"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Call

The call goes out:
"Rise up oh brother! Steel yourself with the truth! Have faith in who you are! Cast off the myths of your past and stride forth in the truth of your own self-sustaining power! Bend your knee to no authority for you are your own — subject to none! There is none to protect you — no one to fight your battles. But take heart! You can accomplish all things by looking inward and finding the power within! Let no man call you sinner! Let no man consider you wrong, for you are the standard by which all things are measured! You alone have the power to define good from evil. The sun will rise and set for you. Go forth in the confident knowledge of your own power."

I hear the call. It echos in my ears. But I cannot heed it, for I am dust. I do not sustain myself. I am utterly dependent upon forces beyond my control. The air I breathe I do not make. The sun that warms me I do not stoke. The bones that hold me together I did not craft. Where then do I find such vigor and faith in my own abilities? If pulled from the confines of my fragile refuge my blood would boil in the vacuum of space.

"Believe in yourself!" The call goes out.

But I cannot heed this call, for I cannot find my power. They forgot to tell me where to look. "Look inward" they say, yet all I see is dust. I am empty. Do you not see it? Where did you find your confidence? Did it beat within your heart? Was it buried deep within your head? I swear I searched every part of me but all I found was dust. How then do they expect me to find my power after they've labored to steal it away? How can I have faith in myself when 'myself' is naught but clay?

"Rise up oh brother! Cast off the useless myths of old!"

But the stories of the ancients haunt me. They tell of one who spoke all into existence — a divine power from whom all things flow. One who allowed the fall of Man, who Himself was brought low. But in the depths He did not dwell. He was raised they say, but He will not be raised alone. He rose to bring us with Him, to carry us to heights we could not reach on our own.

"They lie! They were confused! Time erodes all and your savior is no exception! We searched the heavens with our telescopes! With our microscopes we probed the cell! We have split the atom and released it's power! HE WAS NOT THERE! We have seen all there is to see! We have known all there is to know and He is not there! Take heart, for in His absence YOU remain! Have faith in all that you are!"

But you do not hear! I am DUST! Do you not see? What is there to put my faith in? Should I place my trust in a stone? You have rent me in two and seen that I am dust. Why then do you continue your call? On what basis do you stake your claim? What foundation holds the weight of your assurance? I do not share your strength. I cannot place my faith in dust. My strength will come from Him who made me. Do you not see? To deny Him, is to deny me.

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25 Comments:

Blogger Matt M said...

I searched every part of me but all I found was dust.

Wow. Talk about nihilism+.

You really see yourself as lacking any intrinsic value, as a worthless, insignificant speck of dust without God?

Remind me again about how it’s atheism that robs us of our value.

Under my philosophy, you have an inherent meaning and value purely by dint of finding life meaningful – a value that doesn’t rest on physics, biology or the origin of the universe. You’re worthwhile because you’re you. Nothing more is required.

Under your philosophy, despite all this talk of love and wonder, you see yourself as an object of abject wretchedness, with no moral compass beyond what you are told is right by your master.

That's not a being conceived in love. A being conceived in love isn't dependent on its creator - dependence must be chosen or else its little better than slavery. The God you believe in would not have created you to be a slave.

Perhaps when you look inside you really see nothing that you like, that you really do hate yourself as much as this post implies – but I still have hope for you Alex. I have hope that you’ll learn to value yourself for being you. I think that – to coin a phrase – you’re better than your philosophy. This nihilism doesn’t become you.

4:46 AM

 
Anonymous brad said...

I am going to have to side with Matt on this one. If this is how you feel on the inside, the amount of self-loathing and despair that you must have for yourself is repugnant.

This key feeling of worthlessness is very important to being religious. Without it, you don't need to be saved. The question is, are you truly worthless, or is someone just telling you that you are worthless?
I go with the later, because in order to get someone to believe something, you need to tear them down, make them weak. I think you will find that a lot of atheists are very strong(independant) and self-actualized and won't allow anyone to tear them down. This is one reason why they reject belief and are mostly immune from the power of conversion.

Matt is right, you are better than your philosophy; much better. Stop letting it tear you down.

8:03 AM

 
Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Alex,
That's actually some very nice writing. You have a strong style (fan of John's gospel by any chance?). However, with regard to content, I'm nagged by this feeling. I feel that you aren't so much trying to speak to the atheists here so much as your own doubt. That you're desperately trying to convince yourself that our world view must be wrong.

A consistent aspect of your theology seems to be that it is driven by a strong sense of despair at the alternatives. This is a theology that I believe many pastors, especially those who minister to the bereaved, are very conscious not to encourage, because it has the potential to be emotionally destructive. It causes individuals to associate negative emotions with their faith and exhibit dependency. "I mut believe; what else is there?" &c... This can leave them very vulnerable to a sense of abandonment should events unfold in their lives that suggest God is not heeding their prayers (prayer is possibly the most misunderstood concept among Christians; particular American Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike).

The vicar of our village church (Breamore, England) said something at a Harvest Festival once (about the only thing I remember from my Anglican upbringing); something like, "You have to learn to love the world around you before you can really know and love God." He said it better, I think, but I was only 10 yrs old or so. I guess he was saying if you can't dig His creation for its own sake, then what chance have you got to understand and respect Him? As a wee boy who, like many English kids, thought The Church was just an extension of school, that sentiment just seemed to make sense. And I wonder to this day, why doesn't every theist think that way? I mean, if you're going to be a theist, you might as well be positive about it. Otherwise what's the attraction to theism?


Side note;
Brad,
I'm not sure I totally agree that worthlessness is necessarily a prerequisite for theism. I think we're in danger of projecting onto theists the same sort of strawman assumptions that theists often project onto us. I'm sure one can be confident, self-reliant and personally at peace as a theist, but it just requires a particular theistic world view. One that is sadly all too rare, IMHO.

8:46 AM

 
Anonymous brad said...

Rev Ig, I know I am generalizing about theists. It's what gets done in these very brief comments.

My point being, religion uses tactics and techniques to make people vulnerable to belief and conversion. If that is the case, you aren't really choosing a belief based on free will, but are being manipulated to believe. That alone should give you pause to claim what you believe is absolute truth.

9:35 AM

 
Blogger Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Very simply.
Yes, Alex, I agree.

12:53 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

That's actually some very nice writing.

Thanks Incitatus. You are a nice boy. Don't ever let anyone tell you different. ; )

I feel that you aren't so much trying to speak to the atheists here so much as your own doubt.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner here folks. YES, I am wrestling with my doubt. I am septic with it! I always have been. I am irritated that God cannot be proven. I am irritated that I all of my finest arguments can simply be deflected to one side. Matt's complaint "Why didn't I see Him? Why didn't I feel anything?" resonates deeply with me. I don't feel that this is insurmountable, but has always left room for doubt.

Now I realize this probably isn't the best way to go about winning the argument, but I'm really more interested in the truth than winning. You boys have shown yourself worthy of complete honesty and I feel you deserve as much.

This post is a reflection on my internal struggle with the temptation of heeding this call. The naturalistic philosophy has consequences. All is reduced to matter and energy. If that is the end of the story it carries with it certain implications.

To a large degree I feel the intent of this post has been missed. I'll just chalk that up to the fact that I'm no poet. ; ) The impression that I am wallowing around in self loathing and despair is far from the truth. Just ask Brad.

The point being made is this:
The moment I choose to heed this call is the moment I realize there is no call to heed.

I hear the call of atheism. I can apprehend the doubt of the non-believer. There is an honesty in that doubt that you don't often hear spoken of in religious circles. I respect that. As Brad says religion uses tactics and techniques to make people vulnerable to belief and conversion. Though from my personal experience that is rather over stated, the sentiment remains amongst some.

I can put myself in the position of the atheist looking a collection of writings thousands of years old and the proclamation that there is an invisible God who loves you and wants you to act in certain ways. "How dense do you think I am?"

Then incitatus say this:
A consistent aspect of your theology seems to be that it is driven by a strong sense of despair at the alternatives. This is getting quite close actually. Please don't get the picture of me being backed up the edge of a cliff and feeling despair at my options. It's more that we are all trapped in a frosted glass maze and everyone is yelling at each other that they know the way out. There is no indisputable clarity.

As I continue to consider the claims of atheism I see that the source of all truth, justice, beauty, etc... must be "yourself". However, if naturalism is true, then "yourself" is mindless matter and energy 'reacting'. The reality that "I" deal with life from the first person perspective contradicts what naturalism teaches.

As I stated to Matt earlier To allow for consciousness in purely naturalistic terms you would need to admit that consciousness is a latent property of all matter. If that is the case then what's to say it did not all begin as one conscious unit? Or perhaps that it's progressing to a larger conscious end? Suddenly naturalism isn't quite so naturalistic.

So to sum up. I'm not sitting here flagellating myself because of my pitiful sense of self loathing. I am quite a happy person actually. I'd imagine you are to. The problem is I don't believe atheism allows for such things as "self-assurance". Utter mindless dependance on your environment is really all that can be mustered. The fact that "you" exist is evidence that there is more to this universe than matter.

Now to respond to a couple things:

Alex says: I searched every part of me but all I found was dust.

Matt says: Wow. Talk about nihilism+.


this is me speaking from the imagined perspective that matter and energy is all that exists. It's not my actual view, of course.

You really see yourself as lacking any intrinsic value, as a worthless, insignificant speck of dust without God?

I find it difficult to justify any other position. The best you can do is appeal to your feelings. But who is feeling your feelings? A brain? Naturalism breaks down Matt. You are more than that.

Remind me again about how it’s atheism that robs us of our value.

If atheism is true. You are dust.

Under my philosophy, you have an inherent meaning and value purely by dint of finding life meaningful – a value that doesn’t rest on physics, biology or the origin of the universe. You’re worthwhile because you’re you. Nothing more is required.

Why are you 'you'? Who is 'you'? What you call 'you' is immaterial. But naturalism only allows for the physical. Yes I affirm, as usual, that you find life to be filled with meaning and of value, but I would state that you cannot do that if you are simply matter reacting. Conclusion: You are more than dust. So am I.

Under your philosophy, despite all this talk of love and wonder, you see yourself as an object of abject wretchedness

No I don't. If atheism were true, I'd be nothing but a mindless meat bag. I don't buy it.

with no moral compass beyond what you are told is right by your master.

Nah, I don't buy this either. I have a moral compass. So do you. I just believe that the north it points to actually exists.

A being conceived in love isn't dependent on its creator - dependence must be chosen or else its little better than slavery. The God you believe in would not have created you to be a slave.

Are you a slave to your environment? Limitations do not necessarily equal the abdication of a moral standard. If my God is true the very fact that you can live a life of rejection is proof that God allows us to make our choice. I choose to trust him. Of course we can only trust in what he makes known. He has given me enough information to choose. I have no doubt that He will do the same for you. Just remember. Yer not dead yet.

Perhaps when you look inside you really see nothing that you like, that you really do hate yourself as much as this post implies – but I still have hope for you Alex. I have hope that you’ll learn to value yourself for being you.

We can chalk this one up to my cryptic writing as well. Sorry for the misunderstanding. I am quite happy in being me. I just see there as something more behind "me" than mindless matter.

This key feeling of worthlessness is very important to being religious. Without it, you don't need to be saved. The question is, are you truly worthless, or is someone just telling you that you are worthless?

Brad you are getting close to something rather profound here, but it's a bit twisted in the way you say it. "Worthless" would be the result of a mindless chemical reaction. "Dependance" is an appropriate response by one who realizes that in themselves they are helpless. I am dependent on the air to breath, water to drink, the sun for warmth. In an ultimate sense I am dependent on whatever it was that caused the big bang. So are you.

I find it hard to locate my swagger in light of that reality.

in order to get someone to believe something, you need to tear them down, make them weak.

yeish! Glad I didn't go to your church.

I think you will find that a lot of atheists are very strong(independant) and self-actualized

Sure you will. Is that justified given their wold view?

and won't allow anyone to tear them down.

As well they shouldn't. But if they are nothing more than chemical bags why does it matter if they are strong and inappropriately independent chemical bags? On a side note my faith says if you want to be strong and independent you will get exactly what you are looking for in the end. Independence.

Of course I realize Brad, that you are not as independent as you'd like to appear. Remember that time you gave me a hug at my dad funeral? You big softy you! Tender as the day is long.

This is one reason why they reject belief and are mostly immune from the power of conversion.

Ya, that Ol' C.S. Lewis! What a spineless sheep! Brad do you really think my eyes glaze over when I hear conversation turn to faith?

Matt is right, you are better than your philosophy; much better. Stop letting it tear you down.

Thanks Brad, but don't worry, It's not. Atheism, on the other hand, would wreck me.

"You have to learn to love the world around you before you can really know and love God."

Wise words. I fully agree. The world around us reveal much about God. For those who are stuck in myopic religious "clicks", much of God's reality will simply pass them by.

I mean, if you're going to be a theist, you might as well be positive about it. Otherwise what's the attraction to theism?

I hope my bitterness was not reflective on my theism. I hope you noticed the ray of hope in my train of thought was fixed firmly on my Creator while my angst was towards the notion that I am purely soulless chance matter.

1:02 PM

 
Blogger The Tin Drummer said...

Alex says: I searched every part of me but all I found was dust.

Matt says: Wow. Talk about nihilism+.

this is me speaking from the imagined perspective that matter and energy is all that exists. It's not my actual view, of course.


It's mine. Call me a nihilist then. So what. As a theist I say - no God, no nowt. I search myself every day (fnarr fnarr) and I find lots of dust (snark snark) and a few small other things ( huryg huryg) - and that is implicit within any theistic belief, that we mud creatures return to it though are not entirely it. My dust is good, it flies. And it weighs almost nothing.

I tried to explain it to my class yesterday by showing them a rubber ceasing to exist as it is used. I came somewhat unstuck when I tried to explain that Xtians believe that some bit of the rubber might continue to exist somewhere.

Though having said that one 11yo child came up with her own tripartite division of humanity into body-spirit-soul but I said that 8am Friday (when I marked it) was too early to try and understand a new theology.

1:42 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Drummer,
I am left scratching my head on most everything you just said. But don't worry mate. I'm sure I come across the same way more often than not. I'd be happy to listen again if you promise to type it a little louder and slower for me. ; )

2:12 PM

 
Blogger The Tin Drummer said...

Sorry Alex. I'm an idiot. Haven't expressed myself clearly since 1992. I remember it well. The skies were clear and the cold war was over. I said....oh well, who cares now.


I mean. I am dust and all of me is dust. I see this as implicit in theism as well as explicit in atheism. I kind of thought this is what the gospels have been telling me all these years. Our finity is a kind of keypoint in theology, with regard to the sacramental universe supposedly coming after Judgment Day (c. Polkinghorne). And the preservation of nothing but everything.


Jeez....we die. We die. That's what we do. We die. And we know it. Boy do we know it - we're very good at it (um..."I do it so it feels like hell/I do it so it feels real" or something).


We end. And so nihilism is a key part of my theology. We are dissolved and rebuilt in the creator's mind, as failed parts of the self-seeking, self-transparent universe.

I guess we tried.

2:27 PM

 
Blogger The Tin Drummer said...

DR Incitatus said:

I mean, if you're going to be a theist, you might as well be positive about it. Otherwise what's the attraction to theism?



Er... that it might be true, good or bad? I have never worked out whether I prefer annihiliation or judgment, but either way being positive has never, not for one millisecond, been a part of it. Nor will it ever be.

2:34 PM

 
Blogger moe said...

I would agree with you there oh great Alex of small town USA in that I too am irritated that He is not more visible to us. He has basically been dormant for about 1900ish years, what did He give up on us? I do how ever believe to my core that He does exist, but that’s about where it stops. If only He could prove it, if only He could show himself to me, if only He would give me a vision like in the times of old, if only He……Most of my quiet time consists of asking ‘where are you?’ Like I have mentioned to you in the past, I did have that feeling after I was torn down and brainwashed like the man sitting behind you says. That feeling has long gone, probably due to me following my own ways, but isn’t that the nature of us all? Follow our own way! To be honest I struggle with not feeling that anymore and now feeling, eh I am good from the decision I made 9 years ago, what else do I need to do. Where does it go from there? If He isn’t around why should I try and seek Him, follow His rules, and not be focused on ME. Alex WHY!!

10:37 PM

 
Blogger Crushed by Ingsoc said...

May I be confusing?
IMHO, 'Is' in itself implies a single monistic existence, as in anything that 'is' exists in a way interpretable to us. That implies an ultimate unity. We 'are', and that implies a single 'is', that is...
Am I getting all Thomist here?
Alex, I'm not sure are you for or against CSL on principle. I must admit to have found him one of the more deeper thinkers the Protestant faith has thrown up over the last hundred years, admittedly very close to Catholic in many of his concepts...

4:34 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Alex,

The reality that "I" deal with life from the first person perspective contradicts what naturalism teaches.

Why?

What are you or I but a particular collection of perceptions, memories and feelings? None of which gives naturalism any sleepless nights.

The fact that you perceive yourself as something different makes that you no more real than an optical illusion.

If that is the case then what's to say it did not all begin as one conscious unit? Or perhaps that it's progressing to a larger conscious end?

What is to say that it did?

What evidence is there that we're all heading for some pre-ordained point?

Why is it that the idea of consciousness arising from the interaction of matter and energy strikes you as absurd, but the idea that it can arise from nothing - as it would have to in this scheme - strikes you as plausible?

this is me speaking from the imagined perspective that matter and energy is all that exists. It's not my actual view, of course.

Why do you need to imagine it - a lot of the people here believe exactly that. Wouldn't you be better served trying to understand them better than making up imaginary people to knock down?

The best you can do is appeal to your feelings. But who is feeling your feelings? A brain? Naturalism breaks down Matt. You are more than that.

In what way? Why is the naturalistic concept of the self less plausible than the idea of a "soul"?

What are you appealing to, other than your feelings?

If atheism is true. You are dust.

I am, as it's been put elsewhere, a particular interaction of matter and energy.

What you call 'you' is immaterial.

In what way?

If atheism were true, I'd be nothing but a mindless meat bag.

Again: why?

I just believe that the north it points to actually exists.

My aversion to suffering exists - that's my north. Why is anything more necessary?

In this post all you're doing is taking the most difficult concepts of the naturalistic theory of life and replacing them with even less plausible answers - if the idea of our consciousness emerging from natural processes is unlikely, then the idea of a being such as God arising is mind-boggling!

In doing so without providing any real reason to accept the religious explanation you're simply advocating nihilism.

5:57 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Drummer,
We end. And so nihilism is a key part of my theology. We are dissolved and rebuilt in the creator's mind

Okay, I think I was thrown off by your use of the word "nihilism". I was still considering it in a "moral nihilism" framework when you were referring to it in a destruction of all things sort of way.

My dust is good, it flies. And it weighs almost nothing.

Little help.

P.S. my wife is giggling like a school girl at the (fnarr fnarr) (snark snark) (huryg huryg) well done.

Moe,
My next longer post will hopefully deal with this aspect of God's apparent hiddeness.

Crushed,
We 'are', and that implies a single 'is'

Can you flesh that out a bit?

Alex, I'm not sure are you for or against CSL on principle.

I'm a big fan. He's been had a real influence on me.

Matt,
Why?

Because if naturalism is correct, matter and energy is all there is. All matter and energy can do is react, yet we apprehend our own reactions and have this inexplicable habit of controlling and altering not only the reactions that we call our bodies but also the reactions of the world around us. There is a fundamental aspect of our reality that is beyond the strictly naturalistic understanding of the world.

How does matter and energy simply bang off the natural laws long enough to eventually say to it's self "Hey now, here I am! Perhaps I will not simply react any longer. I think I'll do my own thing."? What just happened? Where did the ability for matter to circumvent the laws of nature come from? I don't buy it, and no I cannot put it in a test tube for you and prove it to you.

You want to think this sort of story is plausible. To me it sounds desperate. You can say "Well we'll figure it out some day", but I guarantee you will find is more desperate babble about how we don't have free will and consciousness is and illusion. That's the road the naturalists are taking in response to this problem, so if you really want to be an atheist you'd better be willing to bite that bullet.

Why is it that the idea of consciousness arising from the interaction of matter and energy strikes you as absurd, but the idea that it can arise from nothing - as it would have to in this scheme - strikes you as plausible?

It's the atheist who maintains that consciousness arose from nothing. "This scheme" is your scheme. The atheists must be willing to admit that matter has the latent potential for consciousness. Everything came from nowhere and had the potential for consciousness and eventually that potential was realized. Because of that reality it may have been realized in other ways, at other times, or in other places. The atheist cannot close that door. For all you know a supernova is conscious.

But no, I don't find that scheme plausible, but it's a problem you'll need to deal with if you want to maintain that mindless matter has the potential to "awaken" and become conscious. The only option I find plausible is that out of an eternal conscious mind all creation arose. In my mind this is the only perspective that our consciousness makes any sense.

Why do you need to imagine it - a lot of the people here believe exactly that. Wouldn't you be better served trying to understand them better than making up imaginary people to knock down?

It's not "imagined" in the sense that I'm just making up stories to knock them down. It's imagined, insofar as those feelings are all I can muster when I deeply consider the atheist position. I have been trying for months to understand how you can be satisfied believing you are nothing but dust. I mean no disrespect, but those were my honest feelings as I consider what it would mean for me to deny God and believe in atheism.

If I did become an atheist I would need to be an honest one. I would need to come to grips with the fact that my feelings are nothing more than biological impulses and contain no more truth than a burp. Therefore I could not trust my feelings or anything, for there would be no truth in this world, just matter. Matter can not be true or false. Only the perceptions of a mind can have thoughts that are either true or false. Since I would be nothing but matter reacting I would not be able to maintain that I even have a mind, for a mind must do more than react. Basically I would go insane. I would not be able to maintain the self deception required to believe life is worth living in light of the reality that I am already dead.

My aversion to suffering exists - that's my north. Why is anything more necessary?

Is the morality of those who don't care so much about suffering better or worse than your morality? If something were to happen to you to cause your aversion to suffering to lessen, would your moral standard be better or worse than it was before that happened?

In this post all you're doing is taking the most difficult concepts of the naturalistic theory of life and replacing them with even less plausible answers

to you.

if the idea of our consciousness emerging from natural processes is unlikely, then the idea of a being such as God arising is mind-boggling!

I never said He arose. I said He is. Let your mind be boggled. 

In doing so without providing any real reason to accept the religious explanation you're simply advocating nihilism.

Okay here's a reason: It make more sense.

If you are correct then I don't "advocate" nihilism. Nihilism is simply true. Since I wish to align myself with truth I would become a nutty nihilist. You can say that it's "better" not to be a nihilist, but in saying that you appeal to standard. If all you mean by a standard is your personal conviction, I have no reason to heed your standard for when you die your standard dies with you. Your statement would only be as true as your feelings — which are subject to change.

12:30 PM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Alex,

There is a fundamental aspect of our reality that is beyond the strictly naturalistic understanding of the world.

Only if you cling to the libertarian view of free will - as you seem to be advocating here. I don't. I accept the compatibalist view, which requires nothing more than naturalism and doesn't break any natural laws.

That's the road the naturalists are taking in response to this problem, so if you really want to be an atheist you'd better be willing to bite that bullet.

You've yet to explain how you see religion getting around the problem of determinism - if a choice isn't determined and it isn't random, then what is it?

It's the atheist who maintains that consciousness arose from nothing.

So God isn't conscious?

For all you know a supernova is conscious.

For all I know my dog is royal class ballet dancer when I'm not around.

Do you have any evidence?

The only option I find plausible is that out of an eternal conscious mind all creation arose. In my mind this is the only perspective that our consciousness makes any sense.

Really? Really really? You believe that? Really? ;)

I have been trying for months to understand how you can be satisfied believing you are nothing but dust.

It's not about satisfaction - it's about what seems true. And calling life "dust" is like describing the Mona Lisa (or whatever) as a load of paint.

The description of something is different to the experience of it - and it's the experience that's important.

All this "we are dust" stuff doesn't bring any of us closer to your view of the world - it's like someone stood next to you while you're listening to beautiful music and going "it's just vibrations in the air you know". It's not persuasive, just annoying.

If you want to convince us that your God exists then argue for your God!

1:10 PM

 
Blogger Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Alex, I'm simply sugesting that the fact we share an experience at all implies we are all in a sense part of a shared experience. I suggest hat is so because here is ultimately only one experience. This possibly has shades of the Hindu idea that we are all Avatars of Brahma, but let us not forget that that ideal had its origins in the Monotheism of the early Indo-aryan conquerors of northern India.

In a sene we can connect to other minds because we are, in essence, part of the same mind.
The internet works because it follows laws of physics. We can connect over it. But maybe, in a sene, are we not in a deeper sense, connecting over a cosmic internet that is the mind of God?

2:47 PM

 
Blogger The Tin Drummer said...

Drummer,
We end. And so nihilism is a key part of my theology. We are dissolved and rebuilt in the creator's mind

Okay, I think I was thrown off by your use of the word "nihilism". I was still considering it in a "moral nihilism" framework when you were referring to it in a destruction of all things sort of way.

My dust is good, it flies. And it weighs almost nothing.

Little help.

P.S. my wife is giggling like a school girl at the (fnarr fnarr) (snark snark) (huryg huryg) well done.


Uhhh...sorry. Some mindless poetics there. I just identify with the idea of being thrown together from stardust but of having meaning independently of whether I ascribe it to myself or not. Physically I may not amount to much, and will end up scattered in different things, but my existence, regardless of what happens to me, is meaningful, even if I come to wish myself to an end. That's it for me.

ps. glad your wife liked the Finbarr Saunders double entendres. I'd write some more but I don't want to lower the tone.

6:24 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

it's like someone stood next to you while you're listening to beautiful music and going "it's just vibrations in the air you know". It's not persuasive, just annoying.

Let's just remember who's world view is whispering that in your ear. I'll go more in depth later. There's a reason I'm taking this road.

As for now, I'm off the the brainwashing institution! ; )

Hope you are enjoying your Sunday. It feels like England here today. Misty and damp! Good stuff.

7:39 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Let's just remember who's world view is whispering that in your ear.

Well it's not mine.

As I've continually pointed out, naturalism isn't a religion - it's an attempt to describe and explain the world. There's a profound distinction between the description of something and the experience of it. A naturalistic explanation will give you the sheet music, but it requires perception and emotion to appreciate the song.

It's in this experience (which I think naturalism explains quite adequately) that meaning and value and all the other things that make life worthwhile are found.

You may not like the naturalistic theory of life, but your idea that it robs it of meaning is wrecked upon the fact that I - along with most other atheists - find my life quite meaningful.

As for now, I'm off the the brainwashing institution!

Have fun.

I'm off to take the dog for a walk and appreciate the beauty of nature.

8:20 AM

 
Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

"There is a fundamental aspect of our reality that is beyond the strictly naturalistic understanding of the world.

How does matter and energy simply bang off the natural laws long enough to eventually say to it's self "Hey now, here I am! Perhaps I will not simply react any longer. I think I'll do my own thing."? What just happened? Where did the ability for matter to circumvent the laws of nature come from?"


I wish I was up to speed on the nomenclature of philosophy; I'm pretty sure there's a category for the belief/feeling that humans are 'supernatural' in the sense of being beyond the laws of nature. It's a widespread belief that almost seems to be default.

All I can say is that I feel the evidence points to the contrary, or that at least our definition of 'nature' needs to be refined and universally agreed upon (some people thoroughly belief that something has to be green to be natural; just look at the market in alternative medicine). Every aspect of our lives, including our strong sense of self-determinism, is part of the natural process IMHO; we just happen to be right at the tip of the spear (on this planet at least, unless the whales have been fooling us all along). We haven't evolved beyond nature. We can't even consider that possibility in light of the fact that we have no idea how far nature can go in terms of generating complex organisms. We are part of it, and the laws that govern it. We never stopped reacting. Indeed, we're one of the most reactive species on the planet; that's how we got where we are. The complexity of the mind is determined by the extent of the various action/reaction circuits, and our brains are absolutely chock full of them. And yet, even with our complexity, you can take just about any one neural circuit in the human brain and in it see the shadow of the primitive withdrawal reflex of aplysia (a sea slug and a long time favourite animal of neuroscientists for tinkering with).

The more that I observe the natural world around me the more it enforces my view that it alone is quite sufficient to explain my existence. And the thing is... I really don't find that unsettling not a bit. I find it absolutely, unequivically the most astounding and beautiful thing. And here's the real kicker; that small appendix-like part of me that retains a shred of doubt and flirts with the idea of a God actually occupies a much darker and more negative recess in my mind, because if there is anything that would actually alarm me it would be to realise that this is all the work of a higher being. Such a realsiation has many many negative moral aspects to it. Evil, apathy, jealousy, vanity and a whole lot more.

7:25 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Crushed:
Alex, I'm simply sugesting that the fact we share an experience at all implies we are all in a sense part of a shared experience.

Though I agree with you I wouldn't see that as convincing to someone from a naturalistic perspective. They could simply say that the universe can move on regardless of whether or not anyone is experiencing it.

Alex, I'm simply sugesting that the fact we share an experience at all implies we are all in a sense part of a shared experience.

Or reality. Sharing an environment does not necessarily demand a shared experience. Again I "think" I'm with you on this one, but it can't really be used convincingly.

Drummer:
but of having meaning independently of whether I ascribe it to myself or not.

I'm right there with ya!

Matt:
If you want to convince us that your God exists then argue for your God!

I see it like this. You are apparently quite satisfied with the idea that God is not needed to account for all of existence. If that is the case, our conversation can go no further than discussions about how naturalism might not be an adequate explanation. You see, if you feel naturalism is completely sufficient, then any further talk about God existing, or entering into our experience, or rising from death is utter nonsense. If I cannot convince you that naturalism is only a partial explanation how can you expect me to move forward with any further explanations that could involve the supernatural? Not only that, but if I could convince you that pure naturalism is ill equipped to deal with the all realities of the universe as we know it then the answer must come from outside the naturalistic system. So in a sense by trying to poke holes in atheistic naturalism I AM arguing for my God. In the absence of nothing is the presence of something.

Well it's not mine.

What do you mean "it's not mine"? If atheistic naturalism is true, then yes you are dust. That is all you are.

There's a profound distinction between the description of something and the experience of it. A naturalistic explanation will give you the sheet music, but it requires perception and emotion to appreciate the song.

Exactly. Both of which you will try to force into your naturalistic box. But they don't fit Matt. You'll need to lop off the most important part of both of those to get the lid closed. You can explain all the physical aspects of perception and emotion, (and yes I do believe there are physical aspects of them) but when you reach the "who is experiencing these feelings?" question you will realize you have cut off the only answer that will give you the satisfaction you seek.

If all you can say is "a brain", or "a complicated synthesis of matter" you have lost the foundation for any possibility of freedom (compatibilism does not seem to help here, for what compatibilism salvages cannot really be called free will) consciousness (something needs to experience the experience other than mindless matter), or objective morality.

I cannot accept this. You will have a hard time convincing me that I am not free to be a better or worse person than I am right now. You will have a hard time making me believe that my perception of own condition is just mindless chemicals clanking away in a moist body. You will also find it difficult telling me there really is no such thing as an ultimate "right" or an ultimate "wrong".

You yourself even have a hard time speaking within your world view. When you say:

I'm off to take the dog for a walk and appreciate the beauty of nature.

You speak as though the nature you were about to experience was worthy to be called such. However if atheism is true then nature is not beautiful. It just is. You may as well have said, "I'm going outside". As a theist I can say that nature is beautiful whether I am here to experience it or not. My appreciation for it can grow or diminish, yet it will always be worthy of the title for in the mind of God it is held as such.

but your idea that it robs it of meaning is wrecked upon the fact that I - along with most other atheists - find my life quite meaningful.

Heh. This is starting to get rather funny. I would argue that atheistic naturalism is wrecked upon the fact that you find your life to be meaningful. Uncreated dead matter and energy plus infinity does not equal Matt living a meaningful life. Remember that guy who thought he was dead that Ravi was talking about? We are doing the same thing here. It's just that each of us thinks the other guy is the guy who thinks he's dead. I am arguing that my experience of the world, the joys I feel, the beauty I apprehend, the meaningful relationships I build all point to a higher truth that these experiences hinge on. You, on the other hand, are saying: Sure I'm dust and I don't believe in God, but my life seems meaningful enough, therefore life can exist and be meaningful without God. But really all you are proving is that you can live and find life meaningful without believing in God. It really says nothing about him existing or not.

Matt can I get your thoughts on this quick. I'd really like to hear how you deal with this question:

Is the morality of those who don't care so much about suffering better or worse than your morality? If something were to happen to you to cause your aversion to suffering to lessen, would your moral standard be better or worse than it was before that happened?

As I continue to point out the deal breaking pitfalls of believing you are nothing but dust you seem to be getting increasingly irritated with me. All I can say is this: Perhaps it's not me you are irritated with. Could it be that atheism is a little less appealing than you've been lead to believe?

I mean no offense. If you'd like we can put this down for a while. The last thing I want is for you to get the impression I am just trying to get your goat. As I've said before. I am doing this out of love for you and all others who are in your situation.

Incitatus
I'll have to get to you later. Me lunch be over. Later.

12:18 PM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Alex,

If that is the case, our conversation can go no further than discussions about how naturalism might not be an adequate explanation.

Hmmm, we may just be the equivalent of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object.

The problem is that even if you were to convince me that the atheistic conception of life is profoundly flawed I still wouldn't be any closer to theism. For me, the arguments that naturalism is an inadequate theory and that God exists are too completely separate things. Without naturalism I'd simply have the unknown.

If I were to suddenly accept your arguments about meaning and dust it would make me a nihilist - I'd be even further from your God than I am now.

If atheistic naturalism is true, then yes you are dust. That is all you are.

If we're going for poetic metaphors, then sure - I'm dust. Incredibly complex dust, capable of perception, feeling and thought. But dust.

But they don't fit Matt.

This seems to be where we keeping hitting a wall. I have no problem with the naturalistic conception of consciousness. My appreciation of nature is simply a vastly more complex version of the flower turning towards the sun.

For you it has to be something more, but I really can't see why.

compatibilism does not seem to help here, for what compatibilism salvages cannot really be called free will

Again though, if our choices aren't determined by our character then what are they?

You will also find it difficult telling me there really is no such thing as an ultimate "right" or an ultimate "wrong".

Even if such a thing did exist, unless you can provide overwhelming proof then it's useless in terms of convincing others to act differently.

Could you turn up, proofs in hand, and explain to the likes of the Taliban that what they're doing is wrong?

5:30 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Is the morality of those who don't care so much about suffering better or worse than your morality?

From my point-of-view, worse - because it's less compatible with my ideal world, which means there will be increased friction between us.

If something were to happen to you to cause your aversion to suffering to lessen, would your moral standard be better or worse than it was before that happened?

From my point-of-view, it would depend upon the circumstances. Most of the time I'd probably think it was worse, because it would out of sync with my rational views.

If, say, I didn't care as much about the suffering of animals, my emotional responce would come into conflict with the rationalisations I've managed to build up around it's previous state. This inconsistency would make it seem worse than when my emotional responces and rationalisations were in alignment.

Were something to happen which caused both my emotional responces and my rationalisations (attacked by a cow, for example), then my new morality would seem no better or worse than the one before.

Could it be that atheism is a little less appealing than you've been lead to believe?

If I went on what was appealing I'd be a Buddhist.

The reason I might sound a little tetchy is that we seem to be going around in circles. Nothing you've said has given my any real cause to reconsider my position - my life is meaningful because it has meaning to me. Nothing you can say could change that, as that meaning isn't reliant on its circumstances for validity - it's intrinsically meaningful.

Every time you make an argument along the lines of: "Your life can't be meaningful because of X" my very existence refutes it.

Nor does any of this strike me as at all beyond the reaches of naturalism, there's nothing magical or supernatural about my life. Consciousness is (to me) the result of billions of years of cumulative evolution - a vastly more complex version of the perceive-react ability found throughout the natural world. I can't see why the idea of a divine being, who either sprang from nothing or is "simply" infinite", is any more plausible.

6:12 AM

 
Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

However if atheism is true then nature is not beautiful. It just is.

Beauty is merely an abstract form of pleasure. The sense of beauty can be tracked down to the firing of dopaminergic neurones in a discrete section of the brain that, through a process of evolution, has learned to react to certain sensory information indicative of a favourable environment. Taking God out of the equation can no more remove one's sense of beauty than it can remove one's sense of pain, light, touch or the taste of this chocolate muffin (more of which is falling between the keys on my keyboard than successfully reaching my mouth, I might add).

10:07 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

I started typing some responses, but nothing I wrote was worth posting today. So I tossed up a new little dieversion to ponder. Enjoy!

I'll come back to this another day, unless of course you side track me with more engadging debate on the new thread. ; )

12:46 PM

 

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