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Everything posted by Mike

  1. Ritch, I believe my point had everything to do with this. You're looking for bare foundations. I'm saying we needn't start there. It is simply a matter of etiquette not to define another person's position for them. I don't rely on myth; myth relies on me. Peace, Mike
  2. We don't have any means of verifying the authorship of many ancient and pre-modern texts, I'm not sure why that means we cannot derive insights from them or follow their teachings. Obviously there are two sides to the issue of the veracity of the texts, but I'm not very interested in apologetics, as to me its beside the point. I don't see any need to attempt to strip "Christ" down to bare historical foundations. Christ to me does not pre-exist faith and practice, there is no separate 'foundation' from which we could derive the reality of Christ. Peace, Mike
  3. I think there is a sense in which we have to look at Christianity as a whole if we are to answer 'Does Christianity have meaning?' The Judeo-Christian tradition emphasises a strong sense of history, linear time, and teleology, as well as an interplay of divine and human meaning, where neither are wholly separate from nor wholly identified with one another. These aspects I think have a lot of meaning and influence regardless of who Jesus really was or wasn't.
  4. I think religion arises out of a need to reach an understanding of life that justifies our existence to ourselves.
  5. Given how voluminous the Buddhist writings are, and given that any two religious philosophies will have some things in common, I think it would be more surprising if parallels did not exist, especially with regards to religious practice. What would suggest more than coincidence would be shared parables or narratives, or specialized doctrinal statements. If we found some form of the 4 noble truths in the gospels, for instance, we'd be hard pressed to explain that in any other way.
  6. Bill, Does this not evade the question? I agree that there is a recurring pattern of contention here -- which, more often than not, ends with an accusation that the forum is being overrun with "Buddhism" however arbitrarily defined. The reason why I put the question as I did to you was because, though this issue is raised again and again, there never seems to be any resolution. If one reaches an impasse with another member on a particular issue, what is constructive about perpetually focusing on it? I don't feel that Christianity is foreign to this forum. Yet whatever the views expressed here must inevitably come from each individual participant. PC by nature definitely attracts non-traditional views of God and reality, with a strong sense religious pluralism. Peace, Mike
  7. Bill, I guess I'm not sure where your objections are supposed to take us. Since you insist, against their own words, that 'the leadership' and/or 'the admin' are official spokespersons and since you object to their purported views, what should be done? It seems that Joseph (and others?) must either recant their religious philosophies or resign. Assuming this is unlikely to occur, what do you suppose should be done? Peace, Mike
  8. Hi Norm, I'm not sure where I did this. I think what counts as 'natural' or 'supernatural' depends entirely on one's presuppositions. They are empty categories to be filled by one's expectations. Thus, reality is neither natural nor supernatural. But you did write, "The anti-theist does not accept supernatural explanations for every day phenomenon, and trusts that things not known or understood now will eventually yield a naturalistic reasoning." "There was a time when I would allow for supernatural explanations for things I don't currently understand, but I no longer do. I assume that we just don't know the answer yet, and that eventually, science or experience / observation will reveal the truth of the matter." "I'm not anti anything. I just don't see the point of believing in things I can't see, and for which there is scant evidence, particularly since belief in supernatural events, magic and such does not add anything to the message." To my mind this seems to presuppose the dichotomy, and moreover seems to assume that there is a universal definition or standard by which to judge what 'natural' as opposed to 'supernatural' even means. But as I tried to argue, I don't think there is any such standard, as I attempted to illustrate with a few examples, although I was probably unclear... For many philosophers of mind, subjectivity is a natural starting place -- a given. But there are those who think that the very concept of subjectivity/mind is nothing but 'magic' -- and magic, of course, does not exist. So, what is perfectly natural to the first group is a magical explanation to the second group. Let me be clear that this second group does not actually believe in magic, they disbelieve in magic, and since the notion of mind/subjectivity strikes them as magic, their project is to eliminate mind/subjectivity from one's picture of reality. Incidentally, it is this latter group that most of the new atheists fall into (especially Dan Dennett, Michael Shermer). Plainly, one person's notion of 'nature' is another's notion of 'magic'. These are startling differences on the nature of existence for two people who both profess a 'natural' world. Assuming that 'natural' has any one meaning cannot justify the diversity found in actual philosophical discourse. This isn't a matter of 'growing up' intellectually. These are real, contemporary topics that have no sign of being 'outgrown'. Yet, depending on how one answers the questions these issues present, one's notion of 'reality' will take drastically different shape -- to the extent that what is 'natural' to one is supernatural to another. I look forward to you thoughts. Peace, Mike
  9. Hi Norm, The dichotomy is presupposed. The predicate ‘natural’ is utterly superfluous without ‘supernatural.’ Set against ‘supernatural,’ the meaning of natural is determined, and vice-versa. Without ‘supernatural,’ there would be no ‘natural world,’ there would only be a ‘world,’ neither natural nor supernatural. Furthermore, what is termed ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ is contextually loaded, dependent upon one’s expectations of the way things are. In other words, it is biased. What might be 'natural' according to one person may strike another as 'supernatural'. For those cosmologists who in the first part of the 20th century believed in the steady-state theory, 'big-bang' cosmology smacked of supernatural creation. For many philosophers of mind, subjectivity is taken as a naturally given starting point, while for others "mind" is magic, supernatural, and needs to be eliminated from our picture of the world. I think various scientific explanations of phenomena are not 'naturalistic' as opposed to 'supernaturalistic', but just one explanation in contrast to other explanations of how phenomena relate one to another. Like you I’m not too interested in imagined, alternate realities, either. I didn’t appeal to any. I find it interesting that you say, ‘If I see something, and it has a name.’ Not to digress -- but I wonder why you add, ‘and it has a name’? If something exists and is unnamed, does it not really exist, or is it supernatural? Or is a form of idealism suggested, wherein we suppose that things only exist that are defined by an immaterial essence (Platonism). What if things exist but have no essence, that is, they are unintelligible and ineffable mysteries? I'm not trying to twist your words. These are indeed deeper questions than most people notice. If all that we mean by ‘nature’ is that which we generalize about through induction, then ‘nature’ simply amounts to that method of generalization, and nature doesn’t exist outside of the scientific method itself. What I’m trying to say is that ‘nature’ adds nothing to the content of the scientific method. We simply have the method and its results. What does referring to this as ‘nature’ add? The results will be what they will regardless. As for truth, is it really the case that any truth can be found to be 'faulty'? What about the truth of that assertion? What of Descartes’ method: ‘I think, therefore I exist.’ To doubt my own existence is to prove it. Is all 'truth' on the same level -- all knowledge of the same degree, everything without exception merely an indirect, distant, objectified construction of guess-work? Perhaps the more we objectify reality, the less certain we become. Perhaps knowledge and being are intimately linked, so that the farther removed from being, the less stable our knowledge becomes. What is pre-objective cannot be doubted because it cannot be made an object of speculation. The more abstract (I.e. detached, disembodied, ‘lifted-out-of-context’) our questioning becomes, the more room for doubt. Conversely, if there is literally nothing which cannot be falsified, then there is literally nothing which can truly be affirmed. All truth must rest in reality. Truth and knowledge are not a matter of proposition only; it is the very face of being itself. What is it to know in the most general sense of the word? What is 'knowledge' that a subject may attain it? How does knowledge cross from the subjective world to the objective world, if these two 'worlds' are really divided as is commonly believed? Best of luck if you wish to resolve these questions -- or even frame them -- through hard science. By induction we can infer what will happen. But it does not explain why it will happen or what, in a deep sense, it is that happens. We do not gain a substantive vision of reality by means of it. I think there are aspects of reality intrinsically beyond our means to objectively give an account of. Consider that to date there is not one shred of scientific evidence, strictly speaking, that any of us has any subjective experience at all. Peace, Mike
  10. I think the natural/supernatural dichotomy is artificial. Neither concept adds anything to empirical reality; and through neither concept can we deduce the existence of anything at all. More often than not I think what people mean by 'natural' is that which we have come to generalize about through induction (repeated observation). This however has obvious limitations and does not furnish us with an ontology. Peace, Mike
  11. It is difficult to say just how much communication ancient cultures had with each other (around 500 B.C., often called the Axial Age). From Europe to India that is a common language root as I understand it. Do I think Jesus personally was influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism? I would highly doubt it.
  12. In my experience, the greatest obstacle is not merely in that someone doesn't believe there's enough evidence for the existence of God. 'New atheism' tends to be anchored in something much deeper: a consensus view of reality that pervades our entire culture, both among the religious and the non-religious. This consensus view is very hard to break, and without that breakthrough, making any honest and critical spiritual affirmation about the nature of our existence is exceedingly difficult. The consensus view is that which has implicitly and explicitly coloured our perception to the extent that we don't even notice our presuppositions and biases, and this is none other than scientific materialism. Without transcending the strictures of scientific materialism, a person may not even be able to imagine how religious things might be true. For me it took studying ontology and epistemology (the studies of being and knowledge) to discover that the consensus view was inadequate to deal with the empirical weight of subjectivity and other questions, and it came as a surprise to me that I was not alone: there are plenty of intellectuals, philosophers, and scientists who feel the same -- powerful appeals are still being made to the continued validity of classical philosophy (just because something is out of fashion does not make it wrong) -- and also to post-modern philosophies like process philosophy and phenomenology (non-materialistic ways of investigating mind, body, and reality). The real task is to challenge 'new atheists' -- the vast majority of which are secularists committed to the metaphysical vision of scientific materialism, to think beyond those categories. If that can be accomplished, I think there we be a natural opening for they themselves to explore other avenues of realizing their existence, other ways of knowing. There is no need to force anything on anyone. If one's thinking is freed, the mind will go where it naturally is moved. Peace, Mike ps. Just to be clear, I don't think 'atheism' per se is even a problem. I don't mind whether people believe in God or not. I have concerns however about more general methods and views regarding reality. You might say the 'new atheism' of Dawkins and Dennett et. al., is the logical end of where modernist philosophical presuppositions have taken us.
  13. This may be right, I don't know much about tax codes. I guess I have a narrower sense of what "constitutional" means though. There are plenty of laws and codes in the US that may or may not be constitutional.
  14. How could it be unconstitutional for churches to endorse a politcal candidate?
  15. Thanks for all the thoughts so far. I agree that chapter 3 contains a message that is by now very familiar to us. In any case, I continue to enjoy Tillich's existential approach, never dividing the divine realm from the lived realm. "God's abiding in us, making us His dwelling place, is the same thing as our abiding in love, as our having love as the sphere of our habitation." One other thing of interest I found was at the end of the sermon where he writes: "It is more than justice and it is greater than faith and hope. It is the presence of God himself." This turns my mind to Job. The voice from the whirlwind. Does it transcend justice? At that apocalypse, the unveiling of the presence of God, does faith and hope find its end/consummation? And with that I suppose we can move on to chapter 4 unless anyone else has anything to add. Thanks, Mike
  16. I don't read fiction really, so I'm probably not the best person to question. But one book I really enjoyed was 'The Gods of Pegana', a modern mythology authored by Lord Dunsany. Written early 20th century, quite brief, Dunsany's prose is superb.
  17. I think I was 11 when I was baptized. I think you're correct that around that age a person usually begins to open up to the larger meanings of life. However, it wasn't until I was around 14 or 15 that I really began to question things. I think 15 is more or less the typical age when a person starts to inquire critically about her or his worldview, beliefs, etc.
  18. I enjoyed this second chapter. It's been a while since I've read/heard any sermonizing on the Apostle Paul. I must admit that the rhetorical use of "circumcision" seems more and more strange to my sensibilities, but I understand well enough the signification. Karen, I'd be glad it indeed applied only to males. But in all seriousness I see your point. The idea "new creation" going beyond religion as such, I think, is a good paradigm. It is freeing and yet challenging; it finds unity among various religions but doesn't lessen the demands of realizing religious truth. I also continually enjoy the way Tillich ties theological ideas with very existential ones. God's acceptance is not other-to a deep acceptance of life within us. There's no clear distinction between God and Life itself. Christ is the resurrection and the life, the wellspring of living water. Tillich develops a view that it is not by our effort that we are reconciled to God. We do not transition from "old being" to "new being" by being reconciled; in the new being we simply are reconciled. Peace, Mike
  19. I think this bifurcation is conceptual -- the result of incomplete philosophical visions of monisms and dualisms. I think evolution can be the whole story if we are approaching it with a sense of the metaphysical, with a respect for the ontological reality of subjectivity, where experience and meaning play a part, and not only gene and mechanism. But what most modern persons mean by evolution -- or even by "reality" -- is a state of affairs divested of subjectivity at base, which also divests reality of meaning and value. So I guess my comments on evolution depend on what evolution is taken to be. Is it mindless mechanism, or is it robust enough for subjectivity to have a genuine role? If the latter holds, then yes, I think that bacteria 4 billion years ago does have a right to not be objectified and considered only physically. It means that there are no "things" but beings. Things have no intrinsic worth, but beings are always ends in themselves. Peace, Mike
  20. I personally believe that morality is derived from the intrinsic meaningfulness of our existence. On this understanding, it would be just as true to say that meaning originates in us as we originate in meaning. I think existence, subjectivity, and meaning are all connected, and are true to the very bottomless bottom, and that at no point does one make an ontological transition into meaningless, objective existence. I don't think morality is entirely reducible to physical evolution, because then we should never come to wonder about "the truth" of our intuitions and categories; we should have no concept of and no concern for "the truth" (i.e. no existential awareness of reality), it should have no consequence on our lives or psyche if we discovered that it was the truth that all our moral intuitions are illusions constituted by the behavior of meaningless, physical aggregates. But we're not like that. We're interested in truth, meaning, and reality. I don't think this can be reduced to programming.
  21. I believe Dutch in that post, and as per his own explanation, was simply saying that he wishes the public sphere was home to all kinds of views and discourse on religion. But since the American people can't seem to deal with that, it seems there must be some necessary arbitration for "silence" on the whole matter. Dutch wrote, "In several instances all done according to code. But not all public leaders had the strength keep both up and ignore the yelling." He said nothing about atheists ruining the peace or whatever. Just that people couldn't handle that kind of openness. So it seems there is no place for a robust pluralism (of which atheists would be part), which is something of a devolution. Dutch can correct me if I have misinterpreted anything he wrote. Peace, Mike
  22. Hi George, This is no doubt true. But language (in the mindful, not computational sense of formal rules for symbol manipulation) requires the ability to find meaning and implication in things, which goes beyond syntax. I would agree, but this is nonetheless circular. Right and wrong, good and bad, are already moral categories, and cannot be used to explain what morality is, since they are part of what morality already means. Peace, Mike
  23. Neon, I recommend that you please read what is actually there said instead of reacting to what you perceive to be there. We can only communicate via text here, so it is of utmost importance that we make a genuine effort to understand each other by that means. Where in Dutch's post does he "demonize atheists" ect., etc., etc.? Peace, Mike
  24. I think this addresses the whys and hows I talked about, but it doesn't touch what, if anything, morality is. I think we're speaking, roughly, about the evolution of the psyche or soul. The metaphysical co-evolving with the biological, as you suggested. I find this appealing. As far as language goes, I think the ability to use language -- to experience meaning -- lies beyond the physical facts. The physics of who and what we are as human beings is not the whole story. Peace, Mike
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