Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Merry Christmas: Back after Holidays
"Hark the Herald" by Charles Wesley. You can't find a more Orthodox statement of the doctrine of Trinity (not outside the creeds). My second favorite Christmas carol. (Silent Night is first)
please read the words and think about it.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
Joyful all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th' Incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head.
Adam's likeness, Lord efface:
Stamp Thy image in its place;
Second Adam, from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Hail, the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris'n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Merry Christmas all you atheists out there! I mean it! and Jews, and Buddhists, and Janists and Christians and everyone! Muslims and Mensa, and existentialists and process theology people and agnostics, and everyone!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Phenomenology and Method
This is an old one but it's almost my anthem. It's been long enough since I've had it up that I figure newer readers should be exposed to it. Older readers might need to re-consider it.
Atheists are hung up on empirical knowledge. Thats why so many of them (not all by many) insist that we have no info about God, you can't verify God and so forth.
but God cannot be the subject of empirical data because is not given in sense data. That's because God is not just another object along side objects in creation. God is not just another thing, God is the basis of reality. That's like a fish scientist saying "they assigned me to study this thing called 'water' but I can't find any water." he says that because it never dawns on him that its' all around him, the medium in which he lives and he's always looking through it. he can't see the water because he's looking through it.
That's sort of the case with God because God is the basis of reality, the ground of Being. "in him we live and move and have our being." When we try to look at God and see him directly we look through him because in a sense he's the medium in which we live.
The only answer to this is to search for something else. We don't look for empirical evidence of God, we look for a "co-determinate." That is, we look for the signature of God, or to use a Derridian term the "trace of God." Like the aura of a neutrino. We can't photograph neutrinos directly but we have photographed their auras that are the reaction of Neutrinos with other partials. When you see that aura you know you have one.
But the trace of God has to be the result of a subjective or intersubjective understanding. So rather than subject it to empirical means, we need allow the sense data to determine the categories under which we organize our thinking about God.
Schleiermacher was the originator of this kind of thinking (prior to Brentano who is attributed to be the inventor of Phenomenology). Here is Schleiermacher's take on God consciousness. We don't search for God in objective terms we search for "God consciousness."
Phenomenology is very important because it is the alternative way of thinking to either empirical science and hangs ups on inductive data, or deductive reasoning and hang ups on the a priori. When I say "allow the sense data to determine the categories," what do I mean? (this is very crucial to understanding every point I make on message boards):
What that means is, you have a bit of qualia, an impression of the say sense data strikes us,the way something appears to us. Let's say the desk my computer sits upon. Our tendency is to tuck it away into a neat category based upon our preconceived notions of desks. This is a bit of wooden furniture, it's function is proving a surface for writing and bit of storage for what we write. We plug in the label "made in Hong Kong" and we say "it's a cheap desk." Now we have a sub category. all that is pre set in our minds based upon our understanding of the universe vis a vie witting surfaces. But if we approach the desk phenomenologically, we don't say "o a cheap piece of furniture for holding my computer--manufactured in formerly British colony, the home of Jackie Chan, thus a Kung fu capitalist cheap desk. but we just say "there is this object that appears in my sense data, and it seems to provide uses x,y,z. So it may not be a desk at all in terms of its functionality, perhaps it would work better as a door stop. Or perhaps this door put across two saw horses would make a better desk. That's not part of my preconceived notion because it's not made to be a desk, but it might work better."
Ok that's a trivial example, so much for my understanding of desks and their place in the universe. But, when we consider other thins, things of more gravity such as empirical science and religion, or religious belief and experience, the nature of myth and religious texts, you can see how the outcome might might be a lot more significant if we do it one way as opposed to another.
The way the atheists want to to it is to demand certain things, and those things require sense data and that sense data is preconceived to belong in certain categories and to rule out other sense data. Thus they wind up asking for probability of miracles when in fact by definition a miracle cannot be probable. So they rule out any kind of miracle based upon the pre conceived category of "things that do no happen because we don't observe them so they are too improbable." Whereas in reality, since miracles are things that are impossible, but happen anyway because some higher law overrides that of probability, they are just arbitrarily crossing out the category of the possible and arbitrarily arranging their understanding of the universe to exclude the SN, then demanding that, well there's no evidence for it (because we have filed all the evidence under the preconceived category of "that which does not happen.").
Religion not Reduceable to Knowledge
Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Dispisers, and The Christian Faith,sets forth the view that religion is not reduceable to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does venture close to this position in one form of the argument, 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 sense of the dependence of all things in the life world upon something higher.
What is this feeling of utter dependence? 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 confused 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 and realizing a certain harmony in the life world and the sense that all of this exists because it stems 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 religious affections. In the early version S. thought it was a correlate between the religious 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.
The basic assumptions Schleiermacher is making are Platonic. He believes that the feeling of utter dependence is the backdrop, the pre-given, pre-cognitive 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-cognitive 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 argument it is the ontological argument.
Unity in the Life world.
"Life world," or Labeinswelt is a term used in German philosophy. It implies the world of one's culturally constructed life, the "world" we 'live in.' Life as we experience it on a daily basis. The unity one senses in the life world is intuitive 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 intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arguments).
He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theoretical pre-cognitive realization 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? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.
All religions seek to do three things:
a) to identify the human problematic, b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and c) to mediate between the two.
But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:
1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of the what we find in the world.
2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic.
3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible. 4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.
5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.
These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.
A religious tradition is like a language, and theology is a conversation. Since God is mystical reality, beyond words, to speak of our experiences of God one must encode those experiences into cultural constructs, that makes for the differences in different religions. Traditions are like languages in that they furnish a vocabulary for dealing with such experiences based upon past experiences in an inter-subjective fashion. The point of the discussion is to mediate transformation. One moves into mediation through the conversation of theology. One is then able to come terms with mediation on a personal and experiential level as is still able to relate intersubjectively with others who have similar experiences.
The question then,is not which religion is "true," but which one best mediates transformation. For the individual who answers that question, and comes to identify with a tradition, that is the conversation to take up; join that tradition. For me its Christianity. As part of the conversation one can set up criteria for understanding the conversation, criteria such as those listed above.
How Does the Bible fulfill these criteria? First, what is the Bible? Is it a rule book? Is it a manual of discipline? Is it a science textbook? A history book? No it is none of these. The Bible, the Canon, the NT in particular, is a means of bestowing Grace. What does that mean? It means first, it is not an epistemology! It is not a method of knowing how we know, nor is it a history book. It is a means of coming into contact with the UTE mentioned above. This means that the primary thing it has to do to demonstrate its veracity is not be accurate historically, although it is that in the main; but rather, its task is to connect one to the depository of truth in the teachings of Jesus such that one is made open to the ultimate transformative experience. Thus the main thing the Bible has to do to fulfill these criteria is to communicate this transformation. This can only be judged phenomenologically. It is not a matter of proving that the events are true, although there are ensconces where that becomes important.
Thus the main problem is not the existence of these piddling so-called contradictions (and my experience is 90% of them stem from not knowing how to read a text), but rather the extent to which the world and life stack up to the picture presented as a fallen world, engaged in the human problematic and transformed by the light of Christ. Now that means that the extent to which the problematic is adequately reflected, that being sin, separation from God, meaninglessness, the wages of sin, the dregs of life, and so forth, vs. the saving power of God's grace to transform life and change the direction in which one lives to face God and to hope and future. This is something that cannot be decided by the historical aspects or by any objective account. It is merely the individual's problem to understand and to experience. That is the nature of what religion does and the extent to which Christianity does it more accessibly and more efficaciously is the extent to which it should be seen as valid.
The efficacy is not an objective issue either, but the fact that only a couple of religions in the world share the concept of Grace should be a clue. No other religion (save Pure Land Buddhism) have this notion. For all the others there is a problem of one's own efforts. The Grace mediates and administrates through *****ures is experienced in the life of the believer, and can be found also in prayer, in the sacraments and so forth.
Where the historical questions should enter into it are where the mediation of the UTE hedges upon these historical aspects. Obviously the existence of Jesus of Nazareth would be one, his death on the cross another. The Resurrection of course, doctrinally is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, seeing as no historical question can be, we must use historical probability. That is not blunted by the minor discrepancies in the number of women at the tomb or who got there first. That sort of thinking is to think in terms of a video documentary. We expect the NT to have the sort of accuracy we find in a court room because we are moderns and we watch too much television. The number of women and when they got to the tomb etc. does not have a bearing on whether the tomb actually existed, was guarded and was found empty. Nor does it really change the fact that people claimed to have seen Jesus after his death alive and well and ascending into heaven. We can view the different strands of NT witness as separate sources, since they were not written as one book, but by different authors at different times and brought together later.
The historicity of the NT is a logical assumption given the nature of the works. We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them. That is viewed as a fatal weakness in fundamentalist circles, tantamount to saying that they are lies. But that is silly. In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness. The differences in the accounts are produced by either the ordering of periscopes to underscore various theological points or the use of witnesses who fanned out through the various communities and whose individual view points make up the variety of the text. This is not to be confused with contradiction simply because it reflects differences in individual's view points and distracts us from the more important points of agreement; the tomb was empty, the Lord was seen risen, there were people who put there hands in his nail prints, etc.
The overall question about Biblical contradiction goes back to the basic nature of the text. What sort of text is it? Is it a Sunday school book? A science text book? A history book? And how does inspiration work? The question about the nature of inspiration is the most crucial. This is because the basic notion of the fundamentalists is that of verbal plenary inspiration. If we assume that this is the only sort of inspiration than we have a problem. One mistake and verbal plenary inspiration is out the window. The assumption that every verse is inspired and every word is true comes not from the Church fathers or from the Christian tradition. It actually starts with Humanists in the Renaissance and finds its final development in the 19th century with people like J. N. Drably and Warfield. (see, Avery Dulles Models of Revelation).
One of my major reasons for rejecting this model of revelation is because it is not true to the nature of transformation. Verbal plenary inspiration assumes that God uses authors like we use pencils or like businessmen use secretaries, to take dictation (that is). But why should we assume that this is the only form of inspiration? Only because we have been conditioned by American Christianity to assume that this must be the case. This comes from the Reformation's tendency to see the Bible as epistemology rather than as a means of bestowing grace (see William Abraham, Canon and Criterion). Why should be approach the text with this kind of baggage? We should approach it, not assuming that Moses et al. were fundamentalist preachers, but that they experienced God in their lives through the transformative power of the Spirit and that their writings and redactions are a reflection of this experience. That is more in keeping with the nature of religion as we find it around the world. That being the case, we should have no problem with finding that mythology of Babylonian and Suzerain cultures are used in Genesis, with the view toward standing them on their heads, or that some passages are idealized history that reflect a nationalistic agenda. But the experiences of God come through in the text in spite of these problems because the text itself, when viewed in dialectical relation between reader and text (Barth/Dulles) does bestow grace and does enable transformation.
After all the Biblical texts were not written as "The Bible" but were complied from a huge voluminous body of works which were accepted as "holy books" for quite some time before they were collected and put in a single list and even longer before they were printed as one book: the Bible. Therefore, that this book may contradict itself on some points is of no consequence. Rather than reflecting dictation, or literal writing as though the author was merely a pencil in the hands of God, what they really reflect is the record of people's experiences of God in their lives and the way in which those experiences suggested their choice of material/redaction. In short, inspiration of text is a product of the transformation afore mentioned. It is the verbalization of inner-experience which mediates grace, and in turn it mediates grace itself.
The Bible is not the Perfect Revelation of God to humanity. Jesus is that perfect revelation. The Gospels are merely the record of Jesus' teachings, deposited with the communities and encoded for safe keeping in the list chosen through Apostolic backing to assure Christian identity. For that matter the Bible as a whole is a reflection of the experience of transformation and as such, since it was the product of human agents we can expect it to have human flaws. The extent to which those flaws are negligible can be judge the ability of that deposit of truth to adequately promote transformation. Christ authorizes the Apostles, the Apostles authorize the community, the community authorizes the tradition, and the tradition authorizes the canon.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Philosocial Profundity and the Bible
Adren@line (poster on CARM)
You continue to cite Christian philosophers who ripped off the Greeks because they couldnt find anything of substance in the OT or NT to back up their ideas. That doesnt really prove your point. Aquinas was perhaps the greatest offender. Sure, the modern Christian philosophical idea exists, but it is not sourced to the OT or NT. That is my point. It is a concoction between OT, NT, and Greek philosophy.
What we have here is more ignorance in action. The intellectual heritage of the chruch is ancient and rich. Anyone who doesn't know this is just demonstrating their ignorance. To say that Aquinas "ripped off the Greeks" is just idiotic. Remember Whitehead's statement that all of Western Philosophy is a footnote to Plato and Aristotle? Everyone has ripped off the Greeks! That's why they are the foundation. What does this guy expect Gentile Christians fall back upon when they didn't know the Hebrew tradition?
There are so many writers who demonstrate the profound philosophical implications in the Bible. I'll just talk about three of them but there are many more. virtually any passage contains some philosophical depth. Let's just look at the modern thinkers who bring this out. The First is Richard Kroner. Speculation in Pre-Christian Philosophy.(269 pp. Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1956)
showed how speculation developed as a protest against Greek polytheism. For want of a Biblical revelation, however, this protest could only be inspired by a half-mythological, half-intellectual intuition. Even though it prepared the way for the Christian outlook, it exposed the failure of speculation to cope with the deeper aspirations of men. The present volume deals with the rise of Christian philosophy in terms of a tension between ancient speculation and Christian revelation up to the dawn of modern times, the last section being devoted to "the learned ignorance" of Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464). Not only are ancient systems Christianized, but new insights allow thinkers to perform "a necessary reorganization of metaphysics that called attention to new speculative vistas opened by revelation" (p. 36). The recognition of an "age of Christian philosophy" is accordingly vindicated. Although we must wait for the third volume (which is not expected before 1961) to be carried through the age of the Reformation and subsequent developments, the author makes it clear that strictly speaking, "the age of Christian philosophy" ends with medieval times. The few hints found in the two volumes now in print suggest that the third one will present the modern era as "the Protestant age"-so-called because intellectually dominated by the Reformed tradition. While not appealing to Christian revelation, this age is unable to dissociate itself from its "predominating spirit." Its culmination is reached with Hegel, even as the total victory of speculation achieved in his "absolute science" spells ultimate frustration for a Christianity said to insist on the supremacy of inspired subjective insight over unaided reason.(book reveiw: Emile Cailliet Cape May, New Jersey)
Using Kroner's book one can connect Hebrew prophetic insight and theological speculation with Heidegger primordial thinking. I wrote a paper in the secular history of ideas program (in a class on phenomenology) where I argued this. It made "A" the professor liked it but he said Heidegger wouldn't accept it becuase it had to be Greek. But I think I demonstrated, with Kroner's help that the Hebrews had primordial thinking as well.
Étienne Henri Gilson
was born into a Roman Catholic family in Paris on 13 June 1884. He was educated at a number of Roman Catholic schools in Paris before attending lycée Henri IV in 1902, where he studied philosophy. Two years later he enrolled at the Sorbonne, graduating in 1907 after having studied under many fine scholars, including Lucien Lévy Bruhl, Henri Bergson and Emile Durkheim.
Gilson’s Gifford Lectures, delivered at Aberdeen in 1931 and 1932, titled ‘The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy’, were published in his native language (L’espirit de la philosophie medieval, 1932) before being translated into English in 1936. Gilson believed that a defining feature of medieval philosophy was that it operated within a framework endorsing a conviction to the existence of God, with a complete acceptance that Christian revelation enabled the refinement of meticulous reason. In this regard he described medieval philosophy as particularly ‘Christian’ philosophy.
Gilson was about the first philosopher I read after getting saved (my "born again" experience) and the first who was overtly discussing philosophy in Christian terms. In discussion of Aquinas' view he specifically uses Exodus 3:18 as his starting point. that's the passage translated "I am that I am." But in the LXX it's translated "I am being itself." That ties it in with Tillich, and I could have used Tillich for this but am resisting it for two reasons, one because I talk about him so much, anyone who reads my blog regularly knows this, secondly, because even though he was a philosopher he's really more of a theologian so might be less apt to demonstrate what I'm trying to show. Gilson is often called "lay theologian" but he was formally a philosopher. Being chosen to give the Gifford lecture is like getting the Nobel prize of philosophy.
He uses the passage to tie Aquinas into existentialism through the ontological principle raveled in the name "I am that I am." The self sustaining aspect revealed in that name is also an indication of the existential nature of God's being because it's apparent at hand in all existence. Aquinas believed God was the primary act of existence, which is similar to Tillich's concept of God as being itself All of this ties in with what i"ve said int he past about realizing God, and belief in God being a realization about one's own relationship with being.
Arnold Joseph Toynbee (April 14, 1889 - October 22, 1975), British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934 - 1961, (also known as History of the World) was very popular in its time.
Toynbee, a prolific author, was the nephew of a great economic historian, Arnold Toynbee, with whom he is sometimes confused. Born in London, Arnold J was educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford. He worked for the Foreign Office during both World War I and World War II. He was Director of Studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (1925-1955) and Research Professor of International History at the University of London.
He is best known for this theory about cycles in history. He studies 23 civilizations and shows emerging patterns that demonstrate the rise and fall of each This approach has been discredited in the eyes of most historians today and is the "no no" of "history repeats itself" which no historian will take seriously (for good reason). Toynbee himself did not really say that he did not consider the patterns to be absolute. He is respected although his major task didn't make it. One thing I think of him positively for is his discussion of Christianity and progress in history. He said that Christianity made progress in history possible. This is because in the old ancient world civilizations everything was static, the eternal return was the pattern of life. This is the mythological themes that Champbell and Eliade talk about. The eternal return means the same things are always supposed to happen. The warrior's task is to re-create the worrier the tribe perpetuates itself and everything moves in a big cycle that mimics the cycle of the seasons. that's the basic structure of pagan society. But with Christianity, beginning with the Jews we have the possibility of disruption.
The Jews were wondering toward the promised land. As long they did that their goal was spacial. But when they got there the wondering is over then ti's time to create the paradise and everything is static again. So the wandering becomes temporal. We not traveling in space toward the promised land we are traveling in time toward the eschaton. Jesus parousia is makes that possible. The retrun of the savior-King will mean a disruption of status and that possibility means progress in history is possible.
This is just a hint of the profound nature of things we can dig out if we actually read the Bible with an inteiton other than bad mouthing it.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Perspective on the Bible (continuing answer to Loren)
Spin doctors have a wonderfully easy lot. It's so easy to dismiss something complex with a one liner that portrays it in a too simple light. That's the real secret of the atheist criticism of the OT. they just reduce everything to the most utterly simplistic discretion, re-describe it in terms designed to denude it of anything valid and then rag on how stupid it is.There's a point to be made about O'Brian in 1984 re describing things to give them the ultimate propagandist cast. Atheist propaganda is very Orwellian that's all they do with the Bible. They try to make the evidence go away by describing it out of existence.
I can't blame them totally, because the fundies called the tune. the Fundamentalists set up the concepts of the Bible in terms totally removed from historical Christianity so that the Bible because a matter of the big man in the sky giving instruction in some sort of "owner's manual." That set's up the way atheists look at the bible and then all their criticisms center around incoherency and weather or not the Bible lives up to the task of being "perfect."
The perspective one takes to it in the first place is all important. Rather than understanding the Bible as a "memo from the boss" to the "shop floor" we should understand it as a collection of writings from different perspectives, all of them human, which contain to differing degrees the residue of contact with the divine. In other words the Bible is a collection of works that reflect divine/human encounter from the perspective of humans. The upshot of the encounter is manifest in many different ways. that's what the prophet was saying when quoted in Hebrews 1:1 it says "in many ways God spoke to our fathers through the prophets but in these last times he has spoke to us more prefectly through his son."(my paraphrase).
It's the son that is called "perfect" not the written record of the encounters. Each text is different, we have to access each one on its merits and not pretend it's indicative of the whole collection. The collection is filled with mythological accounts, and many of them seem pretty silly on face value. The Talking snake in Genesis, the sun created on the third day, and so on. Every atheist has thousands of things, most of them stupid most based upon not listening to the answers but many are valid. There are a lot silly sounding things, but that's because they are looking at it from the jaundiced perspective of a perfect memo from on high that can't have mistakes and communicates perfect knowledge.
Some of the major problems come from not understanding genre. For example the abhorrence of mythology, both fundies and atheists see this as damning because they don't know what mythology is. Its' a literary form. It uses symbols and archetypes gleaned from the psyche and it speaks to the psyche. It's a lie, it's a way to communicate truth, but not historical truth or scientific truth, rather metaphorical psychological truth. Much of the harm in misunderstanding the Bible stems from not approaching it as literature. This is one of the major reasons they can't see any value in it, because they can't see value in other great works of literature either. In another thread I was trying to hint that its like reading Shakespeare. You might be put off by outmoded language you can't understand, and you may not understand the conventions of the genre so the idea that a comedy has to end with a wedding may seem to silly if you understand about genres. This guy kept going "I'm so disappointed that you are just talking about Shakespeare" he thought I was making an argument from authority i think,, Shakespeare liked the bible and so should you.'
I was trying hint that seeing the profound nature of the bible is a lot like seeing the profound nature of Shakespeare. One might be put off from that for similar reasons. If one gets past these superficial problems then you might get down to asking "where do you find the profundity." One place is to analyze the stories as narratives rather than expecting profound aphorisms or maxims every few sentences. I urge you all to take a class on Bible as literature. If you look at it just form that perspective you can see it's fascinating. If you stop and think it's a reflection of human experience, it's universal to the way humans react and the way humans feeling and love and think and die, it becomes pretty interesting. You have to see that before you can start to see the messages.
Another disservice the fundies have done to the bible is to expect it to be historically accurate and scientifically so every time. So many times I see atheists saying "that's just something people observe and they just using human observations about life." Of course they are. They are humans, their reflecting upon their understanding of life. But it's their encounter with the divine that colors what they understand about life. It's a mistake to expect the truth it imparts to always be righ there in a "thus says the Lord" sort of message. Human ideas and human understanding is the basis for talk about the divine because we can't speak of that which transcends our understanding. Mystical experience is beyond words and images. In order to talk about it we have to load it into cultural constructs. that means it has to be filtered through human understanding. We couldn't talk about it otherwise. Suppose God just dumped a huge pile of extremely sophisticated mathematical equations on the Biblical redactors and authors. What good would that do anyone? It has to be filtered through the culture to understand it. That means it's going to relational to metaphors based upon our cultural understanding.
The truth of God is beyond our ability to comprehend or to describe. We can only get at it through our experience of God. The human perspective through which divine encounters are filleted is just enough to get an understanding of how to appraoch God so that we can begin our own relationship. It's not about words on paper it's about actual experiencing the presence of God ourselves. That's why the author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah in speaking Jesus as the relation of God, and the immediately quotes Jeremiah about the new covenant where he says "I will write my laws on their hearts and they will all know me." It's not about the words on paper it's about using them as stepping stones to move into relation with the divine.
The skeptic is often taken with the primitive nature of Biblical narrative, with the talking snakes and talking Donkey, and the universal flood, that they fail to notice the evolutionary progression form the perspective of a primitive desert people and their tribal God who owns the cattle on a hill, which evolves into a universal moral philosophy that lunched Western civilization after the dark ages (for more see my essay on Christianity and Western civ)
The atheist makes the assumption that if it's perfect there would be the perfect perspective from the get go, seeing the primitive perspective spend so much time gloating on their powers of observation it never occurs to them to take a step back and consider the evolutionary perceptive as part of the divine plan.
When atheists ask questions of me on this point they always do so from the perspective of the perfect memo by the big man upstairs rather than considering the literary aspects. So they ask things like "which books" "how do you kow which parts are inspired and which aren't." All of those kinds of questions are reasonable but they stem form the assumption of the memo from the boss and the model of inerrant rather than viewing the whole as a literary employment of inspiration. It's not like all the inspired stuff is going to be in one section. Obviously it's mixed into the perspective. That doesn't get in the way because it's not about a list of rules or words on paper it's about finding the understanding through exposure to other people's divine encounters so that one can have his/her own encounters with the divine. The phrase I have used to describe this is "bestowing grace upon the reader."
The bottom line of it is this: the OT is there to create a framework in which the NT makes sense. The OT is the literary and cultural artifact of a people who serve as the miliue for the Messiah of Jesus as redeemer. Ot is not as important. Sorry if that doesn't play well for those form whom it is a cultural artifact but that's the way I see it. The NT is a record of the witness of a community to the prefect revelation of God to humanity; ie Jesus. The NT is not an owner's manual or a memo form the boss it's a record of those who were either in direct contact with the prefect revelation or became so accounted through their experiences of God. Thus it's a theological message based upon experiences of the divine. The actual revelation is Jesus himself and the literary works are just records of encounters between certain people and the revelation.
the truth of these literary works can ony be judged by their effects upon the lives of the readers. Those who read them merely to bad mouth of cousre will find nothing of value. Just as reading Shakespeare just to laugh at the way they talk will produced nothing but sophomoric humor. The testimony of millions tells us it works, grace is bestowed upon the reader when readers is honestly seeking, and that's the only standard of appraisal that matters as a test of truth.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Answering Lorden on "Are We All Atheists?"
Loyal opponent Loren takes a crack at answering the last blog piece "Are we all Atheists." Unfortunately she doesn't even deal with that question. Instead she chooses to do atheist damage control. My basic thesis, that all belief counts for belief and not against tit robs the atheist of one of their most powerful weapons, playing each religion off against all the others, divide and conquer. To make up for it she tries to mock and ridicule the concept of one truth behind all religions instead of dealing with the issue that we are not born atheists.
Metacrock seems to be claiming that the gods of other religions are the Christian God in disguise. Except that there is absolutely zero support for that in the Bible. You don't see anyone in it claiming that Baal or Moloch or Asherah or Zeus or Hermes or Artemis is the Biblical God in disguise, or even in drag.Meta: First, I do not claim that gods of other faiths are the Christian God in disguise. I claimed that (1) God is working in all cultures, that does not mean that everything people think is God is really God. So It does not mean that Ahrumazda is God, it means God is doing some of the things people Ahrumazda does, not all things they think he does. (2) I said one reality stands behind all religions and the things that make them appear different are the cultural constructs that have to be used to filter experiences so they can be talked about. We experience God at levels beyond words, even beyond images. Of course to be beyond words is to beyond thoughts. So we can't talk about such experiences we have to load them into cultural construct before they can uttered. That means a great deal of what we express about the divine is always going to be relative, metaphorical and inauthentic.
That is a totally different concept from saying that all gods are God in disguise. The latter means that God is making people do human sacrifice and spoonerism wars and so on. But the former means those things can be just the cultural constructs that get mixed in with the attempt to translate the mystical into ordinary speech. The slogan that I have often used for this concept is that all gods point to God. Not all gods are got, not that God is disguised as other gods, but that they point to God. That is they are not God but they point to the one reality behind it all that we don't see.
Nor is the charge that there is no support for this view founded or actuate. There is actually a lot of support.
(1) Romans 2:6-14 he says their may excuse them, those who do the good are follow Jesus via the law written on the heart. That specifically applies to gentiles so it means a priori people in other faiths.
(2) The passage in Acts 17:21-29 Paul tells the Greeks "we are all his offspring, he is not far from any one of us." He even goes so far as to tell them that they already worship the true God they just don't know his name. In making an alter called "to the unknown God" they are actually worshiping the true God. When you combine this with what he also says in quoting the Greek Poet Asyclus it's clear he is saying that all asety is asety, all God is God. Anytime anyone understands the basic concept of eternal necessary being they talking about God. he doesn't use that formulation but clearly the God he's saying is "not far from any one of us" is the same God who told Moses "I am being itself."
(3) Melchezideck who Abraham met in Genesis was called "priest and king of Salem." He is said to be a worshiper of the most high God but since there was no other nation we know if with the kind of covenant that Israel had with God then obviously (this was before Israel existed) he was a priest in a pagan religion and he worshiped a pagan deity but he is said to worship "the most high God."
(4) The Medianites, the people who supplied Moses with a wife, led by his father in law Jethro worshiped God on the mountain where Moses saw the burning bush. That was the Medionite religion (Mt. Nebo). Jethro advises Moses on how to set up the nation of Israel and gives him practical advice about God. So there we have another example of pre Israel a pagan priest is actually worshiping the true God.
There are other examples but let's move on.
Furthermore, the Bible describes its God in shamelessly anthropomorphic terms. If those are all metaphors, then it represents very bad taste in metaphors. Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible does it state that anthropomorphism is a concession to our limited imaginations, and nowhere does anyone ridicule the idea of an anthropomorphic god. Xenophanes had been FAR ahead of anyone in the Bible there.Meta:This is an excessively silly point. She doesn't make any sort of attempt to think about who is writting it, when it's written or to compare it with the writings of other faiths. The atheists will try to put down the Bible as so simple and not at all philosophical or high intellecutally grand but they try to shame it by saying examples such as the Bahagivad-Gita. I know the Bahagavad-Gita, I was in high school the first time I read it. It is not grand, philoshpical or prfoudn if you are not willing to look beyond the surface ti's just a bunch of people having a war and guys on chariots spouting crap that doesn't mean anything. You have to look beyond the superficial to get it. This is what atheists are neither willing nor (in many cases) able to do. The don't want the bible to be profound and they not willing to try and understand it, or read between the lines, or search more deeply, or make any effort to see beyond the end of their biogoted little noses. The Bible is filled with grandrue, with profound and profoudly philosphical concepts but you can't be stupid about accessing it. You can't look at the surface, assume ancient people too stupid to think such things, ignore it and then think it's going to jump out at you adn shout "here I am!" Its' very easy to miss especially if you don't want to see!
I am going to bracket this for now because I am planning over the weekend to do another blog spot article on this very topic, to focus upon profundity in the OT. It's going to take a week end to write it. If I'm not to depressed when the Cowboys lose to the Chargers.
Metacrock, you argumentum ad populum about religion would support polytheism, because all the older religions are polytheistic, and some present-day religions continue polytheism, sometimes in disguised form like veneration of saints.
Meta: I do not make an argument ad populum. It's unfortunately that atheists resist deep thinking because it's easy to see that I don't do that. It's easy to see that it's a argument from the tendencies of human nature, and corporation of experience of others rather than argument from popularity.I did not say anything like "God exists because he's popular." I said millions of peopel have the same experiences that is coroborating. That is one of the criteria we use for epistemic judgment. When we think it's hot in the room we say "is it hot in here to you?" we are not saying If it's popular enough we can declare it hot. We are saying "I experience heat in the room, I attribute this to the room being too hot, do you also concur in this? Is thsi your epistemic finding or am I having an attack of malaria?
I'm reminded me of a part of Plato's Apology where Socrates stated that he was not an atheist because he believes in the divine nature of the Sun and the Moon, like just about everybody else. The exceptions being the likes of Anaxagoras with their godless, materialistic theories that the Sun is a rock and the Moon a clod of dirt.
Meta: I don't really see why you are reminded of that. Clearly you don't understand Plato if you think Plato and Socrates worshiped the sun and the moon. This is a prety cryptic statement becuase there are many things you could mean by it. I'm hoping Loren is not lame enough to think that Socrates is some sort of primitive superstitious guy and that bleief in God is just primative mind set. I would like to thin he is a deeper thinker than that. On the other hand we know the vast majority of atheists are not. They are willing to stop at the surface if you can't expalin it in 25 words or less they don't want to hear. This is recall all the result of one-dimensional man. These are the children of the kids who could not find Canada on a map in the 80s. The harbingers of cultural illiteracy coming hope. We cut off he culture form it's intellectual roots in Christianity and now we have an ignorant and unread populace.
The sun is not a rock and the mood is not a clod of dirt. It's not as though Socrates is any more ignorant of scinece than the people he opposed. The point is they don't value the Sun or Moon beyond it's physical components. Socrates knew that everything in the physical world is a reflection of a higher reality. This world is merely reflection showing up in a mud puddle, reflected from the true reality of the forms. Of coruse Loren being a reductionist and a good brain washed solder of the enslaving reductionist ideology thinks that its so primitive to see value beyond the physical.
Metacrock, since you presumably believe in godless, materialistic theories of the nature of the Sun and the Moon, you would be an atheist by the definition of Socrates's prosecutors.
Meta; I already nixed the ancient definition up front. Moreover, physical properties do not negate spiritual realities behind them because the world is just a reflection of the mind that thinks it. It seems solid and real from within the construct that's only becasue we are part of the construct and it's supposed to seem that way to us.
This "fit for religion" argument is rather dangerous, because if it turned out that believing in eternal damnation produces superior happiness, does that mean that we ought to believe in it?
Meta: I don't know, oughtn't we to? IF not why not? how do you know we should not? The argument doesn't say believe what makes you happy, do you not understand that? why are atheists such shallow thinkers? You see the argument right in front of you it has nothing at all to do with being happy it doesn't say it does. Because it deals with religion being good for us you just assume that's the point, why can't you understand the concept fitness? If I say "most humans breather air, therefore, air is good for us we are meant to breather it, you say "so you think because air is popular it must be breathable? Is Global warming about popularity? If you say we are all going to die because the earth will be too hot to bear life does that mean it's going to be so hot becuase it's popular that it be hot?
The overall concept of God belief is not to worry about a big man in the sky, it's a relationship with the nature of being. To understand what being is, that is mind and not matter is the whole point. That it is mind means it is eternal it is necessary, it's not contingent, and it's related to us in a very fundamental way. It's not a matter of tallying data points in reductionist analysis of empirical data, it's about experiencing and understanding what it means to be. Because that understanding is beyond anything we can grasp, since it is off scale for our expressions or our cultural framework we must translate it into culture by comparing it to constructs. That means necessarily it's going to be tainted by our misconceptions. Therefore belief in God evolves, it's not static, it changes, it becomes more sophisticated over time but even the most ancinet forms of it bear a sophistication often overlooked by the superficial.
Changing concepts of God no more mean that God is non existent than changing concepts of science mean that nature is non existent. Any idea that reflects the basic God concepts of eternal necessary being is automatically and apriori in the ball park as valid because there can be only one basis of all that is. There can be only one aspect of eternal necessary being so any concept of it has to be it. All circles are round. Any time you have a roundness you have a circle, a priori.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Are we all Atheists?
There is an argument one hears atheists make quite often. It's stated as well as any by a poster on Atheist Watch:
"Jake" a poster on Atheist Watch
we are all atheists of some form. Christians are hindu atheists, Hindus are Muslim atheists, and I am an everything atheist. We all know what it is like to no believe in a certain doctrine, so the fact that we are not all born as omnireligious or polyreligious nutbags, suggests that belief is part of the indoctrination process.
The problem with this argument is two-fold: (1) it uses not the modern ideological definiton of atheists which internet atheists will always use religiously (lack of belief), but the old first century pre modern definition that was used of Christians in the beginning, those who fail to acknowledged the right gods. (2) The second problem is that the basic assumption it makes demonstrates a real lack of understanding about the nature of belief in God. I say this because it seems to me that the original statement comes out of an assumption that belief in God is about choosing between a host of little personalities. God is a big man in the sky and all beliefs about God revolve around which big man is up there; is it Zeus? Jehovah,, Juptier, Brahamin, or whomever?
This is not the basis of belief in God. Belief in God is not about choosing between a host of little personalities. All of those personalities are merely place holders, they designate something beyond of all them. God is the ground of being, the basis of all reality, there can'tbe two of them. It's not a context between little personality figures, those are merely place holder that point to the one true reality beyond all of them. Individual personality gods are merely personifications of concepts, all the concepts pertain to the same basic idea. The only real questions are two fold:
(1) What does God want?
(2) which tradition best mediates relationship with the divine?
The second question assumes that the first question is answered by some notion of unity with the divine.
A Hindu is not an atheist to a Christian. I don't think of Hindus as atheists, I think of atheists as atheists I think of Hindus as people with a different understanding of what God wants. That's a pretty good give away that the atheist argument is wrong, because if I don't see Hindus as atheists then they probably don't see me as one either. Of course atheists resist this kind of understanding about it because they are losing several rhetorical helps at this point. First, they are always looking for ways to bolster their numbers and this allows them the illusion that everyone is an atheist and thus their position is really dominate after all, it's just a matter of realizing it. Secondly, it allows them to play divide and conquor agaisnt religious people, which they are always doing. They try to leverage one religion against them all on the pretext that since we can't prove one is true and all others false then one can be true.
When we point out that all can be true in some sense, as I show above, they go to pieces. That is one approach they can't handle, that accounts for the atheist viciousness to all of my theological positions. They focus upon the minutia of a religious tradition, ceremonies, and formalities, theology, and ignore the experience of the living presence of God that individuals experience, which is the same all over the world.
Hand in hand with this argument that we all born atheists because we are born without belief. That in itself is begging the question. There are lots of reasons to supposes that we have an intuative sense of God and we are born with it. I present a lot of data in my argument on religious instinct and demonstrate the position in many ways, from the dawn of pre-human history to genetic evidence.
The argument actually says that the fact of a religious speicies is far too coincidental to be merely the product of random chance. Why why would it be that we are fit to be reigious, that it is our isitinct and our way of life? That would indicate that an object of religious devotion desinged religocity into humans. In summation the following factors indicate that religiocity is part of human nature:
The vast Majority of Humans have been religious as far back as we have evidence of humanity (50,000 years) [see above A. 3]
That is not appeal to popularity, it's an argument about behavior which indicates an innate condition. Almost 90% currently of world population are rleigious believers in some sense.
When anthropologists see a behavior that transcends culture they assume it is innate. There has never been a culture that was atheistic. Every culture we have ever seen or found traces of on earth going back as far as we can has been religiious in some way.
Our bodies work better when we are religious, it is the major factor in health and far more of a motivator than any other trigger of the Placebo effect [see above C.3]
Archetypes are natural part of the human psyche (see the next argument). Also see Jesus Chrsit and Mythology page II. Archetypes are psycholoigcal symbols which point to transcendent ideal beyond the material realm. Studies show that they are natural to all people and emerge under a broad varitiy of psychologal techniques.Maslow says that they are found among all people using ever technqiue of psychoanalsys. [above B.3]
Psychological factors, relgious believers have far less depression and incidence of mental illness so the human mind works best when religious. [above C]
IF the appeal of the argument were merely popularity, it would not turn on things other than popularity. Obviously these reasons I'm giving here are not popularity. But, the transformative power of religious expeirnce is another aspect of the argument which proves that it' not merely an appeal to popularity. Religious expernce trasnforms lives, it gives people life affirming experinces which makes them better as people and makes life worth living. Not all psychological factors are capable of doing that. We are so contituted as a speices that we respond to these experiences in such a way that they do transform our lives. That proves that we are fit to be religious, and that is not an appeal to popularity.[see also point C above on psychological normality and self actualization]
Brain wave patterns are changed by religious experience. We go from Alpha waves to Beta and to other levels of Brain wave patterns when we have these experinces.
Scientists have identified a cluster of neurons in the brian which, when stemulated, produce feelings of extacy and thoughts about God and the trasncendent. This is too great a coincidence that nature would just produce this by random chance, expecially when taken together with all the other ways in which we are fit to be religious. It's an evidence of design, we are made to be a religious sepcies.
the studies I've talked about intently have demonstrated that around the world mystics experince the same phenomena in the presence of God inspite of the doctrine of their traditions.
Moreover, infants should not be counted as believers in any sense. We should hold the title of "believer" in abundance for infants and young children. No one is born with an intellectual theological thesis or is capable of stating a systematic belief. But most people come closer to having innate beliefs in God than to being without of any kind of belief.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Religious Experience: Addiction or Transformation?
The purpose of this article is demonstrate the distinctions between addiction and transformation with a view toward disproving the atheist propaganda about religion as addiction and to demonstrate that religious experience is transfromative (dramatically changes life in positive ways). As regular readers of my blog recall Bill Walker tried to convince me to post on some atheist hack site "ExChristian.net" I think. It's just another ridicule station for hate group atheism. Walker tries to come on with this great social worker initiation. I'm sick and delusional and weak and I need his help because I'm a stupid Christian self deluded and he's a strong rational atheist know all social worker who is out heal. Atheists are now healers trying to help the poor sick Christians get over their delusions. He pushes a book When God Becomes a Drug (he knows the book so well he even get's the authors name totally wrong). But the begins to sound like a social worker:
There is a book that I think may help you. When God Becomes a Drug.By Bart Aikins.* Please don't feel that this is a criticism of you. You are a victim- one of countless millions. I am rooting for you.
The books is really by Leo Booth. The helping professional initiation get's even thicker in the comments:
Joe, I read all of you post. I know you had a tough time. I'm glad you have that behind you. Bu god/jesus had nothing to do with it. Ple4ase Joe, read " When God Becomes a Drug." Joe this book w2as written for YOU. You have nothing to lose but your delusions. Join us at ExChristian.net. You will be as welcome as the flowers in May. Share your experiences & your thoughts with us. You may write as a Xian or a former Xian. Many people start with us as Xians, & are 'won over'. But you are very welcome to make posts as a Xian. It is POSSIBLE that you can make some4one revert to Xianity, thru reasoning, tho I haven't seen anyone who did that, to my knowledge. But I reaslly think it will give you the experiences & thoughts of other people who have suffered as you did.
He's so friendly and caring, he just trying to help me. Desite this compassionate helping shirnk-like come on, The folks on Atheist is Dead Blow the lid off this sham by showing us what really happens when one goes on that site to "discuss" from a Christian perspective.
Let us begin with ridicule in the form of name calling. I posted on ExChristian.Net as MarianoApologeticus (since Mariano was already taken when I registered).
Here is a taste:
MoronicusApoligeticus…jerk…load of ****…fundies…trolling for carcasses…MarianoPrevaricatoricus…your pathetic and infantile dumb-****…delusional ********…idiot…dubious drivel…Forgetful Freddy…beat it…Whoop-de-frickin'-doo! You're using your own interpretation of ******** to try to disprove someone else's interpretation of said ********. You may as well go debate some Harry Potter - it's all fiction anyway!...Hahahahahahahahaha, ha, ha, ha…TAKE A HIKE…utter ********…your Apologetic drivel…how deep in your *** you had to dig to…asinine logic…it's time for you to paint your **** white and run with the antelope…your god delusion…MarianoApologeticus (aka Mario-Brothers Aplogetics)…spill your trash…you seem strong in the whine department…Moronic Apologist…Marianorepeaticus…blah, blah, blah…Dumb-***…ye of little gray matter…Grow up…all sorts of stupid, that Christian philosophy is!....****….*******….disrespectful, disingenuous religious person….apologetic horse****….you are a ******* liar….Yoo-*******-hoo….**** off….your sky-daddy….mind-****….keep your distance [expletives removed]
Considering the comparison between addiction and life transformation, let's look at the effects of real addiction long term. this is form a Department of Labor site and it deals with long term effects of drug abuse and alcoholism.
"Addiction, Dependence" (a site by U.S. Dept. Labor)
Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive use of one or more substances that results in physical, psychological, or social harm to the individual and continued use of the substance or substances despite this harm. Addiction has two possible components, physical dependence and psychological dependence:
Physical dependence – A state of becoming physically adapted to alcohol or other drugs. There are two important aspects to physical dependence:
- Tolerance – The need for higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects.
- Withdrawal – The appearance of physical symptoms (e.g., nausea, chills, and vomiting) when someone stops taking a drug too quickly.
Psychological dependence – A subjective sense of need for alcohol or other drug, either for its positive effects or to avoid negative effects associated with no use.
- Is everyone who tries alcohol or drugs destined for addiction?
- What is the nature of addiction?
- What are the characteristics of addiction?
- Is addiction a brain disease?
- Does addiction result from moral weakness or overindulgence?
- If an addicted person has enough will power, can he or she stop using alcohol or other drugs?
- What is denial?
- What is enabling?
- What are the typical signs of addiction?
- Can addiction be recognized in the workplace?
- How can I know if I am at risk for addiction?
- What is drug addiction treatment?
- Can addiction be treated successfully?
It if had healthy effects they wouldn't talk about it. If it was good for you no one would try to get you to quite. Obviously addiction has bad long term effects or everyone would push being an addict rather than not being one.
What Long term effects of Religious experience have been noticed by the major studies of religious experience?
Long-Term Effects of Religious experience according to major scientific studies:
Wuthnow:(Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.)
*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
*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
Noble: (Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.)
*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion
Poloma and Pendelton The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Systematic Reviews And Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects Vol. II, David B. Larson M.D., Natiional Institute for Health Research Dec. 1993, p. 3290.
"The authors found that religious satisfaction was the most powerful predicter of existential well being. The degree to which an individual felt close to God was the most important factor in terms of existential well-being. While frequency of prayer contributed to general life satisfaction and personal happiness. As a result of their study the authors concluded that it would be important to look at a combindation of religious items, including prayer, religionship with God, and other measures of religious experince to begin to adequately clearlify the associations of religious committment with general well-being."
(5) 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
That doesn't really seem to be addictive does it? Not in terms of long term effects. The scientific studies on religious experience demonstate that that RE offers one the ability to navigate in life. The transfomrative effects are sucy that one can cope and get through life better.
Navigation in life:
By “navigation” I mean not physically finding our way in the world, not sailing the ocean and knowing where Jamaica is, or finding our way from Detroit to Cleveland, nor do I mean prognostication, or prophecy or using divine knowledge to get around on a daily basis. Rather, I mean finding our way emotionally in life. Mystical experience, religious experience, enables us to know who we are and where we are going, fills us with purpose and gives us a sense that our lives are on track and there a purpose in living. It also enables us to face life’s material trammels and bitter experiences. I am thinking of something more metaphorical, but just as important. The five senses enable us to navigate physically; certain centers in the brain enable us to remember not to try and walk through walls but use the door. This is analogous to the way that RE enables us to navigate. It doesn’t help us walk down the street, it helps us live and make choices and keep going in complex world in which we long for a clue about higher meaning. These experiences give us a sense of self-actualization, which is the basis of self-authentication. We understand who we are in relation to the whole. This is the basis of mythology; it’s the basis of what religion was always about, integration into the universe, and understanding of what life is about and how we fit into the bigger picture. These experiences fit the same kinds of criteria that we use anyway to make judgments about reality. There is no scientific data that gives us ultimate truth. There is no open door to ultimate truth and complete understanding of reality through any scientific or natural means. All we can do is make judgments about epistemology, and we do make them, the extent to which they give us navigation is the extent to which we deem a set of phenomena real. Thus, since RE gives us that same kind of judgment making ability, and for the same reasons (it works) we should construe it as an avenue to truth about the divine. What is said above about self authentication and mental health is good evidence for the mental the statements make above about Allman (1992)(1) Elkins (1995)(2) Shafranske and Malony (1990). (3)
The Sullivan study (1993), which shows therapeutic value in mystical experience. The Richards study (mentioned above) about mystical experience and surviving cancer. Several other studies show therapeutic value in spiritual and religious experience and mystical experience. Pargament (1996) (4) finds five studies find that religious forms of coping are especially helpful to people in uncontrollable or extremely difficult circumstances. Elliot (1994) (5) found that female survivors of childhood sexual abuse who displayed religious belief systems (namely Christian) were less likely to display the symptoms of other females so abused. Himelein and McElrath (1996)(6) find that female survivors of childhood sexual violence who scored high on adjustment scales indicated among positive change brought about by the experience their finding of religious faith. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse found that their religion: “was important in assisting them in making sense of the experience in a manner that served to free them of blame and guilt for the abuse…and gave them the faith to hold on to life and find meaning in their lives. (Valentine and Feinauer 1993 (220).” (7)
There are two problems with using this material. First, Elliot, Himelein and Valentine are not necessarily talking about mystical experience per se (although some are as indicated above). They talk about “religious beliefs,” “religious forms of coping.” It will be seen in chapters five and six that there is a continuum of experience. All believers probably encounter some aspect of mystical experience even though they don’t necessarily have the full blown mystical union. Nevertheless, if a belief system is an effective means of coping then surely we can infer from that that the actual transformative power of that belief system will also be a an effective means of coping. This leads to a discussion of the second problem, that survivors (especially female) of sexual trauma and violence often reject religion and often experience negative aspects associated with religion. These effects are not the result of religious experience such as peak experience, but are associated with the religion of the abuser especially if the abuser put a religious justification on his/her abuse.(8) This is also where mystical experience enters the picture again. The alternative to rejecting religion as whole, that female survivors often take as an alternative is to change religious views, sometimes change religions altogether and to take a more privative and spiritualized practice. This often takes the form of mystical experience. Some researchers, according Ryan find that the violence itself is a occasion for mystical experience and it is theorized that violence can be a trigger.(9) None religious women who have not been forced to associate their abuse with a particular religious tradition often turn to religion and spiritual practice as solace.(10) Irwin found that the more likely a child was to have traumatic events in childhood the more likely the child was to experience paranormal events latter in life.(11) Moreover, it is also been found that as people reach middle age they are more likely to broaden their religious perspective to a point that they see more of a transcendent form of spirituality. Many abuse victims come to view God in more cosmic and impersonal terms, which would be compatible with some forms of mystical experience. Survivors of childhood trauma and abuse often report that they felt the abuser was trying to destroy their soul but that this was the one inviolable core that the abuser could not reach. (12) This should certainly link survival to spiritual experience.
Loretta Do Rozario’s hermeneutic Phenomenological study of those with disabled people indicates the value of peak experience or self transcendence, the transformative power of religious experience.(13) The study was conducted as series of interviews with respondents chosen for disabilities and hardships that they faced (more about the mythology in chapter four, “studies”). The study proceeded based upon two major procedures, analysis of interviews done with respondents and autobiographies the respondents wrote.(14) The findings indicate a set of over all strategies and paradigms that people use to enable them to move forward and survive and deal with their conditions. The major results show that the states of hardship and joy can coexist in the same life at the same time but these depend upon strategies. Mystical experience is not a panacea through which all problems vanish just because one has this experience. But the study does show that the transformative power of religious experience as a whole and mystical experience in particular, is a vital and integral part of making the strategies work. The sense of spiritual unity involves transcendence of the self, thus making suffering bearable. Spiritual awareness (which is clearly an aspect of experience) fosters hope through belief in some greater aspect such as the divine or a cosmic force; religious assurance as a value of traditional beliefs; religious experience along with rituals provides order and meaning; adds to the sense of an existential journey in which the sufferer is growing and progressing, and the idea of purgatory enables one to separate oneself from suffering. (15)
The findings of this study put the experience of having an illness or disability into an overall context of a person’s universal search for meaning and self transcending. This can be likened to Victory Frankl’s belief, based upon his experience of living in a Nazi concentration camp, that ‘suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning…and that through suffering one is given a last chance to actualize the highest value to fulfill the deepest meaning…’ People in this study concurred with this personal and contextual interpretation of illness and disability, by reaffirming that the process of meaning making was similar to that of the mythology of the hero and heroine’s journey, which depicts a universal journey from a separation of self to a return to ‘true self…’ The inner awareness of wholeness despite all the odds points to an implicit experience of life which can transcend form and matter. This experience of wholeness or consciousness extends and challenges the view of disability and illness as only a meaning making and revaluing opportunity in the lives of people. Instead, the model of wholeness and reconstitution point to the possibility of an implicit order of consciousness or wholeness in which people who have undergone some crisis or critical incident in their lives may be able to access and experience a ‘deeper reality’ or ‘flow’ in life…similar to the insights of the great religions (author points to social psychologist Csikentmihalyi).(16)
Thus the “shared” aspect of the experience is not in terms of physical navigation the world, not shared perception of objective objects, but the “inter-subjective” similarities of navigation in life. RE is an integral aspect of the spiritual and psychological wherewithal that we all need to “make it” to bear up under the material trammels and horrific disappointments and tragedies that life brings our way. Just as the same kinds of experiences, the same emotional and para-senstory features are experienced by people the world over so the same coping ability and meaning and journey to wholeness is also experienced through RE.
We can boil down what is meant by "transformation" to the simple two things: (1) Are you happier? (2) are you functional? "Happier" compered to the "before conversion." If you can't say
"Yes" to both of these then something is wrong with your religious experience. Not to say that it was not a valid religious experience, but something in the current practice has gone wrong, and quite probably the answer is to look at the group you are in. I call your attention to a study foot noted below. That study is: D.M. Elliot, “the Impact of Christian Faith on the Prevalence and Sequelae of Sexual Abuse (fn5). This study says that when religion is used by absuers of children it tends to make the children turn out to hate religion, and it magnifies the effects of the trauma. The atheist propaganda machine is sure to sieze upon this and say "see, religion makes you into a child abuser." Of cousre that's not anything like what the study says. The study is not about the causes of child abuse. But wehat I'm sure hey will ignore of take out of context is that the study also shows that when victims of childhood abuse (this is speaking mainly sexual) aer able to use religion as a buffer or for solice it's very effective and can be psychologically healing. The determining factor is weather or not the absuer is able to force the child to link the abuser to God or not.
Rather than proving that religion makes you into a child abuser, what this actually means is that religin is very powerful, and it depends upon how it's used as to weather or not it's harmful. Those who link the absuer to God are often the super literalism, the authoritarian, the one who imposes religion upon the child in the form of legalism, wrather, atuhority without temporing it with love and understanding. Of course if the abusers understood love they would not be abusers. That's the whole point of the Christian message is love. If you screw that up and turn God's love into something perverted its a very powerful weapon that can crush the psyche of a child. When people are able to sense the presence of God they are healed by God's love. This is not my opinion nor it is the regurgitation of sundae school cliches, this all over the studies. The essence of the sense of the numinous is an all pervasive sense of divine love permeating all of reality. The abuser does not experience the love of God, is not a mystic, does not have the numinous and is in the dark about the true essence of religion and thus iposes an er zots form of religion that is a perversion of the actual thing itself. That is my own extrapolation from the studies but I think I can back it up pretty well.
We all know what the Atheist propaganda machine will do with this. It's the "no true Scotsman fallacy," they will say. For them that means if one moron who calls himself a "Christian" however badly he/she exemplifies the faith, that person must be the essence of Christianity and is proof that Christianity is evil. But none of hte good things Christians do represent true Christianity but are adde on because they are human and humans are good or whatever. They are basically essentialist. Christianity has the evil essence of Religion and no amount of clensing can change it. In all religous belief their lurks the hidden Hitler waiting to get and kill some Jews and abuse some kids. Of course it's pretty transparent why these people say such thing. It's clear the "ex Christians" at "exChristians.net" are probably suffering form this sort of er zots religion in the first place.
When Walker says :
I know you had a tough time. I'm glad you have that behind you. Bu god/jesus had nothing to do with it. Ple4ase Joe, read " When God Becomes a Drug." Joe this book w2as written for YOU.He could not be absurdly wrong. He's taking the book he use out of context because the Priest who wrote it certainly does not agree with Walker that religion itself is to blame, then of curse he's being extremely patronizing to assume that he knows my situation better than I do, he doesn't' even listen when I talk about what things actually enabled me to cope and kept me from suicide (which I did intend at one point) so he's not even allowing me to have my own life or my own experiences, he's so certain that he has to be right that he dictates to me what my experiences were and what got me through them. His entire position is groundless because he doe snot have even a signle to back him up, he's flying in the face of 300 empirical studies that say he's full of it, and the one the book he does use he's taken so out of context he doesn't even know the author's name.
The over all point I make is this: religous epxeirnce, if it is genuine, does relate to a reality beyond ourselves and it is proved scientifically that it is more likely to give the strength to cope with life than is anything else. Certainly more the mocking ridiculing know nothings on atheist boards who have no data to back up their hateful claims except that which they steal from sources they don't understand. Don't listen to their lies. Don't be afraid to trust God. The scientific data shows that we can trust whatever that is that we experience when we have those experiences. I call it "God." You can trust God. What you can't trust is people. Don't turn your psyche over to other people, even if you understood therapy with a qualified shrink don't just turn yourself over, be an active participant in your therapy. Any shrink that wont let you participate actively in your own therapy is a fraud. Don't be afraid to trust God. All you have to do to trust God is not freak out and believe that God will help you. That's it. You don't have to do anything, you don't have to risk anything. If someone tells you to give them your money they are probably a con man. Don't listen to the lies of atheists, don't be afraid to read the Bible. Seek to understand the Bible. Understanding is the key not fear. Religious belief is not an addiction, mocking and ridiculing people to make yourself feel better is an addiction.
 L.S. Allman, L.S., Dela, R.O., Elins, D.N., & Weathers, R.S. (1992). Psychotherapists attitude towards mystical experiences. Psychotherapy, 29, 564-569.
 Elkins, D.N. (1995). “Psychotherapy and spirituality: Toward a theory of the soul”. Journal ofHumanistic Psychology, 35, 78-98.
 E.P. Shafranske and H.N. Malony, “Clinical Psychologists Religious and Spiritual Orientations And Their Practice of Psychotherapy.” Psychotherapy, 7, 72-78