Friday, May 30, 2014

Belief as Life


I don't think that problem is a matter of 'religion' at all!   There are some individuals, yes, who DO use religion as a substitute for making their own choices based on their own thought.

But then there are people who will NEVER go against their political party's most idiotic 'talking points'.  And people who insist on defining absolutely EVERY situation according to their political rubric. -  LeahOne

Some believers, and believers come in many varieties, religious, political, ethnic, even local sport team fanatics, have no ability to evaluate their beliefs.  This is attributed by scientists studying the phenomenon to an imbalance in risk of countering belief and accepting it unquestioning.  As a result information contrary to the belief system is not even registered in the brain of the believer.  See The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer for an accessable discussion of this science.  It is well documented for those wishing to check his conclusions.  

Simply, the cost of losing ones major social support group due to shunning as a heretic is so high, relative to the value of intellectual integrity, that the brain rejects without recognition any challenge to the beliefs of the social support group.

Or one might ask 'Does a true atheist put so much effort into attacking religion, as opposed to simply explaining - and defending - atheism?' -   LeahOne
The question for atheists is not as unrelated as it might seem.  There is no belief system or social support group associated with "True atheism" that conditions the brain to trigger either confirmation bias or self-justification bias.  While there are some atheist groups that resemble religions, typically the group conformity imperative is very weak.  Atheists even argue about and with their "Four Horsemen" anti-theists. 

Even on a board like this which attracts atheists who like to discuss religion, "attacks" are not on religion in general, but on specific religious or politico-religious beliefs that strongly affect atheists. There are a few exceptions to add a bit of spice to the board, but you will notice that most of the atheists here attack specific beliefs brought up by theists rather than the religion of the theist promoting those beliefs.  Even for those way out there on the belief irrationality scale are challenged on specific beliefs rather than their religion itself. I find it amusing that a specific religion is challenged here more by the theists participating than the atheists. 

One of the problems for atheists in challenging specific strongly held tenets of belief systems is that the challenge is interpreted by the believing brain as a general challenge to the belief system rather than a challenge to a small and perhaps unimportant part of the belief system.  And the believing brain overreacts to protect the belief system as a whole rather than just the specific challenge.  This is a necessary reaction of the believing brain, as any crack in the belief monolith can have disastrous consequences.  

We have on occasion on beliefnet seen the disastrous effects of an "insignificant crack" in a belief system, and may be seeing it in a creationist who has admitted just recently that God's real world creation may be another source of information to supplement the biblical account.  It will bear watching.  She is quite old, but may still have time to let her intrinsic reason and intelligence take over to reject Creationism for a more reasonable version of Christianity.  She seems to be relatively isolated, so the social support group may not be significant.  

Major cracks in the belief system especially life style choices incompatible with the belief system are obvious and traumatic breaks with family and friends in a tight belief circle, but as these frequently take place in a diverse school setting with other social support groups to replace the church family they are normally successful.   

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Animal Grouping for Survival


Evolutionary science of social animals indicate that for survival most members of the social group, whether it is a herd, a tribe, a pod, a pack, or whatever,  are genetically programmed to follow the leader, without question, even over the cliff.  Secularists are not immune to this programming, see the Secular Humanist Manifesto, Modern Paganism, The Human Potential movement, Western Buddhism, sundry woo-woo gurus, etc.

There is also strong survival programming for those separated from the social group for whatever reason, including refusal to jump the cliff, to find others of their species to start a new social group to continue the species.  The new social group will create new leaders to provide coherence and stability, and not incidentally protect the social group from predation frequently from others of the same species. 

I just spent a weekend at a popular convention where people gathered to find Dungeon Masters to lead them into battle and adventure.  The attendees were by and large well educated, secular, comfortable financially, but in need of a group adventure temporary and fantasy but nonetheless a group experience.  See also any sport fanatic. 

Life Before Death


I have considered the various fables of after death existence, reincarnation, physical or emotional resurrection, and find them all manipulative to distract the individual from paying attention to a personal contribution to society.  I choose, in the words of Forrest Church, "To live a life worth dying for." 

I see life after death every time I read a favorite book by a dead person, when I think about the lessons in self reliance taught by a special uncle on a pack trip into the high Sierra when I was 10, when I remember the importance of giving pleasure to strangers when my sister played an impromptu concert in a department store lobby on the display piano, and standing up to authority when she said to the guard "The rope is to save it for me."

I could go on endlessly and do in quiet moments of reflection.  I think I have Paid it Forward by doing my part for others, by teaching the lessons I have learned and creating some of my own.  I am content with my legacy, which is, not incidentally, a gift from a deceased person.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happiness and Suffering.

What awareness has you come to you through happiness?  What awareness has come through suffering?  -  Seefan

Happiness, both for those important to me and for myself brings awareness that my behavior especially my social behavior is correct and moral.  Technically it means that dopamine and serotinin are stimulating the social awareness compliance centers in the brain to produce the feeling of pleasure in complying with social rules for good behavior.  

Suffering, both for those important to me and for myself means that something is seriously awry in my social system and I must do whatever is necessary to repair the damage.  As an example I hear a baby crying in a burning building indicating that it is suffering.  Since a universal evolutionary imperative for social animals is to protect the next generation at any cost including a serious threat of survival for the adult, I am compelled to enter the probably fatal environment to attempt to get the baby out.  If I can get the baby out of a window safely, the dopamine and serotinin will activate the social compliance centers to mitigate the pain and suffering I feel from the fire.  If I can get out the window myself great, if not I have done the socially necessary thing and will die happy as the building collapses around me.  

Please note that death is the other bookend to my life and nothing follows.  My social group may remember me as a hero, but I won't be aware of that except momentarily as the building collapses.  But no matter. I have done other beneficial things for my society, and when death comes the dopamine and serotinin will flood the social compliance centers so at death I will be happy and I will indeed rest in peace.   

No God. Just evolutionary success that allows the baby to live to enjoy my legacy.