Clergy Doubt #5: Left Convent Life First, Then Religion

Clergy Doubt #5: Left Convent Life First, Then Religion February 16, 2015

2/18/15 12:45 est Update:  The Friendly Atheist now has a post about Mary Johnson’s discussion in the comments section here with Thomas J. McDonald about transgendered people. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/02/18/the-catholic-churchs-transphobia-has-never-been-a-secret/

Editor’s Note: The second Catholic in our series on Clergy Doubt that leads to disbelief  was a nun with Mother Teresa’s order for 20 years. When responding to my request to address questions about how her religious doubts grew into disbelief, she told me that she didn’t really start doubting her faith until after she left religious life. Other issues contributed to her leaving the convent, as she explained on her website: “As I yearned for personal intimacy, intellectual freedom, and the opportunity to make a creative contribution, my community demanded self-denial and unquestioning obedience.” Here she explains how she reconsidered the actual beliefs of Roman Catholicism once she was out of the convent.

===========================

DoubtBy Mary Johnson

1. What caused you to start seriously doubting your faith?

After I left religious life, I began to see how much my beliefs had been shaped by others telling me what I was supposed to think. I began to see through the holes in religious authority first, especially as I saw so many ways in which religious authorities abused their power. I began to realize how dangerous it was when some people tell others what they should think.

2. How did you initially react to the doubts?  (e.g., discuss them with others, keep them to yourself, do religious or secular reading, something else?)

I thought about it a lot, and just felt so happy to let it all go. I did some reading that helped, especially Sam Harris’ The End of Faith.

3.  What caused the doubts to start becoming stronger than your beliefs?

I had a friend who was transgendered. When the Church came out with a document saying that transgendered people are actually just sort of making the whole thing up, I realized how often the Church claimed to know reality, but that they often didn’t know what they were talking about at all. It became so clear that they were trying to fit reality into their system of beliefs, instead of adjusting their beliefs to the reality of the world.

4. How did the doubts affect your preaching/teaching/other responsibilities? Your interactions with your congregation and your family?

I was already out of religious life by then. My family has taken my loss of religious faith fairly well, but I lost some friends who said that being around me was dangerous to their faith and that they needed to cut ties with me. This was very painful, especially since I never made any attempt to convert them to my point of view.

5. How did you come to the realization that your doubts were overcoming your beliefs; that you were no longer a believer?

I deliberately let religious faith go. I just said, “I’m not doing this any more.” That felt so good.

6. How did you think of yourself at that time (e.g., agnostic, atheist, spiritual-but not-religious, non-believer, different-believer, something else?

I don’t like labels. I just realized that I was finally letting myself think my own thoughts, and that felt so good.

==========================

DSC_0347Bio: Mary Johnson worked for twenty years as a nun in the Missionaries of Charity where she became a trusted assistant to Mother Teresa. Since leaving the convent, Mary has married and written a well-received memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst, which received the 2014 New Hampshire Literary Award as the Outstanding Book of Nonfiction.   She left the Catholic Church and has become a humanist celebrant, speaker and teacher. She serves on the Board of A Room of Her Own Foundation, an organization that empowers women writers. Her work has appeared in O, the Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous other publications. She has appeared on The Rosie Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, NPR and the BBC. www.maryjohnson.co

License: <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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  • >>When the Church came out with a document saying that transgendered people are actually just sort of making the whole thing up

    There is no such document.

  • Obscurely

    Mary, I’m very sorry to hear you lost friends during your deconversion. I like to think that wouldn’t have happened in the liberal church I serve as an agnostic minister, but I could be wrong. It’s one thing to drift away from people you suddenly have less in common with, but in my book rejecting others on “religious principle” is simply a failure to live out the Gospel.

  • “I don’t like labels. I just realized that I was finally letting myself think my own thoughts, and that felt so good.”

    There’s a label for that, but of course no one is obligated to claim it 😉 . Freethinker.

  • Obscurely

    Gideon, you’re TCP right? good to see u out here in the real world LOL

  • Mary Johnson

    Hello, Thomas. The church has now made it very difficult to find this document. It used to be on the Vatican’s website, but they’ve taken it down. Ome of the few places where this document is still referenced on the web is here: http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/CatholicTSDecision.html

  • Mary Johnson

    The friends I lost when I left the faith were mostly doing so, they told me, in order to protect their own faith. They felt that remaining in contact with me was risky for them. I didn’t feel it so much a judgment against my actions as an admission that faith sometimes requires maintaining a wall around it in order to survive. They knew me as someone deeply devoted to the truth; the realization that I had found religious faith lacking was something they couldn’t handle. Their belief was more important to them than my friendship.

    I think it’s unfortunate when anyone values misinformation over truth in any situation. If our beliefs do not stand scrutiny, then they deserve to be abandoned. But I understand that believers normally acknowledge that their faith is not based reason, and that they must do everything they can to protect it from the godless.

  • Mary Johnson

    Yes, Gideon, “freethinker” is a label that fits me. So, under different aspects, are: atheist, agnostic, heretic, blasphemer, Humanist, secular Humanist, and so many more. But I still prefer stories to labels. Labels are so small, but they come with enormous baggage!

  • Obscurely

    To take the liberty of replying to myself 😉 — I define “the Gospel” (in my inclusive liberal milieu) as living under the Law of human moral tradition (in all the Glory of its diversity) by the Grace of holy Reason … and has only “live and LET live” as it’s creed …

  • No argument there. I can relate to Jerry DeWitt’s statement, “Skepticism is my nature,

    Freethought is my methodology,

    Agnosticism is my conclusion,

    Atheism is my opinion and

    Humanism is my motivation.”

    https://twitter.com/jerry_dewitt/status/196474639701114880

  • Mary Johnson

    That’s an interesting definition of “gospel,” Obscurely. I think we can all sign on to that creed, though calling a basically secular worldview “gospel” is a bit too obscure for me….

  • Linda_LaScola

    OA – have you shared your definition of “Gospel” with your parishioners? With your liberal clergy colleagues?

  • mason

    Mary, really enjoyed your personal story told in answers. #4 got a cheer out of me, “Yay,” I said, she said, “I felt so happy just to let it all go,” I just have this thing of cringing when people say they lost their faith that to me implies losing something of value and plays into the theist tales about poor so & so “lost their faith.” It’s just my predilection.

    I’m like one of those woody station wagons that have bumper stickers all over, but mine say atheist, heretic, blasphemer, humanist, secular humanist, pantheist, apostate, human being 🙂

    thanks again!

  • I’m aware of what you’re referring to. I’m saying that your characterization of it is demonstrably false.

    Your readers can decide for themselves, since it is explored in more depth here: http://ncronline.org/news/vatican-says-sex-change-operation-does-not-change-persons-gender

    It offers the rather sane and uncontroversial opinion that gender identify disorder is a psychological issue and that surgical and chemical alterations of the body do not actually change one’s gender. Fr. Navarrate’s document was not created for the purpose of pastoral care of people with GID, but for the use of bishops in determining eligibility for the priesthood.

    I assume you do not agree with the Catholic position on the subject, but to say the “Church” issued a “document” claiming that people suffering from GID make “the whole thing up” is just a lie.

    It’s not a secret position: gender is not a social construct but a
    function of biology. Those who have a disconnect between their physical gender and gender the feel in their mind suffer gravely and must be
    treated with ,mercy, compassion, and love, not mutilation.

    Given that you characterize this as a pivotal moment in your de-conversion, you might want to clear that up. Certainly you explored the issue in more depth than merely trusting third party characterizations of the Church’s position.

    Since the issue was an important one, and your claims will be taken by many at face-value, I’ll cross-post a version of this response at my own Patheos blog.

  • Mary Johnson

    Thanks, Mason. When I was a nun, the sisters always said, “A sister who leaves is never happy outside the convent.” I’ve found just the opposite to be true. And I’ve been even happier moving from leaving the convent to leaving faith behind. I feel as though I can breathe and be honest–so refreshing!

  • mason

    How fascinating, that’s the same line the Baptists used. They just replaced the word sister with believer. When I left (ditched) my faith in theism behind, my faith and curiosity in real things began a lifetime of blossoming.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Good points, Mason — When referring to this phenomenon, I try to use terms like “change” and “move” and “realization” because that’s how the clergy that I interviewed thought about it. Though they often mourned loss of relationships and worried about loss of a means of supporting their families, the actual change away from faith was not perceived as a loss.

  • Mary Johnson

    Thomas, thank you for the National Catholic Review link you provided. I’m sure you noticed that it is exactly the same article as the one that I had linked to, with the exception that the page I linked to also includes a short (rather biased, I will admit) introduction, as well as links to more information about transsexuals.

    I do regret that I can no longer find online the original document that I had read on the Vatican website when I first researched this question. The article you and I have both mentioned here is the closest I have come to a description of the Church’s official stand on transsexuals. As I recall it, the document I read on the Vatican website may have been the document the article references, or it may have been a different document regarding transsexuals. I will have to do more research to respond fully.

    What I cannot deny is the effect the reading of that original article more than a decade ago had on me. I had just come back from accompanying a friend to a weekend conference dedicated to discussion around issues transgendered and transsexual people face. At that conference I talked personally with dozens of the 700 transgendered and transsexual people in attendance, and sat through panel discussions and presentations offered by several dozen more. The people I met impressed me with their courage, their openness, and their determination to live their lives in ways that expressed who they understood themselves to be, rather than who others expected them to be.

    It was therefore with great dismay that I read of the Vatican’s reference to transsexuals’ “mental instability.” Of course, one can find a few mentally unstable people in almost any group, but to label an entire class of people as mentally unstable seemed to me the height of irresponsibility. Over the years I have come to know many transsexuals and transgendered people of various sorts (transgendered people, like many “normal” people, experience their gender across a spectrum, as is explained reasonably well in this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender ). I have found them to possess a keen self-awareness, possibility as a result of their struggles and the fact that those who seek surgery are required to participate in extensive psychotherapy prior to any surgical intervention. It is also true that transsexual people attempt suicide at a rate far higher than that of the general population, but I do not believe that higher rate has many causes. Consider these facts from the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force:

    Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.

    Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.

    90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.

    http://www.glaad.org/transgender/trans101

    You are of course correct when you note that I oversimplified things when I said that the Church claimed that “transgendered people are actually just sort of making the whole thing up,” The “actually just sort of” should have been a clue that I knew I was oversimplifying. Since the document I originally read has been removed from the Vatican website (or at least I am no longer able to find it there), I cannot quote the exact words the Vatican used, but I did make several notes in my journal at the time which are clear indications to me that when I read the document, I understood the Vatican to be saying that people who consider themselves transgendered are not to be believed. I understood the Vatican to be implying that transgendered people didn’t really experience themselves as a female in a male body (or a male in a female body or as a person who didn’t fit any of the usual gender definitions, etc.), but that these people were simply saying this. As I recall it, the document failed to specify what possible motive anyone could have for making such a thing up, but that was my distinct impression.

    Lest you jump to the conclusion that I am in the habit of misreading ecclesial documents, I feel it’s worth mentioning here that I possess a diploma in theology, summa cum laude, from the Pontifical Institute Regina Mundi. The theological training we received there was comparable to that given a priest prior to ordination, without the particular instructions essential to the celebration of the sacraments.

    Your claim that “gender is not a social construct but a function of biology” is interesting. Certainly biology has formed the core of traditional understandings of gender, but there are many people for whom biology is not definitive regarding gender, for many reasons. Some people are born with ambiguous genitalia, assigned a gender at birth that does not correspond to the way they experience themselves. For more on the difference between sex and gender, I suggest this explanation from the American Psychological Association: “Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways that people act, interact, and feel about themselves. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.” http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx

    You also claim that “Those who have a disconnect between their physical gender and gender they feel in their mind suffer gravely and must be treated with mercy, compassion, and love, not mutilation.” I wonder if you have perhaps considered that the suffering trans people experience may be legitimately alleviated by plastic surgery, allowing them to live in a way that expresses who they know themselves to be. Who are any of us to tell anyone else how he or she (or any gender in between) are to live their lives?

    Of course, the Catholic Church has the right to determine how a person is regarded in their determination of who is eligible for the sacraments of the Church. You’ll notice that the main references in the article are to “canonical” determinations of sex. If the Vatican wants to say that only biologically male humans may be ordained priests, that’s their right. If they want to say that only couples whose original birth certificates read one male and one female may marry, that’s their right. The Church is set up that way–all the decisions about doctrine and discipline are made at the top, and in my opinion they are often made in a way that favors clarity and a forced consistency with tradition over what can sometimes be a very messy reality. Those of us who don’t agree are free to leave. As so many of us have.

    Gender is a complex issue. I’ll offer you one more place where you can explore the issue further, if you’d like to: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/trans101

  • Mary Johnson

    HI, Thomas. I notice that you’ve posted a more extensive reply on your Pathos blog, as you said you would. I would like to continue the conversation there, as you make several points that seem to merit a reply. It seems that comments have been disabled, though. Is there any way I can continue our conversation there?

  • Mary Johnson

    Since it is not possible to respond to your Pathos blog on the page in which you have chosen to continue this conversation, I will post a few clarifying comments here.

    First, if you’d like to know more about my credentials, you could visit my website http://www.maryjohnson.co or read my memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst. None of the facts in this memoir were disputed by the Missionaries of Charity. Rather, Sister Prema, Superior General when my book was originally published, said the book was an opportunity “to make serious introspection and work harder to rectify” errors. She actually said “allegations” and that “Jesus must be telling us….” http://www.ucanews.com/news/check-controversial-book-an-opportunity-for-introspection/29695

    By now you have no doubt discovered that the article to which I linked is the same as the one to which you linked. I do agree with your characterization of the introduction on the page to which I linked as including a “hysterical rant.” I chose that page because it also contains links to more information about transsexuals, a subject that is often confusing to people.

    I made no claim that the document was no longer available on the Vatican website “presumably as a coverup.” I attributed absolutely no motive to its removal, only stated the fact that I had read it there previously, but that it no longer is there (at least, I cannot find it there–if you can I will be very grateful for any information you can share).

    I have not yet read the 15 page document you linked to, so I will not comment on that now, but I than you for this added resource.

    I will comment briefly on your statement that Urbano Navarrese, SJ’s article offers “the rather sane and uncontroversial opinion that gender identity disorder is a psychological issue and that surgical and chemical alterations of the body do not actually change one’s gender.” I believe there is a confusion here regarding the terms “gender” and “sex.” Though I have already referred to the American Psychological Association’s definitions, I believe the distinction is worth stating again in light of your Pathos blog: “Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways that people act, interact, and feel about themselves. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.” http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx

    I must admit that it’s disappointing that you do not have comments enabled for your blog. It would seem only fair to allow me to respond in the same place where misrepresentations about me and my positions were originally made.

  • Obscurely

    True faith never loves abstractions like purity at the expense of real people — “the letter of moral law kills, but its spirit gives life.” Jesus taught us to have faith in each other, not in metaphysical doctrines — that was the message he kept trying to get through the thick heads of Pharisees and others and especially his own disciples, including today’s church.

  • Mary Johnson

    Another incident that you might find interesting: About 15 years ago I heard a well-respected priest, vicar general in his diocese, answer questions during an RCIA class. He was asked what the Church thought of gay and transgendered people. He responded: “I’m a guy who gets up in front of hundreds of people every day on the altar in what is basically a dress–and you’re asking me what the Church thinks of transgendered people?” He shrugged his shoulders, let everyone laugh, and would say nothing more. When Pope Francis came forth with his famous, “Who am I to judge,” I was reminded of this priest, a great guy.

  • Please tell me where I “misrepresented” something you said and I will correct it. I won’t be returning here so feel free to send your corrections via Twitter and I will retract any factual errors I have made.

    Facts matter to “freethinkers,” right?

  • Mary Johnson

    Long may we blossom!

  • Mary Johnson

    Yes, facts matter. Misrepresentations: the implication that I implied a Vatican cover-up, your failure to acknowledge that we both referred to the same article, though mine had an introduction, the implication that I “concocted” the document I read and the further implication that you did not trust my credentials (though it would have been fairly easy to check them out).

    But that is missing the real educational opportunity here. I hope that you have learned more about the reality of transgendered people and the difference between sex and gender. Your attempts to discredit me are worth it if you’ve come to realize that the real “transsexual problem” (your blog headline) is a lack of understanding of the realities involved. Saying trans people deserve compassion is one step; making an attempt to actually understand them, talk with them, perhaps even appreciate their courage would be the next step that I hope many more people can make.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Mary — I will post a comment on a private Patheos page for patheos writers informing people that your responses are here.

  • cadunphy280

    Mary, thank you for writing about how doubt formed your awakening to humanism and freethinking. I was struck by that all too familiar approach of the church, “we see it this way, or that, and so it is thus”. The link you provided illustrated that nicely. ttp://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/CatholicTSDecision.html.
    These platitudes are unfortunately to be expected, but what is not is to have a commentator and fellow Patheos blogger attempt to discredit one of the contributors of Rational Doubt by making false accusations and attempting to undermine the credibility and character of a contributor. That is not in the spirit of Patheos.

  • Obscurely

    Catherine, I second your emotion — Thomas, we need to see a few sweet carrots to go with your big mean Roman stick!

  • Obscurely

    Not in those exact words — but the spirit of it is plain in my preaching and teaching.

  • wtfwjtd

    Point #3 really “spoke” to me. I remember making some gay friends for the first time in my life in the ’90’s, and found they were, well, people, just like me. My Protestant religion was (still) telling me that “gay people are this way, gay people are that way, blah, blah, blah.” I’m thinking, no, they’re not, these are stereotypes and fabrications by people who don’t actually know any gay people. Like you, I finally acknowledged that what my religion was teaching didn’t square with reality as I knew it to be, on the ground, in my life. Of course, from here, the doubts only grew, and after taking a long, hard look at the historical basis of the claims of my religion, I finally realized how shallow and flimsy its foundations actually were.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • Mary Johnson

    I’m so glad whenever I hear that someone is basing their worldview in reality. We sometimes cling to tradition because it’s comforting and gives us community, but nothing is more freeing than living in the truth. Thanks, wtfwjtd, for your comments, and for living in reality. Those old stories about gay people, about people of color, about Jewish people, about Catholics, about Baptists, about whoever isn’t US–well, those stories can poison us if we let them.

  • mason

    There must be a book called the “Universal Template for Theisms.” It has the standard absurd promises of immortality, calls to proselytize, threats of punishment/damnation, creeds to recite, and demands for cash. One need only pay the franchise fee and fill in the blanks. 🙂

  • Linda_LaScola

    When I was a kid, the Catholic church said it was a sin to attend a different Christian church, but my Mom said it was OK, so off I went to a Presbyterian church at the invitation of a playmate to see a show their youth group was putting on. I recall how plain it was inside and how shocked I was to see kids made up as Indians in war paint and headdresses whooping it up on the altar. It seemed quite undignified to me – but hardly sinful.

  • wtfwjtd

    As George Carlin so famously said:
    “The first thing I learned about God is, he needs money, lots and lots of money”…!

  • Linda_LaScola

    In fairness to the liberal Theists, their template does not include everything listed above, and they add a healthy dose of metaphor and mystery. They do need money, though, in order to survive, just like any other organization.

  • mason

    Thomas, has the “comments” feature been fixed on your blog yet? I can’t get it to work either. Seems to create rather limited discussion. 🙂

  • Obscurely

    LOL! — gonna use that in a sermon someday 😉

  • Obscurely

    Mary, of course it’s my deliberately provocative definition of the Gospel, which is a Rose of many petals. To me it’s always “good news” when we can build ‘language bridges’ of understanding between those who proclaim and those who despise the Gospel.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Mason, on his blog http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/about-comments/ it says the comments have been turned off “indefinitely.” In the same section, he indicates that some of the comments received from atheists in the past were not welcomed.

    Please feel free to make your comments here. Interested people who see his blog might come here to check out our perspective.

  • Obscurely

    You beat me to it, Linda — thanks for bringing some balance to Mason’s ‘straw men’ 😉

  • Obscurely

    PS — unlike the scam artist “evangelists” on TV, most liberal churches only ask for money from their own people, and they give a scrupulous accounting for how it’s spent …

  • Linda_LaScola

    This goes for many conservative churches too and freestanding nondenominational churches, who may not have endowments or wealthy parishioners as monetary back-ups when the furnace explodes.

  • mason

    LOL…George RIP, per usual nailed it…thanks, I hadn’t heard that one and it’s so obvious, which is what George pointed out to us so brilliantly.

  • mason

    I thought that was a standard part of every sermon, anytime, anywhere…:)

  • mason

    Thomas, considering Catholic Church doctrine regarding homosexuality and masturbation, and after reading your exchange with Mary, I don’t think the Catholic Church with its medieval and bigoted ideas regarding sexuality should even be invited to a discussion on the subject of transgender. Such an offering is an insult to rational humanity.

    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/homosexuality

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/masturbation-mortal-sin.html

  • Pofarmer

    “It became so clear that they were trying to fit reality into their
    system of beliefs, instead of adjusting their beliefs to the reality of
    the world.”

    Smart lady. This should be shouted from the rooftops.

  • Pofarmer

    Ya know it’s amazing, some Catholics still think it’s a sin to attend another denominations services. They also think that those services really aren’t “church” still gotta go to Mass. The belief system is just stultifying.

  • Pofarmer

    That is not in the spirit of Patheos.

    Happens all the time.

  • Mary Johnson

    I’m all for building bridges, and for provocation. Also for clarity. I wonder sometimes what we sacrifice when we obfuscate meaning by co-opting terms–which may not be what you are doing here at all, but I guess I always strive for clarity. I’ve experienced the dangers in hiding behind language that isn’t crystal clear. Again, I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing here. And language is always tricky. People hear what they hear, especially if we aren’t clear. Of course, there’s a process of education and diplomacy to be considered as well, especially for active unbelieving clergy.

  • Pofarmer

    “I must admit that it’s disappointing that you do not have comments enabled for your blog.”

    Quite a few of the Catholic blogs on Patheos have comments disabled. I have actually complained to Patheos about it with no reply whatsoever. I personally think it’s cowardly.

  • Pofarmer

    “he indicates that some of the comments received from atheists in the past were not welcomed.”

    Defending irrational beliefs is hard.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Going to Catholic Mass on Sundays is called the Sunday Obligation and it still holds — I googled it http://www.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu62.htm

  • Pofarmer

    Yeah, I know. I’ve debt with it. Coming from a pretty non denominational protestant background, it just semi like a really corrosive and divisive teaching.

  • mason

    Touche’ Linda….two templates are needed

  • mason

    OA, don’t ya think straw men is a bit of a straw man? 🙂
    Guess you’re up to your ol’ tricks.

  • http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=http://www.crisalide-azionetrans.it/adista.html&prev=search

    Appears to be the unofficial, Google-translated-from-Italian text of the document in question?

  • “It offers the rather sane and uncontroversial opinion that gender identify disorder is a psychological issue”

    As with epilepsy, germ theory in general, gravity, electricity, heliocentricity and a host (sorry) of other things, the Church has decided to ignore entire bodies of really solid science when it contradicts recent Church politics. It’s interesting that the “secret paper” from the Inquisition committee came out shortly after Paul McHugh was brought on board as the Vatican “science and sexuality” advisor. I’d always assumed it was to teach them how to deal with child raping priests, as he had led a similar effort for a John Hopkins “sex offenders” program a couple decades earlier. McHugh, like the Vatican, prefers to only discuss transgender/transsexual people in terms of psychology only, ignoring the amazing amount of built-up, replicated and verified findings in neurology, developmental biology, endocrinology and genetics.

    But they are both wrong. I’d say ignorant but there’s too much counter proof.

    Here are just the most-often-cited-in-other-papers studies from the last five years. There are thousands more, going back 20 years, confirming and expanding the original, very rough study by Zhou. You’ll notice they deal with physiology, not psychology.

    Gender development and the human brain
    Melissa Hines
    Annual review of neuroscience, 2011

    Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation
    Ivanka Savic; Alicia Garcia-Falgueras; Dick F. Swaab
    Progress in brain research, 2010

    Identical Reared Apart Twins Concordant for Transsexuality
    Nancy Segal; Milton Diamond
    Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 2014

    Increased Cross-Gender Identification Independent of Gender Role Behavior in Girls with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: Results from a Standardized Assessment of 4- to 11-Year-Old Children
    Vickie Pasterski; Peter C. Hindmarsh; Ieuan A. Hughes; Carlo Acerin; Debra Spencer; Sharon Neufeld; Melissa Hines
    Springer, 2014

    Sex Differentiation: Organizing Effects of Sex Hormones
    Julie Bakker
    Focus on Sexuality Research, 2014

    White Matter Microstructure in Transsexuals and Controls Investigated by Diffusion Tensor Imaging
    Georg S. Kranz; Andreas Hahn; Ulrike Kaufmann; Martin Küblböck; Allan Hummer; Sebastian Ganger; Rene Seiger; Dietmar Winkler; Dick F. Swaab; Christian Windischberger, Siegfried Kasper; Rupert Lanzenberger
    The Journal of Neuroscience, 2014

    Sexual Differentiation of the Human Brain in Relation to Gender-Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Neuropsychiatric Disorders
    Dick F. Swaab; Ai-Min Bao
    Neuroscience in the 21st century, 2013

    The effects of prenatal sex steroid hormones on sexual di fferentiation of the brain
    Serkan Karaismailoğlu; Ayşen Erdem
    Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association, 2013

    Fetal Testosterone Influences Sexually Dimorphic Gray Matter in the Human Brain
    Michael V. Lombardo; Emma Ashwin; Bonnie Auyeung; Bhismadev Chakrabarti; Kevin Taylor; Gerald Hackett; Edward T. Bullmore; Simon Baron-Cohen
    The Journal of Neuroscience, 2012

    Sex Steroids and the Organization of the Human Brain
    Jiska S. Peper; P. Cédric; M. P. Koolschijn
    The Journal of Neuroscience, 2012

    The relationship between second-to-fourth digit ratio and female gender identity
    S. Hisasue; S. Sasaki; T. Tsukamoto; S. Horie
    The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2012

    Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation
    Alicia Garcia-Falgueras; Dick F. Swaab
    Pediatric Neuroendocrinology, 2010; Endocrine development, 2010

    Clinical Implications of the Organizational and Activational Effects of Hormones
    Milton Diamond
    Hormones and Behavior, 2009

    Finger length ratio (2D:4D) in adults with gender identity disorder
    Bernd Kraemer; Thomas Noll; Aba Delsignore; Gabriella Milos; Ulrich Schnyder; Urs Hepp
    Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2009

  • Linda_LaScola

    Thanks, Crash — I notice that in the upper right hand corner of the article, you can click on “original” and go back to the original Italian. I know Mary speaks Italian, so she should be able to confirm whether this is the document — and what it says.

  • Obscurely

    It’s actually worse than cowardly for the reactionary Catholic blogs to inhibit comments — it makes them appear to be enemies of free speech and free thought.

  • Obscurely

    You make a great point, Mary. I’ve noticed that both political and religious conservatives seem to cherish clarity in the language they use and imbibe. But I’m afraid many of them may use that clarity as a way to exclude and marginalize those who disagree with them? Also the longer I spend in ministry, the less concerned I’ve become about clarity in defining and articulating the great mysteries of Christian faith like the Incarnation, the Atonement and (in the Anglican tradition) the sacraments. If I were a theist I would say “God” made them mysteries for His own good purposes? but as an agnostic I would say that on a human level we like divine mysteries because it makes them more potent, more versatile and inclusive.

  • Obscurely

    But Mason, doesn’t an infinite regress of straw men violate Reason itself? As Aristotle might say, there has to be a first immovable Straw Man to get us started. ;D

  • “I’m so glad whenever I hear that someone is basing their worldview in reality. We sometimes cling to tradition because it’s comforting and gives us community, but nothing is more freeing than living in the truth.”

    As a non-atheist freethinker, I have been studying, for a year or so, the this phenomena of lost faith leading to atheism.

    It confuses me because I came to my particular mix of “faith and reason” from a relatively unconditioned state. My religious indoctrination was to say the least haphazard and uninspired.

    So in the 1970’s when I decided to look into this business of God, I was already 21, and fairly independent of authoritative influences already. (Had the likes of Richard Nixon to thank for that.)

    There is a question forming on the tip of my tongue, when I read these excellent and intelligent testimonies compiled here by Linda LaScola.

    It seems to be along the lines of, “But what about God?” or, “What about the cultivation of authenticity?” or, “What about the discovery of True Self?” or, “Awe, reverence and wonder?”

    I know that I was fortunate not to be trapped in anthropomorphic and tradition bound rules about what God “wants”. This is clearly a problem for people when they begin the process of “changing”.

    But…

    What motivated and continues to motivate 40 years in, is “What is God?” “What is the nature of THAT?” And, IT’s relation to THIS?”

    Not and never, “What are the rules?”

  • Linda_LaScola

    Thanks, brmckay — you’re giving me ideas for future posts.

  • mason

    🙂

  • flora68

    We hosted a 12-year old French exchange student one summer. Knowing that he was a devout Catholic we asked a Catholic friend of ours to take him along to her church, since we were Quakers.

    After church, he stormed into the house obviously disgusted and angry….so naturally I asked him what the problem was and he practically SCREAMED that the Catholic Church he was taken to “had almost no gold in it AT ALL!” This was how he had been taught to evaluate a church; by the amount of gold evident. Truly he was the nastiest little chauvinistic snob I’d ever met, of ANY age.

  • Linda_LaScola

    2/18/15 12:45 EST Update (repeated above): The Friendly Atheist now has a post about Mary Johnson’s discussion in the comments section here with Thomas J. McDonald about transgendered people. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/02/18/the-catholic-churchs-transphobia-has-never-been-a-secret/

  • Seathanaich

    When atheists are afraid to call themselves atheists, all they do is perpetuate the negativity that theists want to see attached to this word.

    The sooner every atheist self-desribes as such, the faster religion melts.

  • Pofarmer

    Appear to be?

  • Pofarmer

    “What is God?” “What is the nature of THAT?” And, IT’s relation to THIS?””

    Metaphysical woo then?

  • Mary Johnson

    I can sympathize with that, Seathanaich. I don’t shy away from the term, though I do find it limiting. I’m not afraid to call myself an atheist, and I do so on my website, http://www.maryjohnson.co, but I still prefer stories to labels, descriptions to one-liners. I also appreciate what Sam Harris says when he talks about not wanting to define ourselves by what we aren’t.

  • Kevin Osborne

    God is a substance, like water. How you perceive God determines God, for you. Relationship is your perspective of particles within your reality.There is always more God, more reality and larger perspective. All you have to do to see is be willing to see.

  • Kevin Osborne
  • Pofarmer

    Be the koolaid.,

  • Otto

    Funny how we get get a different response depending on which religious authority we speak with. When I was really struggling with continuing with the Catholic Church, I went and talked to a very nice Priest about specific issues I had with the Church. He could see that my problems were not likely to go away and he probably perceived in me that my questions were leading me towards a conclusion I didn’t even realize I was heading towards. At one point he said “Whatever you decide the most important thing is that you continue to be a Christian regardless of which denomination you choose”. I would like to go back and tell him that statement helped me realize they were all equally valid…and therefore invalid.

  • “Metaphysical woo then?”

    This just seems like you are lazy or uninspired by the question.

    or…

    Are suggesting that you have solved the riddle, and want your children and grand children to take your word for it.

    Either way I will not retract my comment. Having found the inquiry involved, to be the very point of being human.

  • Pofarmer

    You’ll never find what you are looking for, which is rather the point of your journey. The way it’s formulated, what you are seeking simply doesn’t exist.

  • Pofarmer

    Let me help you out here. God isn’t a thing. God is an idea, invented by humans, to explain things they don’t understand. To quote Neil Degrasse Tyson “God is an ever dwindling pool of scientific ignorance. “. There solved it for you. Now you can get on to more worthwhile pursuits.

  • The inquiry exists. Any formulation is simply the shape of the day.

    I have avoided pontification, either because I have learned better, or because instinct guides me to choose a softer, more flexible form of open question for the occasion.

    What is it that you consider does not exist?

  • Pofarmer

    Here ya go.

    Godisimaginary.com

  • I’ll go with lazy then. Sorry, but I’m pretty sure that you didn’t assemble this litany of “circular reasoning”. Merely pass it out door to door.

    I am tempted to go through it item by item, but really, we should all be past that by now.

    Though I can’t resist asking my favorite question, since it pertains to:

    “Proof #37 – Think about DNA – No intelligence is required to encode DNA. Instead, the information in DNA is the result of natural selection acting upon random mutations, rather than the actions of a ‘being’ like God. “

    Where in the specific DNA molecule that organizes the life experience of a Monarch Butterfly, is the map to a specific tree in Mexico? Or it’s offspring’s, offspring knowing the way back to Michigan?

    OK, yes this is a trope that I use way too much. But no-one ever bothers to address it. (so I persist)

    What does “random mutations” even mean? Are you expecting God’s cogitation to be digital? Or, like mine, analog and filtered by competing interests, within an astonishingly complex system. (And I’m just talking about the last 5 minutes.)

    The whole list of “proofs”, as presented in that handy dandy atheist’s guidebook, is worthless simply because the god/gods it’s talking about is/are IMAGINARY.

  • Anita

    ‘Willing to imagine’ ..more rightly describes the phenomena you’re describing. You’re imagination is capable of giving substance to an idea. This is no longer relevant to our lives. We KNOW of our origins. Your life will be so much better when you jettison your imaginary friend. Come on, you’re a big boy now. Grow up!

  • Eoin O’Brien

    Nobody knows the answer to your butterfly question. Isn’t that great? The world is full of wonder and mystery. One thing’s for sure though – there’s no big guy in the sky designing stuff.
    The term ‘random mutations’ is troublesome for a lot of people. I would get you to imagine three brothers, say. They’re not all identical, of course. Maybe one is a little taller, one is a little cleverer and one is a little more sociable. That is random mutation. Happens all the time. So if they live in a forest, the taller guy is better adapted, he has a slightly higher chance of mating, and probably with a slightly taller-than-average gal. Tall children emerge, mate with other tall people, and over millions of years perhaps it’s a new species. The slightly cleverer brother may be better adapted if they live somewhere with, say, nuts to eat that are hard to open. The more sociable brother may be best adapted if they live in open grassland, where sticking together is good defense against predators.
    Any help?

  • “There solved it for you. Now you can get on to more worthwhile pursuits.”

    What you consider “solved” is only your justification for harbouring disdain for those ignorant “fools” in your congregation.

    “Neil Degrasse Tyson – “God is an ever dwindling pool of scientific ignorance. “

    This is a meaningless statement though I imagine that this fellow Tyson, regards it highly.

    We are talking attitudes and personality type here. Why box ourselves in?

  • Linda_LaScola

    Interesting — maybe you should go back to tell him what you determined. Maybe he determined the same thing himself – not that he would tell you. But he seems like a pragmatist who was trying to help and might like to know the effect of his words.

  • Pofarmer

    This is convincing to someone?

  • Pofarmer

    Why box ourselves in, indeed.

  • Otto

    He is the kind of person I would enjoy talking to about Christian history/theology because I think he would be open to the difficult issues the belief generates and I would like to see how he overcomes them in his own mind. He was a younger man (30-35yrs). I would love to tell him how he helped me tremendously, just not in the way he expected.

    I only met him the one time, he was recommended by my Mother. She does not know I have rejected Christianity and am an atheist. It would cause her great distress in many ways. I want to be honest with her but I don’t want to hurt her…and it would terribly, so unfortunately I can’t go back to him.

  • Seathanaich

    When atheists rationalise why they are afraid to call themselves atheists . . .

  • Pofarmer

    So then, how do you constructively criticise someones beliefs without alienating them? This is especially important to me when they are projecting what I consider harmful beliefs onto children.

  • Linda_LaScola

    that’s assuming the priest would betray your trust and tell your mother – and cause her pain as well.

  • Linda_LaScola

    when atheists are determined to criticize….

  • Seathanaich

    criticise: to point out errors in something.

    So yes, I’m determined to criticise. In this case, I criticise Uncle Tom atheists who are not only afraid to self-label as atheists, but by self-censoring themselves do the dirty work for all the anti-atheist theists out there. You yankees need to stop being so afraid of the “a-word”. Out here in the Free World atheists stopped apologising for being atheists a few decades ago.

  • Otto

    OK, yes this is a trope that I use way too much. But no-one ever bothers to address it. (so I persist)

    Wrong, it is addressed. It is addressed by biologists and entomologists. The philosophical question it brings up are addressed as well. And regardless of whether or not you feel they have adequately answered the issue(s) to your satisfaction I see no reason to conclude ‘therefore god’. That does not answer the issues any better and in my opinion sets us back (both personally and socially) by attempting to smuggle in an unfounded conclusion.

  • Otto

    True, but I also feel he may conclude I just want to throw it in his face… so to speak. Since we had only the one discussion I don’t feel like I know him well enough to do that.

  • Linda_LaScola

    This is a generalization that does not apply to Mary who has said that “atheist” is one of the ways she refers to herself.

  • Kip

    “I lost some friends who said that being around me was dangerous to their faith and that they needed to cut ties with me. This was very painful, especially since I never made any attempt to convert them to my point of view.”

    Religion really does poison everything.

  • “I see no reason to conclude ‘therefore god’. That does not answer the issues any better…”

    Nor does it conclude “therefore no God”. In fact based on the line of reasoning that brings me to suggest it, and my own understanding of how, and how not to understand the nature of God, it is a real gem.

    .”.. and in my opinion sets us back (both personally and
    socially) by attempting to smuggle in an unfounded conclusion.”

    It was not a conclusion as presented, but rather a question meant to nudge the reader into position to understand my frame of reference. (And also possibly spark a sense of wonder and even reverence. Sans the need to conquer it with a new model or theory.)

    I will also note that once again I’m being referred to some external authority as regards the above question. Does it mean that you have been convinced of something yourself? If so what?

    Personally, I’m hoping that you will ask yourself, “Why would a man’s cultivation of a sense for the undivided whole, in anyway interfere with the quest of science for specific knowledge of it’s parts?”

    I could go on but don’t want to wear out my welcome.

  • “Not knowing”, or it’s cousin “unknowing” is always a good start when contemplating that which some of us consider worthy of the term “God”.

    I personally don’t think in terms of “a big guy in the sky designing stuff”, but that’s just me.

    Some people are inclined to think that way, and your helpful review of evolutionary pressures might suggest that their breeding played a role. That, or they have not yet evolved into a less anthropomorphically dependent conceptualization.

    How does this change the validity of anything I’ve been trying to say?

    If there is a policy in place to never think in terms conducive to religious sentiment, please just tell me and I’ll save my breath. At least as regards yourself.

  • “This is no longer relevant to our lives.”

    Who are you speaking for?

    The rest of your comment is the usual meaningless scorn that replaces actual reasoning amongst those who KNOW.

    Certain sects of Baptists could of course give you a run for your money. But they would have to work for it.

    Why are you OK with this?

  • Otto

    I have not concluded ‘therefore no god’…just no evidence that points in that direction.

    Also I am not pointing you to an external authority, I am rebutting your claim that your question is not being addressed. Not understanding the mechanism butterflies use to navigate is no different than a man 2000 years ago not understanding the mechanism that produces lightning.

    The question I hope you ask yourself is “why would an undivided whole necessitate god?” It could turn out to be case but at this point I only see that answer as unsatisfying and lacking.

    New models and theories of the workings add to my awe and wonder, they don’t detract from them.

  • Anita

    Firstly brmcKay, presumably I’m speaking for those of us who find the notion of the supernatural, fanciful.
    Secondly, I could take on any number of Baptists you nominate to give me a ‘good run for my money’ as long as you’d be prepared to take on my team of experts.
    You’re using words to make the unbelievable somehow seem relevant and believable simply because you think it to be so. Nonsense is nonsense no matter what calibre of person thinks it is true.
    Over the passage of time we have gained a really clear understanding of the true nature of our universe and surroundings. We understand germ theory and no longer ascribe the maladies of our fellows the result of demons or those of evil intent. We know how healing takes place and give credit to the skills of practitioners when it is warranted.
    As a result of the excellent information science has given us, our lifestyle and life expectancy has improved beyond measure. I now live the life that would be comparable to those of the aristocracy in times past. Me! Someone who practises no special rituals and has no special status in the realms of the gods.
    The most exciting part is that ‘we’re not done yet’! There are still mysteries aplenty to figure out. It makes one glad to be alive!

  • Eoin O’Brien

    You know, it’s funny, I’ve noticed in conversations with believers, that the difference between belief in some sort of deity and non-belief in anything like that is a really huge chasm of a difference. A believer typically just cannot conceive of how it is possible to begin to imagine God not existing – I mean, just look at the beauty of the world … For the non-believer, the corollary is true – the idea of some overarching intelligence, guiding things along, just seems … well, ridiculous really. I think both sides have real trouble trying to get into the others’ mindset. The important thing, I would suggest, is to always be respectful of people.
    But I’m afraid I won’t criticize anyone for making fun of what they see as silly beliefs. In fact a lot of over-compensation is called for, in the face of theocracy-minded nutjobs all over the world. It is really important to laugh at these people, to ridicule them. Wouldn’t you say?

  • Eoin O’Brien

    oops I’ve just totally contradicted myself. No, not laugh at the people, but laugh at their ideas, and help them to see that humans are actually smart enough to think for themselves, they don’t need to bend down to some superbeing. We can form opinions, moral principles and good societies on our own, without otherworldly help.

  • “I have not concluded ‘therefore no god’…just no evidence that points in that direction.”

    But I have, and so butt heads with y’all because what is obvious to me is not to you. Why? What is different? Why does it matter? etc.

    Also I am not pointing you to an external authority, I am rebutting your claim that your question is not being addressed.”

    And yet you have not bothered to apply it to the question in the context of this conversation. I have no idea why it’s potency is not recognized. Or why my sense of it may be misguided.

    This is the gist of my lament.. “But no-one ever bothers to address it. (so I persist)”

    Not understanding the mechanism butterflies use to navigate is no different than a man 2000 years ago not understanding the mechanism that produces lightning.

    At the very least, here is a working definition of God. “The Uncarved Block”.

    You do understand that there is an infinitude of nuance to be teased out of THIS. Out of the REAL. And no matter how much we “know” the pool is in no way diminished or even changed.

    This is *my* working definition of God.

    “The question I hope you ask yourself is ‘why would an undivided whole necessitate god?’ “

    You misunderstand (I hope not for stubbornly political reasons). I’m saying that anything less would be a false god. Or at least an unnecessarily primitive conceptualization.

    It could turn out to be case but at this point I only see that answer as unsatisfying and lacking.

    That is because this is not your field of interest.

    New models and theories of the workings add to my awe and wonder, they don’t detract from them.

    Me as well, but nothing really changes. We refine our conceptions. This is evolution.

  • Otto

    This is *my* working definition of God.

    Defining god with mushy terms and concepts that seem to be intentionally framed in such a way that they can never be vetted, verified, demonstrated or falsified may be useful to you but it doesn’t further our collective understanding and knowledge one iota.

  • Carol Lynn

    What do you do with your reasoning and questioning? Do you merely stand in the openness of Being in which you stand by standing it? (with a nod to Heidegger) Do you have some revelatory insight into life, the universe, and everything that you care to share? (with a nod to Adams) Do you say that your questioning has revealed that to be recognized as special every man needs to snip off his foreskin and make a pact with this overarching universe to stone gays, witches, and sassy children? (nod to the Bible) I mean, sure, I’ll accept that you have espoused a deepity that carries meaning for you. Ok. Now what?

  • Kevin Osborne

    What if there is no imagination but everything is real? This fits in nicely with quantum speculation. The more something is seen by more viewers the more solid it appears. However all that means is it is more solid, not more true. If one accepts that everything exists this place solves. If you want to solve it.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Pointless.

  • Kevin Osborne

    There is no supernatural, there is what you appoint as such because some answer needs suffice. There is only you, figuring things out as best you can or calling the cat black because in the dark they all are.

  • Kevin Osborne

    God as physical engineering is a personage immediately aware of everything in this place, who co-creates with the individual a reality encompassing that individual’s awareness, which is variable. Otherwise the personage ignores what goes on within and has no judgement or concern for individuals or events.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Actually you can experiment with awareness and creation which are the components of God within this place. You can make the simple experiment of taking another viewpoint completely. It seems easy but is not because of the setup that encourages a severe limit on one’s reality. There are thousands of books which undertake to explain such but one must be wiling to learn in order to do so.

  • Otto

    Actually you can experiment with awareness and creation which are the components of God within this place.

    You would need to demonstrate that this statement is factual first. Why should I (or anyone) just stipulate that premise?

    There are thousands of books which undertake to explain such but one must be wiling to learn in order to do so.

    There are thousands of books on astrology. psychics. phrenology, reading tea leaves, etc. Having books written on a subject does not make the subject valid. Stating that one must be willing to *learn* in order for the information to make sense is a crock…it is condescending and insulting. That type of reasoning is a sure path to gullibility.

  • Pofarmer

    Exactly.

  • Pofarmer

    Keep smoking it.

  • Otto

    Sounds like someone I talked to in college on blotter…

  • Anita

    I don’t like to see quantum mechanics brought up in this way. It seems to be the explanation of choice when confronted with an enigma. Even experts are at a loss to describe its possibilities so I don’t think it (quantum theory) should be hijacked in an effort to explain the unbelievable.

    What properties do you ascribe to your god?( one of a possible 45,000 On last count).

  • Anita

    “there is no supernatural”
    Could you clarify here? Do you mean that god (one of many possibilities) is part of the natural world? I suspect you have your own personal interpretation of god and that it’s possibly at odds with those held by established religions.

  • Thanks for your relatively even keeled comments. I’m having to resist getting all snarky back with some of the other less respectful folks.

    I’ve vowed not go there this time. I mean it is all too predictable and does not serve the moment well.

    What seems like common sense to me, routinely makes no sense at all to the run of the mill non-believer or for that matter to the run of the mill bible thumper.

    This is usually due to a ton of projection, parroting of rhetoric and self referential expectation. Sometimes it’s no more profound than a rote political reflex.

    You should try to get rid of the “big guy in the sky” image of God. That is really old school, at least in the circles that I run in.

    Also the notion of gods, or his god and my god, unless the person you are conversing with actually thinks like that. In which case refer them to me and I’ll have a go at it.

  • That word “deepity” just means that you have decided in advance that it must be bullshit. And, you can be rude, trusting that the clique will back you up.

    “Now what?”… nothing. If there is no traction, there is no point.

  • He was not saying that “you ” must be willing to *learn* in order for the information to make sense”. But, be willing to engage in the exercise described. i.e actually get out of the way and see what the person is talking about.

    It occurs to me that Einstein’s theories might have seemed like a crock if I didn’t trust qualified people to explain it to me.

    or .. perhaps gone to the trouble of leaning the math. (which is not likely to happen.)

    Either way, I rely on willingness and faith until the epiphany of understanding the thing itself.

  • Pofarmer

    “Why would a man’s cultivation of a sense for the undivided whole, in anyway interfere with the quest of science for specific knowledge of it’s parts?””

    What in the fuck are you babbling about? Science can tell us aboitnthe whole by putting the parts together. All you are doing is constructing s convoluted God of the Gaps theory.

  • Pofarmer

    Uhm, the problem woth your Einstein analogy, is that I don’t have to understand them or believe them or “search to space for oneness” or whatever the fuck for them to work. GPS on your cellphone is all the proof you need that they are correct. It isn’t depending on someone believing the roght way. That is why your formulations and Kevin Osbornes are just so much horse shit.

  • Pofarmer

    Uhm, actually the word deepity indicates we have heard the argument snd decided it’s bullshit on the evidence. It’s not a particularly fresh argument.

  • Pofarmer

    That ain’t quantum anything. That’s Aristotle.

  • Carol Lynn

    -shrug – Sorry. I can rephrase that. I’ll accept that you have espoused an abstract way of thinking about god that carries meaning for you. I still want to know, “Now what?” What do you do with that insight?

  • Kevin Osborne

    There is no “natural world”. If you examine the human condition it covers a wide swath of experience outside the five senses. So any idea of a natural world is your own. So is a supernatural world. It is all existence, as you choose to see. If you choose to exclude an idea of god from this proposal there is still plenty of room for so called extra perception.

  • Kevin Osborne
  • Kevin Osborne

    The system is what it is no matter what anyone thinks, just as relativity is what it is. The only question is what do you want to know, to investigate. You are free here, do what you wish. You can even throw baloney on the fire and call it fir.

  • Kevin Osborne

    You will know someday. Be well.

  • Kevin Osborne

    As a possibility, track back through the wormhole entry to find the exit point, during which more understanding of how this place operates comes into view. There is no genius, no greatness, no absolute superiority in knowing more about anything than someone else does. It is the human condition 100 percent of the time. Your Down’s syndrome neighbor is your equal in quantity of universe perceived, and mine. He or she just sees different stuff. My opinion.

  • Otto

    The assumption that I have not investigated the baseless assertions you and Kevin espouse is bad one. So your only possible rebuttal would be that I did it wrong. In order to make that case you would need to demonstrate the veracity of your claim which you fail to do. I will change my mind when you do and not a moment before.

    It occurs to me that Einstein’s theories might have seemed like a crock if I didn’t trust qualified people to explain it to me.

    It occurs to me that Einstein’s hypothesis’ didseem like a crock, even to Einstein in some cases…and they would have continued to except his ideas were observed, tested, replicated and demonstrated to be accurate. Qualified people explaining it is not enough…at least it shouldn’t be.

    Either way, I rely on willingness and faith until the epiphany of understanding the thing itself.

    I bet Nigerian Princes with problems moving money love you!

  • Otto

    I can tell you exactly the day I will ‘know’ it…when it can be demonstrated and replicated.

  • Anita

    “There is no “natural world”. If you examine the human condition it covers a wide swath of experience outside the five senses”

    Ah!! The ‘coup de gras’! You’ve made an extraordinary claim here Kevin. Back it up!

    What of the other points I raised. Your personal interpretation of a god/goddess ( let’s not be sexist).

  • Anita

    Your line of argument is not going to shed light on any unresolved mysteries, but merely shroud your intentions in a fog of words.
    So spit it out! To what are you alluding?
    And…once again….in your own words…what is god to you?

  • brmckay – “Why would a man’s cultivation of a sense for the undivided whole, in anyway interfere with the quest of science for specific knowledge of it’s parts?”

    Pofarmer – “Science can tell us aboitnthe[sic] whole by putting the parts together. “

    Your kidding right?

    Otherwise we are actually bearing down the crux of our communication problem and should study the underlying assumptions behind the two statements.

    I’ll start:
    – I assume primordial infinitude. Therefore no reassembly is even conceivable.

    – I also assume that the scientific method, it’s application and especially it’s discoveries is a subset of the infinite aggregate of phenomena and therefore dependent upon the same foundation.

    – I assume that primordial infinitude remains unchanged and ever present no matter what I ate for breakfast.

  • Pofarmer

    “primordial infinitude.”

    Eh?

  • This is the best that you can do and you want me to re-evaluate *my* shtick?

    I’m hoping that a more sincere individual will pick up the slack. I’m putting in quite a bit of effort here and would like to see where it leads.

  • Well….demonstrate it then.

  • You don’t seem to realize that we are saying the same thing?

    Otto – “Qualified people explaining it is not enough..”

    brmckay – ” I rely on willingness and faith until the epiphany of understanding the thing itself.”

    Your dismissal of my statement as a sign of gullibility is “proof” that your agenda (dogma) has skewed your understanding of my side of this discussion.

    “The assumption that I have not investigated the baseless assertions you and Kevin espouse is bad one.”

    “baseless assertions” is an assumption.

    His reference to the thousands of books (observation, testimony) combined with his experience (replication), should be a reasonably sufficient starting point to “investigate” the matter without the prerequisite ideological spin (there is no God).

    In order to perceive proof you have to prepared the experiment with integrity.

    In the case of proof of God, or enlightenment, the ground of the experiment is your own being. No way around that. Waiting for a priesthood of elite scientists for confirmation, just adds to the pile of books about it.

  • “Uhm, the problem woth your Einstein analogy, is that I don’t have to understand them or believe them or ‘search to space for oneness’ or whatever the fuck for them to work. GPS on your cellphone is all the proof you need that they are correct. It isn’t depending on someone believing the roght way. That is why your formulations and Kevin Osbornes are just so much horse shit. “

    Thank you for clarifying that. What could I have been thinking?

  • Otto

    I have never been able to. Nor has anyone else… which is why we are having this discussion.

  • If you take his entire comment as a single statement there is no aspect of “extraordinary claim” about it. It is all quite ordinary. In fact it is distilled to the essential quality.

    Existence.

    God. (god/goddess is a red herring) is Existence. Explicit and potential.

    Now the question then is (an unencumbered version of your own), what does that mean to the observer?

    Who is the observer and what is observed? The common denominator, EXISTENCE. We are chock full of limitations in our comprehension of this.

    But?…

    “Over the passage of time we have gained a really clear understanding of the true nature of our universe and surroundings.”

    Surely you can’t be satisfied so easily? If so, why bother even engaging in this conversation? The case is closed.

  • Otto

    We are not saying the same thing

    I have no dogma. If I do not understand your position then communicate it in clear, concise language. Tell me what you believe and why you believe it regarding the topic at hand. If you can do that in an intelligent manner using reason and the information can be verified I will change my mind.

    In order to perceive proof you have to prepared the experiment with integrity.

    Are you saying I have never done that? How would you know?

    And you do realize this blog is about people that have experimented professionally with this issue and have since rejected the conclusion. Are you saying they all also lack integrity?

  • OK, thank you.

    “Now what?” I am as fully engaged as possible with the evolving “insight”? It informs my life. The process is the point.

    As I see it, you are as well, but are moving along with your back to it.

    Not sure what you mean by “abstract”, all conception is abstract.

    I’m saying that the process of enlightenment is one of restoring authenticity. Non-abstracted. Direct experience. Seamless integrity.

    Do what you want with science take it as far as you can. Doesn’t reduce or modify this potential in anyway.

  • Carol Lynn

    By “abstract”, I meant you do not seem to have a view of god that is an Abrahamic or scriptural based one.

    I still have no clue what you are “doing” with your insights. You are “enlightening” your life with it and “restoring authenticity with seamless integrity” … er.. how does that work, exactly? What, specifically, is inauthentic? What, exactly, needs ‘enlightening’? And how does this process translate into anything other than navel gazing something strictly internal and non-productive? I don’t think there is anything wrong with introspection, but I do not see that it advances or enlightens the general human condition any without having it be externalized in some way. There has to be some externalization. After all you are here on a atheist blot site, telling us your way to live is a more authentic way with more spiritual/intellectual? integrity. You are trying to explain your process of living the enlightened life you say you have in words that you expect other other people to process and join you in your quest for ‘god’. If you either do not bother to or can’t define your terms, then I see no reason at all to take your world view seriously.

    I find your explanations incoherent. It is not that I have never looked for or experienced the numinous. I see no reason to attribute that numinous experience to anything other than an emergent process of my completely physical brain. That does not reduce any ‘potential’ I might have or make me more “abstracted” or mean that I am conducting my life with less integrity than you do.

  • ChloeAlexa Landry

    Written by a very Ignorant person on a subject he Knows even less about except Dictatorial Verbiage. Yes Gender is in our Mind’s eye, as proven in studies back in the 90’s in the Netherlands. Do take note: Sex is between the Legs. There is more accumulated knowledge as of now so why not do some diligent perusal of the subject and bring yourself up to speed. While your at it also include that which your Christ preached and lived and examplified by His life. You just may notice Christians of today seem to not know , much less practice it. And where do you get off Judging people, as your Bible states, Judge not lest yew be judged.

  • Anita

    ‘God is existence’.
    Says who? You? Have you concocted a definition of god? Why not simply call ‘existence’ well, let’s try ‘existence’! A useful word without the trappings and potential for misunderstandings.
    Defining god as existence is a bit like defining God as the Universe and all the forces therein. It lets you into the believers’ club on the flimsiest of reasons.
    Let me take this further; does God/existence answer prayers? Perform miracles? Did he create the universe out of nothing? Did God/existence sacrifice his only begotten son? Is he a Christian form of existence or is he a Muslim existence. Perhaps he is the form of existence found in Ancient Greece or Rome?
    By your definition I’d say you were an atheist like us who believes in ‘existence’.

    I do know what your getting at as I’ve heard this line of reasoning before. I’ll try not to put words into your mouth, but I feel that you’re going to come back with the argument ‘what is reality anyway? Who knows, we could be playing out our little lives on the slide on a giant’s microscope?’

    This angle usually ends in a stalemate. I think we have to work with what we’ve got. Scientific findings have gone a long way towards showing us the world as it probably is. Be grateful for what we know. Tomorrow it may be proven otherwise, but it’s the best we have to date.

  • Pofarmer

    Fair question. What ARE you thinking?

  • Kevin Osborne

    This universe is created by God, a fellow personage, as a kind of theme park where all experience in space and time is available to those who enter. That is a considerable amount of experience, much of which lies outside so called “normal” human comprehension. God as awareness of experience and as co-creator of that experience can be known to a degree but not completely so long as one is inside because while inside our awareness is limited,. God does not direct anyone in any direction or participate in anyone’s life except as one chooses to see it that way. I don’t choose to see it that way. So there is not much practical use in believing in God without personal experience. The plus side of being open to the possibility of some sort of God is, what if there is one?

  • Anita

    “This universe is created by God, a fellow personage”

    Why would you think that?

  • Anita

    I’m a little baffled by your response as you seem to be coming from two different points of view. This is confusing, but I take it from your inclusion of Pascal’s Wager at the end, that you do believe it.

    Perhaps I could address the Pascal’s Wager part. If this were a reasonable position to take it would appear that one could CHOOSE to believe..or not, as an effort of will! I don’t know that this is possible; it’s certainly not from my perspective.

    As much as I may wish to believe ( and I don’t , but if I did), it would not come. I think it’s really silly. I can’t imagine why a grown-up would take it seriously. To me, it’s like thinking that Superman or Batman were real personages.

  • “I have never been able to. Nor has anyone else… which is why we are having this discussion.”

    Upon what are you basing this incredibly broad statement?

    What criteria have you applied? What are your expectations? Who’s testimony or life example have you investigated?

    What are you looking for? Some sort of mathematical formula?

    I suspect that we’ve probably reached the limit of what we can hope to accomplish. I’m willing to give it a rest if you are.

  • Otto

    Isn’t my personal experience regarding this issue good enough? You argue it is good enough when you apply your personal experience and the personal experience of people that agree with you. But when people tell you they have honestly looked for a god and have come up lacking in experience, evidence and through the use of reason your only recourse is to imply, directly or indirectly, that ‘we were just doing it wrong’…and then when asked what we did wrong exactly, you very broadly wave your hand at thousands of books… many of which I am willing to bet come to very different conclusions and are wildly inept in definitions. I bet many if not most of them directly contradict each other. Wanna know why I am willing to make that bet? Because religious “knowledge” has not ever been shown to converge in its claimed knowledge, in fact what we see is the opposite… that type of knowledge diverges. It is the reason there are 40,000 versions of Christianity, that number isn’t getting smaller, it is getting bigger.

    What am I looking for? I have told you multiple times, go back and re-read my responses. What I am asking for is not unreasonable. At a minimum you would need to show your concept of god superscedes the others. They can’t all be right but they could all be wrong. If you are right you need to “show your work”… not just assert it.

    If you cannot provide proper justification beyond ‘butterflies migrate and we don’t exactly know why or how…therefore god’ then we are at an impasse.

    If you have had enough then stop posting. I have asked you very specific questions and you have shown no interest in attempting to answer them (though I have answered yours) so unless you want to have an honest, real discussion it is probably for the best that you stop.

  • I only wonder if Mary had ever read the Bible in full.

  • Otto – “And you do realize this blog is about people that have experimented professionally with this issue and have since rejected the conclusion. Are you saying they all also lack integrity?

    … and have since rejected the conclusion.”

    Integrity is an interesting word isn’t it?

    I like the statement that you have quoted by itself, but you have also skipped the following “concise language” that annotates it.

    “In the case of proof of God, or enlightenment, the ground of the experiment is your own being. No way around that. “

  • Otto

    And I have told you the experimental ground produced zero results…and you blame that on a lack of integrity.

    In order to perceive proof you have to prepared the experiment with integrity.

  • “By “abstract”, I meant you do not seem to have a view of god that is an Abrahamic or scriptural based one.”

    Oh…but in my original comment I mentioned that I had not been rigorously conditioned to that as a standard, and therefore was open to a wider field of imagery.

    Especially fruitful has been the legacy of Eastern tradition. (I don’t mean Eastern Orthodox Catholicism)

    “You are ‘enlightening’ your life with it and ‘restoring authenticity with seamless integrity’ … er.. how does that work, exactly? What, specifically, is inauthentic? What, exactly, needs ‘enlightening’? And how does this process translate into anything other than navel gazing, something strictly internal and non-productive? I don’t think there is anything wrong with introspection, but I do not see that it advances or enlightens the general human condition any without having it be externalized in some way. There has to be some externalization. “

    If I knew the Bible better I could probably point to a hundred ways that Jesus said the same things that I have said.

    When you were a believer what was it that you were doing? What was the point of cultivating righteousness?

    What does “not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing” mean?

    Why should we not “worry about the mote in our brothers eye”?

    Why did Adam and Eve suddenly need the fig leaves?

    Why could they no longer remain in the Garden?

    What does Jesus mean when he says “I and the Father are One”?

    ” What, exactly, needs ‘enlightening’? And how does this process translate into anything other than navel gazing, something strictly internal and non-productive?”

    Better if you tell me?

    “I find your explanations incoherent. It is not that I have never looked for or experienced the numinous. I see no reason to attribute that numinous experience to anything other than an emergent process of my completely physical brain. That does not reduce any ‘potential’ I might have or make me more ‘abstracted’ or mean that I am conducting my life with less integrity than you do.

    … I see no reason to attribute that numinous experience to anything other than an emergent process of my completely physical brain”.

    Well, that is a choice you have made. I am more involved with the question of “Who am I really?”.

    “…completely physical brain”?

    This begs so many questions about where, what, how and why that I can’t let myself get started on it. (again I mean)

    ” That does not reduce any ‘potential’ I might have or make me more ‘abstracted’ or mean that I am conducting my life with less integrity than you do.”

    I don’t think that I was comparing your integrity to mine.

    I like to think of “integrity*” as both “potential” and as “absolute”. This paradox reminds me of that “numinous experience” that you referenced. Is that what what you where talking about?

    (*Integrity…get it?)

    Sorry …. I know you aren’t actually concurring with me on this yet.

  • Carol Lynn

    Not only am I not concurring with you, I still find you to be completely incoherent as a writer and – I’m becoming increasingly convinced – as a thinker.

    What part of “atheists think the ‘god-exists’ positions have never been adequately demonstrated” is so unclear to you that you can offer something as hilariously pointless as “why did Adam and Eve need fig leaves and have to leave the Garden of Eden?” as meaningful discussion questions? No creation. No Adam. No Eve. No Garden. No serpent. No apple. No fig leaves. End of discussion. (Even metaphorically, I find the questions are absurd.)

    You seem to be incapable of something as basic as defining your terms so we can engage in a coherent discussion. I’ll repeat the questions: What, specifically, do you consider to be ‘inauthentic’? What is it, exactly, that needs ‘enlightening’?

    Remember in your statements that atheists in general do not think the concept of ‘souls’ has been adequately demonstrated either so reference to them would be pointless and dismissed out of hand unless you can demonstrate that souls exist with something more than a bald assertion that because you are sure they do we all must. Appeals to authority or scripture are also non-starters to me. You will have to do better than that to convince me to take anything you say as containing any sort of valid insight.

    You assert that you now have “seamless integrity” in your life with the assumption that without your current underlying beliefs you did not have that . What exactly is ‘seamless integrity’ and what exactly does your ‘seamless integrity’ now entail that you lacked before? What specifically is ‘enlightening’? And how does this process translate into something that could affect anything or anyone besides the navel-gazer? Can you demonstrate that?

    You seem to be promoting the idea that the people on this blog should be willing to go back to ideas that I, at least, have already considered and discarded only because you say you have found something essentially better and we should trust you about the depth of your insights. As far as I can see, that entails you writing out meaningless sentences with vague and undefined terms and expecting to be not only congratulated but emulated for your insights, ‘authenticity’, and ‘integrity’. In my opinion, you have not managed to convey any of that yet. Feel free to try again, if you care to. Please do remember to define your terms first next time as I still have no clue what exactly you are talking about when you toss around words like “inauthentic” and “enlightenment”.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Personal experience. I have met the person. That is enlightenment. There is a life size figure of a monk at the Seattle Art Museum. ca. 14th century, depicting that moment. God as personage also makes sense from an engineering standpoint. If we exist inside this place as it seems God can be understood better by understanding the nature of this place.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Thank you, I was not aware of Pascal’s wager.
    Let’s say the understanding in this place consists of looking something over. We each have things we are looking over without being immediately aware of it. PTSD folks, for example, have a lot of attention outside consciousness.
    So a step in the direction of understanding is being willing to see. That does not mean full belief or understanding. It is a step and can be applied to anything. One is actually moving in space to accomplish understanding, shifting and gaining perspective. There are pluses to it. Life can become easier and more fluid and a willingness can open doors of beauty and mystery otherwise not seen. The minus is as we are limited in attention it can be useful to limit what one is looking at. Generally the more focus one has the happier life is and that means conscious decision making. It also can mean staying inside one’s decisions so being on boards like this can either unconsciously begin an understanding process or turn other viewpoints into threats that justify attack. Don’t get lost in someone’s else’s viewpoint (as in religious instruction from birth) but have enough faith in your own viewpoint to be willing to visit the other side then return to your own.

  • Anita

    Hi Kevin. How did you know that this personage was god and not any one of a number of possibilities? It could have been …
    (a) a hallucination (b) an imposter (c) just an ordinary person, misplaced by your imagination.
    These would come to my mind if I encountered such a happenstance. The last thing to occur to me would be that I’d come face to face with god.

  • Kevin Osborne

    This is where the individual nature of each of us, how little we are tied to others in here, comes into view. The experience is unquestionable because the framework, whatever that is to you, has been accomplished. You know. And that makes it easier to know other things. But it only applies to you as an individual.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Up to that point, also, I had no belief in God or thought about God. I had no opinion either way.

  • Anita

    What you’re describing is being ‘predisposed to believing’ in the first place. Might I suggest that having such predisposition puts you half way there. I would describe this as being ‘primed’. People attending a magic show who are primed to believe, see magic on the stage, whereas people like me see clever sleight of hand and illusion.
    This is nonetheless entertaining and engaging, but minus the magic.

    Putting myself in your mind my guess is that you see me as missing out in some way; as having a deficit in feelings of wonder and awe. This is not the case. I have my full quota of sentiments in this direction, but mine are attributed to the wonder of the Universe and admiration for those clever souls who are able to bring a very real understanding of its vastness to the ordinary people.

  • Anita

    But how do you KNOW that you were not hallucinating? That would be the most likely explanation.

  • Kevin Osborne

    I’m describing the process of understanding in general, as I see it. I think the misunderstanding here is I see my process as climbing back out of the wormhole and you see it as being encumbered by belief that you are free of.
    I don’t believe there are any ordinary people nor gifted as a whole. We are all special. I don’t see you as lacking anything. For some reason you want to discuss your new faith and I like to discuss things both for the interest and my own learning.

  • Kevin Osborne

    To you, it would. There are thousands if not millions of folk like me you could discuss this with, if you wished to do so, and the what is pretty much the same for all of us. I have spoken to people who have one for one the same set of understandings that come out of the blue. However when the experience happens the last thing on one’s mind is doubt.

  • Anita

    This is not my ‘new faith’. I was not brought up with any religion. My parents were not religious at all ( freethinkers), so apart for a short flirtation in my teens I have not been encumbered with any preset ideas. ( probably as you, if your account is to be believed!)

    I enjoy talking about these things, especially with Americans, because these ideas are open for discussion these days. In my youth it was prudent to keep such ideas to myself ( if I wanted to keep my friends, that is). Australia seems to have moved on, but not so the US it would appear.

  • Anita

    If I were to have this experience, I would probably think: ‘I KNOW hallucinations are real. There is no evidence that any gods/ goddesses ( let’s not exclude the possibility ) are real. Thus, the probability strongly supports the proposition that the experience is not real.

    Whether there are millions claiming the same experience is of no consequence. People experience hallucinations of all types every day.

  • Anita

    I’ve strangely lost my reply. No doubt you would see more into this than the vagaries of the digital world.

    In it I had mentioned that hallucination was the most likely explanation in the realms of probability. We know that people hallucinate. There is evidence. We do not know of any supernatural entities. Thus: the logical conclusion to draw by way of probability is that the odds are in favour of hallucination.

  • Kevin Osborne

    The above pretty much states that “evidence” is what you choose to see as such, which is in line with how this place works. What you are willing to see is your reality. Be willing to see more, you will.
    Everything you do not hold as true is someone’s hallucination. That really makes sense to you?

  • Anita

    Hallucinations can be put in the category of ‘evidence’ because they can be induced and observed. Mind altering drugs and alcohol can induce a hallucination just as they can by other means. The brain is capable of perceiving things that are not actually there and many experiments have been set up to show this phenomena under test conditions.

    Anecdotal evidence and hearsay are considered very poor examples of evidence and can be easily discounted in a court of law. Do you believe every far-fetched tale you hear? Of course not. No one using sound judgment would do this. People lie and people can be deceived or deluded.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Sorry I confused you with someone else on these boards. I was raised Roman Catholic but abandoned it when I left home and have avoided religion sects in general since.

  • Kevin Osborne

    The setup unfortunately does not allow the substitution of group think for understanding. It is up to the individual to sort things out and there are methods to accomplish this but the only way it gets done is to do it.
    Across much of the world folks step into it because of outside influence, in the US with little Eastern mindset (Zen if you will) an escape from entrapment and pain is the impetus. Or at least solving the mystery.
    However if your opinion is the whole idea is insane then I am happy to leave it at that. Bonne chance!

  • Anita

    Kevin, both you and your partner-in-crime bmcKay are couching your arguments in very philosophical terms; perhaps hinting at a special knowledge that only those initiated can share. I only have workaday English to convey my ideas.

    Notions of some other world existence seem fanciful to my thinking. Such experiences would lead me to seek an explanation from someone skilled in the field of neurological processes.

    Good luck with your pain management. I think you’d understand only too well the imput of our mental processes in this regard. The brain is an amazing organ and is capable of unbelievable feats. But…don’t neglect your fellow human beings as a source of distraction.

    Bonne chance et au revoir.

  • Not only am I not concurring with you, I still find you to be completely incoherent as a writer and – I’m becoming increasingly convinced – as a thinker.

    Does it not occur to you that your reading skills, or your ability to suspend political thinking, could also be lacking? This is a team effort after all. (I’m also maintaining at least four conversations at once here. Please assume I’m doing my best.)

    What part of ‘atheists think the ‘god-exists’ positions have never been adequately demonstrated’ is so unclear to you that you can offer something as hilariously pointless as “why did Adam and Eve need fig leaves and have to leave the Garden of Eden?’ as meaningful discussion questions? No creation. No Adam. No Eve. No Garden. No serpent. No apple. No fig leaves. End of discussion. (Even metaphorically, I find the questions are absurd.)

    This would be a good example of my above critique of the integrity of your reading skills:

    Carol Lynn – “By “abstract”, I meant you do not seem to have a view of god that is an Abrahamic or scriptural based one.”

    brmckay – “When you were a believer what was it that you were doing? What was the point of cultivating righteousness?…”

    This was then followed by a litany of Jesus quotes that were (in my opinion) equivalent in gist to the things I have been saying (about “seamless integrity”, “authenticity”, “God as Existence”, etc.) Per your request to clarify what I meant by these expressions.

    My failing here, was that I forgot to confirm if you had been (like so many others on this site) a believing Christian. Sorry, but I was not talking to you as an atheist. This confusion could have been avoided by introducing yourself as I did in my first comment.

    “You seem to be incapable of something as basic as defining your terms so we can engage in a coherent discussion. I’ll repeat the questions: What, specifically, do you consider to be ‘inauthentic’? What is it, exactly, that needs ‘enlightening’?”

    I will need to know what your background has been in terms of theological, religious, philosophical and spiritual influence before I choose what words to use.

    Explanation: If you are familiar with Zen or Vedanta, Sufism or Yoga it might be easier than if you have never looked beyond the Judeo-Christian context in your contemplation of God or lack of it.

    I don’t want to get yelled at again if I can help it. So, if none of this is familiar, or if you have already dismissed all these teachings as “unconfirmed”, “nonsense”, or “metaphysical woo”, I will have to pass.

    “Remember in your statements that atheists in general do not think the concept of ‘souls’ has been adequately demonstrated either so reference to them would be pointless and dismissed out of hand unless you can demonstrate that souls exist with something more than a bald assertion that because you are sure they do we all must. Appeals to authority or scripture are also non-starters to me. You will have to do better than that to convince me to take anything you say as containing any sort of valid insight.”

    Oops, I guess that this answers my question. So, are all atheists similarly constipated? How exactly do you justify it if it isn’t just personal choice (hard-wired or aquired)?

    “You assert that you now have “seamless integrity” in your life with the assumption that without your current underlying beliefs you did not have that.”

    No I didn’t. I said that the inquiry as described “informs my life”. I’m not going to go back over it all, unless I detect some willingness to grant validity to my having this perspective.

    “What exactly is ‘seamless integrity’ and what exactly does your ‘seamless integrity’ now entail that you lacked before?”

    I really want to try to answer this because I learn something every time I make the effort.

    When I settle down, gather my thoughts, weed out the self interest of ego, and open my heart to saying something that serves the bigger picture. It is valuable to me if not to you. It is a form of “prayer” (or is that term illegal here?)

    But, I won’t continue to try answering your questions, until we establish some integrity between us.

    “What specifically is ‘enlightening’? And how does this process translate into something that could affect anything or anyone besides the navel-gazer? Can you demonstrate that?”

    Gee, you got me there. I can’t demonstrate that your navel has been scrutinize because of anything that I’ve said. Atheists must be right. There is no God.

    “You seem to be promoting the idea that the people on this blog should be willing to go back to ideas that I, at least, have already considered and discarded only because you say you have found something essentially better and we should trust you about the depth of your insights. As far as I can see, that entails you writing out meaningless sentences with vague and undefined terms and expecting to be not only congratulated but emulated for your insights, ‘authenticity’, and ‘integrity’. In my opinion, you have not managed to convey any of that yet. Feel free to try again, if you care to. Please do remember to define your terms first next time as I still have no clue what exactly you are talking about when you toss around words like ‘inauthentic’ and ‘enlightenment’.

    Lot of projection going on there.

    Perhaps you could finish the aborted conversation I was having with Pofarmer. Then we will see.

  • Carol Lynn

    You made a claim. You are the one who has to defend it. It is not my job to assume what you mean or to simply go along with your assumptions on how the universe works because you find that more convenient. If you find a contemplation of ‘god’ to be a valuable asset in how you approach the world, I do not and cannot dispute that. However, when you say that everyone else should follow your example because …. er, you found it valuable for undefined reasons, you do have to back up your assumptions and give actual reasons for why anyone should emulate you. That it makes you feel ‘more authentic’ and ‘says something that serves the bigger picture’ is wonderful, fabulous for you. Unfortunately I still have no clue what you actually mean by that. Is the ‘bigger picture’ external to you or internal? What exactly is the ‘bigger picture’ you are ‘serving’ and how does what you ‘say’ ‘serve’ something that to me appears to be strictly internal? If the ‘bigger picture’ is external to you, how does what you ‘say’ to it in your prayer/meditation translate into anything that is externalized out where the ‘bigger picture’ is? Is the purpose of your prayer to inform action? If so, how does that differ from simply thinking about issues using the ‘best social good’ as the standard without reference to god?

    I would like to think that we are actually doing the same process of deciding on social good with me using concrete examples and you using god metaphors. However, to keep my intellectual integrity, I cannot simply assume that

    If ‘acting with integrity’ towards you means, I must hand wave away all my objections to your framing of the universe, assume your definitions of words without having them explained, and simply believe on no evidence that what you experience is and must be true for all, then, no, you will not get that from me as I do not consider that acting with integrity. If ‘acting with integrity’ in this conversation means you attempt to rigorously define your terms and offer something besides personal experience, which I do not dispute that you have and that it provides mental and emotional satisfaction to you, then we can continue.

    I have done the searching you recommend in many religious traditions and I came to vastly different conclusions. Nothing you have offered here has come close to being a valid argument for reexamining or changing my position as an atheist.

  • My head is spinning.

    If you didn’t keep me so busy trying to get you to stop putting layers of words and intentions of your own manufacture onto my statements, I might be able to get back to saying something useful.

    I think that you are primarily an activist and don’t actually represent the main body of Linda’s readership. i.e. clergy who have lost their faith.

    So I will start conserving my energy for less political interaction.

    The following statement is the least incendiary and obfuscating, so I’ll address it.

    “I have done the searching you recommend in many religious traditions and I came to vastly different conclusions. Nothing you have offered here has come close to being a valid argument for reexamining or changing my position as an atheist”

    This “coming to conclusions” is the tip off. The clue to why we are on different paths.

    I investigated these traditions after an initial epiphany. Had turned a corner. Experienced something like a valence shift.

    The non-dual awareness taught by gurus, rishis, roshis, monks and nuns. Saints and mystics has been a source of inspiration and confirmation. It is as simple as that. I understand it. And, find that it is a better way than not “understanding” it.

    Your searching was apparently different. Probably both in purpose and results. But I won’t speculate further. You have taught me well about the foolishness of that.

    I do not *need* to convert anybody here. Only catalyse change in kindred spirits. Encourage further doubt. Doubt in their doubt, if there is an obviously unnecessary and surmountable disconnect at it’s root.

  • “And I have told you the experimental ground produced zero results…and you blame that on a lack of integrity.”

    I’ve been at it 40 years or more. The acquisition of “integrity” is an ongoing process.

    “Results”? What are your expectations?

    Or, maybe it’s just not your thing, and Atheism is a good fit.

  • Otto

    You seem to be conflating definitions of “integrity” depending on how it suits your needs. Please don’t do that it is insulting and dishonest. In what sense is your experience an ongoing ‘acquisition’ of integrity and mine is a demonstration of an unwillingness to “experiment with integrity”?

  • We’ve exhausted this thing. You squander to much time quibbling about how I use words.

    I’m sorry to have wasted your time and that you have taken offence. In my opinion, I’ve made some interesting points along the way, which have been completely ignored because everybody here assumes I’m either attacking them or they just habitually refuse to co-operate for idealogical reasons.

    Since it was Mary Johnson, the author of the main article, that my original comment was addressed to anyway, and she’s not interested, I’ll wrap up loose ends and mosey on.

  • Otto

    In my opinion, I’ve made some interesting points along the way

    The problem is only you know what they are. I still have no idea what you believe and why.

    The issue with conflating definitions of words is the people you attempt to communicate with don’t know what you are saying. In order for people to have a constructive discussion they need to agree what the words being used mean, and when words have multiple meanings switching the usage and giving no indication that is what you are doing only ends up in miscommunication, misunderstanding and frustration. Unfortunately that is standard operating procedure for the religious, the ‘spiritual’ and other spreaders of ambiguous concepts and dubious claims. If you will notice most of the responses to you on this blog have been an effort to get you to clarify what you are saying. Your responses were no better. That use of language may make you feel poignant but your audience doesn’t agree. I am more than willing to have these discussions but if I can’t understand you because of your conflation it isn’t a “me” problem…it is a “you” problem. I am sorry you have wasted our time as well.

  • Otto – “That use of language may make you feel poignant but your audience doesn’t agree. …

    ….I am more than willing to have these discussions but if I can’t understand you because of your conflation it isn’t a “me” problem…it is a “you” problem.

    … I am sorry you have wasted our time as well.”

    You analyse this then. You certainly haven’t been able to understand my attempts.

    I will instead refer you to the clearest point in this entire series of conversations.

  • Otto

    Clearest point…?

    I’ll start:
    – I assume primordial infinitude. Therefore no reassembly is even conceivable

    What is ‘primordial infinitude’? I have got a base understanding of each of those words but when you put them together what are you trying to communicate?

    – I assume that primordial infinitude remains unchanged and ever present no matter what I ate for breakfast.

    Again…what?

  • Knock it off Otto.

    Perhaps that lobotomy wasn’t such a good idea after all.

  • Otto

    Wow…you think I am joking.

    …I think I found your problem.

  • You have been blowing smoke for some time now.

    I have presented a list of reasonable assumptions upon which, I have established my worldview. (Your poetic liabilities aside.)

    A similar list of the basic assumptions relevant to *your* choice of worldview, should be a simple thing.

    If there is any further discussion, it should proceed from there.

    A critique of my terminology and the style of presentation has nothing to do with it.

    I’m not asking you to “buy in”. You don’t even have to “understand” what I have said.

    If this is something that you prefer not to participate in then simply say so. Without the attempt to malign my character. (Who is the audience for that anyway?)

    .

  • Otto

    Unless you can answer what a primordial infinitude is I don’t see the point of further discussion.

    I put it in to google to see if it was just something I have never heard of. The first listing for it links to you.

    I have no idea why you are taking that question as an attack and you do not want to explain it further.

    I have not once maligned your character. I have called you out for dishonesty in our discussions and I have explained why I have that view. You have never addressed the issue in response to show me why my perception of what you are doing is wrong. I even gave you an out by asking the question…

    …”In what sense is your experience an ongoing ‘acquisition’ of integrity
    and mine is a demonstration of an unwillingness to “experiment with
    integrity”?”…

    It was a effort to get you to explain your seemingly disconnected use of the different definitions of the word “integrity”. For some reason you don’t want to do that.

  • Otto

    Oh and to answer your question. I have as few assumptions as possible. I assume we are experiencing a shared reality and we are not experiencing a solipsist existence. Beyond that I am a skeptic and attempt to avoid accepting unsubstantiated claims. I want to believe as many ‘true’ things as possible and reject as many ‘false’ things as possible.

  • “…”In what sense is your experience an ongoing ‘acquisition’ of integrity and mine is a demonstration of an unwillingness to “experiment with
    integrity”?”…”

    Could you please provide everybody with full citation for this “quotation”? (Including the half-baked interpretations that you have hacked together to create it.)

    And…

    I will once more tiresomely point out that my efforts to get past this subjective impasse have been rebuffed.

    If you don’t get, how my suggestion, of sketching in our personal paradigms, without reference to, or critique of the other’s, is a helpful platform; A way to enhance our understanding, then I (really!) can’t work with you either.

    In the mean time , here, have a cookie:

    “Primordial” as in “primordial stew”. “beginnings”, “what came before”

    “Infinitude” as in “no beginning and no end”, “no form”, “emptiness”, “boundless”, “nothing other than THIS”, “HERE AND NOW”.

    I will continue to interpret you as being strategically obtuse, until you convince me otherwise. So it would be best to just provide a list of basic assumptions that inform *your” life.

    (hint: What are the assumptions behind your atheism? If you are actually a(nti)theist instead, then it should become clear. This would be helpful for us all to know.)

  • Ouch, I did not see this for before composing the above. I apologize. I would delete it except that someone, possibly you, is responding to it.

    This boondoggle I will claim as mine.

    And thank you.

  • Otto

    So basically ‘Primordial Infinitude’ is an oxymoron. I know you will take that as an insult, but what I am pointing out is why that term confused me. ‘Primordial’ (beginnings), ‘Infinitude’ (no beginnings). But at least you answered the questions directly, I do appreciate that.

    Regarding my half baked interpretations that that generated the question…just explain why my perception of your use of “integrity” is wrong. Put yourself in my shoes, if someone told you that you lacked integrity when addressing a metaphysical question what definition under the term would you assign it?

  • Otto

    I understand, no offense taken. Even when I read your other response I assumed you just missed it.

  • “Primordial Infinitude” is only an oxymoron for those who find it so. I am very happy to have applied it. It gives me and everyone else a break from the term “Singularity”.

    You obviously have no aptitude for this kind of discussion, “I know that you will take that as a insult”, but as I suggested, atheism is a good fit. You should be glad that there is a niche for you.

    If you ever surprise yourself and start to “get it”, look me up.

    I’m pretty sure that it was not me who said this thing that you are obsessing over. Without the citation I’ll assume that I am innocent of the charge. But, the issue of “integrity” (in the sense that you are using it) may actually become an issue if we keep talking. I would rather that it doesn’t.

    As for *my* sense of the word integrity, think in terms of a lifetime of practice and exploration. And, as I see it, that “practice and exploration” is “informed” by “Primordial Infinitude”. As in our birthright of awakening to our integration with it.

  • Mary Johnson

    Brmckay, I appreciate your questions. “But what about God?” or, “What about the cultivation of authenticity?” or, “What about the discovery of True Self?” or, “Awe, reverence and wonder?”

    I’m all for awe, reverence, and wonder. I think they are part of the glory of life. I identified these experiences, often self-transcendent experiences, as experiences of God for most of my life. For the last decade or so, I’ve experienced awe, reverence, and wonder without a belief in God.

    Like some others in this discussion, I’ve come to understand God as a human invention. God is a way to explain things, something that gives us meaning, something to hope for. I believe God is conceited of our human fears and desires, as well as our awe and wonder.

    For me, cultivating authenticity means, among other things, setting the bar of evidence very high. Before, I was willing to believe based on tradition and what others told me. Especially when my experiences of awe and wonder corresponded with what I was told about God. But I saw up close how religious leaders often use the concept of God to control others. I also learned a lot about the human propensity to tell stories.

    I’m all for authenticity and awe, but the human tradition of God no longer makes much sense to me.

    If there is some sort of supreme something or other, it seems to me that it wouldn’t correspond with anything I’ve heard humans talk about when they talk about God. Even the early fathers of the church used to say that anything we humans say about God will be more unlike God that like God. (that is not to be construed as a concession to God-belief, but as a recognition that humility in the face of things that very well may be beyond us might be a good idea.

    This seems more intellectually honest to me.

  • Otto

    There is nothing to ‘get’, you seem to think communicating in an enigmatic fashion in the same vein as a Depok Chopra makes you somehow thought provoking. It doesn’t. It just makes you out to be an asshole.

    (there now I have maligned your character)

    Don’t bother posting, I am done wasting effort with you.

  • Thank you so very much for your response and especially for the even tenor of it. Which, is the quality in your original post that attracted me to respond. (Risking an all too familiar scuffle with the guardians at the gate.)

    If you have not read Vivekananda there is an excellent compilation of his talks and writing called “Pathways to Joy” – edited by Dave Deluca. I just came upon it recently and was (seriously!) delighted by it’s confirmation of my fumbling intuitions.

    I have the same gripe with the general trend of atheism, as I do with the general trend of Christianity. Both reinforce habits of thought that keep us in orbit around the personal and microscopic self. The “abstracted” sense of “otherness” that imprisons us in a mistaken identity with the finite, relative world of senses and form.

    I feel compelled to voice my concerns, because the children’s children’s children need to know, that humans have for millennia instinctively sought out and mastered the fundamental Truth that we are One and not different from the All. i.e. God.

    Yes there are many blind alleys to go down. But the simple virtues of honesty, integrity, authenticity, love of Truth will always sort us out. This is built in. The very nature of the process. The more these qualities resound in our being, the more proof we provide to our fellows.

    Don’t use the word God if it blocks *your* understanding, but burning the bridge for others (even just in your own attitude) is “something extra” that does not serve. It sustains a genre of “blind alleys” that will only confuse those who you may influence.

    I hope to inspire you to be more like this:

    “Even the early fathers of the church used to say that anything we humans say about God will be more unlike God that like God.”

    With out the need for this:

    “(that is not to be construed as a concession to God-belief, but as a recognition that humility in the face of things that very well may be beyond us might be a good idea.”

    For one thing; many, many, many have found the way home. Leaving a record of their journeys. This is at least as vital a legacy as all the miraculous parsings of scientific discovery.

    Our energies should be directed to avoiding “real” mistakes. These we can be easily determine by their outward effects. War, cruelty , self aggrandizement, greed, murder, rape, enslavement, pollution, discrimination, inequality, etc. etc.

    At the root of all these outward manifestations, is the fatal flaw, our fundamental ignorance. A confusion of identity.

  • Mary Johnson

    That’s an unusual thing to wonder, Maxximiliann. I’ve read the Bible, in full, several times. I also have a diploma in theology from The Pontifical Insitute Regina Mundi.

  • Mary Johnson

    Like you, I value honesty, integrity, authenticity, and love of truth. I also believe that we are all far more connected than we usually acknowledge. I think I’ll still refrain from use of the word God, even as a shortcut for mystery or energy or love or transcendence or any of the many other ways the term is used. When I want to talk about mystery, I’ll use the word mystery. When I want to talk about love, I’ll use the word love. Things just seem clearer that way. I do appreciate your search for honesty and for love, and your repeated, patient attempts at a real discussion. I sense a great heart behind your words. Thanks for being here.

  • Thank you. [heaves a great sigh of relief]

  • Your conversation with Kevin Osborne was interesting.

    Some thoughts… Perhaps there is a need to revisit just what “freethinker” means. What is “free” about a reflex to “doubt” before experience is accepted as real.

    Then, the notion of “what is real” needs some examination. This involves contemplation of “consciousness” and more importantly,the sense of “I” through which the “personal” experience of “consciousness” flows.

    At the level of physics and it’s laws, what is the prototype of the Self? Of Will? Of Love?

    Even induced hallucination is “real” as a phenomena. What is the role of self in relationship to the hallucination? This is open ended. The “self” can doubt, or believe, or transform the vision to its needs. All of these actions are as real as the hallucination. No more and no less.

    Another possible action it to simply witness. Without attraction. Without aversion. Dwelling in the “Realness” underlying every aspect.

    This is Yoga, This is Zen. It’s fruit is actual freedom.

  • Anita

    Hi brmcKay. Thanks for replying so long after the event. I thought this thread had finished. Some interesting thoughts. The term ‘freethinker’ is usually used as a euphemism to spare the indignity of the term ‘atheist’ as, like ‘communist’, the word comes with a lot of baggage a preconceptions about the worthiness of such a person.

    To my mind the ‘thinker’ is not so free as to entertain the thought of any eventuality. If an idea seems completely preposterous to the thinker involved, and there’s not a shred of evidence to suppose that it’s true, then proposing such thoughts seems like an exercise in futility.

    You know that nouns such as ‘love’ are abstract concepts and can’t be defined in any real way without the participation of the individual involved. One can see the manifestations of ‘love’ in the way that individuals are treated, but even then, the emotion is only really experienced by the individual. It can be faked, and it’s even possible to fool oneself. (Think of all those infatuations of ones youth!)

  • “You know that nouns such as ‘love’ are abstract concepts and can’t be defined in any real way without the participation of the individual involved.”

    Yes, abstract. As is an “idea seem[ing] completely preposterous”.

    What you have said is all true. I would expand upon it though, and suggest that humans have been engaged in piercing the veil of “abstracted experience” for millennia.

    The best traditions of meditation have kinship with the scientific method. Even gestated it.

    As some science benefits from genius but not all, and not all the time; The same for the path of contemplation.

    The underlying motivation though, remains the same. Whether clouded or crystal clear;

    WE WANT TO KNOW.

  • I wondered because, in my experience, Catholic priests and nuns are trained more in Catholic traditions and protocols than in the Holy Scriptures. Had you not ever read the Bible in full your disenchantment with the church’s authority and subsequent conversion to Atheism would have made sense. Since you tell me, though, that you have read the Bible in full I don’t quite see how your disillusionment invalidated the precious Bible truths you had learned. I would love to hear more from you on this, if you don’t mind, that is 🙂

  • Anita

    I wonder at the relative life expectancy of a Buddhist monk and an ordinary citizen in say Japan, Switzerland or Australia. I suppose that would depend on whether the monk had access to modern western medicine, would it not? My guess is that the Dalai Lama himself will end his days in a hospital bed in a country using up-to-date medical procedures.

    Granted that meditation is a practice that leads to a higher degree of relaxation, but I think that where the benefits stop. I may be wrong of course, but when greater insights into the nature of the universe start to spring from the meditating mind I’ll sit up and take notice. Till then Ill rely on the scientific method for my revelations. And……from whence comes the notion that the scientific method comes by way of meditation? (no woo, please).

  • Rather than stick around while we box each others ears over this, I’m going to say goodbye for now.

    Someday I’ll make somebody actually explain this term “woo”.

    Perhaps though, it is something that evaporates as horizons broaden. So I’ll defer to the passage of time to make the point for me.

  • Mary Johnson

    Maxximillian, it seems to me that the Bible is taken as truth only if we believe in its divine authority. I no longer believe in God’s existence, so I no longer see the Bible as authoritative in any way. My journey to a more rational life was a long one. It has brought me freedom and intellectual honesty, and I appreciate that.

  • What evidence convinced you that God does not nor cannot exist?

  • To Max and Mary: Truth is that the Bible contains facts that are true and facts that are not true. Facts can be true or not. Truth cannot be false, thus the Bible is about Truth Itself. The Bible facts are true, some true, or none true. I choose to believe that facts, true or false, are what we are talking about, not Bible. Thus, it is Truth that rules whether any fact is true or not true, not where you find it, or who said it. If the same fact is found in the Bible and the Qur’an, or in a comic book, and the same fact is true, it is true in the Bible, Qur’an or the comic book. So, it is not the Bible in question, but facts presented.

    If I find the same fact in the Bible, Qur’an, or a comic book, I cannot rule in my mind that it is true because it is in all three. I also cannot rule in my mind that it is true because it is in the Bible, but not in Qur’an or any comic book. In comic book only, is suspect because the comic book has no reputation for being indisputable. Neither are the Bible or the Qur’an.

    Now take the case of the virgin birth of Jesus. What is more authoritative, ancient beliefs about birth and divinity, or more modern beliefs based on experience, knowledge and science. Science does not present proof of anything, but does accumulate the evidence. Finding no case of proof that something is not, does not prove that there are none. Finding one case of proof that something is, is proof that it is. No one can prove that there is no God, so it falls on the believer to find one God.

    Mary has found God. Mary’s God is Truth. Max tries to prove The God. He failed, for he did not find The God, but did find No God. No God does not prove No God. God proves God. So where is Mary wrong? What she calls The God.

    The other Mary was a virgin who conceived while engaged to be married. Many virgin female humans conceive while engaged. In my country it is not illegal or a sin by democratic legitimacy or even legality. Mary faced a problem. If the wrong people found out what she was doing that was perfectly normal for a young woman, they would kill her. She found a way to prevent that . She claimed that God was the father of her infant. It wasn’t The Devil, but God Himself. Who could find that wrong? Most religions claim that The God created everything and has the power to create and to destroy. So God created the possibility of a virgin having a child. God created Jesus.

    The claim that Jesus is The God, is not yet in question in these comments. Only the Bible. Anything any human being has learned directly from The God or from other sources is subject to The Truth. Thus, Truth is God, according to all who believe. No God is higher than The Truth. No Book is higher than The Truth contained in it.

    So Max and Mary, kiss and make up. Both have found what you seek; Mary found No God in the Bible, and Max Found The God in the Bible. Be careful, though; we are not ready for another virgin birth of The God. Let God spring full blown from the head of Zeus, the Father of all Gods. Let Truth be The God. All that is true or false is the domain of The God. The God rules what is and what is not. I find The God everywhere, including in the Bible, Qur’an, and in comic books. Truth is where it is. Even Moses found that God is what God is. “I am that I am.”

  • Small problem. A false fact is as real as a square-circle or a married-bachelor.

  • Mary Johnson

    Maxximiliann, you asked me, “What evidence convinced you that God does not nor cannot exist?” It’s not so much that I found evidence that convinced me of God’s impossibility–it seems impossible to prove a negative, after all. Rather, I raised my standard of proof. I am no longer willing to place my trust in stories that I am told unless I have evidence of their veracity. I am no longer willing to base my life on stories that were told thousands of years ago, no matter how appealing (or sometimes horrifying) those stories might be. I do think it boils down to: “Who do you trust?” I no longer trust a theological community to lead me to truth about the world. I believe reason is better for that.

  • Interesting. Does this means you remain open to the possibility that God does in fact exist?

  • Mary Johnson

    The chances are very, very slim. And if any sort of supreme being exists, it seems to me that being would be very unlike what we are accustomed to meaning when we refer to God.

  • Absolutely! Certainly false is as good as certainly true. But certainly false is better than factually true. There are no unicorns, but unicorns are possible.

  • Whom do you trust? It is certain that there are no square circles or cubic spheres. However, if you redefine bachelor by function, there are quite a few bachelors-in-fact who are still married by law. Law is not very reliable for function or certainty. You are right not to trust tradition or mythology. Yet, can you trust absolute truth? You can certainly know that a cubic sphere is impossible and that 2 plus 2 equals 4 in the decimal, octal, or duodecimal based counting. But there are no such numbers in the binary system. Yet there are equivalent values. Binary 10 = 2 decimal. So 2 decimal is actually 10 binary. Factual requires qualification in order to be true. That applies to names and nouns. Qualification amounts to tradition for languages, but may fall short in the vernacular. If you understand this, thank a real good teacher, or consider yourself a genius. Truth is not a fact, but a certainty. If it is true or false uncertainly, it is not truth, but fact only subject to being wrong. When you follow tradition, or your own belief, you may be wrong. But, if you test for certainty, you cannot be wrong unless you guess.

  • God does not exist in fact, but by the test of correspondence none can apply. Truth is higher than fact.

  • Kip, you are right if you leverage your friendship on agreement with you. Give your friends the right to their own religion, no matter how painful to you. True friends will not hold your religion against you, but will value your friendship over opinions. Read Khalil Gibran on Friendship in The Prophet.

  • Redefine atheist as ‘one who does not believe in truth’. Then all who believe that they are right can be true believers. Truth is God.

  • Why can’t God want whatever works well? A true God could not want what does not work. Survival of the fittest to survive is a central tendency of evolution. Failure to live forever is a failure of the fittest to survive and dying before birth is also a failure for life. Central is fittest to survive and best life to live. Go for it. Truth is God.

  • Can’t argue with this. It works.

  • Do you get The All from the Gnostic Gospel of Truth?

  • What makes you say that?

  • “Getting” is an ongoing process.

    But I like the sound of your question.

    Read a little of you comment history and from that, found little reason to complain.

    Your lexicon is considerably more disciplined and abundant than mine of course. But I liked the following.

    “Truth needs no verification, because it is true intuitively and actually.”

    Existence and potential to exist is a priori in my book. God is the Entirety. All. Inside and Out.

  • brmckay Existence is impossible without the possibility to exist. It is possibility that is created by Truth. Though truth value is a factual distinction between true and false, Truth is a tautology. It cannot be false. Thus, if The God is Truth, there is no contradistinction. To say that Truth is not The God, is to reduce Truth to a fact that could be true or false. That is the confusion that permits atheist as a non-believer in Truth. If you stick to The Truth transcendent to all that is true (the claim of the essence of Islam in Qur’an) it is not possible that there is no God. Of course you would have to accept a static God as Truth unchangeable and truth value of false for facts you would want to believe as a potential of your reality.

  • Mary, your definition of ‘supreme being’ is suspect or you could not have such a belief that no supreme being exists. Anselm, “God is that than which none possibly greater exists.” (Slightly paraphrased because Anselm gave several versions of this in the writings he left behind.) By your own admission you cannot prove the negative. But you confuse the absolute negative of impossible and the conditional negative of no pink pebbles in the Pacific. If one, not none. Not none, then one or more. Never impossible and always possible. But, a cubic sphere is impossible intuitively and math 2 plus 2 equals 5 (decimal), impossible. Factual knowledge is conditional always. Truth cannot be conditional even though truth value is either true or false, factually.

    If you can accept Truth as The Supreme Being, then you cannot accept any condition of Truth other than true. So, what is a Supreme Being? By all reason, a Supreme Being could not be false. Yet, any god by any factual consideration could be true or false, logically. The problem arises when one tries to define God as a big man, a spirit, or the father of any offspring. It also arises when God is the God of the Hebrews, the Athenians, or the Americans. Ownership of The God is in all factual existence and The God, Supreme over all, transcends any factual belief of concept. Forget Catholic belief; it cannot be universal or Catholic. Neither can any other belief in The God, except perhaps, The God of Islam, without the specifications that are required of a believer. Islam requires that no man can have a concept of a factual God. Thus no images are possible or permissible. The Prophet, Muhammad, asked his followers never to leave any image of Allah, or The Prophet behind, lest followers begin to worship the image instead of Allah.

    Your disillusionment of convent life and your leaving the faith behind is certainly a sign of confidence and bravery. Yet you need to look deeper into your reasons and find the difference between fact and Truth. You can then find the impossibility of the certainty of No Supreme Being. To do that requires that you start with the correspondence of the meaning of the term The God, and the intuitively true concept that could not be false. Do not start with any human invention of The God. Leave all gods behind, including Zeus, Jehovah, FSHG, and the Great Pumpkin.

  • I was tracking you pretty well up to this:

    ” Of course you would have to accept a static God as Truth unchangeable and truth value of false for facts you would want to believe as a potential of your reality.”

    Not sure what it means.

    As for what is called “Creation”, I’ll usually refer to it in terms like “relativity”, “duality” or “perfect complementarity”. None of which alone gets us in the ball park of the “Real”. etc.

    The paradox of “absolute/relative”, or “existence/non-existence”, or “infinite/finite” is the field of our experience. This hall-of-mirrors.

    Primordial Infinitude as the undivided Singularity is changeless. Even non-existent (by way of our confused thinking). Nothing other than its Self. Truth.

    Since Time is a characteristic of change, what I just called Primordial Infinitude remains in play. Completely accessible. Amen.

  • It is all in the horizon of our vision and comprehension. So long as our view is obstructed by the limitations of an assumption that we can know every detail as truth, we cannot comprehend truth as it is. Same for any construction of a concept of God as the Supreme Being of our own comprehension. We limit the Supreme Being to what we are willing to accept with self elevated to a position of dictation to the Supreme Being. Truth as it is is just that. We cannot restrict Truth, any restriction on Truth is already in place as Truth Supreme. If we could obstruct Truth as it is, we prove that it is not Truth Supreme, but a construct of our own. I do not do that. I allow Truth to guide me, obstruct me, and to obliterate me. I have no choice. I call all horizons to vision and comprehension ‘flat earth theories’ not absolute limitations on my own vision or the vision of a cooperative effort at science and theory of truth. Just view a Hubble field of deep space to see the effects of horizons of time and distance on our comprehension of what they mean. The red shift alone obscures what we could detect billions of light years since the light pixels were sent out by the images we now construct. The human mind is apparently unique in its ability to comprehend what we cannot see or sense in any way except by our own brain chemistry operating to see beyond our own comprehension and ability to construct a working model of truth and reality in our own minds. We are not unique in our ability to obstruct the light of reason. Most organisms live only to live, not to comprehend a reason or a purpose beyond the facts of life and sense perceptions distorted by the flat earth theories that are simplistic enough to excuse our frailty in the matter of a Supreme Being beyond our own visions of fact and material being. Now read this again and as often as you need to see around your own obstructions.

  • Beautifully said.

    Can’t tell if you liked my “Haiku” or not though.

    “Now read this again and as often as you need to see around your own obstructions.”

  • I like what I read from you. You seem to be where I was at about 50 and now near 87. You can take a giant leap forward that I never had the chance to do. All the encyclopedia available obscure more than they reveal. It takes a mind such as yours to see beyond the horizons and know that the earth is a distorted sphere, not a four cornered plane in space. Now subject the current ‘Big Bang’ to the flat earth comparison and see what you see. The Einstein theory of relativity was a kind of a flat earth theory that assumes a constant in the speed of light. I can show that the speed of light is co-dependent upon mass and varies with mass/energy as a variable relative that cannot seem to vary to anyone rooted in the faith in a constant as constant, not relative with all else relative to mass, distance and time. Even if the speed of light varies with mass it seems constant because if mass it increasing, decreasing, or staying static, the speed of light is co-relative with it, not a true constant except in its own relativity to relativity. “Haiku” or iambic pentameter, I am a poet as well. Poetic art is to comprehend what non-poets cannot, or to philosophize what some philosophers cannot. Keep in touch.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Purely insofar as the construct of this place, light is the means to perception and therefore is supplied as a constant to allow perception to vary. Mass is bundled as necessary to create the illusion of reality and at the top end of light speed becomes the border of particle participation. Freedom as perception in time and space allows any viewpoint except the All. One must step outside to attain that.
    I’m really enjoying your conversation with BR, I must step in when relativity mounts the stage.

  • I wonder if you can substantiate your statements with more meat on the bones. What is “…the illusion of reality…” and what are the “…top of light speed…” “…border of particle of participation…” and how does that relate to the horizons of perception, such as the curvature of the surface of the planet? What about the perceptions horizons in the sixth sense? The All, I understand as it was used in the Gnostic Gospels. You could go to the terms of point particle, occupied and unoccupied points in time and space, if you would. Explain the theory of relativity without the constant of the speed of light. Thanks for stepping in.

  • Kevin Osborne

    All below is my opinion and can be taken as such.
    Reality is what one chooses to see in this place. It is illusory in the sense that it is momentary and not the stream of existence it seems to be. We each create our own stream. Light speed is 186,000 miles per second and is considered the top speed for a particle in this universe because as a particle’s relative speed approaches the 186 it’s mass increases, to the point where at 186 it would contain all the mass in the universe. Since that is “impossible” light speed caps all relative speed, so becomes the borderline in a sense between being inside and outside the universe. Things are round here to reflect how mass comes together, from observation that bends space due to the perception/creation machine we each have with God. There are occupied viewpoints in space and time but no unobserved viewpoints. Occupied space has mass, unoccupied space has very little because it has been “plumbed” by our interest and creation into this spatial universe. Relativity can’t be explained, by me at least, without the speed of light since that is what relative speed is relative to. However one can say there is no absolute motion, that all particles seen as “one” are in motion relative to all other particles and our observation of these particles is what governs our reality. A willingness to accept everything is real opens the doors to all reality, which is anything anyone could imagine.
    I hope this helps.

  • In other words you believe that you control everything by your own belief system and that nothing is beyond or outside your own domain of ability to know. Would you ignore any claim that you do not understand, or would you accept it with an adjustment or a disclaimer that you have limited capacity and ability that would not encompass a Supreme Being, Truth, God, Jehovah, Allah, or Zeus? Can you accept Ultimate Truth as ruling what is and what is not?

  • Kevin Osborne

    I control only my own reality,and that control is limited to present consciousness. There is about a 1/1 quintillion quintillions quintillions percentage of all things that I presently know about this place. God, or great awareness, or whatever you want to call it, is immediately aware of the entirety. We each have a view of things but that view can contain information about the engineering, the construct of the universe and why we see things the way we do. As part of our individual realities we are each more or less aware of that construct just as we are more or less aware of what we all had for breakfast. A feature of this place is that there is no thing that is not. Everything exists but as a viewpoint not necessarily a quantifiable solidity. I don’t have a definition for Ultimate Truth so can’t comment on your question.

  • You answered my questions satisfactorily. Ultimate is final, and truth is what anything is. Final in that regard allows no adjustment for perception or change. All change itself is a component of final. Que sera sera! Thank you for your response.

  • “Defining god as existence is a bit like defining God as the Universe and all the forces therein. It lets you into the believers’ club on the flimsiest of reasons.”

    “Flimsiest or reasons”…. This fascinating attitude perfectly represents the standard conceit.

    It represents an atheism founded on a neolithic residue of stunted strawgods. Easy to dismiss but not relevant to our times.

    God as Existence, the Universe in its Entirety including the perceptual and conceptual elements therein.

    This is the rational starting point of contemplation, informed by an intuition of the underlying infinity.

  • Anita

    “This is the rational starting point of contemplation, informed by intuition of underlying infinity.”

    Sorry bmckay, to me, this statement is just a collection of words. I need words to represent some modicum of sense before being able to engage. What is it you’re trying to say?

    To answer my own question, I think you’re saying that contemplating the nature of infinity ( in itself a difficult concept, though not beyond the realms of human thought), requires the notion of a god? If this is the case, I beg to differ.

    I’ll make my case:
    I see atheism as the default position. There are no gods/goddesses or other supernatural entities. If you want to posit such a being/entity you have to make a case. To date, I haven’t heard any convincing case . The best theists seem to offer is a ‘feeling’ they have. Well….I don’t have this feeling and I don’t ascribe value to this emotional response by others.

  • “Sorry bmckay, to me, this statement is just a collection of words. I need words to represent some modicum of sense before being able to engage. What is it you’re trying to say?”

    You leave out the meat of the statement and then tell me, that remaining shreds makes no sense?

    I did not imply that contemplating the nature of infinity “requires a notion of a god”.

    I said:

    “God as Existence, the Universe in its Entirety including the perceptual and conceptual elements therein.

    This is the rational starting point of contemplation, informed by intuition of underlying infinity.”

    I am in no way implying any supernatural entities or multiplicity of gods. Much less any sort of finite entity.

    When you repeatedly re-stage the conversation to be about what you have an opinion against, well …. “it makes no sense”.

  • Anita

    “God as Existence, the Universe in its Entirety including the perceptual and conceptual elements therein.”

    I’m not unfamiliar with this line of argument bmckay; it’s a way of rationalising God belief and I’ve heard it often enough.

    Let me pose a question of you. Do you think that I believe in the universe in its entirety?

    In answer to my own question of course I do.

    In what ways do we differ? I confident that the universe of my perception and all that it contains, exists, ( and is not a figment of my imagination). I define it as just that and see no need for redefinition.

    Tell me in what way ways our understandings diverge.

  • Thank you. This seems a little more like a discussion now.

    Anita – “Tell me in what way ways our understandings diverge.”

    This is pretty easy to answer. It was stated in the original fragment, which is now taking its turn as the missing clarification.

    brmckay – “This is the rational starting point of contemplation, informed by intuition of underlying infinity.”

    I am engaged in the contemplation and experience of the underlying infinity. The essential characteristic of the Entirety. This for me, is what being a human being means.

    For you, probably not. Something else then.

    An artist surrenders to art, a musician to music, the yogi to Īśvara.

  • Anita

    ” m engaged in the contemplation and experience of the underlying infinity. The essential characteristic of the Entirety. This for me, is what being a human being means.”

    Having the capacity to contemplate the universe is most likely confined to the human species as far as we can determine; though I must say that the mental abilities of other species have surprised us of late! So let’s start with the presumption that we are the only one’s with the vision so far.

    When we think about the universe in its entirety what do we imagine? In my case, it’s a vision of stars and galaxies as informed by the Hubble telescope. I take on trust that these images are actually as shown and that I’m not deceived by some agency with another agenda. Our current, collective understanding in countries with the technology, is given to us by the cumulative knowledge afforded by science.

    Understandings prior to those proposed by the sciences, were vastly different and dare I say, ‘immature’.

    I can’t see how we can untangle our basic understandings from the technology that informs us. What we decide to call the sum total of our knowledge of the universe and all it contains seems like an irrelevance to my thinking. The one thing I wouldn’t call it is a capital ‘g’ God! (This word comes with too much baggage).

  • charlesburchfield

    I am drawn to your conversation tonight by this:
    ‘When you repeatedly re-stage the conversation to be about what you have an opinion against, well …. “it makes no sense”.
    I encounter many peeps on the blogs i follow & suffer pain of frustration over this very puzzlement! My mind & heart is open to an explanation only in so far as i am willing to honestly do my own inventory, fearlessly examine my own blockages, denial issues, hidden agendas. I am capable of being extremely judgmental & projecting my crappie on others no matter how good i think my intentions are! Here are some things I found helpful on a website about hidden agendas.

    ☆■The people & situations in your life are symbolic of what is going on within you. if the problems re-occur, then life is telling you what you need to work on in your hidden agenda.
    ☆■those on the Path will treat you with honesty & kindness.
    ☆■those of a dark nature will see honesty & kindness as a threat to them and a weakness to exploit.

  • Thank you again.

    The comparison of our worldviews gets clearer and more useful.

    “When we think about the universe in its entirety what do we imagine? In my case, it’s a vision of stars and galaxies as informed by the Hubble telescope. “

    I also love the wonder of astronomy and physics. But also, and especially, the Life Sciences. The stories of behavior and adaptation.

    None of this distracts from the other thing I’m calling contemplation.

    The field of scientific inquiry is about studying the parts and pieces. The relationships and the laws affecting things.

    Cultivation of the holistic perspective on the other hand, is more akin to art. Engaging intuition and reason, equally, and with mindfulness.

    The subjective elements of self awareness, perception, thought, imagination, feeling and experience of existence in general are not relegated to insignificant and secondary roles.

    These components are equal to atoms and molecules, galaxies and quasars when considering the Entirety.

    The underlying infinitude being the essential, and defining nature of Entirety. All parts holographically representing, and being represented by the whole.

    This is obviously (to me) worthy of the term God. So I happily use it.

  • Anita

    Hi bmckay. It would seem that we see things through the same lens, though our chosen nomenclature is vastly different. I’ve just searched my online dictionary and your definition of god was certainly not amongst those listed. All permutations had the notion of personification or elements of the supernatural. Is one permitted to make up one’s own word definitions for the sake of an argument?

    I can’t help but wonder where this esoteric/idiosyncratic definition would place you in terms of the rest of the congregation (assuming you attend services)? If I were in your shoes, I’d find it incredibly difficult to reconcile my views with those, whose understandings of a deity include finding a ‘parking spot’, or help with finding lost keys! In fact, I would find engaging with atheists far more mentally stimulating. At least we’re all on the same page!

  • “I’d find it incredibly difficult to reconcile my views with those, whose understandings of a deity include finding a ‘parking spot’, or help with finding lost keys!”

    Though paying no attention to synchronicity, doesn’t make it go away either. It is the constant state.

    Just remove the filters; The controlling script of acceptable expectations.

    The problem I usually have talking with atheists, is the prevailing need to reinforce their lack of God belief. This usually manifests as ridicule and a facade of certainty.

    As for talking with believers …, the thing is, … keep at this contemplation thing long enough, and you are no longer looking for God as other. As a center of responsibility for creation.

    The ripening of the inquiry is in recognizing, that the center is everywhere, and otherness has been the problem all along.

    There is nothing idiosyncratic or even esoteric about what I have been saying. Your fixation on the popular culture and legacy of the Abrahamic story-line, is the controlling script that makes it seem so.

    I assumed the above, because you don’t seem to recognize the influence of the non-dual and monist schools in my commentary. Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Yoga, Vedanta… Finding a place to start that is not an argument, but rather a reconciling eye opener, might change the script.

  • charlesburchfield

    I like this!

    ‘The problem I usually have talking with atheists, is the prevailing need to reinforce their lack of God belief. This usually manifests as ridicule and a facade of certainty.’
    And this!

    ‘The Finding a place to start that is not an argument, but rather a reconciling eye opener, might change the script.’

    Sometimes I will ask ‘what do you do for fun?’ When I sense peeps are in their lizard brain!

    This is really good!

    ‘ripening of the inquiry is in recognizing, that the center is everywhere, and otherness has been the problem all along.’

    The problem for me is when I’m feeling other than my centered self because of mental/physical pain, suffering alone & see no end to suffering like this day after day as I’ve done recently I can’t find the center. Today I reached out for help to someone who, thankfully, was centered. Needed the reminder to stay sane! Better now emotional balance someway restored & dignity intact mostly. Yes I would say from experience that restoration is in the ‘surround’. connection is there too when I was most in need today.
    `◾]°•}

  • Anita

    ” The problem I usually have talking with atheists, is the prevailing need to reinforce their lack of God belief. This usually manifests as ridicule and a facade of certainty.”

    If you’re been paying attention (and I doubt that you have), the problem with atheists stating their position of non-belief is fairly recent. As I said in a previous post, it used to be mandatary for us to listen in respectful silence, while believers stated their position. This is no longer the case (but the troops are not happy. How dare we be so bold)!! Say it isn’t so! To this day, I never bring up the subject without being put on the spot by someone sharing their believer status.

    “The ripening of the inquiry is in recognizing, that the center is everywhere, and otherness has been the problem all along.”

    Do you engage with believers? Do you refute their claims that god has found them a parking spot or found their keys?(While simultaneously letting thousands die agonising deaths in some impoverished neck-of-the-woods).

    “Your fixation on the popular culture and legacy of the Abrahamic story-line, is the controlling script”.

    You should not be surprised that Yahweh or Jehovah have been assumed the deities of choice as these are the most prevalent in our western societies. I know a little about Buddhism but very little about the rest.

    To the best of my knowledge Buddhism is often considered not an actual religion because the Buddha was merely a wise person who found enlightenment through the process of meditation and contemplation. From what I’ve seen of the adherents in Japan and on television, they seem to go through the usual rituals of praying for favours and expecting an afterlife.

    In conclusion I’d like to point out that this is an atheist site. It’s not often I have the chance to share opinions with fellow travellers. Still less frequently do I get a chance to debate believers. I very much enjoy doing this, but those of my acquaintance would not be likely to reciprocate. So I find myself here in another country, expressing my opinions and the reasoning behind my views. Contrast this stage of affairs to the possibilities open to the Christian, Jew, Moslem or Buddhist!

  • When I engage with believers it is much like I’ve been doing with you.

    I don’t refute their thing, but make them work for it. Point out unexamined assumptions and scripts. Present something new. Raise the standards. Especially if they are talking past me and reciting Bible verse to intimidate rather than inspire.

    I basically respect everybody for as long as possible. And most people are cool about it. I often enjoy couching the same shtick that I’ve been running past you in terms that Jesus obviously understood.

    Its not clear what I haven’t been paying attention to exactly. I also keep my thing to myself, unless there is an obvious need to go out on a limb. But if I do, I try to bring my best game to the moment and proceed with joy.

    It is also nice to occasionally sing to the choir, and hang with the like minded. To jam and share new chops.

    As for Buddhism it is an atheistic religion. As always there will be levels of attainment and understanding. The roshi or monk does not ridicule the superstitious layperson. But rather engages in skillful means to teach. They also must understand that their own attainments are only provisional. Until the awakening of Buddha nature. The integrity of the Whole.

  • Thank you for your reassurances. And for sharing a bit about the hard path!

    I’ve recently become “old” and am learning about chronic pain and enfeeblement. When I get entangled in the wave of it, this life seems like it will be over soon. Then I have to really! pay attention to something outside of it. Otherwise the day gets squandered.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Hi Charles! Attention out is definition of centered.

  • charlesburchfield

    Definitely grok!
    Here are a few James Hillman quotes that helped me today.

    If you are still being hurt by an event that happened to you at twelve, it is the thought that is hurting you now.

    Loss means losing what was We want to change but we don’t want to lose. Without time for loss, we don’t have time for soul.
    Depression opens the door to beauty of some kind.

    “Of course, a culture as manically and massively materialistic as ours creates materialistic behavior in its people, especially in those people who’ve been subjected to nothing but the destruction of imagination that this culture calls education, the destruction of autonomy it calls work, and the destruction of activity it calls entertainment.”
    ― James Hillman,

    Our lives are determined less by our childhood than by the traumatic way we have learned to remember our childhoods.”
    ― James Hillman

    I’m the result of upbringing, class, race, gender, social prejudices, and economics. So I’m a victim again. A result.”
    ― James Hillman

    The biography of the soul concerns experience. It seems not to follow the one-way direction of the flow of time, and it is reported best by emotions, dreams, and fantasies … The experiences arising from major dreams, crises, and insights give definition to the personality. They too have “names” and “dates” like the outer events of case history; they are like boundary stones, which mark out one’s own individual ground. These marks can be less denied than can the outer facts of life, for nationality, marriage, religion, occupation, and even one’s own name can all be altered … Case history reports on the achievements and failures of life with the world of facts. But the soul has neither achieved nor failed in the same way … The soul imagines and plays –
    and play is not chronicled by report. What remains of the years of our childhood play that could be set down in a case history? … Where a case history presents a sequence of facts leading to diagnosis, soul history shows rather a concentric helter-skelter pointing always beyond itself …

    It seems, as one becomes older, / That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence,” wrote T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets, which meditates on time, age, and memory, goes on to say, “We had the experience but missed the meaning, / And approach to the meaning restores the experience / In a different form, beyond any meaning.”
    ― James Hillman, The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life

    Words are like pillows: if put correctly they ease pain.”
    ― James Hillman, Inter Views

    To the question, “Why am I old?” the usual answer is, “Because I am becoming dead.” But the facts show that I reveal more character as I age, not more death.”
    ― James Hillman, The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life

    “…the puer eternus figure is the vision of our own first nature, our primordial golden shadow, …, our angelic essence as messenger of the divine… From the puer we are given our sense of destiny and mission, of having a message and being meant as eternal cup-bearer to the divine, that our sap and overflow, our enthusiastic wetness of soul, is in service to the Gods, bringing eternal refreshment to the archetypal background of the universe…. A beginning is always meaningful and filled with the excitement of eros.”

    James Hillman

  • Anita

    Bmckay, are you of a view that there’s a universal consciousness? I ask this because your mention of the Entirety suggests some form of unifying force, rather than a set of disparate forces and matter.

    In my estimation you don’t hold to a singular belief, instead choosing to think through things philosophically without the constraints of a prescribed outlook. Just guesswork mind you, but I can’t imagine a religious body taking kindly to your departure from the norm, or your questioning! 😉

    My ‘paying attention’ comment related to the fact that non-believers (atheists) are now afforded the liberty of owning-up to their ‘thought crimes’, whereas in the not too distant past such a confession could lead them to the dunking stool OR WORSE! This could happen again, so it still pays to be cautious.

  • “are you of a view that there’s a universal consciousness? I ask this because your mention of the Entirety suggests some form of unifying force, rather than a set of disparate forces and matter.

    The dominant (i.e. prescribed outlook) is exactly this, the attitude that “the universe is a set of disparate forces and matter”.

    This represents a disconnect that I usually refer to as flatlandian in nature.

    It practically dictates that there will be religions and supernatural imaginings to make up for the “Gaps”.

    The infinite potential latent in Entirety, is the mother of Self awareness. The Universal “I”.

    The subjective complement to objective existence. The witness.

    Our personal versions of this are highly abstracted, and biologically constrained. But the undivided integrity of Entirety remains; In no way diminished.

    The limited sense of autonomy and disassociation that we rehearse; The “prescribed outlook”, is optional.

    The integrity of the whole is seamless. It is eternal. It is the dimensionlessness of “Now”.

    “…I can’t imagine a religious body taking kindly to your departure from the norm, or your questioning! ;-)”

    This is the way of the individual, and politics just wastes the opportunity to find it.

  • Anita

    So I take that as a “yes”.

    I see a bit of ‘fudging’ going on here. You’ve wrapped your answer up in a great deal of verbiage that looks excessive from where I stand.

    Okay, let me try consider your point in words of the layperson. The Universe and all it contains, is bound by physical forces so as to ensure that events happen in keeping with these processes. In other words, one would not expect an event contrary to such laws and constants. Am I on the same wavelength?

  • “I see a bit of ‘fudging’ going on here. You’ve wrapped your answer up in a great deal of verbiage that looks excessive from where I stand.”

    I need you to show me what this fudging and excessive verbiage looks like. What part is redundant and how would the statement be more clear without it?

    I wasn’t outlining where you stand, but rather where I stand.

    So your paraphrasing of my interpretation doesn’t sound anything like what I was saying. For instance, where in your orderly, and bound by forces version of the Universe, does awareness of existence fit in? The root of Self. The prototype of the sense of I.

  • Anita

    Again, Hi. Much more coherent. Thank you. However, I have no intention of sifting through your post in order to point out the wordy passages.

    Now, without recourse to dictionary definitions or the musings of various philosophers up to and including Sam Harris, my understanding of consciousness is that it requires a human brain, (limited as we now are by lack of knowledge of any other lifeforms inhabiting the Universe). A degree of consciousness is present in other sentient beings, but as yet we’re not sure how far this consciousness extends. Certain birds seem to have the ability to count, for example, and the octopus seems to have a degree of cognition far greater than we’ve imagined. In time we may find varying abilities in a vast array of non-human species, but for the time being it’s better to stick with those animals we know best; human beings.

    Consciousness suggests an awareness of our own thought processes and the fact that we are taking part in this activity. As there is no evidence of this ability extending beyond our own human capabilities, I think that it’s safe to assume that we are the only ones in possession of such until proven otherwise.

    We have the luxury of imaging situations where our understandings could lead us further afield, but as yet this would be pure speculation. There are absolutely no indications that our time would be well spent in pursuit of this goal.

  • Since you’ve drawn your line in the sand, I won’t be offering up any more essays.

    I was not talking about the myriad manifestations of consciousness. It was about the potential of existence to experience itself, and the underlying boundless infinity that supports it.

    Thanks for the conversation, I don’t need to go over the differences in our viewpoints till the end of time.

    This last of your comments is a good summary of your views. So I’ll say goodbye.

  • Anita

    It’s been nice chatting bmckay. I would like to leave with one final word; Peter Boghossian describes ‘faith’ as pretending to know things you don’t know and have no way of knowing. I suspect that is where this conversation was heading.

    Contemplation is just that. One isn’t entitled to slip from the realms of the ‘maybes’ to an alternate reality without very good cause.

  • Since you never stepped outside of the “prescribe outlook” to see what I was being said. You haven’t technically earned the right to preach at me.

    And, like I said I do my best to make “them” work for it. But it never really changes anything.