Saturday, March 24, 2007

ATheists Shut Down Dialogue

Atheists have closed down rational discussion no all message boards. I can't find a message board ran by atheists where the atheists don't use bully tactics to silence all contrary thought. Their major tactic is to ignore whatever logical argument the apologist gives and either attack personality, or bring up a litany of irrelevant side issues. For example, I once spent well over an hour crafting a well structured and well thought out argument about the nature of empiricism and not a single atheist, out of about ten responding said anything about it. The entire thread was taken up with questions like "O yea, well why are there contradictory geneologies of Jesus in the Bible?" Trust me on this one, this has absolutely nothing to do with empiricism.

The other tactic is to turn the apologist into the issue. This was done to me on a mass scale by the Secular Web people who started a character assassination campaign. The first spread the lie that no one thinks Metacrock is intelligent. Then they began saying "Metacrock admits he can't debate" (now would I say that?). Finally, they spread the idea that my arguments have all been beaten. Some atheists defended my arguments. Fleetmouse put up a valient defense of my cosmological argument on Metafilter. But the AARM people assisted in destroying my reputation so these ideas quickly because short hand ways to dismiss anything I post. But other Christians don't fair any better. A friend of my tried to use my cosmological argument on "debating Christianity" and was immediately told "O these arguments are by Metacrock so they have been beaten." My friend argued that 'beating these arguments is a simple matter of showing this and this. let's see you do so." Of course they never even tried. They just began making his personality the issue.

Of course then there is the blame the victim camp. They want to just reduce the whole argument to "well its your fault because you are insulting to people." I am the first to admit when I get frustrated I can respond by lashing out. When you have twelve people or so insulting you and calling you names and trying to make your personality the issue you are going to tend to get frustrated. I find that it is impossible to go on a message board and put down a logical argument for the existence of God and get a logical response. No atheist will address my arguments by using logic. They must either make me the issue or diver to their litany of one liners "what about the crusades." I do admit that I have not helped myself. My temper has gotten in the way. but that is no excuse for why I cannot find a single board on which I can have a discussion about the logic of a God argument.

Another tatic they employ is the claim of logic. In this scam the atheist claims that the apologists argument is illogcial and that he has beaten the logic, but he never actually deals with it. I always challenge them "show me a law of logic that my argument violates." Here I mean "this is a violation of the law of excluded middle." Or perhaps "this is special pleading." They do actually use that because before they shut down disucssion they had an atheist misconception which they always trotted out that the claim that God doesn't need a cause is special pleading. When you ask them to define special pleading they never can.

There are some boards where the mods assist the atheists. These are boards that pretend to be Christian boards or don't announce their atheist affiliation. Christian Boards and Debating Christianity and Religion are two examples. The latter is really bad because they will actually move your post if you win an argument. Two threads of a friend of mine were moved to a section called "random ramblings" where they would not be seen. In one of those my friend had 300 studies to back his argument and in the other one he gave two criteria that one must meet to beat the argument and the atheists never said anything about them. They said "these are Metacrock's arguments so they have been disproven." They said my friend must be my soul mate because doesn't think I'm stupid. But they never dealt with any logical argument at any time. These were structured well thought out arguments which have been ran by Plantinga (Notre Dame) and Robert Koons (UT) they were not "random ramblings."

Why have atheists shut down discussion? Probably for the same reason that this new cult of atheist "fundie" has risen to spread hate. Atheism in its organized manifestation is rapidly becoming a hatre group. The pretense of the great intellectual scientist such as Dennett or Dawkins (Sam Harris had only a BA when he published The End of Faith) is basically a lie. These people are not involved with rational argument, they don't confront Plantinga or Koons they just coast on an undeserved reputation of havng achieved something in science that they never achieved. I think the reason is because atheism is a spent force in society. The paradigm is shifting to the extent that atheism is about to become totally irrelevant to any thinking agenda concerned with metaphysics. Atheism is more and more religated to the ninteeth century and the old progress laden way of thinking that was part of the 1939 world's fair mentality. Allf forms of religion are growing, Christianity is growing in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but Islam is growing at a faster rate, wica is growing at an amazing rate, but atheism lacks any cultural capital and is still largely an unthinkable proposition for most people. Atheists are lashing out, and those on the internet have been beaten consistantly by Christian argument. All of their truisms have been disproven and their litany of irrelivant side issues have been derailed. Sot have no resource left but to abandon rational discussion.

This world is so nutz

atheists are tuely beyond my comprehension. I told certin one's on carm "thank you for befriending me" and one said it was extremelly isulting.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Children of the lack of a God

Atheists can't relate to the reasons people have belief because they have not experienced God. How could someone born blind understand the difference in blue and green or yellow? There are parts of the brain that seem to be hard wired to the God concept. Belief in God is part of even our biology, it's part who we are as a species, but atheists seem to be those who either don't have this sense developed, or who have found a way to "sublemate" so to speak, this sense and turn it off or direct it into something else. I think for many atheists science functions as religion in their lives.

It is probably impossible for me to explain to you how the power of God that I have experienced fits into the overall framework of my life and forms a coherent world view that for me makes sense of the world and blows away other alternatives. I can only give an inadequate thumbnail of the real picture.

(1) Atheists are always theorizing about why people are religious and in my view, it's always simplistic an totally wrong headed. For the most part they seem to think all belief is epistemological and believers are seeking "explanations of things." Not exactly the case, not in terms of physical phenomena.

(2) The experiences of presence and love and miracles combine with the intellectual aspects of the ground of understanding to form a coherent intellectual world view that is satisfying and interactive.

(3) The dimension of realization is like a sixth sense in that it supplies something that can't be communicated, either you see it or you don't. At that rate it seems pointless to mock something just because you can't understand it.

(4) Christian existentialist would say that the arguments are just hypothetical. The experiences pertain to life and really relate to meaning and mean something.

What all of this amounts to is that the atheist critique is shallow and senseless. Atheists can tell us just find why they don't belief. They can say the evidence is inadequate for them, and it is, because maybe they just don't have "it." But their attempts to locate everything in this shallow "religion is primitive failed science mentality just belies a lack of understanding.

Religion doesn't exist because people tried to explain why it rains. It exits because people sense the numinous. They sense this aspect of something, the sublime, the spiritual, the nether regions but something that is special and beyond our understanding.

So where does that leave us? Atheists are just stuck right? But it's not about demonstrating some truth through logic. It's about setting up a decision making paradigm that enables us to handle such questions. You are not going to do that with such a snide attitude, poisoning the well, and trying to explain things away. The privative failed science thing is an attempt to expansion religion away, in a dismissive fashion, rather than seeking to understand why it matters to people. They only seek that when they can use it as a pejorative.

The thing to do is to enter the inner logic of a belief system and try to understand their decision making paradigm.

Of Straw and Men

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There are several appalling tricks atheists use to deny logic, but one of the most vexing is the use of straw man argument in relation to questions of origin.

Theist says: Where did the universe come from?

Atheist says: where did God come from?

Theist says: God did not come from anywhere God always was

Atheist says: that is special pleading.

.the Nizkor Project

Description of Special Pleading

Special Pleading is a fallacy in which a person applies standards, principles, rules, etc. to others while taking herself (or those she has a special interest in) to be exempt, without providing adequate justification for the exemption. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:

Person A accepts standard(s) S and applies them to others in circumtance(s) C.
Person A is in circumstance(s) C.
Therefore A is exempt from S.
The person committing Special Pleading is claiming that he is exempt from certain principles or standards yet he provides no good reason for his exemption. That this sort of reasoning is fallacious is shown by the following extreme example:

Barbara accepts that all murderers should be punished for their crimes.
Although she murdered Bill, Barbara claims she is an exception because she really would not like going to prison.
Therefore, the standard of punishing murderers should not be applied to her.
This is obviously a blatant case of special pleading. Since no one likes going to prison, this cannot justify the claim that Barbara alone should be exempt from punishment.

From a philosophic standpoint, the fallacy of Special Pleading is violating a well accepted principle, namely the Principle of Relevant Difference. According to this principle, two people can be treated differently if and only if there is a relevant difference between them. This principle is a reasonable one. After all, it would not be particularly rational to treat two people differently when there is no relevant difference between them. As an extreme case, it would be very odd for a parent to insist on making one child wear size 5 shoes and the other wear size 7 shoes when the children are both size 5.

It should be noted that the Principle of Relevant Difference does allow people to be treated differently. For example, if one employee was a slacker and the other was a very prodictive worker the boss would be justified in giving only the productive worker a raise. This is because the productive of each is a relevant difference between them. Since it can be reasonable to treat people differently, there will be cases in which some people will be exempt from the usual standards. For example, if it is Bill's turn to cook dinner and Bill is very ill, it would not be a case of Special Pleading if Bill asked to be excused from making dinner (this, of course, assumes that Bill does not accept a standard that requires people to cook dinner regardless of the circumstances). In this case Bill is offering a good reason as to why he should be exempt and, most importantly, it would be a good reason for anyone who was ill and not just Bill.

While determing what counts as a legitimate basis for exemption can be a difficult task, it seems clear that claiming you are exempt because you are you does not provide such a legitimate basis. Thus, unless a clear and relevant justification for exemption can be presented, a person cannot claim to be exempt.

There are cases which are similar to instances of Special Pleading in which a person is offering at least some reason why he should be exempt but the reason is not good enough to warrant the exemption. This could be called "Failed Pleading." For example, a professor may claim to be exempt from helping the rest of the faculty move books to the new department office because it would be beneath his dignity. However, this is not a particularly good reason and would hardly justify his exemption. If it turns out that the real "reason" a person is claiming exemption is that they simply take themselves to be exempt, then they would be committing Special Pleading. Such cases will be fairly common. After all, it is fairly rare for adults to simply claim they are exempt without at least some pretense of justifying the exemption.

Examples of Special Pleading

Bill and Jill are married. Both Bill and Jill have put in a full day at the office. Their dog, Rover, has knocked over all the plants in one room and has strewn the dirt all over the carpet. When they return, Bill tells Jill that it is her job to clean up after the dog. When she protests, he says that he has put in a full day at the office and is too tired to clean up after the dog.

Jane and Sue share a dorm room.
Jane: "Turn of that stupid stereo, I want to take a nap."
Sue: "Why should I? What are you exhausted or something?"
Jane: "No, I just feel like taking a nap."
Sue: "Well, I feel like playing my stereo."
Jane: "Well, I'm taking my nap. You have to turn your stereo off and that's final."

Mike and Barbara share an apartment.
Mike: "Barbara, you've tracked in mud again."
Barbara: "So? It's not my fault."
Mike: "Sure. I suppose it walked in on its own. You made the mess, so you clean it up."
Barbara: "Why?"
Mike: "We agreed that whoever makes a mess has to clean it up. That is fair."
Barbara: "Well, I'm going to watch TV. If you don't like the mud, then you clean it up."
Mike: "Barbara..."
Barbara: "What? I want to watch the show. I don't want to clean up the mud. Like I said, if it bothers you that much, then you should clean it up."

The atheist charge of special pleading is actually a straw man argument.

The atheist is insisting "you must accept my straw man!" It is so because it's not what we believe! you cant' call theistic belief "special pleading" because that's the belief itself. Now it could be used as special pleading at some point but this is not that point!

Well its not exactly a straw man. Straw man usually entails someone making an argument which is supposed to be that of an opponent but is actually not the argument the opponent makes, but rather a version the debater really wants to answer because he can answer it.

.Nizkor project

Description of Straw Man

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

Person A has position X.
Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
Person B attacks position Y.
Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

Examples of Straw Man

Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."
Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."

"Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."

Bill and Jill are arguing about cleaning out their closets:
Jill: "We should clean out the closets. They are getting a bit messy."
Bill: "Why, we just went through those closets last year. Do we have to clean them out everyday?"
Jill: "I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous."

Here the atheist is not ignoring the real argument, by trying to correct it.. Rather the atheist is saying "this is what you should believe." But it has in common with the straw man the fact that the proponent is saying "this is the argument I would rather answer." Its' an attempt to divert one fro the actual argument used.

The answer of Gods' eternal nature is not special pleading by any means. Rememer what the above quote told us:

From a philosophic standpoint, the fallacy of Special Pleading is violating a well accepted principle, namely the Principle of Relevant Difference. According to this principle, two people can be treated differently if and only if there is a relevant difference between them.

There is a huge rlative difference between God and the univrse. The atheist is saying if God can be eternal why can't the universe? The fact is they are two different things. The universe is contingent. It is made up wholly of constituent parts and every one of them is a contingent part. The concept of God is that of eteranl necessary being. This is not something made up to answer this arugment it is the basis of what Chrsitainity and judaism have always believed. God is a fundamentally different type of thing than is the universe. This is the basis of our belief system.

think about it, what am I supposed to say? There are only two alternatives that could be said aside from "no wrong, God is eternal" and the atheist wants to force either alternative:

(1) O ok there can't be an eternal God, so I don't believe that anymore, now I'm an atheist.

(2) Ok I guess god was created by another god. so there's an ICR of gods.

Theist:I worship god 489.

Atheist:why don't you worship god 487?

Theist:O god 487 doesn't know what he's doing,he's a dum. 489 is my guy!

Theist #2: 487 may be a bumb, but he's a divine bum!

Either of these responses are unthinkable for a Christian and neither come close to describing our belief. Here is the key, the atheist is in fact asking us to give up what we believe for no better reason than that he can ask a question which is totally wrongheaded and nothing more than a straw man anyway. Well, akin to a straw man, perhaps a 'stick man.'

We believe that God is eternal. that is our belief system. It is a given. you can't change it, and you can't disprove it's unfair not to accept the fact that this is what we believe. The atheist is in fact begging the question. Begging the question to clear the way for a straw man argument. Begging because it assumes that any origin alternative must follow the same rules as the naturalistic universe. But then in the final analysis the atheist is still just trying to force a situation where the theist grants the same eternal status to the universe and disrupts the argument form cosmology.

That will avail them nothing. Let's assume both origins have parity. There is no reason to assume that God is subject to rules like the physical universe he created, that's illogical, but let's assume they are both eternal.

Now does that mean there is no origin argument to be made for God's existence? No, not at all. Even an eternal universe is still a contingent one and must demonstrate how it could be. How can it be eternal? It's made up of contingencies, so it's eternal nature is an arbitrary necessity, because it's putting a contingency in the place of a necessity. that is a logical "no no."

But we know why God is eternal because God is being. God is the thing that being is, the basis for all reality. God is the mind, and reliaty is a thought in the mind.

that God is eternal is our belief. You have to accept it, it's a given.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Feeling of Utter Dependence

Decison Maknig Paraidgm."


Co-determinate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisable man in the snow. You can't see the invisable man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the wrold.

The only question at that ponit is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? But that should be answere in the argument below. Here let us set out some general peramitors:

(1) The trace produced content with speicificually religious affects

(2)The affects led one to a renewed sense of divine relaity, are transformative of life goals and self actualization

(3) Cannot be accounted for by alteante cuasality or other means.

Argument:(this is my own sumamtion not Schleiermacher's)


(1) There is a prevading sense of unity in the life world

(2) The over all sense of unity produces a sense of the dependence of the whole upon a higher ontological level.

(3) The content of the experince is expressly sublime and evokes the sense of the numinous.

(4)The sense of the numinous is expressly religious and constitutes the co-determinate of the divine.



A.Religion not Reduceable to Knowledge or Ethics.

Frederich Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Dispisers, and The Chrisitian Faith .sets forth the view that religion is not reduceable to kowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenoloigcal apprehension of God consciusness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confussed with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is udnerstood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vinture close to this position in one form of the arugment, this is not exactly what he's saying.

In the earlier form of his argument he was saying that affections were indicative of a sense of God, but in the Christian Faith he argues that there is a greater sense of unity in the life world and a snese of the dependance of all things in the life world upon something higher.

What is this feeling of utter depenedence? It is the sense of the unity in the life world and it's greater reliance upon a higher reality. It is not to be confussed with the stary sky at night in the desert feeling, but is akin to it. I like to think about the feeling of being in my backyard late on a summer night, listening to the sounds of the freeway dying out andrealizing a certain harmony in the lfie world and the sense that all of this exists because it stemms form a higher thing. There is more to it than that but I don't have time to go into it. That's just a short hand for those of us to whom this is a new concept to get some sort of handle on it. Nor does "feeling" here mean "emotion" but it is connected to the religiousaffections. In the early version S. thought it was a corrolate between thereligious affections and God; God must be there because I can feel love for him when I pray to him. But that's not what it's saying in the better version.

B.Platonic background.

The basic assumptions Schleiermacher is making are Plaontic. He believes that the feeling of utter dependence is the backdrop, the pre-given, pre-cognative notion behind the ontological argument. IN other words, what Anselm tried to capture in his logical argument is felt by everyone, if they were honest, in a pre-cognative way. In other words, before one thinks about it, it is this "feeling" of utter dependence. After one thinks it out and makes it into a logical arguemnt it is the ontological arguement.

C.Unity in the Life world.

"Life world," or Labeinswelt is a term used in German philosophy. It implies the world of one's culturally contructed life, the "world" we 'live in.' Life as we expeirence it on a daily basis. The unity one senses in the life world is intuative and unites the experiences and aspirations of the individual in a sense of integration and belonging in in the world. As Heidegger says "a being in the world." Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuative sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher relatiy, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuative sense of "radical constingency" (int he sense of the above ontolgoical arugments).

He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesnt' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative relaitzation of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Becasue in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Now dont' think by any streach of the imagination that I think this proves the existence of God! No, no way. It is not "proof," it is freedom from the need to prove!

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Argument from Mystical Experience

Co-determinate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisable man in the snow. You can't see the invisable man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the wrold.

The only question at that ponit is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? But that should be answere in the argument below. Here let us set out some general peramitors:

(1) The trace produced content with speicificually religious affects

(2)The affects led one to a renewed sense of divine relaity, are transformative of life goals and self actualization

(3) Cannot be accounted for by alteante cuasality or other means.

(1)There are real affects from Mytical experince.

(2)These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3)Since the affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explaintions we should assume that they are genuine.

(4)Since mystical experince is usually experince of something, the Holy, the sacred some sort of greater trasncendent reality we should assume that the object is real since the affects or real, or that the affects are the result of some real higher reailty.

(5)The true measure of the reality of the co-dterminate is the transfomrative power of the affects.


Real Affects of Mystical Experince Imply Co-determinate

A. Study and Nature of Mystical Experiences

Mystical experince is only one aspect of religious experince, but I will focuss on it in this argument. Most other kinds of religious expeince are difficult to study since they are more subjective and have less dramatic results. But mystical experince can actually be measured empirically in terms of its affects, and can be compared favorably to other forms of conscious states.

1) Primarily Religious

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integrationm (unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback


The experience of pure consciousness is typically called "mystical". The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that "mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963)." The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent."

2) Defining charactoristics.


"In a recent review of the mystical experience Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."

Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.

3)Studies use Empirical Instruments.

Many skeptics have argued that one cannot study mystical experince scientifically. But it has been done many times, in fact there are a lot of studies and even empirical scales for measurement.



"Three empirical instruments have been developed to date. They are the Mysticism Scale by Hood (1975), a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). Hood's (1975) scale was developed from conceptual categories identified by Stace (1960). Two primary factors emerged from the factor analysis of the 32 core statements. First is a general mysticism factor, which is defined as an experience of unity, temporal and spatial changes, inner subjectivity and ineffability. A second factor seems to be a measure of peoples tendency to view intense experiences within a religious framework. A much simpler definition was developed by Greeley (1974), "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" This was used by him in several national opinion surveys. In a systematic study of Greeley's question Thomas and Cooper (1980) concluded that responses to that question elicited experiences whose nature varied considerably. Using Stace's (1960) work they developed five criteria, including awesome emotions; feeling of oneness with God, nature or the universe; and a sense of the ineffable. They found that only 1% of their yes responses to Greeley's question were genuine mystical experiences. Thus Hood's scale seems to be the more widely used of these two broad measures of mysticism. It has received cross cultural validation" (Holm, 1982; Caird, 1988).

4) Incidence.



"Several studies have looked at the incidence of mystical experiences. Greeley (1974) found 35% agreement to his question while Back and Bourque (1970) reported increases in frequency of these sorts of experiences from about 20% in 1962 to about 41% in 1967 to the question "Would you say that you have ever had a 'religious or mystical experience' that is, a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight?" Greeley (1987) reported a similar figure for 1973".

"The most researched inventory is the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI; reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, and Alexander, 1987). The authors say "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."

"In this case items were constructed from first person statements of practitioners of that meditative tradition, but items were also drawn from other authority literatures. Additional subscales were added to differentiate these experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic experience, and schizophrenic experience. Finally, a misleading item scale was added. These authors conceptualize the "mystical" experience as one which can momentarily occur in the process of the development of higher states of consciousness. For them the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and from it develops these higher states of consciousness.

Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that "during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310). " In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."

"Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987;

B. Long-Term Positive Effects of Mystical Experience

Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Univtive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:

Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

Short-Term Effects (usually people who did not previously know of these experiences)

*Experience temporarily disorienting, alarming, disruptive
*Likely changes in self and the world,
*space and time, emotional attitudes, cognitive styles, personalities, doubt sanity and reluctance to communicate, feel ordinary language is inadequate

*Some individuals report psychic capacities and visionary experience destabilizing relationships with family and friends Withdrawal, isolation, confusion, insecurity, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, panic, restlessness, grandiose religious delusions

Links to Maslow's Needs, Mental Health, and Peak Experiences When introducing entheogens to people, I find it's helpful to link them to other ideas people are familiar with. Here are three useful quotations. 1) Maslow - Beyond Self Actualization is Self Transcendence ``I should say that I consider Humanistic, Third Force Psychology to be transitional, a preparation for a still `higher' Fourth Psychology, transhuman, centered in the cosmos rather than in human needs and interest, going beyond humanness, identity, selfactualization and the like.''

Abraham Maslow (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being, Second edition, -- pages iii-iv.

2) States of consciousness and mystical experiences
The ego has problems:
the ego is a problem.

Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' -- page 665

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

3) Therapeutic effects of peak experiences

``It is assumed that if, as is often said, one traumatic event can shape a life, one therapeutic event can reshape it. Psychedelic therapy has an analogue in Abraham Maslow's idea of the peak experience. The drug taker feels somehow allied to or merged with a higher power; he becomes convinced the self is part of a much larger pattern, and the sense of cleansing, release, and joy makes old woes seem trivial.'' -- page 132

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper by Jayne Gackenback, (1992)

"These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987)."

(4) Greater happiness

Religion and Happiness

by Michael E. Nielsen, PhD

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.

What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness

Argyle, M., and Hills, P. (2000). Religious experiences and their relations with happiness and personality. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 157-172.

Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Next: Mystical argument page 2

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Christianity and Civlization part 3 (last)

The problem with discussing the civilizing potential of Christianity for the present and future is that we do not know if civilization is now dead, on its death bed, or only ailing. There's another problem too,the civilizing tendencies of Christianity are not what they used to be. There are some aspect of Christianity that many would say are regressive. These "regressive aspects" are seen by others as the very tonic to repair the breach in Western thought. Of course I mean creationism and the religious right. Rather than just give in to the inevitable resignation that "O well it just depends upon which side of the political fence one sits, we can look past the political aspects and find that they point to something beyond particular political agenda. Even though we may not be able to predict the future health of civilization we can determine that there are civilizing aspects and that the potential for a Christian contribution is still there.

In part 1 I sketched out the contributions Christianity made in building Western civilization. Moving into the 20th century Christianity was one of the major leading forces of progress. Christians took the lead in social organizing and crusading. The social Gospel stocked the progressive movement of the early twentieth century with an army of fired up troops. Temperance, woman's suffrage, union battles, Walter Rouchenbush and Other Jones leading the unionists; the major contribution was the post millennial outlook spread the progressive attitude through churches.

Today the general public hears only the pre millennial message. This "pre" and "post" business sounds like knit picking, but it is a crucial distinction. In the nineteenth century most Christians believed in a post millennial eschatology. They believed that the world would be Christianized by revival. This was influenced by the Holiness movement and the second great awakening. Major revivalists such as Charles Finney fought slavery and preached social reform and most believed that Christ would return after the thousand years, a thousand years of Christianizing influence in which a totally Christ-like civilization would be built. The problem was the that the bloody nature of the civil war unleashed forces of a cynical nature. Conservative Calvinists who wished to punish the south for the civil war began read scares and fear and prejudice against both southerners and aliens.

This conservative group was impressed with their losses in the civil war. They were said to "wave the bloody shirt." That means they are like a guy waving a bloody shirt saying "look what those dirty rebs did to my brother. They can't get away with that." This spread a poisoned view of the world as dark evil, a world that would get darker and more dangerous until the time of the great Tribulation and the rapture, the pre Millennial view. Odly enough this group came out of influences such as J. N. Darby and Warfield and the early doctrine of inerrency. World war I succeeded in killing off the last of the post mil Christians. The war crushed the spirits and seemed to confirm the idea of a world growing ever darker.

In the century that follow a climate of hysteria and fear was always evoked as a reaction to all social change. lappers in the 20s the charleston, jazz, rock and roll, communist under every bed in the 50s, the suspician about the civil rights movement, the Reagan era, the views have dominated the 20th century to such an extent that the republicans need only link Democrats to liberelism and the fundamentalists will turn out republican voters in droves. So if there are foundations of civilization in these movements they are a sort of very reactionary kind of foundation to civilization. The liberal side of things did provide a great deal of progress in the last century. The civil rights movement was basically a Christian movement. It originated in churches. Churches sustained it, they meet in the churches, the leadership was mainly church people (Jackson is a minister too as well MLK, remember?). Christianity also produced a certain contingent of the anti-war movement in the 60s. Though they have been largely forgotten the Berrigan brothers (Daniel and Philip) were famous household names for pouring blood on draft records and going to prison for doing so.

Now we face new challenges. The world of the future will be a Chinese world. They are the largest population and they are now rapidly producing a civilization affluent enough to provide a huge middle class, to raise the standard of living for their most impoverished and to even mount a manned space race. They are also polluting the planet far ahead of the levels produced by Europe or America. The greatest challenge of the future is that of global warming. China brings to this problem a potential consumer society (and thus need for green house gases) three times that of the United States. If Christianity can produce an eccological movement that remains to be seen.

There are other aspects, however, to which Christianity holds potential for civilizing influences. These are the aspects that counter the kind of number crunching reductionism and rapant meteraililist thinking described in the previous essay. The potential is there but will the repressive tendencies negate it? This we cannot know. We can only work to ensure the liberation and propogation of these civilizing tendencies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Christianity and Civlization part 2 : do we have civlization now?

I find that I jumped the gun in prosmsing an article on the contemporary Christian contribution to civlization, because my theory of civiliation is that its dead. I agree with Albert Schwetizer who thought Civlization died in the ninteenth century. In oder to exaplin this theory, I am publishing the manifesto to the old Journal that I used to publish in hard copy, an academic JOurhal: Negations
This article explains the basis of the theory. Understanding that I don't really think civlization is happening, I will present an article on modern Christian contricutions to the few civilizing infuences still left in the West. Thus essay was written 1996 it's already dated.

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Future of Humanity

It is capitalism and its technostructure which have dislodged civilizing influences (and Schweitzer himself included capitalism in the critique, 28). As long as the economic structures are expanding, the assumption is that civilization is intact. The illusion of stability is created because civilization has been confused with two different things: first, with its own infrastructure (or with that of civil society), and secondly, with the hierarchical trappings of power which maintain the infrastructure. Modernity understands Civilization as indoor plumbing, freeways, and home shopping. Some postmodernists confuse civilization with the imperialism which built the infrastructure.

For some time thinkers and social critics have warned that the foundations of modernity have collapsed. In reaction to the current malaise the realm of discourse in American public life has been closed around one particular social project: right-wing hegemony. With the death of the left, the failure of liberalism, the decline of the arts, and the ultimate decline of democratic values, new movements seek explanations and solutions. Most of these, however, consist of either uncritically imposing moralistic agendas, or, denying that foundations are possible. Negations is a journal of social criticism which seeks to expand the realm of discourse in American society through an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon critical theory and praxis in the areas of art, history of ideas, political and social philosophy, political theology, and literary criticism. The editors of Negations feel that the most acute analysis and praxis lie in recovering the tradition of 20th century social criticism. We have chosen as springboards, points of departure, Albert Schweitzer, Karl Jaspers, C. Wright Mills, and Herbert Marcuse.

Specifically, what these thinkers have in common is the realization that economic forces render the public sphere synonymous with the commercial sphere. Art, religion, philosophy, ethics, political ideals, all else is reduced to "matters of taste" in the private realm. These vital areas of life, therefore, play a mitigated role in governing public discourse. Moreover, the public sphere has come to subsume the private; "matters of taste" become commodified and are themselves mere products. The process of civilized life is reduced to producing and consuming; serious public dialogue is reduced to a form of entertainment. Non-commodified needs, such as artistic expression, ethical values, or reflections upon our ultimate concerns, are marginalized. The closed realm of discourse reduces analysis of the cause of the crisis to a litany of its effects; "cultural relativism," declining "family values," or a failure of the educational system. The real problem lurking behind these symptoms is the inability of ultimate concerns to affect the social realm.

Albert Schweitzer is best known, not for social criticism, but for sacrificing a brilliant theological career to work in Africa as a doctor. His classic work, Quest for The Historical Jesus, set the stage for 20th century theological interpretation of the historical Jesus and eschatology. Schweitzer did write a philosophy of civilization. His work, The Decay and Restoration of Civilization, is outdated, somewhat ethnocentric, and almost quaint. Embedded within a simplistic discourse on the superiority of rationalism, however, are some ideas that are well worth taking seriously. While he may seem out of place among thinkers such as Marcuse and Mills, he anticipated much that they had to say.

Schweitzer's discussion of civilization begins with the concept of civilization itself. Civilization is, for Schweitzer, primarily a matter of ethical values which produce a free community, in which the full potential of the individual can be realized. This is not only an unscientific definition, but it flies in the face of the postmodern rejection of the individual. On the other hand, as Schweitzer points out, what is thought of as "civilization" today, comes from social scientists, who, in their positivistic zeal to rid modern thought of everything that cannot be quantified, defined civilization in terms of living arrangements and urban units. It is not that we object to the quantitative study of society, nor do we envision social sciences without a focus on living arrangements. Nevertheless, the concept of civilization has been reduced to that which can be studied quantitatively, gutted of its content and reduced to a mere form. Civilization, understood as a value, fosters a positive quality of life based on freedom, but civilization has come to be understood as a collection of practical ends which must be served for their own sake.

In The Dacay... (1923), Schweitzer warned of the collapse of civilizing influences, which were giving way to reductive and calculating forms of thought. Today there is a general feeling that Western culture is declining through a loss of moral values, but this notion is most often heard as right-wing campaign rhetoric, or a concern of fundamentalists. To understand these concerns in this way, however, is to misconstrue the nature of the forces at work. It is capitalism and its technostructure which have dislodged civilizing influences (and Schweitzer himself included capitalism in the critique, 28). As long as the economic structures are expanding, the assumption is that civilization is intact. The illusion of stability is created because civilization has been confused with two different things: first, with its own infrastructure (or with that of civil society), and secondly, with the hierarchical trappings of power which maintain the infrastructure. Modernity understands Civilization as indoor plumbing, freeways, and home shopping. Some postmodernists confuse civilization with the imperialism which built the infrastructure. Thus, civilization is often pitted against environmental concerns, blamed for the exploitation of the third world, or the oppression of women, as well as all the other problems of our technological existence, (all of which are really the consequences of loosing civilization, or of never having achieved it fully\'d1in other words, to end oppression and to accept marginalized people as fully participating members of society is a civilizing influence; one which has yet to be fully achieved).

Schweitzer's critique centered on the mode of production necessary for maintaining a burgeoning technological society, and the way of life that mode fostered (29). His analysis applied to the German situation of factory life in the 1920s, but much of what he had to say still bears consideration. German workers were overworked, underpaid, uneducated, and separated from the overall process of production, so that their work was meaningless and lacked any expression of craftsmanship. Contemporary work is less factory-oriented, but it is still overwork, and in general social pressures guide workers away from meaningful occupations. As Schweitzer pointed out, the main compensation for overwork is constant entertainment. Overworked, underpaid, undervalued, undereducated, the worker is diverted from any serious consideration about the overall goals and ends of life; from reading, and from intellectual pursuits (28). The current situation is merely an outgrowth of the former mode of life. Entertainment is one of the biggest growth sectors, (commodified leisure) but it serves a diversionary purpose in draining away time for serious reading and reflection. Even in 1923 Schweitzer saw that these trends were being designed into the economic structures (29). Even "meaningful" occupations too often reduce thought to mere calculation. On this point Schweitzer anticipates Jaspers.

Karl Jaspers reflected upon the end of Western civilization in Man In The Modern Age, likening it to the end of Hellenism before the dark ages (20). For Jaspers, the current phase in modernity (the 1920s) marked the turning point from human pursuits such as discursive reasoning, thought, understanding, and artistic production, to the dominance of a highly organized super-structure based upon reducing content to "technique." Art becomes "mere amusement and pleasure ( instead of an emblem of transcendence), science becomes mere concern for technical utility (instead of the satisfaction of a primary will to know), (137). He warned that the growing tendency to "wrap the world in apparatus," the building of a giant inter-connected infrastructure based entirely on calculation, would have a deleterious effect upon humanity. According to Jaspers, society faces the extinction of those qualities and aspirations which have always defined humanity, such as rational discourse and ethical norms. These warnings seem quaint when one considers that they were made before regular air travel in the days of radio. It may be that at each stage in technical development, society becomes more habituated to technique, closed in a technological womb that grows ever more content with closed possibilities for qualitative change. The contemporary litany of dangers, ecological destruction of the planet, the failure of the educational system, growing violence, and governmental control, should bare out the realization that society is complacent in the face of growing peril. Jasper's notion that discursive reasoning was being replaced by technique anticipates the work of C. Wright Mills in the 1950s.
Mills was a sociologist, an influence upon the early new left of the '60s, and a critic of the social sciences. He is best known for his work The Power Elite, and for coining that popular phrase of the 1960s, "military industrial complex." In his work The Sociological Imagination, however, he reflects upon the loss of the individual's power in society, and his own profession's complicity in the process. Mills was one of the first thinkers to use the term "post-modern" (which he hyphenated). For Mills, writing in the '50s, modernity had already passed away, post-modernity had dawned. "The ideological mark...[of the post-modern epoch] --that which sets it apart from the modern age-- is that the ideas of freedom and of reason have become moot; that increased rationality may not be assumed to make for increased freedom" ( 167). As with Schweitzer, Mills reflects that the technological structure separates people from control over or reflection upon the ends of their lives. "Caught in the everyday milieux of their limited lives, ordinary people cannot reason about the greater structures'rational and irrational'of which their milieux are subordinate parts" (168). The individual learns not to reason, but to rationalize the goals and ends of life, and his or her position in the overall scheme of things.

Given...the ascendant trend of rationalization, the individual 'does what he can.' He gears his aspirations and his work to the situation he is in and from which he can find no way out. In due course he does not seek a way out: he adapts. That part of his life which is left over from work he uses to play, to consume, to have fun. Yet this sphere of consumption is also being rationalized. Alienated from production, from work, he is also alienated from consumption, from genuine leisure. This adaptation of the individual and its effects upon his milieux and self results not only in the loss of his chance, but in due course of his capacity and will to reason; it also affects his chances and his capacity to act as a free [person]. Indeed, neither the value of freedom nor of reason, it would seem, are known to him. (170).

Mills ties this process directly to commodification, the accumulation of technological and commercial products, of "gadgets." The end result, according to Mills, is that society becomes filled with "cheerful robots," those who obey the programming of technique and cannot seek alternatives (171). Mills charged that the social sciences help to further the aims and methods of technique, hiding behind the " scientific objectivity," unwilling to mount any critique. Mills anticipates Herbert Marcuse's work, written in 1964, One-Dimensional Man. Marcuse is far too complex to present a full explication of his thought in this manifesto. Only the most cursory summation of one of his major points will be attempted. Marcuse, like Schweitzer and Jaspers, was born in Germany. He escaped to the United States in 1933 (on the day Hitler took power). Marcuse had been active in Marxist politics since his early youth. He studied with Heidegger and Husserl, and was a close friend of the latter. His thinking is grounded deeply in that of Hegel, but he draws more on the phenomenological tradition than other Marxist thinkers of his time. Marcuse was part of the "Frankfurt School," a group of thinkers in Germany which included Adorno and the young Habermas. In the early '60s he taught at San Diego, where he rose to meteoric fame with One-Dimensional Man. He was lauded as the great thinker of the '60s counter-culture, so much so that Ronald Reagan tried to have his credentials revoked.

Marcuse argues that the realm of public discourse is closed around a social project which features the constant supply of "false needs" to eagerly one-dimensional consumers (7-8). Any notion which does not support the social project is excluded from the public discussion. Within the confines of consumer society freedom becomes a concept reduced to terms of commercial transaction.

...The irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits...The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against falsehood. And as these beneficial products have become available to more individuals, in more social classes, the indoctrination they carry ceases to be publicity; it becomes a way of life. It is a good way of life'much better than before' and as a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior, in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this [social-political] universe. They are re-defined by the rationality of the given system and of its quantitative extension. (12).

The seductive nature of the consumer life indoctrinates everyone into the social project, precluding any serious discussion of alternative forms of life, and excluding that which cannot be reduced to a product. Learning and thinking cease to be matters of thoughtful content and simply become a means of better maintaining the project; constant expansion of economic development. Alternatives are co-opted, then sold as products themselves.

Lurking behind the accumulation of false needs (technological version of bread and circuses) is operational thinking. This is what Marcuse means by "quantitative extension of the given system" (quotation above). " The trend [one-dimensional consumer society] may be related to a development in scientific method: operationalism in the physical, behaviorism in the social sciences. The common feature is a total empiricism in the treatment of concepts; their meaning is restricted to the representation of particular operations and behavior...In general, we mean by a concept nothing more than a set of operations...a positivism which, in its denial of the transcending elements of reason, forms the academic counterpart to the socially required behavior" (12). The positivist and reductionist tendencies of contemporary scientific thought, which props up the technostructure and furnishes it with "empirical proof," works to eliminate all concepts that cannot be quantified, and therefore, eventually commodified.

We refer to this total process, observed by Marcuse, Mills, Jaspers, and Schweitzer, as "the commodification of life." Whatever cannot be quantified, and then reduced to commercial transaction, is deemed unimportant, and relegated to the "subjective" realm as "matters of taste," (Moltmann 309). Marcuse argues that positivism has helped to foster the assumption that what is, is what should be. " What is," is the power of science to render as quantifiable anything " worth knowing." If a concept is not quantified, it must be a subjective matter of taste, and therefore, cannot be included in the public discussion. "What is," is the "negation" of further possibility. Thus, our most cherished aspirations, desires, and values become consumer products or selling points. Engagement with our existential concerns becomes the psychic hot-line," personal significance and meaning in one's life as an individual becomes the purchase of a large air-polluting automobile with "fine Corinthian leather" upholstery, freedom becomes a huge drink at the local convenience store, revolution becomes a basketball shoe, and democracy becomes a sound bite. Even thought is commodified, the life of the mind a mere product. Learning becomes a score on the GRE, knowledge becomes a diploma, thought becomes gathering data and publication, all of which indexes the "thinker" as a product worthy of purchase by industry or academia. The mercantile trappings of civilization have become the thing itself.

Nor is the closed realm of discourse only limited to advertising. The media on all levels creates a sense of the world as American public discourse, the agenda dictated by quantitatively derived economic necessity and the demands of the infrastructure. The public discussion about welfare, for example, rarely delves into the moral obligation of an economic system which requires that certain groups be frozen out. If vast segments of the population are trapped in poverty, or forced to migrate for work, if the manufacturing based is shipped to the third world and whole communities left with the fast food industry as the employer of first resort, that is simply the law of supply and demand; immutable, sacrosanct, economic cosmic Torryism. Practically the only time one hears moral values at work in a discussion on social programs is when the poor are subjected to a badly misconstrued version of the Protestant work ethic. The same situation can be seen on the environmental front, where the ecologists are the "special interests," and corporations the victims of " out of control" government regulation.

In his classic work Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky argues that the minions of the media, reporters and editors, internalize the economic and political interests of the ownership (Chomsky). The ownership of media in America, however, is an ever shrinking and tightly closed realm; ever more limited to Disney and Murdock (Miller, 10). "...Such concentration will tend to inhibit those news departments lately swallowed up by this or that gigantic advertiser'news departments that were no great shakes to start with, but that now will seldom threaten the myriad interests of their respective parent companies" (Miller, 10). The new situation of media monopolization, since the Reagan era, has become so totally self referential, it threatens to pull the audience into a totally self contained world. Michael Eisner described it this way, "the Disney stores promote the consumer products which promote the [theme] parks, which promote the television shows. The television shows promote the company..." (in Miller, 9). Of course, television in general is dummied up to reduce the level of thought, and generally promotes a way of life based on constant entertainment and constant consumption. The one serious reflection on the world which is widely available, news, reflects the assumptions of the social elites in maintaining their project. The universe closes, tightly bud-like, around the basic notion of economic Torryism (what is, is what should be). Any serious attempt at qualitative change, or at presentation of further possibilities for life, is either co-opted or excluded altogether.

The very concept of "revolution" is trivialized and commodified, so that to rebel is to obey. When the term "revolution" is taken seriously, it is in connection with the right-wing legislative agenda, or the tax revolt. To use the term in this way, however, is simply to call for more of the same; more capitalism, more right-wing ideology. When "revolution" is used in connection with changing society in such a way as to bring about justice, promote free thought, or find alternatives to an oppressive cultural and social milieu, advertisers connect the usage to selling products. " The revolution," as it turns out, is really about basketball. All one need do is watch television (pay attention to the commercials this time) and one is inundated by an army of black-shirted, would-be beats, each with a three day growth of beard, hawking everything from automobiles to beer. "Break the rules. Stand apart. Keep your head. Go with your heart," says a t.v. commercial for Vanderbilt perfume, 1994 (Frank, 12). The revolution is about money. Thomas Frank's article, "Dark Age: Why Johnny Can't Dissent," (Baffler) documents the fact that dissent and counter-culture are the major growth industries, favorite targets of advertising today (12-13). All aspects of life are turned into commodities, even dissatisfaction with commodification. This is nothing new, however, it is exactly what Marcuse predicted when he said that dissent and counter-culture were merely the carnation on the lapel of capitalism ( ODM,10). Nowhere is the commodified rebellion more evident than in the brave and trendy rebellion of the ideological postmodernists, whose undermining of "logocentrism" has only served to negate the ability of the left offer a coherent option.

This is not to paint all " postmoderns" with a broad brush. "Postmodernity" is many things to many people, as is "postmodernism." Much of it offers insight for critique. In a sense, postmodernism offers the best help for the left. The projects of modernity seem to have failed in many ways. There is no getting around the fact that 19th century progress never made good on its claims, and the most significant result was a bigger pile of bodies. Postmodernism offers a deeper understanding of reality as socially constructed, although much of this could be gleaned from a reading of 19th century sociology. Deconstruction does offer a method for reading texts, and there are those whose scholarship and dedication toward this end is admirable. There are also those who know a catchy slogan when they hear it, and whose critique of modernity does not go beyond sloganism. Conversely, there is much in modernity that was never grasped, never tried, and never given the proper opportunity. We reject that type of postmodernism which is merely a knee-jerk reaction against anything that came before, and we especially reject that style of postmodernism which lauds "difference" at the expense of a unified movement against oppression.

What is left of the left has, like a character in a Beckett play, been stuck in the endgame of postmodernism. As with an actual "endgame" in chess, the postmodernists have worked the left into a position in which they have few moves left open to them, and no longer command the pieces to win the game; having eliminated any notion of progress (indeed, having eliminated the very ability to say that one thing is better than another, and having done away with the self, the individual, ethics, ideals, class analysis, class conflict, workers, solidarity, freedom, conscience, humanity, humanism, spirit, and all the other concepts which have motivated decent, and revolutionary organizing, since the peasant revolts of the 16th century). This version of the postmodern attack on the subject, the rejection of individualism, reason, etc., have only served to render the left apathetic, powerless, and divided; and to feed the process of commodification.

This kind of postmodernism attacks all motivating values, such as moral values, or the value of individualism, as though they are the structures which have created the modern malaise. They attack the reduced forms as though they are the ideals themselves. They attack civilization, as though it is the imperialism which comes from a misconstrual of civilization, they attack the one-dimensional false consciousness as though it is the notion of the self. The postmodern "attack on the subject" ( the rejection of the individual) began with the new left in Paris, May '68, and with the very critique of bourgeois individuality voiced by Marcuse and Mills. While these thinkers wanted an ever freer individual, however, one liberated from "false needs" or " gadgets," Derrida and Foucault took the opposite approach and turned to the destruction of individuality (although, it can be argued that their aim was really a sneaky defense of individual freedom). The effect was postmodern rejection of the self (Ferry and Renaut xxiii). Certain kinds of postmodernists will be apt to criticize Mills and the others on the grounds that freedom is illusory, reason is logocentric, and the self is a social construct. Schweitzer would probably answer, "Those born to slavery don't know to miss their freedom."

On the other hand, we cannot bring back the quaint 19th century rationalism of Schweitzer. The postmodernists have created a problem in the sense that ridding the left of the notion of progress, there is no more forward momentum (if only that were the only problem the left faces). Nevertheless, the notion of "progress," is laden with too much baggage, is too relative and general in meaning. One person's "progress" is another person's ecological disaster. We propose a vocabulary and a means of problem solving in lieu of talk about progress. Rather than speaking of a " march" of progress toward some teleological goal, which is actually some relative temporal value cast in the aura of the eternal, perhaps we can speak of "opening up" the closed realm of discourse, of the emergence of new possibility. If we cannot have progress in history, Hegel's inevitable " footprints of God in the sands of time," perhaps we can have Marcuse's "negation of the negation" (Katz, 200).
The "negation of the negation" is really a Hegelian term. Hegel didn't really speak of the dialectic as " thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis," but as a series of concrete situations negating and excluding possibilities. The fruition of possibilities over existing situations is "the negation of the negation." Marcuse took up this notion, and in fact, a collection of his essays is entitled Negations. There are two Marcusian terms which must be understood in order to make sense of the theory. First, the transcendent critical principle (TCP), and secondly, the revolutionary a priori. TCPs are principles from beyond the commodified closed realm of discourse, principles which in themselves offer the basis for critique, and which cannot be commodified. Marcuse thought he found such principles in art (Katz, 199-200). We think there is an even larger picture which can be understood through a combination of all four thinkers.

For Marcuse, the revolutionary a priori was an inherent basis for critique which exists within art qua art. Certain works, certain genres, even the notion of art itself may be commodified and pressed into service of the closed realm of discourse, but the revolutionary a priori can always be teased out, and a critique mounted. It is critique which breaks open the closed realm and opens up new possibilities, the negation of the negation. If we can bring values back into public discussion as points of critique, perhaps they will force an opening in the closed realm of discourse. Rather than the assumption that "what is, is what should be," possibility introduces the notion that "what could be is what should be." The approbation of non-commodified principles will, hopefully, alter the public discussion in such a way as to break open the closed realm. The major metaphor for progress in history was a "march forward," moving " ahead." The metaphor we would like to bring to the discussion as a replacement is that of a rose bud. The revolutionary a priori is a bud-likeness. The possibilities for change are inherent within the closed realm, but they must be opened up and caused to emerge to fruition.

Through the works of Schweitzer, Jaspers, and Mills, one might enlarge upon TCPs, and draw upon a range broader than that of art alone. Conversely, through Marcuse, one might search out a revolutionary a priori in the values and motivations which Schweitzer, Jaspers, and Mills draw upon for their solutions. For example, Schweitzer's appeal to reverence for life furnishes an example of a TCP. Schweitzer's notion of the ethical content of civilization might furnish a range of TCPs from the realm of value. This is the true importance of recognizing Schweitzer's point about the ethical content of civilization. Civilizing tendencies are applications of values, moral and ethical, which create living possibilities for the individual and society.

From each of our four thinkers we derive a piece of a possible solution. Schweitzer's solution was the application of discursive reason and reverence for life (as a specific example of the ethical content which he believed motivates civilization). Jaspers's solution lay in a realization of humanity's existential concerns in motivating the human spirit. Mills' solution was the application of reason to an analysis of the goals and ends of life; which manifested itself through a sociological analysis critical of the social sciences. Marcuse supplies the grand theory which is complex enough to unite the whole in a comprehensive framework.
One of the major problems with this theory is in selecting the values and in choosing between competing values. Moreover, the postmodernist position informs us of the culturally constructed and relative nature of all values. The problem of choosing between them should supply a large portion of the content of the journal. To bog down in the mire of postmodern constructivist relativism, however, need not be the fate of our task. It is not that postmodernism does not furnish us with valuable insights, nor is it the case that there is nothing to the constructivist outlook. It is simply that the relative and socially constructed nature of value should not dissuade us from the discussion. Let us take a Kantian approach. If we impose cultural constructs upon our sense data, and thus order the world, the world is the world of our constructs. The problem with the closed realm of discourse is that it limits the world by imposing certain constructs, and excluding others, and the range is constantly narrowed. If it is inevitable that the values we hold are merely cultural constructs, than let us increase the possible range of constructs available to us.

Therefore, as a journal, Negations is virtually unlimited in the range of topics which might be selected. Anything from media manipulation, to advertising, ecology, welfare, literary criticism, historical analysis, cultural criticism, almost all walks of life are touched by commodification.

In general, we seek scholarly articles from the arts and humanities and the social sciences. we use the rubric "interdisciplinary" to describe the range of disciplines form which we seek contributions, and by this term we mean to indicate the openness of the journal to publish a broad range of disciplines. We welcome quantitative work, but ask that it be tied to analysis.

The range of topics will be limited by the approach to commodification. We ask that articles center on one of two things, or both: 1) a critique of commodification (in whatever manifestation it can be seen) and/or; 2) a discussion of transcendent critical principles. We hope that this approach will contribute something to the struggle for fundamental change. We know that we face overwhelming opposition, we are a mosquito trying to drink the ocean, but we hope that all who read this article will lend their support in whatever way they can. We also feel that our contribution to scholarship itself is not minimal. We feel that scholarship need not hide behind objectivity, but that critique, in so far as it leads to understanding, is the best approach of true scholarship. We feel that the academic way of life is in the greatest peril from a commodified society; a society which values only technique and commodifies learning and thinking. We believe that we can contribute in an academic sense, and that the strength of the academy is the best defense against the forces of one-dimensionality. We call for the support of the reader, and the best support the reader can give is to read our journal.



Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing Consent. Pantheon Books. 1988.

Ferry, Luc, and Alain Renaut. French Philosophy of The Sixties: An Essay On Antihumanism. trans. Mary H.S. Cattani. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990 (originally 1985 by Gillmard).

Frank, Thomas. "Dark Age: Why Johnny Can't Dissent," The Baffler, no. 6.
Jaspers, Karl. Man In The Modern Age. Doubleday, 1957.

Katz, Barry. Herbert Marcuse and the Art of Liberation. Verso, 1982.
Marcuse, Herbert. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory. Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968.

____ One-Dimensional Man. Beacon Press, 1964.

Miller, Mark Crispin. "De-Monopolize Them: a Call For A Broad Based Movement Against the Media Trust." Extra: The Magazine of FAIR, Nov.-Dec. 1995, Vol. 8, no. 6.
Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York, London: Oxford University Press, 1967 (originally 1959).

Moltmann, Jurgen. Theology of Hope: On The Ground And The Implications of A Christian Eschatology. SCM Press, Ltd. 1967 (originally published in Germany in 1965).

Schweitzer, Albert. The Decay and The Restoration of Civilization. trans. C.T. Campion. London: Unwin Books, 1967 (original German Publication 1923).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Christianity and Western Civilization

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storming the Bastallie--European histoirans begin modederity
at the French Revolution

Atheists have of late been harping on the slavery in the Bile issue. I just got through dealing with the post of an unusually ignorant one who claimed that Christianity contributed nothing to the progress of Western Civilization! I can't believe people are so ignorant they are still saying tripe. This person tried to make an argument, with no backing, that the direction of social progress is away form religion!

Religion is riding high at this juncture in human history. Not only has it produced a paradigm shift in medicine but it has also produced a paradigm shift in philosophy. One might have thought that philosophy would be the last area in which religion could score big, in reality, however, its really leading the way thanks to Plantiga and the back to God movement of he 90s.While it may be true that religion is not the only major force contributing to civilization and the direction of progress, it continues to be a major force. I will just sketch out two areas in this essay:

(1) The past, the contribution of religion (specifically Christianity) to Western civilization

(2) The present and future where religion (Christianity) holds its own as one major contributing force.

A good starting place for the modern western civ is the medieval synthesis. With the fall of the Roman empire civilizing influences retreated and left the population of Western Europe in the cold and dark.. They hudaled into castles for protection and sold themselves into surfdom to powerful landlords who evoked the Germanic inheritance laws to construct the feudal system. Eventually manufacturing began to produce cities and with cities came freedom from the feudal lord. Throughout these "dark ages" learning recede and was basically confined to a monastic setting. Monks kept alive the learning of the Greaco-Roman world. It was in this setting that modern science began. Discoveries plundered from Spain began to show up and scientific learning began among monks from Chartre in France to St. Victor in England to Helfta in Germany. These centers of learning produced vast bodies of literature, scientific observation, and a total synthesis bringing together the observations of science and religion into a coherent culture (see my essay on Christianity and science in the middle ages).

As the work form the monasteries spread Western civilization embarked upon a Renaissance. New learning became the order of the day. Now the old view which was spread by atheist propaganda in the enlightenment told a mythical tail of humanity emerging form the dark abyss in which religion held it captive with chains of ignorance into the glorious light of materialistic scientism. Jacob Burckhardt But historians do not take this view seriously anymore. The Renaissence is no longer seen as the great awaking of learning. It is now under stood that the Renaissance was more of a movement than a time period and it is limited to the social elites in a few major cities such as Florence (although one might expand it more by the time of the Northern Renaissance). At the same time historians are more aware of learning in the so called '"dark ages." (See Peter Burke's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy). The period from fall of Rome (about 490) to about 900 can be considered 'dark' in that it was dominated by illiteracy, Vikings and disease. But from 900 on a steady stream of learning, travel, new ideas begins and spread throughout Europe. The wars with the moors and the crusades were major forces contributing to this trend. The Renaissance,formerly understood as anti-religious saw 80% commisons on art as religious works. The Renaissance was not a rebellion against religion, it was the dawn of modern religious humaism.

Christian thought contributed in a major way to the thinking of he enlightenment. most skeptics on the net tend to short hand the conflit between religion and science int he enlgitenment and tend to assume that all the philosohpes were atheits. But in reality the philosophes were religous. Voltaire did not mean to say religion is just made up. He was not a Chrsitian but he was profoundly religious. He really mean to say that religion is so important we would have to invent it if it didn't exist as a natural outgrown of the light of reason (see Peter Gay's books on the Englitementment). One of the major influences was Father Francis Fenelin. He militated for indivudal rights and freedom and was a major influence upon the philosphes in their understanding of modern personhood and indivdulaity (see Britanica, "Finelin"). Christian thinkers put an end to the Witch trials i Eruope and helped pave the way for an understanding of bsic human rights.

The high point of this modern Christian contribution to western Civilization is the rise of modern science in England during the seventeenth century. The majority of historians in fields such as English history and History of science and history of ideas have come together to produce a ground swell of works demonstrating the importance of the Latitudinarians in popularizing and spreading the works of Newton. These English churchmen who were very active in politics took their marching orders form Robert Boyle. Of course Boyle, a major scientist of the era who discovered air pressure, was a close friend of Newton. Boyle's social vision was to use science to establish the truth of Christianity and then use Christianity to establish social and political harmony. Boyle latched on to Newtonian physics as the new model of science and the latitudinarians promoted it as a new Gospel. The major historian in all of this is Margaret Jacob
and her major work on the subject is The Newtonians. Jacob argues that without this band of preachers hawking Newton's wares he might have remained unknown for fifty years or longer than it took for him to be discovered. In it might not have ever had the currency it did have. Who knows this would have thrown off.

The next great high point was the abolition movement. I don't think we can underrate the exsnt to which abolition of slavery built the modern world. There is basically no way we could have moderity and live in a slave society. That would be anti-thetical to every modern principle from individual automy to democracy. At every step fo the way Christians led the movement. The Quakers organized and let the attack on the slave trade.The Journal of John Woolman is a must read in this regard. The underground rail road was mostly connected to chruches and the first oranized anti-abolition group in America was a group of Methodist women. From this point the Evanglicals fanned out accross the social specturm brining in the social gospel and militating on both sides of the political isle: Woman's sufferage, temporence, abolition of poverty, public education, and many others.(see McLaughlin, William G. Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977 (Chicago, 1978).

In part 2 I will analyze the modern contributions of christianity to Western Civ. Coming ealry next week. I promise.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Only God Possible

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My frined Tiny Thinker asks "if God exists (assume God exists) which God is 'he?'"


But this is a pointless question because there can be only one God. This I will demonstrate in a moment. Butt he point is, the proer question is not "which God is it?" But which religious tradition best mediates an understanding and the transfomrative power for living of the only God there could be?

There is one reality behind all religions. Like a prision, light has many aspects and what appears to be one pure white like is actually borken down into all the hues imaginable. This is like God, there are many aspects to the divine and when loaded into cultural constructs our experiences of the divine may take on infinite veriety.

Most atheists think of god(s) as the big guy in the sky. You see God as a big guy on a throne. He's just a contingent being like us.He's just magnified in his power. He's like a big guy. But God as we speak of God in the Christian sense is not like this at all.

Yes, there are images of the big guy pinated in the OT. That's because the understanding of the Jews evolved.It was very primative at first. they were experiencing God the way we all do. They were running into the power of God here and there, and experiencing God in their own personal lives as conviction of conscience and supersitcion. An admixture of sacred and profane.

In exodus 3 when God tells Moses his true name he revaled something about himself that forever places the Hebrew notion of God far beyond that of the big sky daddy on a throne. He tells him his name which is "I am that I am." In a latter era the understanding of some rabbis would lead them to translate this into Greek "I am the being" or "I am being itself."

In Christian parlance God is Eternal, logically and ontologically necessary, the primary condition under which all other conditions arize (what used to be called "first cause") and transcendent of all human understanding. This places God on a level above and beyond that of any particular being. God is is not "a being" because he's not one of many. He exits at a level above that of "thing hood." God is not a being or a thing or a substance, God is the basis of all being, of all things, of all substances.

Any concept of God or diety or the top of the metaphysical heirarchy is a place holder that points to this concpet; just as any three sided shape is a triangle..

This is why there can only be one God. There can only be one basis of all that is. All the little demi-gods that are really just contingencies like Zeus and Molech and whathaveyou are just plae relfections of a much higher conept. They merely place markers that point to God.

So which tradition does best mediate? They are all valid. They are not compeitors.

The one best mediates in my view is Christianity. Why:

(1) Grace

(2) Jesus

Jesus is the true revelation of God to humanity. all others are just trying real hard. But they are all valid expressions of the encoding of our experinces of the divine into cultural constructs, which is the only way we can communicate.