This “Atheism Plus” is neither a philosophy nor a religion, but a fiendishly clever combination of the worst of both, without the Achilles heel of requiring faith in the miraculous. It is New-Age-ism for secularists.
You get all the false piety, hypocritical posturing and moralistic constipation that make organized religion so intolerable, yet you are denied the compensation of comforting beliefs to keep you from being overwhelmed by the vast, godless emptiness of the universe.
It is a belief system devoid of all the benefits that usually lead people to adopt belief systems, and stripped down to the bare essentials required to enforce taboos with which to control people’s attitudes and behaviours.
The main reason you see me defend religion is because its absence leaves a void that will inevitably be filled by abominations like this.
This is much worse than a religion.
It is the apotheosis of political correctness.
I can see your point about defending religion if it were to be replaced by abominations like Cultural Marxism, of which the AtheismPlus movement is an ugly incarnation.
Yet, I do hope that replacing one vice by another is not a necessity and that humans will evolve beyond the need for such destructive crutches. That is why I would toss all these dogmatic systems on the trash heap and move past them, whether they are theistic or not.
For, the price to be paid for permitting them to persist in society is much too high and will, eventually, lead to the destruction of any civilization that arizes.
Well, we’ve discussed on more than one occasion that the human brain is structurally predisposed to religion, and that something is going to latch onto that circuitry if there is no religion to be had.
Not everyone can replace the powerful emotional impact of religion with, say, the sense of wonder one feels when contemplating the fundamental equations of quantum field theory.
And for those who can’t (the majority), in the absence of religion, we have the quantum law of attraction – which is nothing other than quantum theory, misinterpreted so as to turn it into something very like a nature spirit which you can command by uttering the right incantations and thinking the right thoughts.
Not everyone can derive a moral code from first principles and live by it for no other reason than to assert the ascendancy of wisdom and will over the baser human cravings.
And for those who can’t (the majority), in the absence of religion, we have cultural Marxism, formulated so as to provide a set of acceptable attitudes and behaviours which you can affect to secure the acceptance and approbation of your similarly-indoctrinated peer group.
Religion was invented to fill a need; it was only after the fact that its usefulness for controlling people was discovered. Anything else that fills that same need – no matter what it is – can and will be bent to fit the task of controlling people.
Comparing traditional religion to its replacements – cultural Marxism, secular Edenism, New Age woo, and so on – well, let’s face it …
The cures are worse than the disease.
you say the cures are worse than the disease.
I’m terribly sorry, but I disagree – they are equally destructive and evil.
Perhaps you are much more of a realist here and I the naive dreamer, but, I would rather like to hope that if taught early enough, most of humanity CAN be taught to watch against that seductive temptress, that abandonment of one’s self and submission to a dogma of one form or another, theistic or not…
We have it inside of us: each and every one of us has the seeds of healthy individualism within us and, with just a little help early enough in life before the dogma-induced brain damage becomes permanent and irreversible, we CAN hope for an unfettered future!!!
At least some of what you call “dogma-induced brain damage” is actually a pre-existing condition, common to most people, that makes a certain amount of dogma necessary. Everywhere in the world, at all times in history, people have been kept in line by systems of dogma and taboos – and among these, the ones promulgated by the Christian church have been among the most benign, especially after the separation of church and state became firmly established.
Say what you like about Catholic schools, but they produce a better quality of person than the state-run public school system. By that I mean not only that people come out of Catholic schools better educated and with better morals, but the psychological damage done by Catholic indoctrination is less malignant than the wholesale psychological carnage wrought by cultural Marxism in public schools run by the corporocratic state.
There is no way around this: when schools are run by and entity which stands in opposition to the corporations and the state by its very nature, there is a strong motivation to turn out people who are not easily dominated by corporations or by the state. But when the corporocratic state runs the schools, the motivation is to turn out docile, apathetic simpletons who will work for peanuts.
So the reason I say the cures are worse than the disease is that they have all the drawbacks of religion, with none of the benefits. This is primarily because they replace god with government: when people have no god to worship, they end up tacitly worshipping the state. That’s just human nature – you can’t change it.
Most people must worship something, so at least let it be an abstract and beautiful spiritual idea, rather than a concrete, greedy and ruthless secular power structure.
Of course, the unfettered church is precisely such a power structure. But the antidote to the depredations of such a church is not the abolishment of religion, but the strict separation of church and state. By abolishing religion entirely, we throw out the baby with the bathwater and open the door to much worse depredations.
Worst of all, we create a de facto theocracy. When people worship God, the separation of church and state is meaningful; it can be implemented in a way that limits both church and state and prevents either one from oppressing the people too badly.
It then makes sense to say “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render unto God, that which is God’s.” Crucially, this takes for granted that neither one has unlimited dominion over a person’s life. But look what happened when Caesar was declared to be a god…
When people tacitly worship the state, you have a theocracy in all but name.
Indeed, an openly-admitted theocracy would be preferable. At least in that case, the holy books place some minimal restraint on the rulers by defining good and evil. But when the corporocratic state can redefine good and evil at will to suit its self-aggrandizing and self-enriching purposes, the potential for tyranny and oppression is unlimited.
And that is the situation we are in right now.
As someone who had tutored kids from both Public and Catholic schools, I can honestly tell you that the math and science content of the Catholic schools curricula is several years below the Public School curricula.
As for morality – sorry, but my observation of many of the kids from the two streams also does not suggest that the morality taught in Catholic schools is superior or that they produce a more moral people. To the contrary – the kids from Catholic schools tend to have a much deeper sense of entitelment than the Public school ones. At least, that has been true in my experience.
I simply disagree with so many of the premises you start from that I don’t think a productive discussion is plausible. Like that what the Church teaches can, under any circumstances, be considered ‘morality’.
Come on! They churn our adults who still believe in a Santa Claus – how could this pass for ‘education’?!?!?
You can’t change human nature. At least not in less than geological time. So you have to work with it.
It’s like sailing: there is no place you can’t go in the long run, but there are some directions you can’t head in short run. To master the wind, you must submit to the wind.
Since the dawn of history, the extent of human evolution has amounted to little more than some people gaining the ability to make some enzymes, and such like. Human nature – the core make-up of the human psyche – hasn’t changed at all. Not one iota.
Cultures do evolve on a historical time scale, but their stability and quality of life depends on how successfully they handle the underlying constant of human nature, without resorting to compulsion.
Requiring people to “evolve” – or else – is not the way to a better world. Quite the opposite.
This is the main problem with the neo-liberal agenda: they think they can force humanity to “evolve” on a time scale that’s noticeable during their own lifetimes. This is no less irrational than believing in “sky fairies.” When it doesn’t work (and it never does, because it can’t) they get all butt-hurt and demand invasive, repressive government measures to force people to “evolve.”
Of course, that doesn’t work either. All it has ever done is create one hellish dystopia after another.
To master human nature you must submit to human nature. You cannot do it by fiat. All attempts to do so have resulted in nothing but tyranny, oppression, and misery.
There is no difference between the political-correctness enforcers of the modern totalitarian state and the inquisitors of medieval Catholicism, except that the modern apparatchiks are a bit more squeamish about physically torturing or killing people, so they resort to character assassination and psychological torture.
Same crap, different pile.
The neo-liberal agenda is faith-healing for people who want to pretend they have out-grown religion. And the neo-conservative agenda serves up the same swill for those who don’t.
By “believe in Santa Claus” I assume you mean that they believe in God.
Do you really think this is more irrational than believing the government can protect everyone from everything, even themselves?
Most people want to believe irrational things, and there is nothing you can do about it.
You can present them with rationality, and some of them will take to it like a duck to water. But they are, and always have been, a small minority.
The majority reject it as cold and unsatisfying, and cling to the comforting emotionality of their magical beliefs – even though they may express those beliefs in secular-sounding terms.
Xanthippa, I don’t disagree with you about the evils of organized religion.
What I disagree with is that you can wean the majority of people off it, or raise the majority of children to grow up not needing it.
You can present them with an objectively rational world-view, but the majority will internalize it in a way that turns it into something that is effectively a religion, while pretending they have outgrown religion.
The inconvenient fact of the matter is this: of those who don’t worship God, the vast majority inevitably worship the corporocratic totalitarian state, without even realizing that that is what they are doing.
Those who accept the pseudo-scientific faux-rationality promulgated by cultural Marxism feel superior to religious people, and mistakenly pride themselves on being more rational. But nothing could be farther from the truth, and that makes them even more dangerous than those who openly admit that their religion depends wholly on faith and has no rational basis.
As Bertrand Russell put it, “those who believe absurdities readily commit atrocities.” And this is equally true, whether the absurdities are couched in religious or secular terms.
And thus our agenda should be to take the absurdities out of religion, banish it from the political arena, but leave it otherwise intact.
Why? Because destroying religion outright only plays into the hands of cultural Marxism.
Religion remains the only widely popular force capable of standing against cultural Marxism.
I do believe we are getting close to the crux of the matter – of our disagreement between us on the need for religion.
You say: What I disagree with is that you can wean the majority of people off it, or raise the majority of children to grow up not needing it.
Quite. That is indeed where we disagree…
The state of ‘believing in things’ belongs into our childhood. As we grow and our brains mature, we naturally loose this notion of believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and so on – including deities of all kinds.
It is precisely because we loose this gullibility as we grow up that BOTH religions and Cultural Marxists require that their training begins in childhood, before we outgrouw this childish ‘believing in things’ stage. That is why it is so essential to them to get to people while they are children!!!
Their indoctrination techiques cause the physical brain damage that freezes a person in their infantile ‘beleiving in’ state – and it works on majority of people! Those unable to overcome this intentional brain damage can never stop ‘beleiving in’ things – even when they intellectually grasp their absurdity.
The natural state of the un-damaged human mind is to not believe things without reason. If we can protect children from this willful damage done to prevent their brain from healthy development, we can return to our natural skeptical state.
You write, “the natural state of the un-damaged human mind is to not believe things without reason.”
This is simply not true for the majority of people!
In a state of nature, the inherent tendency of the human mind is to believe in sympathetic magic.
We know this because all primitive peoples understand the abstract aspects of their world in such terms.
Monotheistic religion, based on ideas like God’s covenant with man, is already a huge leap forward from that beginning.
Sublimating the commandments into a single abstract injunction to love God and love your brother as yourself is another immense jump forward.
Grounding that in the rights of man, and replacing the creator with the principle of self-organization, is yet another giant leap forward.
At each stage, the required thought processes become much more complex, and some significant fraction of the people simply cannot follow.
You find the same in all fields of human knowing.
You go from basic arithmetic to abstract algebra to infinite-dimensional tensor calculus, and at each step, some significant fraction of the people cannot follow.
You go from simple machines to Newtonian mechanics to relativistic quantum field theory, and at each step, some significant fraction of the people cannot follow.
In each case, people who cannot follow the whole way have no choice but to accept – on faith alone! – the results obtained by those who can.
And we are back to religion – secularized or not. The majority simply cannot do without it
We can’t escape it, Xanthippa, so we must accept it and work with it.
Otherwise the cultural Marxists will win for sure.
Because they do accept it and work with it.
A few points of disagreement as well as clarification…
‘Symathetic magic’ is not ‘beleiving in things without reason‘ – nor is it limited to humans. It appears to be wired into most warm-blooded critters.
But as I said, it is not ‘beleiving things without reason’ – it is simple confusion between co-incidence and causation and drawing false positives. As such, since it is reason-based, it is reason-regulated.
I disagree most vociferously with your assessment of turning from sympathetic magic to monotheism as a step forward – quite to the contrary. I consider it the beginning of enslavement of the human mind, because it replaces personal observation and drawing one’s conclusions (however wrong) from this direct observation with requirement to obey dogma. Even more, any attempt at drawing conclusions from personal observations are harshly punished as they threaten the maintenance of the dogma.
And the doctorine of vicarious redemption, of scapegoating, of making someone else pay for your transgressions – that is one of the most immoral teachings one can come up with!
I don’t think that a ‘need to believe in things’ IS a natural state of the human mind and that attempting to ‘work with it’ is only going to poison any progress we make.
All I know is that, as people, we manufacture “meaning” where none exists. And that I wish I had the comfort of believing in Santa Claus, but, for myself, I can’t turn back the clock. So I live as a confused person in a world of conflicting messages, more interested in reading about the standard model of particle physics than anything else.
My life would be easier if I didn’t have to recognize the unreality of the consensus we call reality, or face extinction–the ultimate equalizer–no awareness that I ever experienced anything, however meaningless, yet significant to me.
There is a part of the brain that imbues experience with significance, and when there is too little electrical activity in that region, a person gets depressed–a state of mind that is extremely painful, where every experience feels meaningless and every endeavor pointless, leaving a person in a profound state of grief over the “significance” that abruptly vanished, paralyzed because there is no point in ever doing anything.
Ask a clinically depressed person about their “beliefs,” if you want a non-answer to a non-question.
It need not lead specifically to Marxism. But it will necessarily lead to the de facto, usually tacit, deification of something secular.
For some, this might be as benign and abstract as a veneration of the austere beauty of the emergent self-organization of dissipative fluctuations, and a reverence for reason tempered with compassion, exercised in service of the inalienable rights of the individual.
But for most, this sort of thing is nowhere nearly compelling enough, emotionally. To be deeply moved by awe and amazement at such things, you really must understand them. And that requires a good deal more effort than most people are able or willing to exert.
Thus most will opt for the comparatively cheap thrills. In the absence of religion, this will be the most powerful and moving secular force within their scope. This could be monarchy, or nationalism, or fascism, or wealth, or fame, or drug addiction, or some combination of these. But it will be something.
Cultural Marxists recognize all this (just as the architects of religious dogma did before them) and devote their indoctrination to slanting the cultural dynamics in favour of collectivism, as embodied by the corporcratic totalitarian state.
Yes, you’re right. The mistaking of correlation for causation, driven by intense aversion for feelings of helplessness, is precisely what is at the root of the belief in sympathetic magic. And that, combined with the need of the subconscious archetypes of Mother and Father to cathect to something awesomely powerful, even in adulthood, is what gives rise to religion.
Scapegoating is the epitome of sympathetic magic. It follows the same “logic” as blood sacrifice. Polytheism is an attempt to systematize sympathetic magic, and monotheism is the extraction of abstract deity, qua deity, from the polytheistic milieu of specific deities of limited purview.
The Christian doctrine that the “Lamb of God” vicariously redeems all believers is a clever way of doing away with redemptive sacrifice entirely, without overtly invalidating the Mosaic Law. As such it was a brilliant stratagem to build a kinder, gentler religion on the rather bloodthirsty foundations of Judaism as it existed 2000 years ago.
These are all steps forward!
Indeed, these attempts to systematize the magical world-view were the foundations upon which science itself was built. Science has its roots in magic (and is even today not yet fully emancipated from it) as can be seen from the fact that all the early scientists were also mystics – Pythagoras, Paracelsus, Newton, just to name a few.
I do agree with your characterization of the rise of religion, but I do not agree once you get to monotheism in general and Christianity in particular. And, I suspect, this is something we’ll never agree on.
I’m reminded of a woman, whom I loved dearly. Over a period of years, we discussed many things at great depth. Among them, religion. Gradually, I convinced her that there is no evidence which rationally compels us to believe in God. That, in fact, everything which is usually held to support the existence of God can be explained in alternative ways, according to very deep and general scientific principles, that require comparatively negligible leaps of faith.
Eventually, she saw the logic of my argument, and that it was based in common sense and fact. And she came to the conclusion, which I completely agree with, that there is no way for a finite being to know for sure whether God exists or not, and that the balance of the evidence we do have makes it a very doubtful proposition at best.
I felt very good about this. I saw myself as having freed a person of delusion and helped that person form a mature, rational world view.
When we finally parted ways, she told me that there was something I had done, for which she could never forgive me.
Horrified, I asked here what it could possibly be. She said,
“You took God away from me.”
I was devastated. It had never occurred to me that this could be viewed as a bad thing. Worst of all, there was no way I could undo the damage: what has been seen, cannot be unseen.
You see, what made life liveable for her was the conviction that God loves us and therefore never gives us a burden we cannot carry. Whatever life threw at her, the very fact that it had been thrown at her was proof that she could handle it. What an incredibly empowering belief!
And there’s the rub – not only did my “mature, rational world view” divest her of this conviction, but it had nothing to offer in place of it. And thus it permanently weakened her.
What this taught me is that a belief in God plays an irreplaceable role in some people’s lives, and that “freeing” them of that belief – delusion or not – does them no good.
No good at all.
This was a seminal lesson for me, but I dearly wish I hadn’t learned it at her expense.
I was in a psychiatrist’s office (you probably guessed from the last post that I get depressed) filling out a form about my mental health goals. What was my religion? Atheist. What area of my life would I like to work on? Religion. The intake nurse did a double-take. “What do you mean by that”? she asked. “I would like to believe that, when I die I will rise again to live in a place where there is no suffering. I would like to believe that, through reincarnation, I will be given a second chance. I would like to believe that the ghosts of my relatives are protecting me. I would like to interpret irreparable damage as divine intervention for the benefit of my spiritual growth.” “Do you have any spiritual beliefs”? I asked the nurse. She gripped the table for support, looked up at the ceiling, then down at her paper, and read me the next question.
I understand – there was a point in my time when I also wished for the comfort of supernatural belief. But, then I tried to picture it – realistically picture it.
If, (and I ‘walked through this’ according to many of the major current and historical religions) this would really literally happen, what would be the reality this creates?
Once I did that, I became truly and honestly very deeply happy in my conviction that none of this will ever happen.
I don’t understand what you mean. Do you mean that you would rather not be resurrected into a world of eternal bliss? Or rather not be immersed in a culture of people who are convinced that this really happens?
The first one.
Consider what each religion says ‘eternal bliss’ means.
Then imagine living it – for ever, with no escape!
No thank you!!! I’ll take finite existence followed by oblivion over that sort of thing, any day…
I trust your judgement. Decide what eternal bliss would be for you, and I’ll work on believing in it. How’s that for a compromise?
I have no idea what ‘eternal bliss’ would be for me (and here, by ‘me’ I mean my current ‘self’): it seems to me that it is the very fact that our consciousness is temporal that imbues what we do, all that we do, with meaning.
And I strongly suspect that I would not be able to find ‘bliss’ in doing meaningless things…
This is something I have given great amount of thought into over the years. And, even granting that we diverge from what ‘all’ the religions and ‘religious thinkers’ over human history describe ‘heaven’ (or its equivalent) as, trying to imagine some self-designed state in which I’d like to spend ‘eternity’, truly an ‘eternity’ – I simply cannot do it.
Because no matter what you choose to do, after a long – yet finite – amount of time, it will no longer be, well, ‘blissful’. You will simply run out of things to do – but not out of time to exist… And growing tired of even the most pleasurable activities – that would be hell!
Perhaps the closest thing that I might consider to ‘eternal bliss’ would be the concept of reincarnation: being continuously reborn into temporal existences, one after the other. But, there are some caveats here…serious caveats.
Most of the views regarding ‘reincarnation’ are that it is your consciousness – what makes you you – that gets reincarnated. But, what makes me me includes my personal experiences and thus could not possibly be ‘fully reincarnated’. Even the ‘me’ that I am now is different (due to new experiences) from the ‘me’ that was 20 years ago!
Thus, we are left with ‘partial self’ reincarnation – and this is precisely what we do, on a molecular level! Each and every little bit of me will indeed be reborn into multitude of organisms, infinitely over time (barring a planetary destruction), as bits of me, bits of my self, will be transformed by the natural circle of life. Worms will eat my molecules and my molecules will generate some of the consciousness of the worm. Other bits will be taken up by plants and bits of me will generate some of the consciousness of plants!
And this altered ‘me’ in multitude of fractions, though not the ‘me now’ will experience existence through different eyes! It will no longer have the memory of the ‘old me’, but it will generate a ‘new me’ just like each new experience now helps me grow into a better person.
The bits that generate my consciousness will transform and generate other forms of consciousness, thus experiencing life over and over – but in new and exciting ways, ensuring we never tire of experiences! That is as close to ‘bliss’ as I can get!
We, our matter, are a form of energy with consciousness – quite literally, the Universe learning about itself!
That’s the benefit of atheism. Why wait for a heaven, when you’re already there.
So, enjoy every moment!
When you think of it this way, even the difficult things (and even pain, in a strange way) become beautiful in their own way. (Perhaps ‘beautiful’ is not the correct word…’Meaningful’? ‘Worthwhile’? ‘Worth experiencing’? ‘Relishing’? Still not capturing quite what I mean – but it does make even the most difficult things easier to experience.)