Monday, August 22, 2011

Experiencing Transcendence

An experience that is intensely moving is a natural reward system in the brain to impose certain patterns indelibly in the memory. Lets define these experiences as transcendental in the general non-religious sense. Music seems to be fundamental in this regard in some theories even preceding speech.

Such experiences are so fundamental to human experience that shamans, priests, pastors and poo-bahs do their level best to co-opt them to whatever it is they are selling, usually a god. I find any such co-option fundamentally degrading.

I will take my transcendent experiences straight. I might try to explain them in retrospect, using physics or music theory, or training but such explanations in no way subtract from the transcendence. I can explain a rainbow perfectly with optics and refraction. But being at the focus of all that beauty and color is a transcendent experience even though I know why it happens. But I can guarantee that I never have and never will think of a rainbow as Gods promise that he won't exterminate all life on earth ever again.

Is Politics Relevant to Anything?

Libertarian, Liberal, Trogloright - I have decided that politics at least in developed countries is irrelevant for the people who make the country and the world work. Politics is basically fooling most of the people most of the time which is not hard since most of the people want to be fooled most of the time. The people making things happen pay politicians to fool the people to keep them off their backs. Income inequality is always a problem, but notice that the people who make things happen realize it and will at least fix it politically and probably in actuality.

I always vote. If only to encourage the least awful. And write to and phone politicians doing the right thing for the same reason. I do not expect results.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why Atheists Study Religion

Since I was a small child many of my good friends have spent significant portions of their life in the worship of and dependence on God. I was naturally curious about what drove this "waste" of time, and tried to discover the value in it. I came to some tentative conclusions, but none of them made sense in my life. It was in no sense a waste of time as I learned much about living from their religious views and my study of religious music. There is much to learn in myth and fiction, but it helps to be aware of the fact that it is myth and fiction.

It is probably true that I know more about most religions that I have studied than believers, as I can think about what they are saying without worrying about blasphemy or annoying God. So I can pick out the useful teachings and reject the useless ones.

It is very useful to read the New Testament without God or anti-God blinders on. There is much that is useful there and it is important to know the source of the dysfunctional values that drive much of the society I live with. I say with instead of in, as my ERSSG has very little commonality with the larger society. But it is valuable to know the drivers of the larger society to know how to deal with it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Infinite Monkeys, Typewriters, and Shakespeare.

However it is a fact that a finite number of primates breeding with no target in mind, did produce the entire works of Shakespeare. Not with typewriters obviously, but with quill pens.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Afterlife Considerations

So What? - beliefnet

The probability of an afterlife is so low as to be a useless consideration in living. The chances of God mediating an afterlife are even lower. The chances of God's mediation of an afterlife based on religious choice are nil.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jesus as theistic humanist.

Jesus as teacher. - beliefnet

Jesus was using the prevailing paradigm of God to teach, but the focus was on being a better human being to and for other humans. In other words you learn from God how to be a better human.

Radically different from the prevailing learn from the priests how to worship God for the sake of God and the priests. A caricature certainly, but not far from reality. Paul went back to this paradigm. Worship Christ for the sake of God and to save one's soul. No concern for the human at all and certainly not for humanity.

I am not talking about The Lord Jesus of Nazareth I am talking about the human preacher Jesus, who was using God to teach his fellow humans humanity. I suspect he believed in his personal relationship to God and believed that his mission from God was to teach what he taught.

All of which had nothing at all to do with what his followers and usurpers did to create The Lord Jesus of Nazareth which he frequently denied having anything at all to do with.

Certainly the radical theistic humanism of Jesus in the Synoptics before the passion has much to teach Christians and atheists alike. It is true some of the idealism is over the top, but none the less effective as an ideal if not a practical paradigm for living.

In some payoff scenarios turn the other cheek seems to be an extremely effective strategy in game theory known as tit-for two tats. Opponent defects once, cooperate. If opponent defects twice retaliate. Practically: If hesh smites the other cheek, kill herm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Entire New Testament in 41 words

The existence of gods - beliefnet

Aug 16, 2011 -- 6:43PM, amcolph wrote:

Jesus preached a radical moral philosophy which scared the crap out of everybody so they strung him up, and Paul turned it all into a pagan magic trick. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and went back to business as usual.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

University Communities

SSGS - beliefnet

As an atheist I of course think the university communities are a viable alternative to the religious SSGs. The fact that membership in a university is elected and the values are adopted as adult choices (with some infantile exceptions) is a powerful unifying force to replace God.

A university community is much more than the students, and the student's involvement does not end with graduation. Like runs with like, and even before Facebook, social groups were generally formed based on educational achievement, not necessarily a particular university. As an example in the SF Bay Area graduates of the three major universities, one religious, one private and one public tend to gravitate to the same events and form networks around them.

Some professors and other professional university staff may view their position as a job independent of the community with values derived elsewhere, but in my experience these are the exception rather than the rule. The non-professional staff tends to choose the university in part because of the campus values, and comply with them. The campus cops and bus drivers seem to have a different attitude from their off campus compatriots.

Even campus churches seem to have a different set of social values although God may still have an important role.

Experiencing God

Experiences - beliefnet

In my studies of the religion of my friends and neighbors I never made any secret of the fact that I was an atheist trying to find out more about their religious lives. They had no problems with my mirroring their devotions, as they knew I was doing so reverently.

In fact the closest I have ever come to experiencing God was in a community RCC with a good friend. We were nearly late for the service. Most were at their devotions in the pews. I mirrored my friend's genuflection knowing it was an acknowledgement of the presence of God. I could feel a presence like someone in the church with me that was not my friend. I did not have the background to associate any attributes to it, but whatever it was remained through the mass.

My post experience analysis was that the community had created a community consciousness that they identified as God. I could only feel the hem of the gown if you will as God attended to Herm duties with the parishioners as I was not a real part of the community to share in the consciousness.

I could discuss it with my friend and did so. My friend said "Of course you were touched by God. We all were." My friend wouldn't even consider the possibility that the community created God, and I didn't press the issue. God visited the community from wherever Hesh was when the devotions started. That was faith, and I know better than to argue with faith.

Experiencing God

No Gods - beliefnet

The difference is quite simple when I experience anything of the Earth even something spiritual in the atheist sense of being true, or beautiful before rationalization, the fact remains that it can be rationalized and explained to others. The others may not get the same sense of spiritual wonder, but they might at least from my description understand where my spiritual experience is coming from. If I explain that I seem to be at the focal point of a brightly colored arc in the sky most people will say "Oh you mean a rainbow" It may have been a mistbow or a moonbow, but I won't quibble. They know and perhaps appreciate from having a similar experience to the one I described what I am talking about.

Similarly with almost any earthbound experience. Many more years ago than I want to admit I was 16 and in the middle of my active God search. I came out of a dark side street late evening and was stunned by the sight of the flood lighted Florence Cathedral across the plaza. Stunned in the sense I could not move or even think. All I could do was gawk at the sight. Later I could explain to my sister what I had seen, and she noted how she also was stunned even though she was expecting it and indeed looking for it.

In any experience on the Earth I can communicate what I experienced in a way that someone else could uniquely identify the experience if not the wonder I experienced. It would seem that someone experiencing God should be able to describe the experience in such a way that at least a sympathetic listener could say "Oh, that was God." It may be too much to ask for a skeptical atheist to recognize it, but at least a believer in some sort of God should recognize the description.

That was an experience when I was literally knocking on God's door, and should have experienced God if God existed. That and similar experiences where I was actually presupposing God not No-God, and got no result.

Psalm 14:1

Atheist Inspiration - beliefnet

You have repeatedly throughout this thread stated there is no god. If you believe David speaks the truth where does this leave you?

As for the Psalm, a fool disguises herm ambiguities about God or gods and hides them inside. A wiser person knows exactly how they relate to God, gods, or some numinous all highest being and speaks it clearly, unambiguously, and right out loud. I will tell you clearly and unambiguously that there is no God, gods, or numinous all highest being that has anything at all to offer me. Therefore, whether there is a God, gods, or a numinous all highest being is of no importance.

Perhaps you could as unambiguously state your relationship with God, gods, or a numinous all highest being. At this point it is hard to avoid associating the Psalm with you.

My Creator

Define God -beliefnet

I have no problem understanding my creators. Countless generations of organisms survived to reproduce culminating in a group of intelligent creative survivor humans that were my ancestors and finally my parents. Both of whom I know and who helped me understand the society of which I am a part. End of creation story.

Ancient Religions in a Modern Society.

Knock on God's Door - beliefnet.

I don't see how a patriarchal, high maternal and infant mortality rate society can have any stories, myths or Gods that are relevant to a modern technological society where one conception equals one economically productive and reproductive adult of either gender.

Added to that is the problem for faith based religions that information is essentially a free good in today's society. Even the most repressed, burkaed, housebound female can access the internet to see how the rest of the world lives. It won't change many lives but it will change enough to create social networks that will change their world. Maybe even ours.