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Post Re: ex-christian.net
So, are you saying we live in "God's" ground school and live life taking our hits and learning our lessons to give us the ability to live in peace in the next life?



Sat Nov 21, 2020 4:51 pm
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Post Re: ex-christian.net
I don't believe in the next life in any descriptive sense. Interestingly, there is modern scholarship that questions whether Jesus thought of an afterlife. It depends on how certain key phrases are translated, including the one for "eternal life". Apparently the term we know as "eternal life" actually refers to life that is timeless in quality rather than endless in extent.

There is some good thinking going on that encourages those of us who are religious to think in terms of such language expressing "telos" or purpose, rather than being descriptive. What is life for? To learn to regard others as being necessary to our sense of self. To learn to give ourselves over to the welfare of another, or others, in the same way parents devote themselves to the welfare of their children. To get lost in this pursuit to an extent that one's own advantage or gain is seen only as a means, not as an end, with the nourishment of souls being the only end that achieves a certain quality of aliveness that leaves the ordinary in the dust.

A non-Christian expressed to his wife "I used to find it incredible that anyone would risk their own life to save another person's child. Now that we have a child, I not only understand it, I can't imagine not taking that risk." If you have been a parent, you probably understand. It just means so much more than ordinary life, than the choice of what to watch on Netflix or which car to buy.



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Sat Nov 21, 2020 11:35 pm
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Then you believe our collective activity should be like the communists claim. All for the good of the party.



Sun Nov 22, 2020 8:38 am
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Post Re: ex-christian.net
Lawrence wrote:
Then you believe our collective activity should be like the communists claim. All for the good of the party.

"Should" is a word freighted with heavy baggage. We should be guided by shoulds when it is a question of not doing damage to others: not stealing, slandering, heedlessly seducing. Our activity to enhance the lives of others, and to foster a collective, community life, is for the sake of the quality of life that can be achieved.

We have been conditioned by our advertising-driven public communications to think in terms of having more toys and more types of excitement as the only way to enhance our life. But most of us have actually experienced that the best things in life are free, and yet we don't set our minds to developing that. We leave it off on the side as an observation about occasional moments of clarity, rather than thinking how to build it into our ways of living. Pretty sad when we are willing to let the advertising industry tell us what makes life better.



Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:28 am
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Post Re: ex-christian.net
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't believe in the next life in any descriptive sense.
The next life is lived by our descendants. As well, the complex energy of the soul is something with durability that we cannot explain in a simple empirical way. The whole bundle of memories and influences and identity surrounding a person can be seen as producing a persistent existence past the physical, even if the simple myths of personal immortality are not accurate.
Harry Marks wrote:
Interestingly, there is modern scholarship that questions whether Jesus thought of an afterlife.
My view is that all the stories of the Gospels are parables, not to be taken literally. The most vivid afterlife stories are the parables of Dives and Lazarus, and the Last Judgement.

Dives is a rich man who goes to hell for being selfish, while Lazarus (modified Osiris) is a poor man who goes to heaven. The meaning is that heaven is all about relationship, and that material possessions do not substitute for care about others.

The Last Judgement has a very simple story, that if you care for other people who are in most need and at the margins of social inclusion you are saved, while if you ignore these most needy people you are damned.

All the stories about going to heaven or hell are just imaginative parables about the type of future society we can create by our choice whether to care or not care about other people and the world.
Harry Marks wrote:
It depends on how certain key phrases are translated, including the one for "eternal life". Apparently the term we know as "eternal life" actually refers to life that is timeless in quality rather than endless in extent.
The meaning of eternal life (αἰώνιον - aionion) can be seen from this verse out of the Last Judgement, seen in the interlinear version that directly compares the original Greek with a literal English translation word by word. “[The careless] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:46)

My view of the meaning of eternity derives from Platonic philosophy. In the original Academy, the three subjects of study were logic, physics and ethics. In logic, eternity is timeless in quality (outside time) in the sense that mathematical relationships do not change as a result of any events. In physics, the idea of eternity as endless in extent does appear, in the sense that laws of physics such as gravity and the structure of the periodic table of the elements are permanent features of our universe. Ethics picks up on the Christian vision of the timeless eternal values of the good, the true and the beautiful. As we move now into Advent, the eternal moral ideas of love, joy, hope and peace celebrate the timeless message of Christ as the symbol of human connection to God and faith in the enduring presence of divinity in our world. True religion is the ‘rebinding’ to eternal unchanging moral values.

My own view on the Biblical idea of eternity reflects the authors' connection seen between the word ‘aionion’ and the visual astronomy of zodiac ages (aions), which form the stable eternal structure of terrestrial cosmology. I am now writing a paper on the astronomy of this topic, which seems to be immensely difficult psychologically for scientists and theologians to engage with due to their irrational hatred of cyclical patterns that remind them of astrology. The paradigm shift here requires analysis of Jesus Christ as the avatar of the zodiac ages of Pisces and Aquarius.
Harry Marks wrote:
There is some good thinking going on that encourages those of us who are religious to think in terms of such language expressing "telos" or purpose, rather than being descriptive.
The word ‘telos’ (purpose) is highly controversial due to the simplistic and stupid restriction of it to the debate about intentional design in creation. The untrue idea from conventional young earth creationists is that God somehow magically designed all creatures with a teleological purpose that operates in some supernatural way, separate to the observed processes of natural biological evolution. That old false metaphysics is a simplistic 'flat earth' model, meaning it extrapolates from naïve experience without taking into account any scientific knowledge. Traditional simple teleology of creation is just a distraction from any genuine philosophical and theological effort to find a sense of purpose in life.
Harry Marks wrote:
What is life for?
The purpose or telos of life can be seen in the moral value of complexity. Complexity is a scientific idea in the theory of evolution that observes how stable evolving systems gradually adapt with ever greater depth to their ecological niche. All the genetic factors of cumulative adaptation constantly push on the doors of available mutation. The doors which open, reflecting natural causal possibility, allow organisms to sustain a more complex genetic code.

The moral implication is that evolutionary complexity is good. This means we should work to enhance complexity, treating biodiversity as an eternal sacred value. In this framework, the meaning of life is the good of the future, and enhancing the flourishing of life on earth is our highest moral purpose.

Looking at the universe as a whole, the earth is the most complex known place, and the human brain and its products are the most complex known things, just in terms of detail of networking.

Most of the universe is near-empty space, and many galaxies have nothing but hydrogen. Our solar system has amazing complexity, serving to provide our fragile and sensitive planet with a stable and durable and fecund home. The flip side of complexity is its fragile susceptibility to destruction, indicating the moral urgency of climate change, and the evil of denial of scientific truth and promotion of false fantasies.
Harry Marks wrote:
To learn to regard others as being necessary to our sense of self.
Care, concern, connection, relationship, these have all been corrupted as the ground of identity and morality by the prevailing attitudes of American Individualism. This pervasive way of thought has infected the whole globe, through its seductive imperial roots in the highly traumatised and ignorant philosophy of British Empiricism.
Harry Marks wrote:
To learn to give ourselves over to the welfare of another, or others, in the same way parents devote themselves to the welfare of their children.
Serving others is an important moral principle, but has to be placed in the context of the good of the whole, which creates highly complex moral dilemmas regarding the consequences and principles of rival actions. For example, the tension between caring for your own children versus other valuable moral actions.
Harry Marks wrote:
To get lost in this pursuit to an extent that one's own advantage or gain is seen only as a means, not as an end, with the nourishment of souls being the only end that achieves a certain quality of aliveness that leaves the ordinary in the dust.
“Nourishment of souls” is certainly a high moral goal. How personal prosperity can be a means to this end is again a challenging vision, putting economics at the focus of morality. Market capitalism can provide the talents and resources needed to create wealth and skills for distribution to those who lack the advantages of others, but only if both government and civil society focus on the enabling environment for this goal, through a combination of moral or spiritual guidance and formal regulation.
Harry Marks wrote:
A non-Christian expressed to his wife "I used to find it incredible that anyone would risk their own life to save another person's child. Now that we have a child, I not only understand it, I can't imagine not taking that risk." If you have been a parent, you probably understand. It just means so much more than ordinary life, than the choice of what to watch on Netflix or which car to buy.
Having a stake in the future through the continuity of our personal genetic code with the river of time touches deep instinctive psychological impulses that have a rational foundation in our moral care for the good of the future.


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Post Re: ex-christian.net
I scrolled through a whole bunch of well meaning shit. Dude...divorce sucks. That is all.



Mon Nov 30, 2020 4:50 am
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Oh, are we supposed to hug or something now?



Mon Nov 30, 2020 4:51 am
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Post Re: ex-christian.net
We leave it off on the side as an observation about occasional moments of clarity, rather than thinking how to build it into our ways of living. Pretty sad when we are willing to let the advertising industry tell us what makes life better.[/quote]
My point, which obviously has not been made clear is, humans have let their "governments" set the goals of life for their nation. Those goals have been derived from the 7 basic world, mutually exclusive, views. All of the world views must be "believed" to be true but in fact have not one scintilla of fact upon which to base their opinions. Thus, we are meandering around through life trying to figure out the "true" meaning of life and frantically moving from one false promise to the next in desperation and in our pride we claim the view we are holding is the "true and accurate" fact of life and with our mindless arrogance believe we have authority to force our beliefs on all who believe differently.
It seems hopeless we can all come together with a working model of moving toward a common goal but if we realize we are all on this planet and we all have the same destiny, maybe, just maybe, we can.



Last edited by Lawrence on Tue Dec 01, 2020 9:04 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Nov 30, 2020 12:40 pm
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Post Re: ex-christian.net
scrumfish wrote:
I scrolled through a whole bunch of well meaning shit. Dude...divorce sucks. That is all.


scrumfish wrote:
Oh, are we supposed to hug or something now?
Don't know about you, but I'm starving for hugs with covid and all. There's a lady in our church who just hugs everybody, very naturally. I don't know how she does it, but she is also one of those people who are really good at learning names, so I figure people just mean a lot to her. Maybe we all glow when she looks at us, or something, I don't know. But I know I miss seeing her.

I sort of feel bad that my meanderings leave you cold, but sort of not. I am working out ideas that I think have tremendous power, but I am not surprised if they make sense for only some people. Maybe people who are already a certain kind of personality, I don't know. Christianity appeals to different people for different reasons, and some of those reasons are horrible.

But I know quite a few clergy members pretty well - my wife and I are the type of people that get asked to do stuff and get trusted with feelings and issues that they wouldn't share with most of the congregation. And I have learned, over decades of sharing, that the things that appeal to me about Christianity are big motivators for ministers and others who plunge in and make it a big part of their lives. Much of the traditional theology has been re-shaped into psychological understandings of what is going on, and I'm ready to run with that and see where it takes me.

I'm not a fan of divorce, either. My wife and I definitely have our rough patches, and both of us have stuff to work on, to get to where the marriage runs smoother. But I think both of us get a lot of benefit from taking that as a goal in life. We learn a lot about ourselves, our values, our limits, and how to get in touch with the parts of oneself that are painful to come to grips with but seem worth it after the work is done.

Sorry it has been such a bummer for you, and I will take that as a warning.



Wed Dec 02, 2020 10:09 pm
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Post Re: ex-christian.net
Lawrence wrote:
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We leave it off on the side as an observation about occasional moments of clarity, rather than thinking how to build it into our ways of living. Pretty sad when we are willing to let the advertising industry tell us what makes life better.

My point, which obviously has not been made clear is, humans have let their "governments" set the goals of life for their nation. Those goals have been derived from the 7 basic world, mutually exclusive, views.

Well, I'm interested if you want to make it clearer. I am pretty surprised to hear that there are 7 basic worldviews, and even more that they are mutually exclusive (since so much overlaps between, say, Christianity and Judaism and Buddhism) so probably I don't have a very good grasp on what you are expressing.

Lawrence wrote:
All of the world views must be "believed" to be true but in fact have not one scintilla of fact upon which to base their opinions.

It strikes me that most of the worldviews that must be believed are already pretty much outmoded. The picture they are meant to provide, of how life works and how it should be lived, still functions pretty well. But when we get into more detailed, practical questions like "how do you know that the institution of property is good?" or "how should we treat kids who are having trouble learning because they live with high levels of chronic stress at home?" that come up when we try to pursue our values, well, the traditional worldviews are framed in old-fashioned, pre-scientific, right-brain imagery. That's one reason it's easy to dismiss them as devoid of facts.

But if you get into some of their propositions, like "What shall it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose their soul" and interpret "soul" as something like "conscience", well, there is a lot of "fact" in that even though it is a proposition about values or purpose, rather than a proposition about what causes what. For example, the kind of regret I feel about going against my conscience is very different from the kind of regret I (mostly don't) feel about making a sacrifice for the sake of my conscience. And the reason goes to the heart of what conscience is, namely that when I go against my conscience it says something about what kind of person I am, while if I choose something selfless and it doesn't work out (say), I am still happy with who I am and at most might need to learn more about what works and what doesn't.

Lawrence wrote:
Thus, we are meandering around through life trying to figure out the "true" meaning of life and frantically moving from one false promise to the next in desperation and in our pride we claim the view we are holding is the "true and accurate" fact of life and with our mindless arrogance believe we have authority to force our beliefs on all who believe differently.
I would like to hear more about your views on this. I have long taken it as a critical landmark of thinking that an effort to force others to see values my way is futile by definition (if they claim to value something because they have been pressured, then they don't really value them, do they?). That has a lot of implications, including that if I think the world would be a better place if everyone thought about something a certain way (cue the Global Warming warnings) then I should try to persuade them of that. They still might not choose it, but at least they would understand that there are respectable reasons to think that way.

Lawrence wrote:
It seems hopeless we can all come together with a working model of moving toward a common goal but if we realize we are all on this planet and we all have the same destiny, maybe, just maybe, we can.

Hopeless? On my bad days, maybe. But since most people I know are genuinely interested in making the world a better place, there seems to be a lot of room for common ground to be found. What do you see as a path forward?



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Post Re: ex-christian.net
Lawrence wrote:
We need to examine our system of providing for the social well being of the people in order to better provide for the health, wealth, and future of our people in order to have a better system for their future.
Yes, I think this is vital material, and the highest calling for all of us.

Lawrence wrote:
It cannot be by the use of force to impose your will on another. Right now, no one knows any better than anyone else. Where do we go from here? With love. A definition of love that changes the way we think. A deep appreciation of and gratitude for the object loved. Coupled with the idea you cannot use force to impose you will on another will guarantee we can figure out the better course for humanity.
I think we can agree on this as well. I have some areas of doubt, such as whether the abstraction of love for all humanity links well with the psychological experience of caring for particular individuals and how much meaning that gives to life.

I have been trying to do some thinking about what activities, or "practices" as we say in the religious world, would develop this deep mutual appreciation in a world as socially fragmented as the one we are in. So many people shy away from any practice that is supposed to benefit others, that it might be necessary to have each take a turn being "helped" so that there is no shame to it. So many people only feel comfortable with activities that keep us at emotional arms' length, perhaps gradually building up friendship from common purpose, that it's hard to visualize ways to bring in new people in a really welcoming way. All this to say there are a lot of practical problems in cultivating love!



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Post Re: ex-christian.net
RE: DIVORCE. Leo Tolstoy wrote, "A successful relationship is not the result of how compatible the couple is, but rather how successfully they negotiate their incompatibility." Same sex, bi-sexual, it doesn't matter. My start to world order is first in the home with the partner, then the kids. then the in-laws, then the schools, the churches, the workplace, then the community, then the governments. It will take a while but it is a place to start.

I wrote an essay called "A Cry From The Heart" that is still sold on Amazon that explains how I got these ideas. My name is Lawrence McGrath if you want to read my thoughts.

Norman L, Giesler wrote the book "Worlds Apart" also available from Amazon. His premise is that every one is operating within a world view, whether they know it or not. It is very interesting and very logically written.

Cris has demoted me for Internet Sage to Senior. I guess he thinks I'm not thinking as well at 87 as I did when I was younger. Probably right. Thanks for taking me seriously.



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Post Re: ex-christian.net
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't believe in the next life in any descriptive sense.
The next life is lived by our descendants.
Okay, but it doesn't have to be just one thing. Judgement, for example, is being constructed inside ourselves all the time. The influence of some "Great Other" on that is part of the process. The fact that we really care about what our children understand us to be, and our ability to explain to our children, means the cultural continuation into subsequent generations is also part of what is captured by imagery of the afterlife. But for me, it isn't the whole thing - more like a newer, more tangible image for the issues at stake.
Robert Tulip wrote:
As well, the complex energy of the soul is something with durability that we cannot explain in a simple empirical way. The whole bundle of memories and influences and identity surrounding a person can be seen as producing a persistent existence past the physical, even if the simple myths of personal immortality are not accurate.
Yes, I remember feeling an "Aha!" when I realized this "continuation" of the self.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Interestingly, there is modern scholarship that questions whether Jesus thought of an afterlife.
My view is that all the stories of the Gospels are parables, not to be taken literally. The most vivid afterlife stories are the parables of Dives and Lazarus, and the Last Judgement. Dives is a rich man who goes to hell for being selfish, while Lazarus (modified Osiris) is a poor man who goes to heaven. The meaning is that heaven is all about relationship, and that material possessions do not substitute for care about others.
The rich man goes to someplace, but where it is cannot be discerned. The mythology of the time is all mixed up, with Persian and Greek and Egyptian influences. I think it is best to leave it as a vaguely evocative notion of an unpleasant afterlife, in which "consequences" help people to realize the isolation and hard-heartedness of their ordinary life. Scrooge style.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The Last Judgement has a very simple story, that if you care for other people who are in most need and at the margins of social inclusion you are saved, while if you ignore these most needy people you are damned. All the stories about going to heaven or hell are just imaginative parables about the type of future society we can create by our choice whether to care or not care about other people and the world.
I try to remember that the audience for these writings included people actively engaged in practices of mutuality, whether just shared meals or actual support for widows and orphans. And in many cases, maybe most, this would have been experienced as a source of great joy. A liberation from "the cares of the world." The quality of their lives was elevated because their mutuality was meaningful to them, in a way they expressed in terms of being in end times, in a kind of overthrow of an oppressive order of the world.


Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
It depends on how certain key phrases are translated, including the one for "eternal life". Apparently the term we know as "eternal life" actually refers to life that is timeless in quality rather than endless in extent.
The meaning of eternal life (αἰώνιον - aionion) can be seen from this verse out of the Last Judgement, seen in the interlinear version that directly compares the original Greek with a literal English translation word by word. “[The careless] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:46)
Well, it can also be translated as "into the life of the age to come." Cleansed, perhaps, from domination systems and deliberate humiliation of others.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My view of the meaning of eternity derives from Platonic philosophy. In the original Academy, the three subjects of study were logic, physics and ethics. In logic, eternity is timeless in quality (outside time) in the sense that mathematical relationships do not change as a result of any events. In physics, the idea of eternity as endless in extent does appear, in the sense that laws of physics such as gravity and the structure of the periodic table of the elements are permanent features of our universe. Ethics picks up on the Christian vision of the timeless eternal values of the good, the true and the beautiful. As we move now into Advent, the eternal moral ideas of love, joy, hope and peace celebrate the timeless message of Christ as the symbol of human connection to God and faith in the enduring presence of divinity in our world. True religion is the ‘rebinding’ to eternal unchanging moral values.
There are two dimensions of the life of the age to come. One of them is this "eternal order" dimension, which we experience as improved perspective and a sense of rightness. Light, and peace. The other is a right-brain sensation of ecstasy, of disruption of the crawl of time by an urgent in-breaking of love and joy. I believe that when that ecstasy is combined with a sense of belonging, of having arrived at the "true home" we all feel a longing for, it results in a setting aside of weighing and calculating any advantage or gain.

I heard an example on the radio today. I was listening to an NPR story about people of very limited means who set up a meal service, providing free meals to immigrant day laborers in their community. No outside funds - they were happy to have enough that they could share, but the real reward was to see the smile of gratitude on the faces of hungry men fed. Their mirror neurons were juicing them up on oxytocin, presumably.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My own view on the Biblical idea of eternity reflects the authors' connection seen between the word ‘aionion’ and the visual astronomy of zodiac ages (aions), which form the stable eternal structure of terrestrial cosmology. I am now writing a paper on the astronomy of this topic, which seems to be immensely difficult psychologically for scientists and theologians to engage with due to their irrational hatred of cyclical patterns that remind them of astrology. The paradigm shift here requires analysis of Jesus Christ as the avatar of the zodiac ages of Pisces and Aquarius.
Well, it might just be that the time scales involved seem longer than anything we can visualize as anthropological forces. I haven't dug into the lore of alchemists or any of those others who helped put astrology together. I would not put it past their abilities to be able to calculate such ages. But I keep wondering if the changes corresponding to the ages could have been preserved in any kind of lore. We have flood stories and Norse ice age stories, but are they any more reality-based than world serpents or giants?
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
There is some good thinking going on that encourages those of us who are religious to think in terms of such language expressing "telos" or purpose, rather than being descriptive.
The word ‘telos’ (purpose) is highly controversial due to the simplistic and stupid restriction of it to the debate about intentional design in creation. The untrue idea from conventional young earth creationists is that God somehow magically designed all creatures with a teleological purpose that operates in some supernatural way, separate to the observed processes of natural biological evolution. That old false metaphysics is a simplistic 'flat earth' model, meaning it extrapolates from naïve experience without taking into account any scientific knowledge. Traditional simple teleology of creation is just a distraction from any genuine philosophical and theological effort to find a sense of purpose in life.
I certainly see the point. I gather the original Greek typically interpreted telos as a quality of manufactured intention, like "what a shovel is for" or "what an ax is for". And in the metaphysics of the time that would mean that the marvelous adaptation of giraffes to their "purpose" of reaching leaves at the tops of trees would also obviously have been a matter of created intention. Etc. But teleological thinking has other dimensions, and teleological use of language tends toward a view that better integrates lived life with consideration of values, by comparison with descriptive or explanatory language.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
What is life for?
The purpose or telos of life can be seen in the moral value of complexity. Complexity is a scientific idea in the theory of evolution that observes how stable evolving systems gradually adapt with ever greater depth to their ecological niche. All the genetic factors of cumulative adaptation constantly push on the doors of available mutation. The doors which open, reflecting natural causal possibility, allow organisms to sustain a more complex genetic code.
While I think this is helpful, it is also very externalized. The purpose of my life is not going to be found in anything that stems from the slow time of mutation and adaptation. The purpose of my life is an experience of feeling motivated to "suffer the slings and arrows" for the sake of the goodness of life. It is framed by an understanding of how I fit in with other people, including my family and my society, and not just an understanding of geological scale progress.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The moral implication is that evolutionary complexity is good. This means we should work to enhance complexity, treating biodiversity as an eternal sacred value. In this framework, the meaning of life is the good of the future, and enhancing the flourishing of life on earth is our highest moral purpose.

Looking at the universe as a whole, the earth is the most complex known place, and the human brain and its products are the most complex known things, just in terms of detail of networking.
I think this makes a persuasive appeal as to what constitutes a "high" moral purpose. I would be very dissatisfied with any moral structure that shut out such perspective and priorities. But I think it will always feel somewhat like a left-brain "should" and therefore feel disconnected, for many people, from the mutuality of tribe. Light and peace, but somewhat dessicated of the moisture of belonging. It isn't that way for me - I feel very much united with others by this perspective of attacking our own fragile lifeboat. But when the enemy is us, it invites a certain alienation for people who focus more on their own friends and neighbors.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
To learn to regard others as being necessary to our sense of self.
Care, concern, connection, relationship, these have all been corrupted as the ground of identity and morality by the prevailing attitudes of American Individualism. This pervasive way of thought has infected the whole globe, through its seductive imperial roots in the highly traumatised and ignorant philosophy of British Empiricism.
Well! I never would have thought of Locke as a source of corruption, but I am also very worried by individualism. I like the notion that it is "traumatised". Locke was in opposition to Hobbes, if I understand rightly, and they were both reacting to a time of trauma, when people were persecuted, even tortured at times, for their highest and most enlightened motivations. Hobbes saw a forbidding prospect of such murderous strife continuing always unless a ruler imposed order, but Locke concerned himself with the legitimacy of the ruler and saw no alternative to consent by the governed, which tends toward individualism for sure.

My primary source on teleological imperatives seems to envision a more organic, untraumatized process of educating people into a natural sense of community (more in line with Rousseau than with either of those other two, perhaps?) without imagining any conflict too threatening for the cultivation of the good and true. I fear if we continue on our blinded, heedless path we will make a Mad Max world inevitable, with Hobbes sitting up in heaven saying, "See, I told you so."
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
A non-Christian expressed to his wife "I used to find it incredible that anyone would risk their own life to save another person's child. Now that we have a child, I not only understand it, I can't imagine not taking that risk." If you have been a parent, you probably understand. It just means so much more than ordinary life, than the choice of what to watch on Netflix or which car to buy.
Having a stake in the future through the continuity of our personal genetic code with the river of time touches deep instinctive psychological impulses that have a rational foundation in our moral care for the good of the future.
Yes, there is something very deep in this. The good of the future has a claim on us that is not entirely about light and peace and "shoulds". I think it also has to do with the goodness felt about sustaining life. All of our longings for a better world are embedded in a sense of possibility, that where there is life there is hope. And one cannot hope when the future is taken away.

I have to think this is understood holistically in the right-brain longing for belonging and home. I have trouble believing that anyone with a "life is short - live it up" outlook is not, in some way, blocking nurturant instincts and nurturant pleasures.



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Post Re: ex-christian.net
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Cris has demoted me for Internet Sage to Senior. I guess he thinks I'm not thinking as well at 87 as I did when I was younger. Probably right.

I hope you're joking, but in case you aren't - relax. Those titles are auto-generated based on your number of posts. There's a list somewhere 'round here. The titles are just for fun.
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Post Re: ex-christian.net
Several books I have read in the last year are emphasizing to me that there are psychological correlates to the roadmap of spiritual life that is religion. I would not argue for reducing religion to its psychology, but I am finding that a good understanding of psychology makes a good start on finding one's way around religious issues.

The dark side of the sacred

One helpful book was "Unclean" by Dr. Richard Beck. He's a rare bird, kind of a progressive evangelical, leads a prison ministry for example, and is the main reason I am thinking in terms of "teleological" questions. Unclean concerns the psychology (he is heavily influenced by Haidt's research) of the "sacred" motivation. He sees both positives and negatives about it: we tend to assign sacred status to things that do really matter socially and that elevate life. But we also tend as a result to judge harshly those who are not meeting the social expectations around what is sacred. To help people understand this dynamic in a less judgmental way, look at the things that are sacred for progressives. We tend to judge harshly the bakers who don't want to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, and the real estate agents who steer clients of color away from lily-white suburbs. The contempt that grows up around such social enforcement is a toxic factor in civic life.

Social impairment from trauma

Another is "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk. Like "Unclean" it goes back a ways. It concerns trauma and the ways that people's ability to function and recover are impaired. For children, especially, the damage done by persistent abuse or neglect tends to impair their ability to blend socially and use developing social skills to help them cope with the challenges of life. Put the two together and you have a picture of the way people's "normal" reactions to weird people or weird behavior create social dynamics that just about guarantee further damage in the next generation. A study by a very conservative econometrician has apparently found that intervention to help impaired mothers relate to their infants pays benefits with really high rates of return - as high as the level for teaching literacy.

Conservative worldviews and conservative religion cannot cope with such evidence. Seeing life through the Hillbilly lens that views government assistance as injustice, they cannot comprehend that support actually reduces costs later, from dealing with crime and other forms of social stupidity. Not that government assistance is a magic wand, but targeted intervention can make a huge difference, and pay very high benefits. It is good to remember that there was a time when public education was seen as a waste of funds.

Salvation and the Reign of God

What does this have to do with religion? Well, the whole idea of "salvation" originated with the prophetic vision of the Reign of God, in which the lion would lie down with the lamb. With a little bit of translation you can see that this means people are able to live lives embedded in social enjoyment, supported by leisure time with others. Instead of being driven by fears of desperation, they can just do good work and feel good about it. We can differ on how much this needs to come from internal transformation and how much from renewal of social structures. Essentially both must happen, in part because they feed on each other.

So despite the generations of focus on personal behavior in terms of "sin" and conversion to socially constructive behavior as "salvation", there is a much more holistic view available as to how the elements of Christian doctrine fit together.

Scary stuff and psychology

My church had a Zoom discussion last Thursday on prophetic passages from Isaiah. Most of the key passage was positive and comforting, indeed it began with the famous "Comfort ye my people" lines that begin the Second Isaiah material concerned with the coming return from exile. But we ended up focusing on the disturbing setting which told the people they had been punished enough. Not one of us believed that such disasters as the Babylonian captivity should be viewed as punishment by a jealous or disciplinary God. But for me the whole prophetic denunciation was just a recapitulation of my experience from fourth grade.

When my parents began to fight (just arguments with shouting, no physical violence) my handwriting got a lot better. The improvement was such that I got a penmanship award. Apparently this is common: when things get scary, children get compliant. And that's what the prophets were "feeling" or intuiting about the gathering threats from Assyria and Egypt. You can find the same sentiments in the Cargo Cult preaching from the Solomon Islands. We have to shape up and fly right, or there will be doom.

Many well-read people stop with the de-bunking of such theological malarkey. That's all they want to understand of it - there are claims about the nature of reality, which don't hold up to analysis and evidence. But since I see theological speculation as a reflection of people's actual problems and their attempts to come to grips with the questions of what makes life worthwhile, I think it's worth the trouble to see what our internal response is suggesting we need to deal with.

While I don't believe that selling the poor for a pair of shoes is likely to bring down the wrath of God in the form of Assyrian conquerors, I do think it is worth understanding why we might guess that the two are related. We might intuit, for example, that a nation's strength could be undermined by the lack of social cohesion created by the urge of the rich to seek ever more privilege and dominance. We might intuit that the key to thriving in a tumultuous world of empire could be the improved methods which arise when people are prosperous and take care of one another. We might even recognize that our ability to make safe but courageous judgments, as Queen Esther did, could be tied to an inner peace that comes from putting first things first, so that we are satisfied we are doing what we can to make the world better, and leave the results to God.

Religion means linking people together

The next stage, IMHO, is to find (or restore) a vocabulary and mode of discourse that can take our interplay of emotions seriously in the context of our social values. One key element of that is to hold competing principles in tension, rather than feeling we can't cope without someone sorting them out for us. Basic tensions like autonomy vs. belonging, or wanting to enjoy recreation but knowing we have to work, are things most people cope with adequately, but we often lack ways of sorting them out with each other and easily make things worse when we try to process them together. And, as the books I mentioned underline, processing things together is what makes social life functional.



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