Mod+ 275. MARK VERNON, IS CHRISTIANITY WORTH SAVING?

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, May 12, 2015.

  1. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well that may represent regulation, but it might be explained in other ways.

    Mediums who get lottery numbers may just take the cash!

    If there are absolutely consistent psychics, they may become aware (paranormally or otherwise) that they would quickly become feared and hated by society.

    Maybe interacting with this world is very expensive in some way, so the vast majority don't do this. For example suppose their time goes massively faster than ours, so that even a short conversation would require subjective weeks or months to complete.

    I think a lot of people in the West take the Bible story as a blueprint for the afterlife. While it may be that this aspect of the Bible was based closely on the truth, it may equally well be badly off the mark. I think the evidence from NDE's is remarkably varied, and difficult to interpret. For example, the very idea that people get told, in effect, that they are in heaven by mistake, and need to go back to their bodies, is decidedly odd. They aren't told that this is a planned interruption to set their minds in a better direction - yet some people try to understand NDE's in this way.

    In a fully mental world, there might be restrictions analogous to the physical restrictions we encounter in a physical world - e.g. flying to the moon involves fantastic effort and cooperation. A restriction isn't a regulation but just something that follows from the way things work.

    David
     
  2. Morning Fog

    Morning Fog New

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    Agreed. I think much of the blueprint can be found in the Bible, but one needs to consider looking at the stories more as metaphors and not necessarily as a literal interpretations. Though there my be cases where a literal view is needed ... the trick is when or where in scripture does a theologian or scholar see a story as literal. I don't believe anyone truly knows, especially stories involving the afterlife. This apparently creates all sorts of challenges in Christianity or any religion (that has scripture as the base) for that matter.


    Sorry if I'm derailing the original thread a little but from the NDEs I've read ... I don't see it as a mistake. Perhaps, I'm getting the wrong interpretation but I don't see the implication that these NDEs are mistakes. The words (or thoughts), "You have to go back ..." is usually all that is said. Not ... "Oh shit! ... This was a big mistake! ... You need to go back."
     
  3. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I think this is particularly explicit in Thai NDE's for some reason, but even the sudden statement "You must go back" suggests at the very least that it was not known if the resuscitation would work or not. I think most people assume that the NDE is the first part of the being dead experience - not that it is a special intermission!

    As regards the Bible, the problem as I see it, is that you can interpret and reinterpret the text any way you like - that is the big problem with religions based around holy texts.

    David
     
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  4. Morning Fog

    Morning Fog New

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    Why couldn't the entire experience be pre-planned? Meaning ... the facilitator of the experience (who or whatever that may be) knew, with absolute certainty, the NDE experiencer would indeed be going back. The exception to this are the NDEers who apparently had a choice to go back or not. And that's where freewill, perhaps come to play.
     
  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well it could be pre-planned, but that seems to involve deception - I mean it isn't as if the typical message is, "You are ill, but not about to die, and will shortly be returning to your body, but first we want to give you some information to help you for your remaining time on Earth."

    David
     
  6. Morning Fog

    Morning Fog New

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    It may appear to be some kind of deception from perhaps our certain point of view. However, we are leaning on our very limited understanding as to what is really going on. And that, unfortunately, is where we typically end up when we try to speak of such things. It is still sometimes fun to try to have all the answers. ;)
     
  7. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    True! I think my approach to all this is that after centuries of being forced (even on pain of death!) to believe one set of ideas, followed by a period in which scientism has insisted on another set of beliefs - neither of which seems very satisfactory - we should not get trapped into a new form of orthodoxy that 'interprets' evidence to fit in with particular viewpoints.

    Thus for example, it may be that the beings that inhabit the afterworld (and perhaps I should add, if it exists) may not be super omnipotent, but more like ourselves in some respects.

    You see people often interpret the special white light in NDE's as God, but if individual consciousnesses are more closely coupled 'out there', it might be that the NDE experiencer is actually encountering that community of coupled consciousness.

    Likewise, there is an awful tendency to interpret this life as a test, or as a way to develop morally. That in turn forces us to believe in super beings that are doing all this for our own good. I don't want to deny this possibility, but to be more open to the data.

    I mean there seems to be good data to suggest that something does happen after death, and there is reasonable evidence that some dead people can communicate with us - though probably with great effort. There also seems to be evidence that our consciousness expands in some exciting way when freed from the brain.

    One reason I feel that we should keep an open mind, is that we have the example of ordinary science in recent decades. There it would seem that it committed far too decisively to certain ideas, and then struggled as nature proved them wrong. One example was the demonisation of saturated fats, which has probably caused great harm, and which is slowly and reluctantly being dropped. Another is the idea that a modest rise in atmospheric CO2 was anything to worry about. Scientists measured a tiny increase in temperatures towards the end of the last temperature, and immediately interpretted this in terms of the greenhouse effect - implying the temperatures would go on rising for as long as CO2 levels rose. Well the last 18 years have proved this to be wrong, but climate scientists have dug in rather than rethink their ideas. (Something similar has probably happened in several other areas of science). I don't want consciousness science to make the same mistake.

    David
     
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  8. Stephen Wright

    Stephen Wright New

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    If the after-life were made obvious and matter of fact - it might take away our free will, which may be essential in our our character formation,
     
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  9. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    There's some truth in that, I think. I had a dream recently on a different theme, but it centred on how we are taking part in what is effectively theatre, but at the same time it is convincingly real. It's only by making it appear 'real' that we are able to play out our parts in a natural way - and as we see fit - rather than just laughing in an amused fashion at the silliness of it all.
     
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  10. Stephen Wright

    Stephen Wright New

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    ;) Thousands of years of seeking out spirits, ghosts, satans and angels. It could be delicious irony that they all turn out to be us.
     
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  11. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Is Christianity worth saving?

    This is not a question that ever really arises. Whether it stays or goes will depend on christians; for whom Christianty saves them, not vice versa.
    All the stuff about community and beautiful old buildings is perfectly fine, but does not require specifically Christianity. Exactly the save social behaviors and facilities arise in all human societies, under various religious cults. Social and religious behavior is a universal expression of human nature...not specifically Christian. Other things that is not specifically Christian include human love and care and goodness and ethics and morality.

    My objection to Christianity is the whole myth of Jesus as the exclusive savior. Ultimately that is what Christianity is to traditional Christians.
    Christians who dont accept that part of Christian dogma are Christians who are moving away from or beyond traditional Christianity.

    I would prefer to see human societies have a regious expression and behavior which is non-exclusive and non-sectarian.
    People coming together to celebrate life and the Divine as an extended human family.
     
  12. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    I was very impressed with Mark Vernon in this interview, so much so that I went and read his book Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life. Unlike Alex, he strikes me as someone who's serious about living with agnosticism, mystery and doubt. Take a look at the following passages on death and immortality from his excellent book:

    I am not saying that suffering is redeemed if something is learnt from it, as if the suffering itself might be thought good. It is irreducible. Rather, it is that suffering may be an occasion for unlearning certain things that are otherwise taken for granted, notably the illusion of immortality.

    Neither did I want the comforts of the language of immortality for it did not feel right to simply say that my mother was in heaven or just on the other side of the veil. If pushed, even now I tend to think that I won’t see her again because identity without a body is inconceivable and her body has most certainly gone. However, I also had this spiritual sense in which she has not straightforwardly ‘gone’ either
    .
     
  13. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    "...the illusion of immortality"
    "I tend to think that I won’t see her again because identity without a body is inconceivable"

    These are not agnostic statements; they are quite positive statements of belief; belief that death is the end of life (mortality) and the end of the person (identity without a body is inconceivable). It is interesting you read them as agnostic.
     
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  14. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    Though your reading of the meaning is accurate, the very next line,
    "However, I also had this spiritual sense in which she has not straightforwardly ‘gone’ either."
    tempers the statements by offering a contradiction to what has preceded it. Perhaps it is this subsequent wavering from the apparently unambiguous statements expressed a moment before which lends at least some element of agnosticism, as though even definitive and final statements were not to be taken as fixed, but more as a position from which to stand while considering alternatives.
     
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  15. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    I interpret him as saying that, when it comes to mysteries like free will, the self, the afterlife, moral responsibility and objective moral values, we shouldn't be giving a simple-minded and dogmatic yes or no answer. Rather we just have to live with the mystery.
     
  16. Stephen Wright

    Stephen Wright New

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    Do you identify with the New Mysterians?
     
  17. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    Yes and no. I've read most of McGinn's books and I agree with him on many points, but I think he's too sure of himself on some issues. For example, he seems pretty sure that the brain does produce consciousness and that there is no afterlife or immortality. I'm much less sure about all of this.

    Also he thinks that there's nothing whatsoever to ghosts, UFOs, psi, and so on, and he somehow knows this from the comfort of his armchair. In many ways he's a mainstream skeptic. Listen to his interview on Point of Inquiry some years back to get a taste of that.

    The great thing about McGinn (and Thomas Nagel too) is that he sets out very clearly just how hard these problems in philosophy are.
     
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  18. Lester Levenson, who experienced full realization explains why it is possible for so many people to see Jesus:

    Here is some background on Levenson I've posted before, but it elucidates the concept of omnipresence in the next quote below:
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/06/beyond-joy.html

    This peace was eternal and forever, and it was the essence of every living thing. There was only one Beingness and everything was It; every person was It, but they were without awareness of the fact, blinded by the uncorrected past they hold on to.

    He saw this Beingness as something like a comb. He was at the spine of the comb and all the teeth fanned out from it, each one thinking it was separate and different from all the other teeth. And that was true, but only if you looked at it from the tooth end of the comb. Once you got back to the spine or source, you could see that it wasn't true. It was all one comb. There was no real separation, except when you sat at the tooth end. It was all in one's point of view.​


    Regarding realized teachers, including Jesus Levenson said:
    http://www.stillnessspeaks.com/sitehtml/llevenson/keystoultimate.pdf


    The point I'm trying to make now is that we should open
    ourselves to the help of the great masters. Jesus and
    the Great Ones want each and everyone of us to know
    our perfection.
    They can't force it upon us. But their
    hand is always extended. It's good to keep this in mind.
    Then we open ourselves more to the help.
    ...
    Any time you get totally absorbed in any saying of a
    Master, you make contact with that Master.
    ***
    There are no limitations to a Master. He can be one
    body; He can be a thousand bodies. A Master can
    actually have a thousand bodies, and talk through the
    thousand bodies at one time to a thousand people, a
    thousand different people. There are no limitations on a
    Master.
    ...
    If your mind is on a fully-realized Master. He works to
    pull you over.
    ...
    Truth is Truth and all Masters speak identically. It
    appears different because They tailor it to suit the
    hearer.
    ...
    Just one Master could help every single one of the near
    ly four billion people on this earth at one and the same
    time because Masters are unlimited and omnipresent.

    ...
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
  19. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    According to people like Alex the data leads to a reasonable conclusion that there is more than mystery in the afterlife.
    And Alex wants to stimulate more scientific investigation.
    Do you see Alex and others who take the NDE data seriously as "simple-minded and dogmatic" believers?
     
  20. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    I think Alex is simple-minded and dogmatic when he gives a simple yes to the question of whether we have free will and moral responsibility. But this is just through ignorance on his part as much as anything else. If he'd actually read people like McGinn, Nagel and Strawson on these issues, then there's no way he'd be so sure of himself. I predict that he will soften his stance here, however, once he learns more about what atheists and materialists actually believe and why they believe it, just as he is slowly starting to soften his stance on the connection between philosophical materialism on the one hand, and war, consumerism, greed and technology worship on the other.

    As for the afterlife and immortality, he's dogmatic in the sense that he just assumes there's a connection between these things and meaning, purpose and value, but he never states exactly what this connection is meant to be. Some time ago he was arguing on the forums that past lives and the afterlife are somehow necessary for this life to have meaning. I asked him, why couldn't the whole thing (ie all of my many lives put together) be meaningless? He ignored my question. The main problem, again, is that he hasn't read the relevant philosophical literature on the question of the meaning of life. There's a great chapter in Oxford's A Very Short Introduction to Atheism by the philosopher Julian Baggini where he discusses meaning, purpose, finitude, immortality, and so on. These arguments all go back to Nagel, of course, but Baggini does a great job at stating them all very clearly and concisely.

    The point is not that Strawson, Nagel and others are absolutely right about free will, moral responsibility, meaning, immortality and all the rest, but just that we should take them seriously and admit that they make some good points and have some strong arguments. Vernon takes these people seriously philosophically and gives them their due, whereas Alex still has a tendency to use caricatures and stereotypes. The main difference, I believe, is that Vernon has read these people very carefully and understands what they're saying.

    So let me put this simply. I believe Alex is simple-minded and dogmatic in his PHILOSOPHICAL views.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2015

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