Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Themes/Civ: Meaning and Truth part 2

2 of 1

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I said last time that I was not trying to prove anything but just explecating my views. So angry atheists write and say "You don't back anything up, you can't prove anything." why should anyone get angry because of my opinion? I said point blank I wasn't trying to prove anything!

Meaning is a function of truth, and truth is the limit on meaning. In other words The only way that something is meaningful is in proportion to the extent to which it represents the truth of some situation or outlook. By the same token, meaning is limited by truth. A lie is not meaningful in terms of its falsehood, only in terms of what it tells us about the liar. Meaning is subjective, one cannot deduce meaning from the order of things as one might try to deduce a designer from the apparent design in the universe. For that matter, I don't think one can logically deduce a design in the universe. The fact that meaning is subject does not indicate that God can't bestow meaning. "Subjective" refers to an individual's perspective. Each individual has his/her own perspective and cannot know that of another. God, on the other hand, can know each and every individual perspective. God knows the heart, God knows the mind, God knows all hidden knowledge that no human can know. Therefore, God is the only perspective which sees from all view points at once. Thus God is both subjective and objective.

when I say "meaning in life" it should be clear that I'm talking about Meaning with a capital "M." That is higher meaning, meta narrative. The big picture.We can all have some kind of meaning in our lives, but the question is, do we have private, local, relative meaning or do we have "higher universal meaning?" Many people reacted angrily to the previous part 1 of this topic.It's odd that the sensibilities of changed so, because in the 60's that stuff would have been eaten up. The irony is these very people who take the attitude that they can find their own meaning and they don't need God, have that attitude because Sartre made it acceptable in the culture. But then turn around and lam bast Sartre for finding that meaning depends upon God. People today are at easy the existential aunxt. They don't fee it and they don't care. In any case, Sartre is only saying the most logical truth. Which would be more meaningful, if the inventor of a product said "I made this product to do X,Y, and Z." Or if someone who has never even seen the product said "I think this product is for X,Y, and Z?"

We live on a dust mote in a sea of random chance. There is no reason why we come to be. The galaxy, the solar system, planet, species and each individual in them is nothing more than an accident. If you don't believe in God you have to believe that no one designed you, no one created you for a purpose, you have o purpose, you weren't born for a reason, you are nothing than an organism, soulless, and devoid o any special reason for being. When you die, you die that's it no one cares no one remembers you and it wont matter one whit that you ever lived. If you have talent it is not a gift, its just a mistake. But if God created you then you are a creature of God's. You exist for a reason, and hat reason is o be loved by God. You exist to the object of love of the creator of the universe. What could give grand higher level meaning more than that? Yet, these people angered by that concept. That is hard for me to figure. I mean some of them actually said "this is evil." I certainly do not understand this. How could it be evil to think that each and every individual is an end in himself, a special being made for the express purpose of experiencing God's love? How in the hell can that be evil?

Each individual can find some basis of meaning that is personally satisfying. I get a kick out of thinking about that yellow garage, I don't expect that to be meaningful to anyone else. It gives me a sense of meaning in a way. But that's not higher meaning. it's not a purpose for living, it's just personally satisfying. You might not think higher meaning matters, but higher meaning gives the empitus to live for something and it makes our commitments worth dying for. Take for example the three civil rights works in Freedom summer, 1964. They were in Mississippi, registering voters. Their names where Goodman, Chainy, and Schwerner. These are the three civil rights workers murdered by the Klan and buried in a damn. This event was captured on the movie Mississippi Burning. Those guys were murdered in secret. They just diapered it took a huge search to find their bodies. If they had never been found, no one would have ever known of their sacrifice, would it be meaningful that they made it? Well each of us will die, and be forgotten and then it wont matter worth a hill of beans what sacrifices we made. By care about anything? Why help anyone or commit to anything because after you die peple forget you ever existed and it doesn't matter. It's not recorded in posterity, what dos it matter? What would it have mattered if the three workers had gone home and just didn't bother to work for civil rights? Why stand up for anything? In the end there's no consequence for cheating, no one sees.

Now I'm betting that most atheists out there will be thinking "I don't need God for it to matter." OF course without God it really doesn't matter because you just die nd then no one remembers and so who cares? You aren't around to think about it. But I bet that some where in your heart you are secretly thinking "it matters in the long run in some sense." But in the long run is not different from the short run, you exist for no reason, when you die you die and no one cares and it doesn't matter. But you are thinking there can be some way in which it does matter. But that's because you have the notion of God. In your hearts of hearts you know God is real and God is the one who sees. That makes things meaningful. Does that mean that atheists' lives are meaningless, or that atheists are of no value? No of course not, it means the opposite. Atheists are of inestemial value each and every individual because they are all creatures of God and their lives were created for a purpose. That purpose is to love and be loved in return. Atheists' lives have meaning even though they do know that they do have this meaning.

Now a lot of atheists try to make the argument that God doesn't know anything. God is no better than just any old bully in a bar. They try to make good on this idea by arguing that meaning is personal and private anyway. But the only kind of meaning they can have is personal and private so they have to make the best of it, and they have to pretend that that's as good as universal higher meaning; of course logically it can never be. You know there is universal logical meaning, you know it can only come from God.Finding a universal higher meaning is basic psychological need, and it's actually part of the definition of mental health. If these people understood the concept of God properly they would see how fallacious it is to think that God's view point is just one more opinion. Many atheists can only think of God as a big man in the sky. But is not a big man, God is the foundation of all that is. That means God is to you as your brain is the the thoughts in your head. You are a thought of God. How could we possibly compare the divine perspective to our own? We degrade it by even calling it a perspective. We should just say "how could the divine compare with a human perspective?" Because God is not just another perspective. God is all perspective. Some atheists try to say that meaning is bestowed by mind so they somehow think that God can't bestow meaning. I certainly don't understand that. The divine is the source of consciousness. The divine is the ultimate center of mind, thus the valuations that are bestowed by the divine are clearly more meaningful and carry more weight than any other.

Keep in mind, God is not a big guy in the sky. He's not the potentate on a throne with a white beard. That is just a cultural metaphor used by ancient people to make God relevant to their cultural understanding. God is not an individual being, for individual imply one of many. God is unique, God is the basis upon which all things exist, and has no category and is not comparable to anything. In my view God is the
Ground of Being or "being itself." This means that the divine is the basic foundation upon which things exist. This means the divine is the basis of the laws of the physics.I'm sure these ideas will anger many atheists. But this is because the modern sensibility cannot accept a will higher than its own. the mission of the modern is to be one's own God; we must never accept a will higher than our own. They are not use to thinking about placing their egos on a lower level than that of the divine. The modern sensibility is comfortable with local privatized meaning. But a huge body of empirical data shows that those who experience religious consciousness have a much deeper sense of meaning in life than those who do not. For thousands of years people have found meaning in the sense of the numinous.

In his amazing article "Spirituality and Well Being, An Overview" qualified clinical psychologist K. Krishna Mohan looks at a huge number of studies that demonstrate the link between self actualization and religious experience. He says that a vast number of studies prove that religious experince increases one's sense of the overall meaning in life, and that this is a major life long strength for those who experience it.

Numerous studies have found positive relationships between religious beliefs and practices and physical or mental health measures. Although it appears that religious belief and participation may possibly influence one’s subjective well-being, many questions need to be answered such as when and why religion is related to psychological well-being. A review by Worthington et al., (1996) offers some tentative answers as to why religion may sometimes have positive effects on individuals. Religion may (a) produce a sense of meaning, something worth living and dying for (Spilka, Shaves & Kirkpath, 1985); (b) stimulate hope (Scheier & Carver, 1987) and optimism (Seligman, 1991); (c) give religious people a sense of control by a beneficient God, which compensates for reduced personal control (Pargament et al., 1987); (d) prescribe a healthier lifestyle that yields positive health and mental health outcomes; (e) set positive social norms that elicit approval, nurturance, and acceptance from others; (f) provide a social support network; or (g) give the person a sense of the supernatural that is certainly a psychological boost-but may also be a spiritual boost that cannot be measured phenomenologically (Bergin & Payne, 1993). It is also reported by Myers and Diener (1995) that people who experience a sustained level of happiness are more likely to say that they have a meaningful religious faith than people who are not happy over a long period of time.


This article is on the website for the Indian Psychology Institute. Mohan looks at cross cultural studies in India and the West.

Sartre's attempt at making his own meaning failed, and this illustrates the fallacy. Sartre made the argument that sense it is up to us to create our own meaning, the meaning that we do create, as an amalgam, is the essence of humanity. In other words, humanity is as humanity does (or in this case, as humanity believes). But when asked what if humanity become fascist, then the essence of humanity will be fascist and we have to say our species is defined as fascist in essence. The only thing that Sartre could say was "this is unthinkable, we have to hope this doesn't happen." The fact that he could not find an effective answer is just a function of the problem that always dogged him. As Gabriel Marcel pointed out, Sartre never did develop a sense of ethics or a system of ethical thinking based upon his existentialism. This has always been understood as one of the great failings of humanist atheistic existentialism. This problem really points up the fact that localized meaning can backfire and make life even more meaningless. What if one is frustrated in obtaining the things that make one feel life is meaningful? For example how does a Hedonist cope with a life that is pure misery? Such a life must be meaningless a priori.

As I said meaning in life can't be deduced or proven. It has to come with the package of belief. Meaning is properly basic, however, and while it can present itself to people apart from any sort of proof, and thus taken on face value because suddenly things seem meaningful the proper basicality of meaning points o a higher truth. Since meaning is a function of truth, the sense of meaning can be understood as an indication of truth. There are certain hints at meaning:

(1)Love and the reverence for life.

Schweitzer tried to externalize the survival instinct in reverence for life, the desire to apply to all organisms the same fierce sense of survival that one applies to one's self. The sense of love and reverence for life gives one a sense of meaning in the grand universal sense.

(2) Morality

Positing a universal set of strictures that are true in all situations because they refer to duty and obligation gives a sense that there is a higher meaning behind it all.

(3) need for human dignity

Dignity is the root of the Christian sort of love. The Greek term for Christian love, or God's love, is Agape. A major aspect of the definition of Agape is "to be willing to accord the other the basic humanity dignity owed to a human being." Human dignity is a function of meaning. Because we are creatures of god we have this value in God's eyes. But human dignity is balanced by human responsibly, this is not an excuse to destroy the planet. Rather its a rationale for trying to save the planet. Fundamentalists who think "green" is a waste of time because we are headed for end already are not honoring the responsibility which comes from bearing the human dignity imparted by the image of God in which we are made.

(4)laws of physics.

That's a dilemma I use in my third God argument. If the laws of physics are prescriptive then who passed the law. Who is the law maker? Science cannot tell us where the laws of physics come from, but some scientists (such as Dr. Odenwald) recognize that the laws had to come first or nothing would happen. But where were the laws embodied when there was physical universe? If laws of physics are not prescriptive but merely generalizations drawn from tendencies of behavior that would mean the universe come to be against or without physical law, when other things happen without physical law or opposed to physical law we call it "miracle" and skeptics say it can't happen.

(5) Religious experince

as demonstrated above the studies show people who have religious experiences of the "mystical" or "peak" kind, tend to feel as part of the experince that there is an inherent overarching meta narratival meaning to life. Those who do not have such experiences are less likely to have this. This is would suggest that such a sense is part of a divine revelation that comes from contact with the divine.

It is tempting to try and make the need for meaning into an argument for the existence of God. The problem with this approach is it's too subjective to demonstrate that meaning exits. Yet since meaning is a function of truth, the need for overarching meaning, the sense that it is had in the nature of religious experince and the other hints may be indicative of a justification for faith. This is an argument from sign, but if meaning is a function of truth, then to find meaning might imply that we have found truth. It seems unthinkable that the sense of meaning that offers deep satisfaction and makes life work and gives us all the hope we need to face whatever trials may come, is just the product of a lie and a mistake. The sense of meaning the sense of the numinous gives to life is a priori indication of truth.

What is the connection to civilization? Schweitzer defined civilization as the organizing of living conditions in such a way that the individual is allowed to grain his/her full potential. Freeways and shopping malls are just the infrastructure of civilization. Just like the plumbing to a house is not the house, but merely part of the infrastructure of the house. Civilization is the ideas the enable us to pursue such living conditions as are conducive to human potential. Clearly the search for meaning in one's life is germane to the concept of civilization. If our ideas of civilization are not informed by that search then we are not pursuing civilization.

16 comments:

A Hermit said...

I was planning to just sit back and read these posts, but I'm going to pick a nit here:

"If you don't believe in God you have to believe that no one designed you, no one created you for a purpose, you have o purpose, you weren't born for a reason, you are nothing than an organism, soulless, and devoid o any special reason for being. When you die, you die that's it no one cares no one remembers you and it wont matter one whit that you ever lived.

This is off base, I think. Our lives may not have meaning to the Universe, or to something outside of ourselves, but they have meaning to us and to each other. I could make the argument that our lives as little pieces of the Universe looking back at itself are meaningful in the kind of "grand scheme" you're describing, but really I'm not concerned with whether or not my life has an everlasting, universal meaning; it is enough that it has a human meaning. I don't see why meaning, for human beings, needs to be any bigger than that.

In fact, it seems to me that we often are at our worst when we make our human meaning subservient to some larger ideal; it is only by appealing to some ideal "bigger" than our humanity (be it religion, politics, nationalism or whatever)that we are able to overcome that humanity and behave inhumanely.

(This comes in the context of a discussion I've been having elsewhere about ethics, and our conversation at CADRE so my apologies if it's tangential to what your trying to accomplish here, but this point seemed relevant.)

J.L. Hinman said...

I was planning to just sit back and read these posts, but I'm going to pick a nit here:

"If you don't believe in God you have to believe that no one designed you, no one created you for a purpose, you have o purpose, you weren't born for a reason, you are nothing than an organism, soulless, and devoid o any special reason for being. When you die, you die that's it no one cares no one remembers you and it wont matter one whit that you ever lived.

This is off base, I think. Our lives may not have meaning to the Universe, or to something outside of ourselves, but they have meaning to us and to each other.


I covered that. actually I was exaggerating a big here, or at least putting a spin in an attempt to get the reader to feel the problem and to understand the stakes. But I agree we can always find some sort of meaning on a private level. Unbelief is no reason to despair or go off the deep end.

Back in the 60's when Sartre was popular among skeptics ministers would try and really pour it on in that way, to show the problems with existentialism. They would paint it as the great evil of the age, utter despair and so on. I don't believe in scaring people into faith or in depressing them into faith. But these problems were real for me. It was never enough for me to have private relative meaning, I wanted full blown higher meaning.

Sartre was a bit serious and deal with the seedy side of human nature, he was raised by The Schweitzers, German grandparents and he was the cousin of Albert Schweitzer. So he took it all has great gravity. Camus was the son of a peasant from north Africa, the sun the beach, he was a party guy. he dealt with the seedy side but ws much more optimistic.



I could make the argument that our lives as little pieces of the Universe looking back at itself are meaningful in the kind of "grand scheme" you're describing, but really I'm not concerned with whether or not my life has an everlasting, universal meaning; it is enough that it has a human meaning. I don't see why meaning, for human beings, needs to be any bigger than that.


I think I demonstrated the need for it. The civil rights workers who were murdered, don't you think they probably would hope I'm right in the last moments of their lives?

the universe looking back on itself that is a good point. What you are missing is that's really not that far from waht I'm saying. The universe can't look, or think or feel. It doesn't recogize anything, or if it does, that's God.

Consciousness is a basic property of nature, so so is the consciousness of the universe?


In fact, it seems to me that we often are at our worst when we make our human meaning subservient to some larger ideal; it is only by appealing to some ideal "bigger" than our humanity (be it religion, politics, nationalism or whatever)that we are able to overcome that humanity and behave inhumanely.

you can't prove that. there are no examples of that. I've coverd that that's what I was talking about when I spoke of pull heaven down and make a crystal night. Crystal night was the begining of persecution of the Jews, when the borown shirts went around breaking windows.

It's when we identity's our own temporal power with the ultimate that we make that mistake. But that's covered in another theme.

I did cover it in the original.


(This comes in the context of a discussion I've been having elsewhere about ethics, and our conversation at CADRE so my apologies if it's tangential to what your trying to accomplish here, but this point seemed relevant.)

A Hermit said...

"I think I demonstrated the need for it. The civil rights workers who were murdered, don't you think they probably would hope I'm right in the last moments of their lives?"

I imagine they would have hoped that their sacrifice had done some good in the world; but that's still meaning in a human context.

"the universe looking back on itself that is a good point. What you are missing is that's really not that far from waht I'm saying."

I know, that's why I put it in there; I really do understand what you're saying, you see...;-)

"The universe can't look, or think or feel. It doesn't recogize anything, or if it does, that's God."

I'd say when the universe does recognize anything that's us. There's no point, it seems to me, in thinking about what the universe/God/Being/spirit or any of the other "bigger somethings" we might imagine want or think or feel or mean. Even as "bits of the universe looking at itself" we experience the world as human beings, and the only meanings that can have any consequence for human beings are human meanings.

J.L. Hinman said...

ME:I think I demonstrated the need for it. The civil rights workers who were murdered, don't you think they probably would hope I'm right in the last moments of their lives?"

I imagine they would have hoped that their sacrifice had done some good in the world; but that's still meaning in a human context.


they could die knowing that if no one saw it or knew, God knew.

ME:"the universe looking back on itself that is a good point. What you are missing is that's really not that far from waht I'm saying."

I know, that's why I put it in there; I really do understand what you're saying, you see...;-)

then you must agree? (I'm kidding) ;-)

Me:"The universe can't look, or think or feel. It doesn't recogize anything, or if it does, that's God."

I'd say when the universe does recognize anything that's us.

so we are back to private local relative meaning.

There's no point, it seems to me, in thinking about what the universe/God/Being/spirit or any of the other "bigger somethings" we might imagine want or think or feel or mean. Even as "bits of the universe looking at itself" we experience the world as human beings, and the only meanings that can have any consequence for human beings are human meanings.


so for some reason I don't understand you would rather just not recognize universal meaning because you don't like it, or you can't accept a will greater than your own, or whatever. But that's just you matter of taste. That doesn't answer the argument logically.

J.L. Hinman said...

One thing people are missing in the comments so far is that the studies I talk about (300-400 studies on the value of religious experience nd participation) a huge portion of them show people do better when they have a sense of meaning and purpose. The higher the sense of meaning less directed just to their personal needs but to a greater sense of the universe, the better they do.

I quoted Mohan referring to some of hose studies. He has other quotes too that back that up.

A Hermit said...

"so for some reason I don't understand you would rather just not recognize universal meaning because you don't like it, or you can't accept a will greater than your own, or whatever. But that's just you matter of taste. That doesn't answer the argument logically."

My answer to the argument is that as human beings we experience the world in a human context. There are two points to be made from that observation; any meaning we find is human meaning (because it is we who experience it) and it diminishes humanity our to think that any "higher meaning" must be separate form that humanity.

J.L. Hinman said...

so for some reason I don't understand you would rather just not recognize universal meaning because you don't like it, or you can't accept a will greater than your own, or whatever. But that's just you matter of taste. That doesn't answer the argument logically."

My answer to the argument is that as human beings we experience the world in a human context. There are two points to be made from that observation; any meaning we find is human meaning (because it is we who experience it) and it diminishes humanity our to think that any "higher meaning" must be separate form that humanity.

the vast majority of humans have sought higher meaning for thosuands of years. This is the essence of being human. Its' the major concept in Western thgouth. it's Plato had the forms and why postmoderism sees a meata narrative. Hundreds of studies show people do better in life when they feel they have it.

A Hermit said...

"the vast majority of humans have sought higher meaning for thosuands of years. This is the essence of being human. Its' the major concept in Western thgouth. it's Plato had the forms and why postmoderism sees a meata narrative. Hundreds of studies show people do better in life when they feel they have it."

I'm not disputing that, I'm suggesting that "higher meaning" is still "human meaning." You said it yourself; it's the "essence of being human."

Kristen said...

I really liked what you had to say here, Joe. I just wanted to address an issue that arose in my mind based on these statements:

Meaning is a function of truth, and truth is the limit on meaning. In other words The only way that something is meaningful is in proportion to the extent to which it represents the truth of some situation or outlook. . . . The fact that meaning is subject[ive] does not indicate that God can't bestow meaning. . . . [People] lambast Sartre for finding that meaning depends upon God.

Meaning is a function of truth, right. And I think one of the problems in understanding God and meaning can be that people think “God bestows meaning” means God sort of arbitrarily decides to slap meaning onto something, whether or not it's actually meaningful (in this sense, meaning that humans think it’s meaningful) or not. But this is not compatible with meaning being a function of truth. The truth, according to the Christian worldview, is that universal meaning does not occur because God “bestows” it on something, but because God means, or purposes, the being of that something. The universe has meaning because God meant the universe to be. My life has purpose because God made me on purpose, and for a purpose. That’s what meaning is– the sense that something has been meant, wilfully, by someone. But if you think that means that we humans would not be free to develop our own sense of meaning for ourselves and grow in accordance with that meaning (ie, that we're not allowed to mean anything by our own lives), that’s an inaccurate interpretation of what Christians mean by universal “meaning.” The idea that you’re designed for a purpose means that you’re fit for that purpose– in other words, whatever you in your deepest heart most long to be, whatever will give you the greatest sense of purpose and fulfillment, is exactly what you were purposed for. And may I say that I think this is open-ended and sort of fluid? I don’t believe we have this set-in-stone inescapable destiny, but more that there are a variety of ways we can fulfill our purpose. I don’t believe God directs exactly where, how and how big every branch on a tree is going to grow either. God lets trees– and us– grow naturally. We’re not pruned into artificial shapes like firs on a Christmas tree farm.

And that’s why I can find no overarching sense of meaning from the idea that I, and my life, were not meant or purposed, but are just random results of a blind universe.

I also wanted to address a few of A Hermit’s comments:

“really I'm not concerned with whether or not my life has an everlasting, universal meaning; it is enough that it has a human meaning. I don't see why meaning, for human beings, needs to be any bigger than that.”

In addition to my last sentence above, I made some rather long comments to part 1 of Metacrock’s blog addressing this. Subjective human opinion about meaning has somehow never been enough for me. I have always, from childhood, wanted something that transcended that– I wanted something more objective, some sense of meaning/value that would still be valuable whether anyone thought it was or not. If it’s enough for you, fine– but “it’s meaningful because I think it is,” has just never worked for me. And somehow I don’t think I’m alone in that (grin).

“the only meanings that can have any consequence for human beings are human meanings.”

This is not necessarily true– not if there really is a purpose behind all this that transcends us.

“it diminishes humanity our to think that any "higher meaning" must be separate form that humanity.”

I suppose it “diminishes humanity” in the sense that it takes us off the thrones of our own subjective universes, yes. But it vastly increases humanity in terms of objective value and dignity to have been meant and purposed to be, by something higher than ourselves.

Having said all that, I'm probably not going to be able to respond to responses about it-- I have relatives visiting and am only snatching a few minutes to post here. Sorry, and carry on, everyone!

A Hermit said...

"I suppose it “diminishes humanity” in the sense that it takes us off the thrones of our own subjective universes, yes. But it vastly increases humanity in terms of objective value and dignity to have been meant and purposed to be, by something higher than ourselves."

That's a rather unfair portrait of what I was saying, I think. I'm not proposing some sort of selfish "me-first" humanism here. In fact, I think there's a lot more hubris and arrogance in the proposition that the forces which created the Universe take a close personal sentient interest in my existence than in finding meaning and intrinsic value in simple, common humanity.

And I'm suspicious of ideologies, religious or political, that claim a tie to some objective "higher purpose" (which appears to me at least as "subjective" as humanity...). It' easier to overcome our humanity if we believe we are doing so in the service of something greater than that humanity.

"Having said all that, I'm probably not going to be able to respond to responses about it-- I have relatives visiting and am only snatching a few minutes to post here..."

My sympathies. Just had all my wife's relatives here for the weekend...including my Rush-Limbaugh-wannabe brother-in-law. I may not have much stomach left for any vigorous debate here, either...;-)

J.L. Hinman said...

And I'm suspicious of ideologies, religious or political, that claim a tie to some objective "higher purpose" (which appears to me at least as "subjective" as humanity...). It' easier to overcome our humanity if we believe we are doing so in the service of something greater than that humanity.

actually I can understand taht. The onlyk way you are every really going to know is just to make he personal contact and develop the relationship with God.

leap of faith, only way.


"Having said all that, I'm probably not going to be able to respond to responses about it-- I have relatives visiting and am only snatching a few minutes to post here..."

My sympathies. Just had all my wife's relatives here for the weekend...including my Rush-Limbaugh-wannabe brother-in-law. I may not have much stomach left for any vigorous debate here, either...;-)

I symathize ;-|

A Hermit said...

"actually I can understand taht. The onlyk way you are every really going to know is just to make he personal contact and develop the relationship with God.

leap of faith, only way."


Been there, done that, got nothin', moved on. I find I'm much better now.

J.L. Hinman said...

that's because you didn't use my handy dandy new "religiomatic." For just $12.95 you too can enjoy the thrill of transcendence. just send $12.95 allow $7.00 for delivery to "Doxa Religiomatic."

offer void where prohibited by common sense.

Kristen said...

That's a rather unfair portrait of what I was saying, I think. I'm not proposing some sort of selfish "me-first" humanism here.

I didn't really intend it that way, Hermit-- more to say that it seems to me to be a basic part of human nature to put ourselves at the center of things-- not an indictment so much as a simple statement of fact. It's something we overcome only by conscious decision, I think-- and I think at its best, religion can help us make that decision.

In fact, I think there's a lot more hubris and arrogance in the proposition that the forces which created the Universe take a close personal sentient interest in my existence than in finding meaning and intrinsic value in simple, common humanity."

Either position can be arrogant, I think. But neither need be. It depends largely on the attitude of the person holding the belief.

In fact, it seems to me that we often are at our worst when we make our human meaning subservient to some larger ideal; it is only by appealing to some ideal "bigger" than our humanity (be it religion, politics, nationalism or whatever)that we are able to overcome that humanity and behave inhumanely.

We are often at our best, too, when we appeal to such ideals. The overcoming of our "humanity" can also mean overcoming the worst parts of our nature (not just the best parts) for the sake of some higher ideal.

It's largely dependent on what the ideal is that we are reaching beyond ourselves for, don't you think? An ideal of "all humanity is precious, so be willing to risk your life to save even those you have no personal connection to" is a lot more conducive to bring out the best in us than "Take this land in the name of, and to promote, our God/our people/our way of life."

I would say that both ideals have been held by people of both theistic and non-theistic persuasion, at various times in history.

Oh, and Joe-- you're on a roll today. Still laughing!

A Hermit said...

"...it seems to me to be a basic part of human nature to put ourselves at the center of things-- not an indictment so much as a simple statement of fact. It's something we overcome only by conscious decision, I think-- and I think at its best, religion can help us make that decision."

As I see it we cannot help but put our human selves at the centre, since all of our perception is human. Even religion is a product of our humanity; sometimes the best part, and sometiems the worst.

"The overcoming of our "humanity" can also mean overcoming the worst parts of our nature (not just the best parts) for the sake of some higher ideal...

...An ideal of "all humanity is precious, so be willing to risk your life to save even those you have no personal connection to" is a lot more conducive to bring out the best in us than "Take this land in the name of, and to promote, our God/our people/our way of life.""


That's kind of my point; if it's humanity that's precious to us we'll work to protect it; if we place higher value on something outside simple, common humanity, be it God, country or ideology, than humanity becomes expendable.

Kristen said...

A Hermit said:

As I see it we cannot help but put our human selves at the centre, since all of our perception is human.

True-- but we also have the ability to imagine perspectives different from our own, and indeed we need to do so in order to value and protect the other creatures with whom we share our planet.

That's kind of my point; if it's humanity that's precious to us we'll work to protect it; if we place higher value on something outside simple, common humanity, be it God, country or ideology, than humanity becomes expendable.

Then I think we're on the same page. :) But I would reiterate that valuing and protecting humanity is an ideal taught my my religion, and placing an idealogy above human value is certainly not exclusively a religious thing to do.