Author Topic: Beyond Belief 2006  (Read 5648 times)

Matt Koeske

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Beyond Belief 2006
« on: February 22, 2007, 10:06:15 AM »
This online lecture series on religion, atheism, and science looks interesting.  I am going to try to watch these lectures over the next weeks and (hopefully) use them as a taking off point for discussing religion and science as the warring Opposites.

http://beyondbelief2006.org/Watch/

I have always found the rationalistic case for atheism to be flawed . . . but by no means impoverished.  Many of the criticisms of organized religion are perfectly valid on a superficial level.  But rationalism (at least the rationalist/skeptic writers I have read) usually doesn't do an adequate job of addressing religious experience.

My hypothesis is that religious experience, although it may not be literally or materially true and scientifically provable, should not be reduced to something meaningless, and then dismissed as self-deception.  I think religious experience can be valid . . . I am merely not convinced it is an experience of God or the soul or spirit.  It is not, to me, a proof of another reality.

I think religious experience has biological, instinctive roots, and that the numinous experience of God or the Other derives from a highly valued reinforcement of specific human instincts (primarily those associated with mysticism, or the ego-Self relationship).

I look forward to hearing the atheistic and scientific community sound off on religion . . . and to hearing out their numerous arguments.  In my opinion, both science and religion would benefit from actually listening and seriously considering the best arguments from both camps.

There will probably be a good bit of "religion bashing" in these lectures, so anyone who has trouble with this should either steer clear or (better yet) keep your shadow by your side rather than behind you.  Study your own reactions and question them.

All beliefs, whether religious or scientific, deserve the same scrutiny.  And when we opt to let our scrutiny slide in one situation but not another, we are making an unconscious choice to bias certain situations over others.  That is, we are exercising a prejudice and sacrificing consciousness.

I see no reason to sacrifice consciousness, ever.  Consciousness will not destroy religion or religious experience.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: Beyond Belief 2006
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2007, 02:03:17 PM »
If I take religion and science and say, "these are two different ways of knowing", then I would say that they offer a binocular view.  Their disparities are not a problem, they are a feature of the space of truth which is "relativistic" and of "added dimension".

In this sense then we can take truths framed in either way of knowing science or religion and compare and contrast them.  What you get from this process, if properly contained, is the development of a symbolic understanding of the ideas involved. 

One who seems to have tried to make this effort (but has fallen ironically into the mono-way of knowing attitude) is Ken Wilbur.  He both fascinates and annoys me to no end.  He is my philosophical shadow-nemesis I think.  Of any thinker, I most want to dismantle his line of thinking.   >:(

Matt Koeske

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Re: Beyond Belief 2006
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2007, 02:43:18 PM »
One who seems to have tried to make this effort (but has fallen ironically into the mono-way of knowing attitude) is Ken Wilbur.  He both fascinates and annoys me to no end.  He is my philosophical shadow-nemesis I think.  Of any thinker, I most want to dismantle his line of thinking.   >:(

Sealchan,

I have heard Wilbur's name mentioned a lot, but haven't read him yet.  Would you consider starting a thread (at your convenience) that addresses some of your issues with/critiques of Wilbur's ideas?

It may be a while before we get public traffic on the site to "fill out" conversations . . . but I'm all in favor of topic starters.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: Beyond Belief 2006
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2007, 04:01:11 PM »
If I take religion and science and say, "these are two different ways of knowing", then I would say that they offer a binocular view.  Their disparities are not a problem, they are a feature of the space of truth which is "relativistic" and of "added dimension".

In this sense then we can take truths framed in either way of knowing science or religion and compare and contrast them.  What you get from this process, if properly contained, is the development of a symbolic understanding of the ideas involved.

I'm not sure I'm ready to take all religions as a way or ways of knowing . . . which is why I like to differentiate between the mystical and the cultural arms of religion.  But I find some aspects of Gnosticism appealing.  Still, perhaps in a Gnostic fashion, I feel there is really only one "way" of knowing or seeking truth.  That is, we either seek the truth at all costs or we cease to seek it and settle for belief.

And belief (in my personal intellectual framework) is never knowing . . . by definition.  To me, knowing requires that all possibilities are considered and weighed on the same scale of validity.

In my opinion, mysticism (insomuch as it is honest and rigorous in its pursuit of consciousness and truth) has a chance of surviving such an inquiry or evaluation.  That is, I feel there is something tangibly real and irreducible behind mysticism (although this "tangible realness" would probably not satisfy those who favor religious or spiritual perspectives).  But much of religion and spirituality is founded on beliefs that can be invalidated fairly easily.  In those circumstances, the beliefs chosen are chosen for specific reasons over other potential beliefs . . . yet, these reasons for choosing are left unexamined and unconscious.

Frequently they break down (and reduce) to quite basic things like: that's what my parents/family/authority of choice believe, or this is what pads/protects my ego fragility.  These are abnegations of responsibility . . . and such abnegations are incompatible with consciousness at some point.

I would be considered a faithless person by many . . . but I have one law of faith: one should never accept the easy or comforting over the true.  The unconscious does not cease to act as a force of nature just because we place arbitrary limits on our pursuits of knowing.  In my opinion, we (the egos that we are) are in for the same long hall that our unconsciouses are in for.  In our dreams and complexes, the instinctual unconscious, like any life process, will try to compensate for imbalances in the narratives of self we have woven.  The unconscious always has the last word.  If our ego-strategies are defective, the instinctual unconscious will apply a corrective force.

But it's a blunt force . . . and usually the force of the unconscious against the opposing force of the ego creates a kind of breakdown, a  neurosis.  Only with dedicated consciousness can these forces be mediated effectively.  And this can be a religious (mystical) process . . . but in this arena, religion has one limitation that science doesn't normally have.

Namely, religion establishes a sacral taboo around the chosen god.  The mind and will of that god are not ours to know or criticize or understand.  If we believe that the will of our god is that we should kill infidels or take over the government or refuse to consider various alternatives, then the decision has been "made".  That is, the decision has been abnegated.  But it is clear that such abnegations unconsciously empower the shadow to act through the name of the god.  In the Bible, we have the story of Job, which symbolically illustrates this quite well . . . with God doing Satan's bidding.

What we see from this is that upholding the sacral taboo around the god means that the god is not granted the consciousness necessary to make effective moral differentiations.  By withholding this bestowal of consciousness, we are in effect bestowing shadow/desire/want/hate/greed/aggression/sin in its place . . . and then using the god as an excuse to act out these immoralities with impunity and absolution.

What I take from this is that the god cannot be a satisfactory substitute for morality (moral consciousness and responsibility).  Morality trumps divinity.  When divinity is placed (by humans, of course) beyond and above morality, immorality is sanctioned through divinity.

I find that unacceptable . . . an unacceptable excuse to believe.

Science suffer less from this problem, because it does not have a personified god at its core.  I think personification/anthropomorphization  is the beginning of religious/moral irresponsibility.  Scientific arguments can never be settled with a statement like "It is so, because science says it is so."  Science (as deity) never has an absolute say, is not itself an arbitrator.  There is a principle in science higher than its own divinity, a principle that is equivalent to a "scientific morality".  That principle is data.  Data has the final word in scientific argument.  Data decides truth . . . and it is never dogmatic in this, because data is always growing and transforming.

I believe that data is a principle that can also have the last word in religion.  The data-driven religion is what is at the core, in potentia, of Gnosticism . . . where knowing is holy, is spiritual.  Of course, original Gnosticism was the product of an era that was hardly scientific . . . but it established a very interesting spiritual idea: that there is one kind of knowing that applies to knowing both the spiritual and the material.  I don't mean to imply that this was a tenet specifically expressed by Gnostic writers . . . merely that it is implicit in the idea of Gnosis.

It is the pursuit of this kind of Gnosis that intrigues me.  In this pursuit we are constantly faced with a conflict between ego and fact or ego and Nature . . . or desire and truth.  Ego must then constantly be shed to pursue Gnosis.  The pursuit of Gnosis is not self-serving, but Other-serving.  This is why I think it is important to have a higher spiritual principle (a higher Faith, if you will) than personified deity.

We cannot NOT create God . . . but we can go about this creation with devout, conscious, responsible principles.  In my experience a God of any worth and substance can survive any criticism . . . and I would think (if I were playing the anthropomorphic game) that a truly just God would only encourage his/her followers to spend as much time and energy as possible differentiating between what is self (ego) and what is Other (God).

But this particular differentiation is the bane of human consciousness.  We are bloody awful at this differentiation . . . and enormous grief comes out of this deficiency, this wound.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: Beyond Belief 2006
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2007, 06:58:11 PM »
I may have to disagree with you here, but your answer is so well rounded I will have to return to give this more serious consideration to be sure. 

But hey, it would be more fun to disagree, so if it turns out to be borderline, I'll be sure to get on the opposite side.  lol

Regarding Wilbur, it would take about as much effort for me to try and critique him as I may have to give to respond to what you've written.  I don't think I could represent his ideas well enough, nor do I have any of his books at this point...

I think rather if I respond to this thread we could probably create some other threads off the many points this particular discussion could engender.

Also, I put up my first dream for this forum that might bear on the question of morality...