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Ch. 2 - The Way We Lived Then: Intellect and Ignorance... 
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Post McReligion
I think the question to ask, in order to answer the question of why such irrational forms of fundamentalist religion have taken hold in the world is, what human need is being satisfied? And next, what created the need or what had been meeting the need in the past? In other words, what opened the space for fundamentalism to flourish? I would suggest that it is a deep emotional need that is being satisfied by todays fundamentalism. Emotional needs trump rationalism and logic every time. I would go as far to say that trying to address, even answer the big questions of life is a basic human psychological need. The most rational and intelligent people will behave very irrationally to get their emotional needs met. I am sure that each of us can think of a dozen examples from our own lives or the people close to us, of a smart rational person acting totally irrationally and in conflict with their own wellbeing chasing after love or pursuing a parents approval.

So, why do so many Americans need a rigid, clearly defined good and evil, no question left unanswered, hell and brimstone, with the promise of heaven religion? Why is it unthinkable/unbearable for so many to live without solid answers?

Just for starters, We live in a commodity focused, convenience demanding, economy driven society. When I go to the bank, as a way of closing the interaction, the teller asks, "Can I provide any other products for you today?" What the hell does that mean? All I wanted was to cash a check! Since when is cashing a check a product??? Getting back to the question of why fundamentalism. I think it is much easier to let someone else fold up all the answers in a bright yellow wrapper and hand it to you at the drive up window. You don't even need to get our of your car!


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Last edited by Saffron on Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Apr 09, 2008 7:48 am
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Post Society of Friends
Response to ralphinlaos

You said:
Quote:
My Buddhist friends here in Laos will be surprised to hear that they are practicing a form of Quakerism. Interesting!


I think you sort of have it backwards. The practice of Quakerism is to create a silent space, to listen, so that you might hear the whispering of your soul or God (if you believe), to be guided toward right action or something akin tothe way of Taoism. It is each person's duty to figure out how best to live. The Society of Friends, the name Quakers gave themselves, is there to support and nurture each other in their seeking. So, if a Quaker feels lead to practice Buddhism there is no conflict. The individual would simple be practicing both. Where as a Buddhist by practicing Buddhism is not actually practicing Quakerism.


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Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:10 am
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Saffron, I absolutely loved what you wrote in the "McReligion" posting. :smile:


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Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:00 am
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Quote:
The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was an attempt by Thomas Jefferson to gather information about the teachings of Jesus from the Christian Gospels. Jefferson wished to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists. In essence, Thomas Jefferson did not believe in Jesus' divinity, the Trinity, the resurrection, miracles, or any other supernatural aspect described in the Bible.
- Wikipedia

I doubt you'll find much common ground between that and fundmentalistm. Another interesting aspect of the Jefferson Bible is it's in four columns because he used four languages: Greek, Latin, French, and English. And yes, the Sally Hemmings story has been proved through DNA.

Saffron is correct about the relationship between Liberal Quakers and Buddhism. Keep in mind that conservative Quakers disagree with that concept, they are a very diverse group.

Saffron is also correct about one of the main reasons why fundamentalism became popular.
Quote:
It seems more likely that poorly educated settlers on the frontier were drawn to religious creeds and preachers who provided emotional comfort without making the intellectual demands of older, more intellectually rigorous Protestant denominations - whether liberal Quakerism and Unitarianism or conservative Episcopalian and Congregationalism. The more harsh the circumstances of daily life, the more potent are the simple and universal emotional themes of struggle, sin, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption that form the core of evangelical fundamentalist religion. p. 45



Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:50 pm
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Could you give an example of a less superstitious form of faith?[/quote]

The responses to this question were somewhat more than I expected--so deep--given my reason for asking it! I was wondering how, at the historical moment, a non-superstitious form of faith could have been possible. This was right around 1800. Jeffferson is Jefferson, after all, one of a kind, entirely unorthodox even though a theist. Faith, in whatever country we might be talking about, involved what we might now view as superstition (i.e., supernatural causation). I just couldn't see how the situation in America was exceptional, in its choice of pretty much orthodox Christianity, compared to Europe at this time. Take England, for example. Don't we see even a parallel there, in waves of religious fervor also catching on here in the Great Awakenings?

I don't question the accuracy of the statement that over time the U.S. developed into a society where what we now call fundamentalist faiths were more widespread than in Europe.

Whether we share some of the beliefs of an established religion, or whether we go by a personally-tailored philosophy, does rationality ever have a large role? I mean, sure, we can repudiate the specific supernatural-based events and beliefs in Christianity, but does that mean that in the religion/philosophy that we adopt as an alternative, we are in the realm of rationality as opposed, I guess, to spirituality? I don't think I want to make rationality the gold standard for living, not quite. I'd like to keep the limitations of rationality in mind as well as the strengths.

I didn't refer to specific posts, but I admired and bounced off the ideas of RobertTulip, LanDroid, Saffron, and ralphalinos.



Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:58 am
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DWill wrote:
Whether we share some of the beliefs of an established religion, or whether we go by a personally-tailored philosophy, does rationality ever have a large role? I mean, sure, we can repudiate the specific supernatural-based events and beliefs in Christianity, but does that mean that in the religion/philosophy that we adopt as an alternative, we are in the realm of rationality as opposed, I guess, to spirituality? I don't think I want to make rationality the gold standard for living, not quite. I'd like to keep the limitations of rationality in mind as well as the strengths.

(somehow I messed-up the quote box - oops)


I'm thinking that all religious and spiritual believes are by their very nature irrational. The whole point of religion and spiritual belief systems is to account for or at least try to answer the "why are we here" question. Since we can never really answer that question, it requires a leap of faith - which is irrational. And you know, I think we are better for making the leap, how ever we see fit to make it. According to Viktor Frankl, having meaning is what makes it possible to keep trudging through the hardest parts of our lives and it gives us a compass with which to navigate.

I am sure there are religions that are more rational, then say the fundamental or Catholic version of Christianity. Interestingly, the virgin birth was not always part of Christianity. It did not show up until about 300 years AD. It seems even Christianity had more rational moments.


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Last edited by Saffron on Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:07 pm
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I know I am veering a bit off of the question that began this discussion, but I think I am still in the spirit of trying to answer it. As near as I can figure, as tired as I am, I am trying to set out the argument that to some degree all religions are irrational but that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it seems as if it is helpful and healthy for us to have hope or faith (irrational) in something larger than ourselves, it gives meaning to our lives.

In Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning he tells the story of the death of a friend from typhus while waiting to be liberated from a concentration camp. The friend had a dream they would be liberated on a specific date. The friend was filled with hope and optimism. When the date came and went, he was desolate. He soon after succumbed to a typhus infection. Frankl attributes his death to the loss of faith and hope for the future. This idea that the immune system becomes suppressed has been born a compass out by research. After a major disappointment, stress and emotional upset the immune system becomes depressed, consequently we are more susceptible to germs at these times. Frankl quotes Nietzche, "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."

I would posit that in times of great stress, people grasp tighter and more irrationally to anything that gives them hope and faith. Over the past 100 years the world has change at a disorienting pace. The human race currently faces some of the most difficult challenges imaginable. Might not any sane rational person be grasping at straws? Is it really any surprise that fundamentalism is in the for front. Why the USA and not Europe? Not really sure. Maybe they are not as stressed as us Americans? National health care maybe? Three to four week vacations? Ok, now I am off on a tangent.


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Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:34 pm
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Saffron wrote:
I'm thinking that all religious and spiritual believes are by their very nature irrational. The whole point of religion and spiritual belief systems is to account for or at least try to answer the "why are we here" question. Since we can never really answer that question, it requires a leap of faith - which is irrational. And you know, I think we are better for making the leap, how ever we see fit to make it. According to Viktor Frankl, having meaning is what makes it possible to keep trudging through the hardest parts of our lives and it gives us a compass with which to navigate.


It might be the act of synthesis that puts us in a realm beyond scientific rationalism. I don't think science can show us that synthesis by which we arrive at the meaning you talk about. We have to do this ourselves, largely without the benefit of scientific method.

We all, including Susan Jacoby, seem to be hanging different meanings on these words "rational" and "irrational" or "anti-rational." Maybe this accounts for differences of outlook. I'm wanting to avoid calling the leap of faith you mention "irrational." Maybe "beyond rational" or "other than rational"?



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DWill
Quote:
I'm wanting to avoid calling the leap of faith you mention "irrational." Maybe "beyond rational" or "other than rational"?


Webster's definition:

Quote:
3. Agreeable to reason; not absurd, preposterous, extravagant, foolish, fanciful, or the like; wise; judicious; as, rational conduct; a rational man.


I said
.
Quote:
The whole point of religion and spiritual belief systems is to account for or at least try to answer the "why are we here" question. Since we can never really answer that question, it requires a leap of faith - which is irrational.


Considering what I wrote in my post referencing Viktor Frankl and DWill's post has made me rethink my quoted statement above. I am inclined to agree with DWill. Rational and irrational do not seem sufficient to describe what is going on when we choose to make that leap of faith to engage in religion or our own spiritual seeking.


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Fri Apr 11, 2008 5:33 am
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Hey Saffron,

Then I guess the question about this kind of spiritual (or whatever word works) thinking, is whether it is absolutely central to being human. Going over the chaper on Sartre in the other non-fiction book for the month, I note that atheistic existentialism doesn't care much about the speculative realm of metaphysics or ontology. But even it needs a base, which is why Sartre called his magnum opus Being and Nothingness. If I'm ever brave enough, I might look into that work, but more likely will be content to have somebody explain it to me.

I do think people differ on their need to have firm answers to the metaphysical questions. Not knowing where they stand with the universe would cause some people extreme anxiety. I feel okay (and maybe better) not knowing.

For many, the question of what happens to us after brain function stops is the most pressing issue. I like Thoreau's response to a well-meaning visitor who asked him if he wasn't concerned about the next world (this was as Thoreau was dying): "One world at a time."

Will



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DWill wrote:
Hey Saffron, Then I guess the question about this kind of spiritual (or whatever word works) thinking, is whether it is absolutely central to being human. Going over the chaper on Sartre in the other non-fiction book for the month, I note that atheistic existentialism doesn't care much about the speculative realm of metaphysics or ontology. But even it needs a base, which is why Sartre called his magnum opus Being and Nothingness. If I'm ever brave enough, I might look into that work, but more likely will be content to have somebody explain it to me. I do think people differ on their need to have firm answers to the metaphysical questions. Not knowing where they stand with the universe would cause some people extreme anxiety. I feel okay (and maybe better) not knowing. For many, the question of what happens to us after brain function stops is the most pressing issue. I like Thoreau's response to a well-meaning visitor who asked him if he wasn't concerned about the next world (this was as Thoreau was dying): "One world at a time." Will

DWill, I wrote an undergrad essay in 1983 on Being and Nothingness, around the theme of how Sartre grounds ontology in nauseous anxiety and choice with his theory that existence precedes essence. My view in that paper was that essence precedes existence so ontology requires a framework of piety. Sartre studied Heidegger's Being and Time, whence he derived the systematic component of his existentialism. Heidegger does indeed focus on the link between atheistic existentialism and the speculative realm of metaphysics or ontology, through analysis of the phenomena of anxiety and care. Heidegger presents a useful way of thinking about rationality, spirituality and faith through his claim that mood opens us to being. He presents attunement, foundness and authenticity as three moodal modes of engagement with future, past and present respectively, grounding an existential psychology that has strongly influenced theology through his main idea of being in the world.

Regarding what happens after the brain stops functioning, Jesus Christ had a good line in Matthew 22:32 - He is not the God of the dead but of the living.



Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:03 pm
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DWill wrote:
Saffron wrote:
I'm thinking that all religious and spiritual believes are by their very nature irrational. The whole point of religion and spiritual belief systems is to account for or at least try to answer the "why are we here" question. Since we can never really answer that question, it requires a leap of faith - which is irrational. And you know, I think we are better for making the leap, how ever we see fit to make it. According to Viktor Frankl, having meaning is what makes it possible to keep trudging through the hardest parts of our lives and it gives us a compass with which to navigate.
It might be the act of synthesis that puts us in a realm beyond scientific rationalism. I don't think science can show us that synthesis by which we arrive at the meaning you talk about. We have to do this ourselves, largely without the benefit of scientific method. We all, including Susan Jacoby, seem to be hanging different meanings on these words "rational" and "irrational" or "anti-rational." Maybe this accounts for differences of outlook. I'm wanting to avoid calling the leap of faith you mention "irrational." Maybe "beyond rational" or "other than rational"?

Aristotle said poetry is more scientific than history because it requires us to put events in a coherent narrative. Hence meaning is scientific and synthetic. Part of the problem here is that 'rational' has acquired cultural meaning within empirical scientific method. A broader meaning of rational, equated as per Aristotle to 'logical understanding', can be re-established that will recognize claims as rational which are not simply derived from scientific observation alone, but include a reference to the poetic and mythic.



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Robert Tulip:

Quote:
A broader meaning of rational, equated as per Aristotle to 'logical understanding', can be re-established that will recognize claims as rational which are not simply derived from scientific observation alone, but include a reference to the poetic and mythic.


Thank you! I think that is what both DWill & I were trying to get to.


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Sun Apr 13, 2008 4:51 pm
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Now, come on, Saffron, you couldn't have been an undergrad in 1983 but just a small child! And there's no way you could remember an undergrad paper this well, anyway. I ask you to give me some time. It's almost midnight and I just got back from work, if you know what I mean. I'm gonna have to really noodle your great post later.

Yes, I agree that RobertTulip had a nifty perspective on the rationality problem, so thanks to him.
Will



Sun Apr 13, 2008 10:47 pm
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Will,
The following is not me, but rather Robert Tulip.
Quote:
DWill, I wrote an undergrad essay in 1983 on Being and Nothingness, around the theme of how Sartre grounds ontology in nauseous anxiety and choice with his theory that existence precedes essence


Easy enough to have gotten confused. The three of us have quoted one another several times each. And by the way, I was a 21 year old undergraduate in 1983.
Saffron
ps How old did you think I was?! I will take it as a compliment.



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