Flowers and ‘Why?’

Flowers

I’ve been staying away from discussions about god and religion. The two topics are not interchangeable because they can mean different things to different people. However, the two are linked in the minds of most. Occasionally, I get to the point where I am moved to jot down my thoughts on the matter.

In the piece titled Atheist, am I” my musings wander over the field of purpose and belief. In the piece titled “Religion . . . still fun to discuss (occasionally)” I interact with what I consider a dishonest believer.

Flowers

But the honest believer . . . the honest believer comes right out and tell you they believe because they want to believe. It’s a choice, you see. They have faith in something that gives meaning to their lives, something that has a purpose in mind for them and guides their journey through this brief period we call our lives.

They call it god. By the way, I typically don’t capitalize the word ‘god’ or even the names of religions . . . to do so would give them power and respect they have not earned.

Anyway, many people will tell you they believe in god. The statement on its own is devoid of meaning until they start giving attributes to this entity. Until then, they might as well have said ‘waffles’.

Flowers

So, where do most people get their concept of what god is? That’s the frustrating part for me. Even when people share an organized religious belief (religion), people have “fuzzy” definitions for what they believe in. Not only that, different believers adapt the definitions to an arbitrary level predicated on their own understanding of the world, and not on some predefined or commonly understood definition. If that is the case, then why not ‘waffles’?

Even with that ‘adaptive’ belief’ people’s ideas and understanding is deeply rooted in the culture and religion they were raised in.

Flowers

You don’t hear a christian kid say “But mom, I don’t see Jesus in that piece of toast; I see Shiva.”

Believers invariably claim they have a personal rapport with their god, and that their god has made itself known to them. They then parrot what they learned from their parents or community, often with limited understanding of the deeper issues associated with simplified and dogmatic beliefs.

“What is wrong with that?”

Flowers

There is a current push in conservative circles to limit the discussion of religion in the name of religious freedom. They are not interested in discussions; they want their beliefs recognized as personal and sacrosanct.

As I say in my About, the issue is not the belief itself. It is what it leads to, and it invariably leads to bad things. Not that anyone ever admits they are bad things . . . after all, their personal Waffle says it’s OK.

Let me give you an example . . .  if I told you the Waffle I believe in mandates that people between the ages of 20 and 60 should not be allowed to blog, and that it further says they should be shunned (or imprisoned, or stoned) if they do blog . . . well, then; you might get the urge to discuss it, question it, and perhaps even argue it.

If you are between the ages of 20 and 60 you would definitely want to know why the Waffle speaks thus, and further would want to know what authority this Waffle has to impose limits on what adults can do. “It’s so written in the Box from which we get Waffles” is not something many would readily accept. In fact, it would prompt a slew of other questions; question believers don’t want to entertain.

Both for Waffle and god, the biggest question is “WHY?”

Fly and moth

“WHY do you believe in a god?”

. . . and specifically . . .

“WHY do you believe in your god, and not someone else’s god?”

I’ve already stated one’s belief is rooted in the culture and religious exposure they had before adulthood (and sometimes after adulthood). They are no more than a reflection of what they have been taught and failed to challenge.

BUT . . . some people will tell you they studied various religions, and came to their beliefs through a process of discovery. Assuming they are not lying, assuming they studied all the religions (some 2,000 and counting), the question remains . . . “WHY did you choose your particular belief system?”

Flowers

At that question, a large number of believers will raise shields and engage evasive maneuvers. They think they are answering the question, but they are not. In fact, they are running away from it at warp speed.

“I see the hand of god all around me. The flowers, the trees , the smile in a baby’s face; life all around us.”

There are other explanations for all those items, much more plausible and demonstrable than any particular god, but even if you are ‘special’ and can see divine influence all around us, “WHY that particular ‘understanding’ of god, and not some other?”

Plus, additional questions arise . . . if you base your belief in observational quasi-evidence, why ignore the nasty things? Death is at least as well represented as life. Disease, natural catastrophes, suffering . . . are those also not from the hand of god? “WHY believe in such a god?”

And if your god is not responsible for all the nasty stuff . . . “WHY did you come to that conclusion?”

Flowers

“Mine is a loving god.”

“WHY?”

“It says so in a book!”

“WHY did you choose to believe that book, and not some other book?”

“Because the book says it is true.”

At this point one gets into Tautological roadblock.

But note . . . the question is never answered. ‘Why?’ is such a simple question, but the ramifications of trying to answer it get you into all sorts of entanglements, and none of the discussions I’ve had in the past 40+ years ever went past the equivalent of “because!”

The question remains unanswered.

Flowers

And so we return to the sleight-of-hand answer.

“I believe because I want to believe.”

It may give believers comfort, it may bolster their self image, their self importance, the supposed purpose of their lives. That is an answer of sorts . . . but again, belief in god is not insular; there is baggage attached.

Some people go to great lengths to ditch that baggage. They divorce themselves from organized religion. They claim a different god from what religion teaches . . . but really, not too different.

In doing all that, they have to make decisions . . . what to keep, what to get rid of, the power of their personal god, the limits of their god . . . in doing so they retrace steps along a path their ancestors traveled every time the challenge to their concept of god became too great to overcome; they invent a new version of god.

But the question remains. “WHY even ponder the existence of such a being?”

Flowers

And when one does so, how can one hope to grasp what, if it existed, is surely an infinite and powerful entity outside and greater than our infinite universe?

How does one go about picking attributes for a god? And when one does pick those attributes, how does one ensure they leave the baggage behind. How does one give purpose to the universe. How can one ensure such purpose is not limiting?

For that is the problem . . . 

. . . individuals are limited by the shared understanding at the time of their lives. That limit is the limit of knowledge we have about ourselves and the universe we live in while we we are alive in it, and every religion has had to face the shattering of those limits as time marches on and knowledge grows. So many religions did not survive . . . and the current religions will perish as well. 

Of course, religions are fighting back . . . by limiting knowledge, by denying knowledge, by substituting superstition for knowledge, by reinterpreting their books, and by redefining their gods. It may work in the short run, but they are doomed to fail. If not, then humanity is doomed to fail.

Flowers

There are still others pseudo answers . . .

“WHY do you believe in god?”

“Because that’s where we get our morals.”

They are wrong, of course. Every moral concept one cares to mention, as well as love, compassion, empathy, charity . . . none of them need a god. Demonstrably, morals, ethics, arise out of humans working for the common good. There are flaws in this, of course, as different groups can and do arrive at vastly different ethical systems, but this difference is not solved by the application of any religious belief. In fact, it is most often hindered by such beliefs. 

As proof I give you the conditions so many live in, and especially women, around the world. Consistently, people live better lives the freer they are from the shackles of religions and the bindings of superstitious belief.

Also, ponder this question . . . would you trust a person that acts morally and ethically only under the threat of punishment? Because morals from religions are enforced not by recognizing the inherent benefits of a system of ethics, but by the threat of punishment.

Incredibly severe, cruel, and eternal punishment. 

Flowers

So, WHY? WHY believe in gods and all associated religions?

Never having been given an answer, I’ve had to ponder the issue on my own. I came up with a couple of ideas. Not saying these are definitive, nor applicable to all, but . . . 

Flowers

. . . I give you Fear and Power.

Fear of the unknown. Not the fear associated with threats to one’s self, but fear of new things and ideas that change our understanding of ourselves and our universe. 

I say onto you “that fear is not rational”. The unknown should elicit curiosity and the desire to learn, to understand. Indeed, the vast majority of human progress and the advancement of knowledge has been fueled by relatively few individuals who had the curiosity and desire to learn and build on the ever-increasing foundation of knowledge, dragging the rest of humanity along with them.

Not that humanity is willing . . . the majority of humans are afraid. Because of it they will readily accept the idea of a protector, savior, or creator that not only is concerned for their well-being, but promises something beyond the limits of mortal life. Fear of death is a powerful motivator for many; the ultimate fear. Religion offers the equivalent of a mother’s skirt hem for frightened little children to hang onto, and hide behind, and the promise of eternal life to boot.

Flowers

Power is the other motivator. Power to control. Power to subjugate. Power to leverage for wealth. 

Think of it as a tribal system. Individual tribes seek to establish power bases so as to safeguard their social, political, and economic standard. What better way to control, direct, and influence large groups of people but through the use of superstition and religion? 

It is an effective formula that has worked for thousands of years and for thousands of religions. It is a formula that continues to work, and it does so because people are still tribal in nature, and they want their tribe to have the advantage. But not just have the advantage; they want to be told they deserve it, and should not feel bad because of it.

They want to be told they are are special, and are entitled to more than other people . . . more than people who are not as special,  who are not under the protection of a god; the ones who have displeased their god and are being punished. The ones in the other tribes.

Flowers

“OK, smartass! Answer me this; WHY  DON’T YOU BELIEVE in god?”  

Well, Bob, I went through my own search many years ago. Read more about religions than the average believer. Read about spirituality (defined differently by each who tried to explain it). Continued to read, learn, and ask questions to this day.

At one time, long ago, I wanted to believe, find the ‘truth’, whatever it was supposed to be. Instead, I found people who, when it came right down to it, just made a choice. They did have one thing in common; they all said theirs was the right choice. 

Flowers

Religion, belief in god, superstition . . . it’s not for me, but I want to clear up something; it’s not because of the ‘logic and precise thinking” of an engineer. Sure, I don’t deny that is a part of it, but it’s a very small part.

The truth is, I don’t like to fool myself. Choosing to believe, be it for comfort or profit, is not something I can do. I can’t understand the ability in others to say “I want to believe, so I do”, even as I understand how the mind can construct versions of realities nearly at will once the decision is made.

Flowers

Not possible for me, any more than I could say “I want to believe I just ate cake, so I do”, or “I want to believe I can fly, so I do”. Those are purposefully extreme examples, and are not to set up straw man comparisons, or to denigrate people’s own journeys to their own conclusions, but rather to illustrate the feeling I have about saying “I believe because I want to”.

That’s why I can’t understand faith; I can no more will myself to accept a belief in god than to believe I can fly (I usually end that sentence with the ‘god made me that way’ joke).

Flowers

I don’t minimize what that choice gives the believer, what it provides in their life, but I do want to point out that decision has real consequences, both for the believer and others. Belief forms the basis for both actions and attitudes with respect to others.

I don’t care if someone believes Elvis is alive, or worships a piece of toast. I do care how those beliefs translate to those around them. Make no mistake . . . the beliefs people hold have a fundamental impact on my life and the life of many others. 

Because of that fact I not only want to know as much as possible about those beliefs, but beyond that I want the people who hold those beliefs to be secure enough in their views to constantly challenge them. To defend them. To demonstrate to me they did more than just blindly follow in the footsteps of other people’s thinking. 

That’s the other ‘why’. Why are people so resistant to challenging their beliefs, why do they accept without question in the face of evidence (or lack thereof), why do they take comfort in fairy tales that have harmed humanity at the individual level and hampered the progress of civilization, and why do they so easily dismiss other people’s beliefs even as they hold on to their own with an ever-increasing determination? 

Flowers

They better be able to say something more than “Because!” when I ask “WHY?!”

Just a reminder about the SmugMug gallery HERE. It has a few more photos than what I posted here (hard to believe, right?).

That’s it . . . . this post has ended, except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Restrained Anger

Restrained Anger

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: https://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
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Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Flowers, Macro Photography, Musings Stuff, Personal, Photography, Photography Stuff, Religion, Writing Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Flowers and ‘Why?’

  1. oneowner says:

    Obviously, the brain washing machine has not had the desired effect on you. We will have to use more extreme measures that may or may not be limited to repeated viewing of Charlton Heston movies and a diet of unleavened bread (toasted in the image of the Saint of your choice).
    Swell photos, btw.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Strangely enough, that would serve to reinforce my unwashed brain in its opinion it’s all based on self delusion and a failure in critical thinking.

      And thanks. I thought I would get more reads if I peppered the piece with photos. Even so, I doubt most people will do more than look at the photos.

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  2. mvschulze says:

    Appropriate to have read your well versed post tonight, as I listened today with sorrow at the apparent slaughter of 80 to 250 people in northern Iraq by ISIS subjugators, who gave these (invaded) victims a choice to “convert, or die!” M :-(

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    • disperser says:

      Theirs, like all religions, are religions of peace . . . used to justify such actions.

      I recently stated to someone that I think we’ll have full on religious wars within my lifetime, even here in the States . . . they looked at me like I was crazy. I’m hoping I am . . .

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  3. haydendlinder says:

    Loved the photos. I wanted to start my reply that way so at first glance you’d think I didn’t read this whole thing.:) Big post with a ton of questions but I can’t tell from your tone if you’re just venting, which I completely understand, or if you actually want to talk about some of these.
    One last side note, the doodle, “Restrained Anger,” looks like a woman shakin her hiney.:)
    Good post and hope all is well.

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    • disperser says:

      Believers! . . . always seeing naked people everywhere!

      I kid, of course . . . everyone sees naked people everywhere.

      As for the piece, not venting; just putting down some thoughts, but if you want to engage, feel free to do so.

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  4. haydendlinder says:

    Sure. There were a lot of “why’s” so I’m going to compress into one big overall WHY. If there is a specific one that I don’t address go ahead and throw it out there. Why am I telling you that? It’s your blog. You’re going to throw it out there.

    Anyway, Why do I believe in God?
    Because I interact with him. He gives me advice on what to do and when to do it. And that advice has always had positive affects for me in the past. I have a relationship with him that is very comforting and helps me to get through bad times.

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    • disperser says:

      So, there are a couple of follow-up questions.

      Before we tackle the broader implications of what you say as they relate to living everyday life, dealing with societal issues, and interacting with other humans in general, I’d like to know the following.

      Why do you think it is god speaking to you as opposed to your own brain working things out?

      Mind you, I’m not trying to dismantle whatever comfort and help gets you through the day. I just want to know why you are so certain it is god as opposed to other, and maybe more plausible, explanations?

      Meaning, how do you distinguish between ideas that generate in your head that are yours, and ideas you also hear in your head, but you attribute to an outside entity (I presume you are not physically hearing voices, but if you are, a recording would be nice).

      If you insist you are interacting with an actual separate and distinct entity from yourself, why do you think it is god, and more specifically, why do you think it is the christian god? I presume a christian god based on what I’ve read on your site. How do you know it’s not an ancestor, a ghost, or even, based on what some people believe, the consciousness of the universe giving you guidance and advice?

      These questions are just trying to anchor your general statement in terms people on the outside of your relationship with god can begin to perhaps understand, and perhaps form a basis for discussion.

      Then we can get into why you think your god speaks to you, but not to, for example, me or the other roughly six billion people who are not christians, many of whom hear the voices of other gods. For the record, I only hear my voice, and find great comfort in being able to guide myself through life.

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  5. haydendlinder says:

    Cool questions. “Why do you think it is god speaking to you…”
    It helps that my wife is of the same faith as me on this point. We differ on some issues but in general line up on important things like treating people of different ideas and beliefs with respect. Also, the voice thing. So yeah, she’s as insane as I am. To answer your question there have been several times when one of us has confirmed something for our partner. Almost always without having actually discussed any concerns about that subject to each other. Now I do NOT expect you to take that as some kind of conclusive proof but it works for us. God tells me something one day. She and I are talking about a different subject when she states she feels God is talking to her about that same thing I got earlier. You can see how we could easily associate that kind of coincidence to a God figure. And I have had this same kind of experience with other Spirit Filled Christians.

    “…how do you distinguish between ideas that generate in your head…”
    There’s not a real concrete way to explain this. It “feels” like something I would never think of. My best example would be when he taught me there is no Hell. That was NOT a comfortable moment and I did not want to go down that line of thought as it differed so much from what everyone else believed but I am very grateful that I did. It made everything so much simpler for me.

    “(I presume you are not physically hearing voices, but if you are, a recording would be nice).”
    Man, you’d totally soil yourself if I could provide that. wouldn’t you?

    “…why do you think it is the christian god?…”
    I don’t. I go off of what image I was raised with but in my defense that image HAS changed drastically the more I have talked with him. I know that he has been worshiped by many names across the world so my image of him is not… typical.
    Side note: When i use concrete terms like “Know” that is just how I feel about it. i in no way want to sound like I have all the answers or anything. Last time I checked he was actually NOT recruiting. So your beliefs really are your business. I just find other peoples beliefs interesting.

    “For the record, I only hear my voice, and find great comfort in being able to guide myself through life.”
    Is it your real voice? You know the one you hear on recordings and it always sounds a lot higher pitched and kind of annoying. Or is it that really cool baritone voice everyone thinks they have?

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    • disperser says:

      What you describe in the first paragraph is what I see everyone going through; what I go through.

      For instance, I might be thinking of something as I listen to music in my office, and ponder a question, come to a conclusion, and go on with munching on my snacks. Some time later my wife might mention something along the lines of what I was thinking. That is a completely normal occurrence for people who share their lives and have shared experiences. We might act all surprised we thought of the same thing within a short span of time, but we know how the subconscious works; it reacts to stimuli even when we may not be aware of them. It is not unusual for two people to both ponder the same topic and arrive at similar conclusions.

      But see what you did there? You said . . . “You can see how we could easily associate that kind of coincidence to a God figure. And I have had this same kind of experience with other Spirit Filled Christians.”

      First of all, no, I don’t see how you could easily associate that experience with a god figure . . . unless you are predisposed to the idea. I have a relative who is a christian, and thinks her dead mother speaks to her. She thinks so even though that is against christian doctrine. She is predisposed to believing it because she was close to her mother. That is a conscious decision she makes, but it could just be that her thinking process is similar to that of her mother because they had a bond. It’s a choice she makes, and it gives her comfort to think she is communicating with her mother.

      Second, you (probably subconsciously) separate yourself from other people. You, and others who believe as you do, are “Spirit Filled Christians”. You may not see it, but that is called ‘special pleading’. We poor bastards who are not ‘spirit filled’ cannot possibly understand, and in fact are incapable to even have a relationship with god.

      As for ‘It “feels” like something I would never think of’, welcome to the way the human brain works. Humans are problem solvers. So are many animals. There are great videos of squirrels solving complicated puzzles to get to bird feeders – do you think god is speaking to them as well? Monkeys using tools? Birds using tools? Is it god speaking to them all, or just the natural function of the brain? There are animals who do amazing stuff, and we too are animals.

      Our brains are programmed for coming up with solutions to problems, for generating ideas, explanations, and practical answers to the challenges that we face as individuals and as a society.

      That is why we have advanced both as society and technologically, usually dragging religion kicking and screaming along. That progress is also responsible for the continual reshaping religious thinking (look up God of the Gaps) as the balance of what we know and don’t know shifts toward the “know”.

      What is of interest to me in that statement is the unwillingness to recognize one of the great things about who we are as a species. It implies that every unique idea you have, any insight you might get, any reasoning arriving at a conclusion is not something you are inherently capable of; it must be a god speaking to you.

      The complement to that is that every bad idea, wrong decision, or anything that does not work out is usually attributed to something else. By definition, god cannot do wrong, so people give the praise to god for what works out, and take the blame upon themselves for what does not. Confirmation bias is a harsh mistress.

      The next statement ” My best example would be when he taught me there is no Hell. That was NOT a comfortable moment and I did not want to go down that line of thought as it differed so much from what everyone else believed but I am very grateful that I did. It made everything so much simpler for me.”

      Did you read what I wrote in the piece above? People have been doing this for millennia. I wrote the following:
      “Some people go to great lengths to ditch that baggage. They divorce themselves from organized religion. They claim a different god from what religion teaches . . . but really, not too different. In doing all that, they have to make decisions . . . what to keep, what to get rid of, the power of their personal god, the limits of their god . . . in doing so they retrace steps along a path their ancestors traveled every time the challenge to their concept of god became too great to overcome; they invent a new version of god.”

      But, let me ask you this . . . there are many Spirit Filled Christians claiming a relationship with god. They agree on many things, but they also disagree on many things. Hell is one of them. I can point you to many sources, christian sources, that will argue for the existence of hell. They too hear god’s voice, are filled with its spirit, and are certain of what god tells them.

      Are they wrong? Is god telling different things to different people? Can you be sure that what it told you is the right thing? And if so, why would it tell others something different?

      For that matter, how can you be sure it’s not just your own mind rationalizing something that is terrible to contemplate? After all, if you have friends or family who don’t meet the minimum faith height for entering heaven, they face the prospect of eternal suffering and torment. Most sane individuals have a big problem with that. They recognize the fact many people they know are not evil, their only ‘sin’ being they do not share the belief. Perhaps they are of another faith, or of no faith, or are children. Most sane people, and some organized sects of christianity, come to the conclusion there is no hell because god would not do that, would not be that petty. They reinterpret what god is and does.

      But god is explicit about its word. Could it be that what you have just done is overruled god, showing a greater compassion in the process, and then adjusted your image of god to fit your new paradigm, giving him the credit in the process?

      This is getting long, so I’ll briefly cover the rest. Voice is a way of alluding to something that is hard to describe, and yes, my recording comment was a joke. I don’t actually hear voices . . . thought formulate and I become aware of them. I think they are my own, but if they are not, my first guess would be some mechanism in the subconscious portion of my brain. At no time would I attribute the thoughts to anything but being products of how the brain works (there is a lot you can read on the subject, and much more that we are poised to figure out). At no time would I attribute my thought to any direct outside influence or entity.

      And no, there is no sound, as I presume there is no sound associated with your experience.

      To close this off, know that you’ve not actually answered “why?” on even the first question. You described a process, and then stated something equivalent to “It’s god, of course; what else could it be”. That is not an answer. But if you consider it an answer, then the question is “Why god? Why not benevolent aliens from another dimension?”

      Know that what I said before still holds. I don’t want to strip you of the comfort of your coping mechanism (your words). Know that travel down this path has the possibility of making you realize any strength you have, all your accomplishments, all the right things you did, and even the wrong things, all come from you, and that makes you more powerful than any incorporeal god. It might make you realize of the enormity of the task to be responsible for both yourself and your fellow humans without interference from a made-up god.

      Not saying it will happen . . . but if you are not prepared for the possibility, you should stop this conversation right now. There are people who traveled that path and are better for it, but they incur turmoil with friends and family, and indeed sustain personal losses in their lives. That they still think they are better for it speaks to the value of truth and honesty regardless of how difficult the path to them.

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  6. Emily Scott says:

    I feel the same way as you. I am happy for people who do believe in a god, as long as they don’t use that belief to justify hurting or discriminating against others. Unfortunately all too often they do.

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  7. disperser says:

    FYI . . . god speaking apparently does not constitute a legal defense. I hope it never does.

    http://www.loweringthebar.net/2014/07/lord-behind-the-wheel.html

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  8. mvschulze says:

    This post and comment section is one of those rare instances where I would like to seriously copy and save, if you’d only remove those damn flowers! (Just Kidding of course,) but I do find the text beautifully pragmatic, and about as parallel to my outlook as I’ve seen, expressed so well. No sides here. (to each his own…) … but, just a wonderfully practical desertion of a powerful human phenomena. M. BTW the legal link (lowering the bar) is, well to me…hilarious!

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  9. haydendlinder says:

    Hi Disperser, You know, I honestly thought I did cover “Why do you believe it is the Christian God.”
    My reply to that was, “I don’t. I go off of what image I was raised with but in my defense that image HAS changed drastically the more I have talked with him.”
    I should clarify, so I started with the image of the Christian God but it has evolved over time like any relationship does.
    Also, all the points you made in your reply are very good. Very legitimate but I do disagree on one specific point I feel is important. Credit. Giving thanks to God for everything good, I believe, puts a person in a more positive environment. I would go so far as to say that for an Atheist, you should strive to be grateful for everything good that happens to you. Recognize those good things when they happen and comment on them even if it is just to yourself. Because I think the very act of being grateful is good for you. I don’t think God needs my gratitude. I need it. It’s good for me. You’re not guaranteed to become a bitter jerk if you don’t do it, but it becomes a lot easier to become bitter if you’re not grateful. That is the only STRONG contradiction I have to anything you posted. Everything else is completely understandable and quite sane.

    Side note: Love the link. “(She claimed she believed she could fly “because Batman does it,” which shows the seriousness of her delusions because that dude can at best glide.)”

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    • disperser says:

      Hmmm . . . I agree you did answer that question (and I referenced your behaviour to that of believers throughout the history of religion); it’s the previous one you failed to answer. Why god to begin with as opposed to aliens talking to you.

      That goes to “credit”, as well.

      Read some of my other posts. I am extremely aware how good my life is, and appreciate it to no end. The thing I don’t do is attribute it to any given god. I happened to win the “being born white and in the West” lottery, but that is chance, not god.

      Am I thankful? Not sure who or what I can be thankful to because my second thought would be “Hey; what about the other six billion people?” But, like I said, I am appreciative . . . and sad. I walk out onto my deck, coffee in hand, and after a few moments of savoring the quiet, the view, of thinking of everything I have and the opportunities afforded to me, my mind drifts to people around the world who live in utter misery. I can understand that contrast in terms of chance . . . I cannot understand it in terms of god.

      . . . so, what I get from this is that you think I’m either already a bitter jerk, or on my way to becoming one. Interesting.

      Like

  10. elmediat says:

    I have looked at religion as a social belief system that is an out growth of various individuals attempt to express and understand their relationship with the infinite. This is not just a intellectual exercise of understanding, but some kind of personal interaction/perception, what some call a spiritual or mystical experience. Religions and related belief systems & institutions seem to grow like a layer of barnacles around these personal experiences.

    From my observations of sincere core people of faith ( whatever the religion) fall into two groups. They are, in many cases misusing the word faith. The one part of the group have had some kind of experience which is very real for them. Their conviction-belief is not an intellectual exercise nor is it simple faith as most understand and use the word. It is one thing to say I have faith that the door that I have never seen before or tried to use is unlocked. It is another when you have have seen the door open & close freely. The other part the group, while not have direct experience, has had a strong personal relationship with someone who has had such experiences. Interestingly, it is often an elder who has had an important influence on their upbringing, such as a grandparent. Notice how First Nations People and many within Black & Caribbean cultures put an emphasis on the wisdom of the Elders.

    Most religious institutions are built up and run by the rest of the ” faithful ” . They are seven degrees from religious experience. They know a guy who met a guy that heard about someone once upon a time. They substitute any kind of experience for complex formality & structures. All those books full of the “Truth” were written by that group. They are the ones asking others to follow the rules (they invented). You just have to take their words based on faith.

    I also am the opinion that this experience can lead to a higher moral awareness of others & our environment. Such experience will lead individuals to see more commonality with other individuals & living creatures in general. It can also lead to positive social change and great works of art. Unfortunately, this experience fights with an evolutionary trait to adhere to the safety of the familiar group/pack/family or some artificial designation tribe/nation/ethnicity/language/political or religious system-institution/sports-team.

    Of course you can argue about whether those experiences are a trick of the brain or an actual perception of a greater reality. You are now moving into neurology, psychology and metaphysical speculations. But that, does not deal fairly with either those who have such positive experiences nor does it effectively address the barnacle social structures that build up to take advantage of such personal experiences.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      . . . Wish I’d written this . . . Then people would be less prone to think of me as a bitter jerk.

      Like

      • elmediat says:

        People confuse bitterness with frustration. Somehow, we all have to find a way to open up that energy for change in a positive way. For some, it is through communication & some form of creative expression. I think when when they say we were made in the image of God, people take it too literally. (Actually, that is a big problem with religious debate; to describe some sort of spiritual experience is to talk in metaphor, symbol & analogy – everyone wants to take the angels on the clouds literally.) If we a made in the image of the Creator, then we share the Creator’s attributes. We desire to create, communicate. and are concerned about our environment and everything that is in it.

        Archbishop Desmond Tutu declares himself a Prisoner of Hope, as opposed to an optimist. Have you ever noticed how Tutu and The Dalai Lama both have that bubbly joy ? It reminds me of being young and in love, full of possibilities of life. Interestingly Tutu mentions the Tibetan Spiritual leader in a discussion of faith & hope.

        Keep in mind, I am saying all this, as a retired secondary school teacher with a variety a health issues. I have ups & downs and I am still stumbling along the path looking for peace & enlightenment, like everybody else. Sometimes I see someone or experience something that gives me a hint of something more and gives me a bit of hope to keep going. Cheers & all the best. :)

        Like

      • disperser says:

        I suppose that is a big contradiction within me.

        I’m largely disappointed with the world and most people, but at the same time I recognize the potential of the human race.

        An optimist by nature, my normal state of being is to have fun, joke, and enjoy life, especially since there might not be much left. . . . and no, I had no spiritual or material leader, and no elder to guide my way. In part, that is what is a bit frustrating for me . . . I see so many look outside themselves when they should be looking in. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t see how any outside agency can ever give me or help me find what is inside myself, or shape myself into what I want to be as a human individual.

        . . . makes me feel like an alien living among a species that looks the same, but whose brains are wired differently from mine.

        Like

    • haydendlinder says:

      Hey Elmediat, I like this comment but I’m a little confused about this one part,
      “Unfortunately, this experience fights with an evolutionary trait to adhere to the safety of the familiar group/pack/family or some artificial designation tribe/nation/ethnicity/language/political or religious system-institution/sports-team.”
      Do you have any examples of this? Because I’m just not seeing it.

      Like

      • disperser says:

        If Elmediat doesn’t answer, I’ll take a crack at it tomorrow. But . . . really? You don’t see it? After saying you and your wife share the same faith? After mentioning your fellow Spirit-Filled Christians?

        Like

      • elmediat says:

        Part of our survival when our population was much smaller and we were mostly hunters & gatherers required that we maintain a group identity – immediate family, clan, and tribe. This identification functions as a social safety net. We take care of our own. The flip side of this is the Other. They do not belong to the group affiliation. In order to share territory & resources with the Other requires complex social negotiations or you get conflict. One way to create links is through shared genetic material – inter-marriage. Another way is through shared cultural beliefs & rituals ( religion, art, music, dance, sport or game competition).

        If the identification of Other acquires a negative connotation you end up in heavy conflict. The need to identify & protect the group overwhelms the mutual shared characteristics.

        The people of Palestine & Israel are not that different genetically, ethically, culturally or linguistically. In spite of this, there are those living in Gaza willing to lob missiles , regardless of the consequences to their own. Israel in turn is attempt to defend itself is willing to to move into an ethically charged situation of injuring & killing innocent civilians who really no control of the situation.

        The soccer hooligans of Europe are not content with their team winning the match, they must enter into actual physical conflict with fans of other teams, both within their own country and without.

        Allowing Gays to have the same legal rights of any other married or cohabitating adult couple has been a divisive issue both in Canada and the United States of America.

        Remember the lines from the 60s –

        If you are white, you are all right.
        If you are yellow, you are a polite & hard-working fellow.
        If you you are brown, we let you hang around.
        If you are black, take six steps back.
        and if you are red(native), what are you doing here, we thought you were all dead.

        Like

        • elmediat says:

          Addendum – 1) When comparing individuals on a genetic level – there is no identifiable race. The closest thing to that is genetic propensity to certain illnesses. This can develop if any group is exposed to certain environmental conditions over a long period of time. These propensities can migrate to other groups through sharing genetic material to produce offspring or through a group’s change in environment/living conditions. In India the propensity to diabetes has increased due to changes in life-style.
          2) Ask an alien and they would say, except for minor differences we are all the same.
          3) Ask someone who has had a spiritual/mystical experience and they would also say they we are all the same.

          Like

        • haydendlinder says:

          I’m an idiot. Thank you for answering. I was just getting confused on the verbiage.

          Like

  11. haydendlinder says:

    Hey Disperser, I’m going to talk for you for just a moment. I know that tends to upset you when people do that but I’m gonna risk it. I “think” my point about be grateful struck a little close to home for you. One reason I think this is because you thought I was calling you a bitter jerk. I wasn’t. I was simply hypothesizing about what affect not being grateful would have on me. After that you went on to state “Not sure who or what I can be thankful to because my second thought would be “Hey; what about the other six billion people?”
    I “think,” I have to put it in quotes to remind myself that I am capable of it, you need to embarrass yourself a little every morning when you step out onto your porch and say “DisperserTracks,” If that is indeed your name, “You have a good life. A great woman. A lovely home. And you live In the second most beautiful place on the whole damn planet!” I mean, it’s not Texas but it’s close.
    As for the other 6 Billion people? You do what you can but you not being grateful won’t get them anything. I believe you being grateful will put you in a much better place to help them from. You have to take care of yourself before you can help others and I think gratitude is a major factor to a mentally and emotionally healthy life.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      That last paragraph was my poor attempt at humor. I know who and what I am, and I am at peace with it. That said, I can be a jerk . . . but I object to the ‘bitter’ part; I be a happy jerk. (more humor, in case you missed it).

      However, this statement seems at odds with what you wrote:
      “I was simply hypothesizing about what affect not being grateful would have on me.”

      Hmm . . . I did not get that you were talking about yourself when you said:
      “I would go so far as to say that for an Atheist, you should strive to be grateful for everything good that happens to you.”

      I fully agree that if one does not appreciate what they have, no matter how little or how much, it can lead to bitterness and a general dissatisfaction with life.

      However, to my mind there is a difference between appreciating something, and being grateful for something.

      The first speaks to a combination of chance, opportunities, and some hard work resulting in a good life, and you being aware that you have a good life . . . the latter speaks to some agency making the choice to help some people more than others.

      I could argue that being grateful to god can thus also lead to bitterness since if there is a god directing the fortunes of men, it clearly helped some people much, much, much more than others.

      Again, it’s a fine point . . . but one that leads to the same question. Why be grateful to god? Why not to interdimensional beings? Why not the black hole at the center of the galaxy? Why not all the moss in the world, or the giant sequoias?

      It is just as possible for them to be responsible for someone’s good fortune as an imagined supreme being.

      Like

      • haydendlinder says:

        Hi Disperser,
        I saw the quote from my comment, Sorry man. I really didn’t intend for it to look that way but yeah I can see how you would think that from the way I laid it out. I am sorry about that.
        ” Why be grateful to god? Why not to interdimensional beings? ”
        Well in my case is started with the Christian God because that is what we had as a child.
        But that is not true for other people. Remember the Bop comet cult who castrated themselves and all bought the same Nikes. Then killed themselves? All of that ugliness aside, what made them worship aliens? I don’t know.

        Like

    • disperser says:

      My name is right under my gravatar, on the right side just under the header.

      . . . I seldom call myself Disperser Tracks. I do sometimes jokingly refer to myself as Disperser in my posts.

      . . . most people call me ‘e’ or ‘ejd’ as most can’t pronounce my name.

      Like

  12. disperser says:

    This seems fairly timely . . . there is a whole channel of these, covering a number of topics:

    Another channel worth following is Theramin Trees . . .

    Part one of this series covers some of the things I went through beginning around age 8.
    http://youtu.be/YkExxkrMyU4 (part 1)
    http://youtu.be/Pt9x3CnxApo (part 2)
    http://youtu.be/jwjAX_r2kIU (part 3)

    Like

    • elmediat says:

      Back in the late 70s there was a report on a comparison survey that had been done – I have been searching for a copy for ages. What had been done was the testers took a list of descriptions of reality that were given by theoretical physicists& mathematicians and a list of descriptions given by mystics/spiritual leaders from a variety of religions. . They removed all the scientific jargon and all the religious, cultural & mystical terms. Mixed up all the descriptions and asked people to identify which were religious and which were science.

      NO one could get them right. Nor could they identify the specific religions. The scientific description of reality and the mystical are the same. The only differences is science describes it from the outside based qualities of mathematics, dimensions, time, space. The mystical account describes it in emotional & experiential terms ( those terms are further coloured by metaphor, symbolism and cultural expectations). Whatever that experience is , it would appear to be accurately describing the reality that science hypothesizes exists.

      Like

      • elmediat says:

        My capitalizing skills got carried away in the previous comment. Sorry, thinking of NOH Theatre. :D

        Like

      • disperser says:

        That would be interesting to read . . . and to figure out which came first.

        My experience with religion tells me it adapts to what we know, or think we know.

        I’d also like to see the specific topics. If you ever find the study. Let me know.

        Like

        • elmediat says:

          No the one I recall was based on a survey. It really was restricted to statements describing time & space and related terms. The analysis did not conclude whether the mystical experience was real , just that the description given by the mystics could not be differentiated from the physicists’ description .
          The other derived observation was that core religious experiences are identical: the differences in description derive from cultural expectations and differences in language. As with all forms of mass media , change the language , you alter the message – especially true when you have to rely on metaphor to convey an experience.

          Like

        • disperser says:

          Too bad; it would have been interesting to read. Even so, I’m assuming it deals with very broad things, and not specifics. Plus, it depends who could not differentiate. Chopra has a lot of followers who cannot differentiate between bulldroppings and science.

          Like

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