sutta), the Buddha gives a
surprisingly and delightfully pragmatic and physicalist answer! A
philosopher named Janussoni questions him with regard to
'everything' (sabba) that exists. The Buddha says that 'everything'
means the eye, form, ear, sound, nose, odor, tongue, taste, body,
tangible objects, mind, and mental concepts. That is, everything
consists of only the six senses and the corresponding objects of the
senses. The Buddha goes on to say that there may be others who
disagree and posit various other things -- all sorts of spookies and
beasties and Cosmic Selves and Oneness -- but that such speculation
would be beyond the sphere of experience (avisaya) and thus would only
lead to vexation and worry.

Personally, I think Buddhism has done you a disservice, Bodhidumba, as
it has Keynes and many of the other superstitionists around here.
Perhaps you are better off as a superstitious reality-denying Harry
Potter Buddhist dogmatist than you would be as a Born-Again Evangelist
Christian who went around denouncing sex, beating up faggots, and
calling the President the Anti-Christ. But even better if you got some
therapy and dealt with your alienation and need to deny reality and
pretend nature doesn't exist while endless Harry Potter realms do. The
Buddha was the world's first psychiatrist, and those of you that could
use the help of a psychiatrist the most have found the one religion
founded by a psychiatrist, but have turned him into Harry Potter to
appease your own mental illness. Maybe I should find that sad, out of
compassion, but actually I find it ironic and hilarious.

--DharmaTroll
^@%>---*=#**
2009-11-26 15:01:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bodhidumba
[...]
Post by DharmaTroll
Btw, the Buddha said what I do, that the senses are the only good
source of knowledge of the nature of things.
=====================================
<skip more of Bodhidumba's blather>
Post by Bodhidumba
So Sid says that the monk knows (about the world) that "This is all unreal",
and the monk transcends the "diffuseness of the world". Let's be honest
That'll be the day. Once again, you quote all sorts of snips out of
context, and you didn't even include my favorite, where the Buddha can
reach up and stretch his hand and touch the sun and not even get
burned.

Yeah, you can find all sorts of woo-woo religious stuff to quote, and
talk of devas and other beasties as well, too, in lots of sutras. Over
the centuries, sure, Buddhism became another superstitious religion
and tons of ignorant Buddhists throughout the world perform all sorts
of superstitious rituals and pay monks for 'merit' and so on and so
forth.

So what? Just goes to show how fucked up religion is. My claim is
simply that the historical Buddha was interestingly more of a radical
pragmatist and empiricist than any of his peers or predecessors, and
that the more I study it, the more pleased I've been to find this out,
and that his teachings are very practical and non-metaphysical. Sure,
you can quote at me all day with woo-woo from tons of sutras, and for
extremely superstitious folks like you as well as New-Age Hot-Dogma
Buddhists that just love talk of auras and energies and chakras and
spirits and past lives, they just eat up this stuff. But Sid, from
what I've read, was anything but the ancient Harry Potter who denied
the world and posited all sorts of beasties and magic realms.

The Buddha recognized three ways from which we get our knowledge: from
experience, from tradition and authority, and from reasoning. He
taught that none of them was foolproof. He gave examples of earlier
mystics who allegedly had supranormal powers but came to the
conclusion that there were eternal souls or that an omnipotent God had
created the world, and other stories, and he claimed that came from
their likes and dislikes, and recognized that you couldn't know
metaphysical truths like that for sure, and that
supernormal experiential powers alone didn't cut it. The Buddha took
an experiential view, but he realized that subjective likes and
dislikes colored our experiential view, so he advocated combining all
the sources, none of which was reliable, but with experience weighing
in most heavily.

Specifically, when the Buddha was questioned concerning the ways by
which right understanding (samma ditthi) can be gained, he named
experience as well as two other primary sources: (1) the testimony of
another (parato ghosa); and (2) proper reflection (yoniso
manasikara). The Buddha recognized testimony of others, experience
(both sensory and extrasensory), and reasoning and inference based on
experience all as sources of knowledge.

Sid emphasized that our experiences and perceptions tend to mislead
us, mostly because of the matter in which we have been previously
conditioned. He claimed that our internal intuitions and perceptions
can mislead us, as he pointed out that Brahmanists who had developed
amazing extrasensory perceptions such as retrocognition believed in a
metaphysical entity such as the 'self'
(atman) or in the creation of the universe by an omnipotent God, which
he did not accept. He attributed such interpretations to their
conditioned likes and dislikes and dispositions.

As for your love of world-denying and anti-realism, when asked what
exists in the universe (in the Sabba-sutta), the Buddha gives a
surprisingly and delightfully pragmatic and physicalist answer! A
philosopher named Janussoni questions him with regard to
'everything' (sabba) that exists. The Buddha says that 'everything'
means the eye, form, ear, sound, nose, odor, tongue, taste, body,
tangible objects, mind, and mental concepts. That is, everything
consists of only the six senses and the corresponding objects of the
senses. The Buddha goes on to say that there may be others who
disagree and posit various other things -- all sorts of spookies and
beasties and Cosmic Selves and Oneness -- but that such speculation
would be beyond the sphere of experience (avisaya) and thus would only
lead to vexation and worry.

Personally, I think Buddhism has done you a disservice, Bodhidumba, as
it has Keynes and many of the other superstitionists around here.
Perhaps you are better off as a superstitious reality-denying Harry
Potter Buddhist dogmatist than you would be as a Born-Again Evangelist
Christian who went around denouncing sex, beating up faggots, and
calling the President the Anti-Christ. But even better if you got some
therapy and dealt with your alienation and need to deny reality and
pretend nature doesn't exist while endless Harry Potter realms do. The
Buddha was the world's first psychiatrist, and those of you that could
use the help of a psychiatrist the most have found the one religion
founded by a psychiatrist, but have turned him into Harry Potter to
appease your own mental illness. Maybe I should find that sad, out of
compassion, but actually I find it ironic and hilarious.

--DharmaTroll

-----------------------------------------------------------------

from the standpoint of the infinitesimal
slice of the cosmic cookie known as a
human intellect, to have convinced one's
"self" that one has figured something out,
or has a handle on something is the ultimate
in self deception. you have simply moved
from one stagnant point of human intelligentsia
to a slighly elevated but still stagnant point of
continued dwell saturation. absorption into
that limited narcissistic core of the ego and
becoming an obvious slave to it is akin to an
insect convincing itself that it understands
quantum mechanics.

Lee Rudolph
2009-11-26 00:34:14 UTC
Permalink
I ought to read the book before commenting on it
Are you MAD???

Lee Rudolph (or just trying to put an end to alt.net?)
Kitty P
2009-11-26 02:26:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nobody in Particular
"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with
which they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point,
inasmuch as believers do regularly represent themselves as truly
religious - or impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious
validation."
It looks like a great book to read. Perhaps it's true that isolated
beliefs
are the cause of issues against a given religion. But sometimes the
damage
of those beliefs have a direct effect on laws and sometimes more.
Abortion,
gay marriage, and Al-Qaeda come to mind. It would be wonderful if
religions would keep to 'mystery and wonder' - but we are being
destroyed by many of them. It isn't a difference of belief, but
something far more sinister.
How so? The examples you cite are problems of belief, not religion.
Religion is mystery and wonder. Period. How does that destroy us?
How would someone like Mother Theresa destroy us?
But religions shift and change with the belief systems of those who are
affiliated with the religion. Religions are not static, and when enough
people get together within a particular religion with a belief that is in
essence evil, the religion supports the activities. Right?

I think I'm having most of my trouble with the author's connotation of
religion.
What Jesus tried to convey to his disciples was religion. What the
Christians today defend and argue and fight about is belief, and has
little or nothing to do with religion in the definition suggested by
Carse. A given person can be a believer and a religious, just as a
person can be a mathematician and a tennis player, but the two have
nothing in common.
Sometimes I wonder what chance there is of encouraging and living a
simple spiritual life when considering the counterbalance of the
money and power put behind what can easily be described as evil
disguised as religions? Ah heck. Maybe it doesn't even matter.
I believe (pun intended) that encouraging a simple spiritual life in
others is just another belief. As for living it, what would stop a
person? Other than a belief?
And evil is always perpetrated by a belief system of one kind or
another, not by a religion separate from a belief system.
I know it is difficult to separate the two in one's mind, because they
are usually confused and intermixed with each other. But they are
very, very different.
You're very right in that I am having a difficult time separating them. But
what I do see is that an overwhelming truth is that Jesus didn't talk about
abortion or gay rights and Al-Qeada actions appear to not be supported by
their religion either - and those support the theory. But what about the
truth that mystery and wonder are possible without religion?

Kitty
Kitty P
2009-11-25 20:05:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nobody in Particular
"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with which
they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point, inasmuch as
believers do regularly represent themselves as truly religious - or
impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious validation."
It looks like a great book to read. Perhaps it's true that isolated beliefs
are the cause of issues against a given religion. But sometimes the damage
of those beliefs have a direct effect on laws and sometimes more. Abortion,
gay marriage, and Al-Qaeda come to mind. It would be wonderful if religions
would keep to 'mystery and wonder' - but we are being destroyed by many of
them. It isn't a difference of belief, but something far more sinister.
Sometimes I wonder what chance there is of encouraging and living a simple
spiritual life when considering the counterbalance of the money and power
put behind what can easily be described as evil disguised as religions? Ah
heck. Maybe it doesn't even matter.

Kitty
Nobody in Particular
2009-11-25 23:19:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kitty P
Post by Nobody in Particular
"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with
which they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point,
inasmuch as believers do regularly represent themselves as truly
religious - or impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious
validation."
It looks like a great book to read. Perhaps it's true that isolated beliefs
are the cause of issues against a given religion. But sometimes the damage
of those beliefs have a direct effect on laws and sometimes more. Abortion,
gay marriage, and Al-Qaeda come to mind. It would be wonderful if
religions would keep to 'mystery and wonder' - but we are being
destroyed by many of them. It isn't a difference of belief, but
something far more sinister.
How so? The examples you cite are problems of belief, not religion.
Religion is mystery and wonder. Period. How does that destroy us?
How would someone like Mother Theresa destroy us?

What Jesus tried to convey to his disciples was religion. What the
Christians today defend and argue and fight about is belief, and has
little or nothing to do with religion in the definition suggested by
Carse. A given person can be a believer and a religious, just as a
person can be a mathematician and a tennis player, but the two have
nothing in common.
Post by Kitty P
Sometimes I wonder what chance there is of encouraging and living a
simple spiritual life when considering the counterbalance of the
money and power put behind what can easily be described as evil
disguised as religions? Ah heck. Maybe it doesn't even matter.
I believe (pun intended) that encouraging a simple spiritual life in
others is just another belief. As for living it, what would stop a
person? Other than a belief?
And evil is always perpetrated by a belief system of one kind or
another, not by a religion separate from a belief system.

I know it is difficult to separate the two in one's mind, because they
are usually confused and intermixed with each other. But they are
very, very different.
bonfils
2009-11-25 23:58:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nobody in Particular
Finally finished the book by James P. Carse.
Here're my thoughts, not all necessarily from the book, except for
Off course, I ought to read the book before commenting on it, but what
the heck... I mainly have a problem with the terminology.
Post by Nobody in Particular
In religion, words are interpretation, they are not the actual
substance. Religion expresses something that cannot be found in the
actual words, like the experience of a symphony cannot be found in
the musical notes or in a critic's commentary.
Belief is the study of the pointing finger, describing and measuring
it, arguing about its shape, etc. Religion is finding what the finger
points to.
I understand what he's getting at, but using the word "religion" to
convey what we normally term "religiousity" or "spirituality" is a bit
confusing.
Post by Nobody in Particular
Religion concerns itself with mystery and wonder. Belief with
explanation and certitude. The two are worlds apart, but believers
(and their detractors) like to define religion as belief.
"Critics of religion may have been mistaken in thinking that it was
religion they were attacking and not the isolated beliefs with which
they mistakenly identified them, but they have a point, inasmuch as
believers do regularly represent themselves as truly religious - or
impute to their beliefs an aura of pseudo-religious validation."
In other words, not even the believers agree with his terminology.
Doesn't that make his whole discussion somewhat academic?
--
bonfils
http://kim.bonfils.com
To send me a massage, please remove your.underwear
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