Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Church Across the Street

In the UU RE Curriculum there is a unit called the Church Across the Street.  A Sunday School class and teacher from a neighbor church, synagogue, or mosque if available is invited for the children's part of the service and join their cohort in RE to discuss, comment and compare.  The next weekend the roles are reversed with the neighboring church, synagogue or mosque hosting the UUs.  When an exchange cannot be arranged the class discusses what they have learned in the previous exchanges.  I can't speak for the exchange RE programs but the tolerance, respect, and humanism learned by the UU kids is incredible.  "They are just like us!"

Critical Thinking in Religion

In some religious traditions, Jews and Jesuits come immediately to mind, critical thinking about religion is encouraged post puberty.  But by that time the belief mental blocks are firmly in place.  Even the critically thinking Jesuits seem to understand this: Give me the child, and I will give you the adult.  OK the quote is boy and man, but it works with girls and women as well. 
As Michael Shermer discusses in The Believing Brain belief blocks even skeptical belief blocks are unassailable.  Contrary information isn't even processed by the brain.  The la, la, la, la, I can't hear you! is real, not metaphorical.   

Outside the belief blocks critical thinking can be encouraged and taught, although it is generally considered dangerous by the more dogmatic religions for fear that it will spill into faith thinking.  

Belief Genetics

I doubt that the belief gene has been identified. (And probably won't be, people have been burned at the stake for less.)  But according to Shermer it exists in a large segment of the population.  Not always religious, but politics and religion are the most common expressions.  Probably tribe membership or authority related from an evolutionary viewpoint. 
But look around you.  Believers beget believers.  It would be hard to separate out nature vs nurture, but believers occasionally beget people who can actually read the Bible and the newspapers, or actually think about what they watch on the boob tube (for them.) One might think of them as deficient in the belief gene as the occasional green-eyed redhead is deficient in the melanin gene. 

But non-believers also beget non-believers.  I come from a family that goes back to the earliest colonists for which "He would have been mayor except he pissed off the preacher." was their characterization of most of the famous members.  "He" was usually run out of town as the original settler was run out of England. An ancestor was a General in Washington's army, but was run out of Virginia (and America) to Ohio.  

They also perhaps necessarily marry non-believers weeding out the belief gene.  My great grandmother married into the family but was an atheist, free thinker and feminist.  (late 19th Cen.)

Pure Thought

Jun 21, 2015 -- 10:54AM, Blü wrote:
And can you offer a testable (hence falsifiable) hypothesis about the manner in which thought on its own could exist, could be informed, could change, could remember, could reason, could formulate and articulate (or otherwise communicate) information (&c)?

If so I'd be delighted to pursue your question.

Another way to detect thought is through EEG. The thoughts produced and measured by MRI admittedly a physical process can be observed to be synchronized by mirror neurons, musical expression, and synchrony of movements in animals and people.  These thought patterns can control computers, prosthetics, etc. and the computer interface can process the information to incorporate feedback to refine control like being able to pick up a raw egg.  

Is it not possible that another brain can process, change, remember and reason on, and store the information of this synchronized information?   The information must be physically created originally by a brain, but is the result not observably "pure thought?"  

My observation is that God is nothing more than repeated and memorized fictional reality data created over time by people and incorporated into religious ritual and dogma. 

Catholic Experience of God through the Eyes of an Atheist.

In my experience, mainly with Catholics, I have found that for them God is a real construct of the historical collective consciousness of the parishioners of the particular church or cathedral.  When several very good friends genuflect to acknowledging the presence of God, they get a clear and real image of God as present in the space that is unique to the space.  That is raiment and ethnicity is different in each space.  The overall concept is in accord with the Credo, but the dominant Jesus expression is local.  The blond, straight nosed palefaced Jesus depicted in all the traditional images is pretty much what they "see" except in ethnic spaces.   A very good friend is Italian and is somewhat put off by the image he gets at St. Pats.

I have actually tried myself but all I get is a vague "presence" feeling as described in the God Helmet experimentBut the genuflect does trigger it.  The human mind is a weird and wonderful thing. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

God and BS - Is there a Distinction


Ancient history but worth preserving

2/2/2004 1:52 AM
1 out of 26

Tr1nity, TheRaUch, Mas, and other advocates of BS (Belief System(s), thanks Acira and TheRaUch.).

First. I have no doubt that God exists for you. I have no doubt that for tr1nity Christ lives.

Second. When I open a mass I have no doubt that Kyrie is there to Eleison and that Christe is right behind Herm to help. Indeed it is proven each time it happens, as neither will strike dead the soprano with the atrocious vibrato that is destroying the beauty of the music. They are also able to make the believers in the audience, and yes, even the believers singing, not hear it. Just as they help believers not see the atrocious art in some of the crucifixes they have on their walls and around their necks.

Belief in God can be empowering. However, many threads on this board have been presenting a powerful demonstration of one of the greatest dangers of belief. They are trying to convince a rather skeptical group that a belief in God can be transferred to a BS that defies all reason, and then circularly use the BS to find God.

Mediators for God have exhorted people that if they believe, God will be real for them. Even though they must ignore the evidence of their senses, and must not expect rational evidence to believe.

So far, so good. If one stops with God advising and helping to manage one's life, and one trusts only God to sort out which parts of the BS that are being thrown at them are true, the chances are excellent that they will have a spiritually rewarding life.

Then the trouble starts.

The mediator says God inspires ME, Believe Me. This is easy to do, especially if God does inspire the mediator. Unfortunately, this is also semantically equivalent to the classic con man's "trust me."

At this point it is critical to understand that it is the mediator's interpretation of God's inspiration that hesh is preaching. A believer must check that interpretation with God directly before transferring belief to the mediator.

By the way this is where most atheists and agnostics part company with believers. It may be reasonable to ignore sensual and rational evidence for an omnipotent, omniscient entity, especially when the entity cares about everyone.
It is definitely not reasonable to ignore sensual and rational evidence to believe a guy in a fancy dress, no matter how impressive the pulpit is. Ultimately the balcony of the Vatican is no more persuasive if God (or the evidence) says bad BS than the dirty top of the cardboard box with three bent cards on it. Please note that neither is necessarily unpersuasive for some who wish to believe.

But once belief in an omnipotent, omniscient entity that cares about everyone is transferred to real people whose BS may have personal agendas that conflict the best interests of others, a BS can and does get real ugly.

Some threads here are advocating some really ugly BS. No God I have ever had occasion to believe in would approve anything about them. It is clear to me that some mediators behind them are pushing extremely antisocial BS. I find the motives to be pretty transparent: To acquire political power and bling-bling to impress the flock. The three-card monte dealer is at least honest about herm scam.


2/2/2004 12:44 PM
3 out of 26

In regards to BS, this needs to be credited to Robert Anton Wilson, who was the first I ever read use it in regards to Belief Systems. It's SUPPOSED to register in your mind as bullsh**... :P

Actually, I could go on and on for many posts explaining the mindset and perspective behind BS and why RAW uses that acronym, and why I happily adopted it, but it would be easier to just refer you to any RAW works. If you're interested, let me know, and I'll get you a title.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ritual, Belief, and Understanding

I use ritual as a shorthand for important belief sets for any religion.  If you learn them early enough and repeat them offen enough they become part of your identity as a member of the "tribe" (the general sense of the term.) The Pledge of Allegiance is an identity ritual of the Tribe of Ammerruhcuns.

Understanding is quite different from belief.  I understand the Credo as fundamental to Catholicism, and can respect and interpret it musically in my case to reinforce it in the minds of believers even though I do not believe any of it myself.  The Church paid big money to composers to create memorable Masses to indoctrinate believers in an enjoyable format.  Part of the compensation was for setting the Mass to reinforce the dogma.

J neat.

Argumentative Jew wrote:
I don't know of a 'Jahwist' faith community - so I'm not sure at all what you're talking about there.

As far as I know Scripture is recognized as having many authors one of which was the Yahwist, Jahwist, or J even by Jewish scholarship.  Hesh wrote all of the memorable stories that many people in many faiths who have adopted the Pentateuch as fundamental, whatever they call it, think of as "Scripture."  Adam and Eve, Noah, Abram, Lot, Moses, of course God or YHWH from whom hesh derives the moniker and many other protagonists male and female. The stories about them attributed to J are what people remember.

When I say J "neat" I am referring to reading those stories as a coherent whole without all of the Priestly context. I first read them that way in a new translation from the Hebrew by David Rosenbloom.  I have no way of criticizing the translation as I know nothing of Hebrew but the collection was a great read, and sent me back to the other Bibles on the shelf to reread those stories as a coherent whole.  I must admit that I knew most of them well.  And very little of what I skipped. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Whiite, Male, Middle Class, MBA Perspective

Jun 7, 2015 -- 7:01PM, LDS wrote:
My thing is that too many people - including certain posters - are so caught up in their pet projects that they're starting to lose perspective.

I lost the white, male, middle class, MBA perspective long before I even got the MBA. Despite the fact that I am white, male, middle class and have an MBA.  I lost it so long before I entered an elite university, that it was glaringly obvious in most of my classmates and somewhat uncomfortable for me although I could not avoid it or combat it and still participate as a student.  It was kind of like being an atheist in a Christian culture.  One had to find an unobtrusive way to remain true to your values without offensive behavior.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Science, Religionm and the Theory of Everything

Just to be clear:  Science says nothing at all about how the universe(s) came to be.  Science observes the fact that the universe(s) exist and things in them behave in observable ways.  Science also observes than humans are the ultimate top predator, and can even affect the planet which supports them.
Many humans have attempted to explain these facts.  Science drops back 15 yards and punts.  Some of the attempted explanations have been shown to be inadequate; others are sloppy enough that they cannot be shown to be inadequate.  One explanation of the facts is that God created everything that exists with many puzzles to keep humans busy not destroying the planet which supports them.  Believers, non-believers, and anti-theists can and are studying this theory to falsify it or prove it to be the correct explanation of all that exists.  None have succeeded and science doesn't care.