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

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

  1. Stephen Wright

    Stephen Wright New

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    Dominic,

    I have read McGinn, Nagel and Strawson and while commending their skill at philosophical argument, the PoV (point of view) from which they argue is disconnected, and hence, their arguments are very weak. I prefer the pragmatic stances of C. S. Peirce, W. James and A. N. Whitehead, where there is a footprint in logic and practical/applied science. The "mystery" of life does not have as much emotional allure, when there are effective process models on which to hang one's PoV. A worldview is only as good as its capability in dealing with the work to be done.

    Anti-realism, nominalism and the pragmatism of Rorty lack the red-meat of efficacious approaches in parsing and utilizing the empirical patterns of reality. Making decisions based-on these self-same patterns - which the human mind has evolved to detect from biological, intellectual and social purposes - do achieve goals. In a court of law - you ARE morally responsible. In living your life you must assign meaning to make logical choices and would be considered a "fish" if you claimed to behave as if you had no free-will.

    As an effete stance in life within an academic safe haven - a claim of philosophical reasoning enabling one to sit outside of the pragmatic "facts-of-life" - is just not environmentally involved enough for me. In the real world of blood, sweat and tears -- it's just not very viable.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2015
  2. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Thank you for your detailed reply. I have read very little of the philosophers you mention; so just to say that.

    I generally don’t like atheist philosophy any better than I like theological or religious philosophy. To my perception it proceeds from an a priori dogmatic presumption of monist materialism (mostly) which I find very unsatisfactory. By that I mean monist materialism fails to adequately account for all I have come to know in my lifetime.

    I think reductionism is methodologically plausible in scientific investigation; but when it becomes a dogmatic metaphysic it is no longer scientific; and that is what has generally happened in the past century within science and the academy. Or so it seems to me.

    I wonder do you happen to know how the philosophers you mention regard the testimony of near death experiencers?
     
  3. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    I'm pretty sure they all know very little about the science of NDEs and psi. But notice, this really doesn't matter. The question for the philosopher is, if such things as the afterlife, reincarnation and immortality were real, what implications would this have for meaning, value, freedom, ethics and politics? These are issues that philosophers think about all the time, and they've been thinking about them for thousands of years.

    For example, some philosophers have suggested that human beings are incapable of behaving well without a belief in rewards and punishments in the afterlife (whether self-imposed or imposed by a God). Other philosophers have argued that true morality is impossible if we believe in rewards and punishments in the afterlife, since in that case all our motives would be tainted by self-interest, and a truly moral action must be performed just because it's the right thing to do and for no other reason.

    So as usual with philosophy we're left confused and unsure. The value of philosophy for me is not that it gives us a plausible positive world view like atheism, materialism or theism but rather that it picks holes in and complicates all of our everyday ways of thinking. In the end it should make us more humble and more aware of what we don't know (and maybe even can't know).
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2015
  4. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    I'm also interested in the pragmatist philosophers and Whitehead, and I agree that from a practical point of view we have no choice but to believe in free will, meaning and value. But would a pragmatist make dogmatic metaphysical statements about these things? I doubt it.
     
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  5. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    What Alex is opposing is monist materialism and its credo that life and the universe is meaningless. When one argues from such a presumption there is no possibility of morality, in the traditionally understood sense of moral choice.

    Alex is also frustrated that most monist materialists simply refuse to look at the data re NDEs. The data is ruled out a priori. Those few monist materialists who do look at the data approach it from the perspective that it must somehow be explicable in purely materialist terms. I have little time for the speculations of the former lot; and no problem at all with the latter lot approaching NDEs with any prejudices they might have, so long as any scientific studies are properly conducted. Data is data.

    For those who can bring themselves to look at the data in as impartial a manner as they can manage, there is overwhelming evidence that an NDE and the accompanying personal confirmation of the survival of death, does have a moral effect on the person involved. The overwhelming testimony is that the persons involved are deeply altered in their understanding and perspective on life.
     
  6. Culture Industry

    Culture Industry New

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    I can not believe on a forum about skeptic thinking people on here haven't yet reached the sad conclusion control is a mechanism and the only religion there ever has been is the left right paradigm? People are so pathetic it only takes a two wall jail cell to imprison them. I looked for a list of left right paradigms and of course a society controlled by them will not recognize them at play in every facet of their life so wiki don't have a list what a surprise. Today our left right con game is Religion and Atheism. The religion is designed to drive away people looking for real spirituality. Then the people who really wanted an experience move over to the atheist side of the same game and it feeds off the same disbelief the religion creates and controls. Usually I explain it by holding both hands a few inches apart and I say one hand is what religion says reality is and the other is what science says reality is then I open my arms like infinity and say this is what reality really is. Religion and science have always been on the same team. Science has been the magician pulling slight of hand tricks to get people to believe in a particular perspective since day one. The best example is in ancient Alexandria where factions of different belief systems started employing inventors to build their churches miracles. We used to build pyramids and megalithic structures then christianity came they destroyed and corrupted everything and even if you consider yourself atheist you are a product of a christian indoctrination system that gives you preconceived notions through books and media rather than let you experience something for your self like a normal living thing. Why is a scientist different for reading a different book with the same message? The message always being don't go out and experience cause my bible has all the answers. I look at my friend's who only live through media and I say why don't you just join a church because experiencing through media isn't a experience and it doesn't give any perspective at all it is not preparation. Mike Tyson does not prepare for a fight by reading a book or watching a movie. So anybody who doesn't go out and experience things them self consider yourself a 33rd degree christian. Christianity ultimate goal is to have a spiritually ignorant culture with no perspective so they can not function in real situations. This is why when something horrible and dramatic happens most people stare because media has taught us that's how you react. Still think they have some merit oh but look at all the good they do. It's so sick when people talk about the good the church does. Basically people like me and you, you and I give money donate our time anonymously so the religious war machine can use our good deed and associate it self with our good work every time they are caught in some scandal. This is why I tell people be careful of who you give charity to because your giving organizations a good reputation and image and disassociating yourself with the rewards. So when some christian gets caught touching kids like they do all the time the church will take your good deed and use it to get off some scum bag whose done nothing for humanity. And if you were up on the stand would they let you say I gave and donated and helped people, as anonymous? Would it help your innocents no but it will help the guilty as we have all seen. Look at what our world has become in under 200 years christianity held humans back 600 years. 600 YEARS get rid of it.

    Conspiracy Theory= When Christians blame another group for what they have been repeatedly caught doing.
     
  7. Culture Industry

    Culture Industry New

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  8. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    But the point is, many philosophers would argue that meaning and value in life REQUIRE that there is no afterlife and no immortality. It's the reality and finality of death that gives urgency, significance and purpose to our life. A symphony or a story is meaningful and valuable precisely because it has a beginning and an ending. If it went on forever it would lose all its meaning and value.

    What's more, if death is not real, then we have all sorts of problems trying to explain why murder is such a terrible evil. Maitzen, for example, has argued that common-sense morality only makes sense on atheism.

    You always want to go back to the science and the question of whether the afterlife, immortality and reincarnation are real. This is a scientific question and we should let the scientists get on with doing the research. Philosophers want to discuss what the implications of these things might be for meaning, value and freedom, and we can discuss this right now no matter what our position is on NDE science.

    Alex's fundamental assumption is that life is meaningless on atheism and materialism but is meaningful if there's an afterlife, immortality, reincarnation, psi, and all the rest. This is a very controversial assumption and he'd better make sure he's read all the relevant philosophical literature on these issues. But it's obvious that he hasn't. People like Vernon, who have read what philosophers and theologians have to say on these matters, are humble, unsure and a little bit confused.

    You talk about the 'credo that life and the universe is meaningless'. Both materialists and their enemies certainly use phrases of this sort quite a lot, but nobody is really sure what they mean. What exactly is a meaningless universe? If it means that there's no meaning of any kind in the universe then it's false. If it means that there's no one single meaning of life given to us by God then it may be true. There's also the popular view among atheists, which comes originally from thinkers like Sartre and Nietzsche, that life has no inherent meaning but that we can somehow create our own meanings and values in life. Different people mean different things by the phrase 'meaningless universe', so we shouldn't generalize about materialists and atheists here. I just wish everybody in this debate would stop using the vague and ambiguous phrase 'meaningless universe'. It's used by anti-materialists as an insult and by some hard-core materialists as a kind of badge of honour, but it has no place in serious debate. By the way, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article 'The Meaning of Life' is excellent: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning/
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2015
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  9. Mr Opti

    Mr Opti New

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    It's with a certain reluctance that I post here: the thread seem to have died - the latest reply was written a month ago. And I hardly can live up to the philosophical subtlety of former posts. Still, I'll give it a go, but from a somewhat different perspective.

    First I must say that I really enjoyed this interview. :D

    But what I like to contribute is the perspective of evolving religion. I think that Stuart Davies formulates this much better than I could, so I'll post a link: http://www.stuartdavis.com/blog/dear-god-five-things-religion-haters-should-know
    He uses the terminology of Ken Wilber in describing religion on different levels.

    One conclusion he makes that I find relevant to Alex question at the end of the program is: the cure for low level (fundamentalist) religion is highly evolved religion. And since there is quite a lot of low level religion around, there is and will probably continue be a need for highly evolved religion. As religion evolves it gets more compatible with other perspectives. But every person need to take their journey step by step.
     
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  10. Alex

    Alex New

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    great stuff. insightful. thx.

    but I have to wonder if kind of pulling back of the lens really works. I mean, if you're at that beginning level then you can't see the bigger picture, and if you're at the highest level, religion is irrelevant.

    I think all we can do is tell the best form of the truth we know in the best way we can.

    I don't think Christianity is about truth telling.
     
  11. Stephen Wright

    Stephen Wright New

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    Alex - if religion simply means "a belief system", I don't think your comment holds water at either end of the focus. If you are a beginner (and who isn't) examining the useful and verifiable results of a acting according to a particular belief system, is the only way to go. A reference model is useful in all things measurable, and measuring ones spiritual progress, is part of the belief.. A person can put on an act; and behave like others who are in the belief system. But this is not looking thru a lens. Looking through a lens is to have a life of self-examination, looking to improve spiritually.

    At the "highest" level, I imagine a person still needs to look for ever "deeper meaning". Understanding the complexity of the system and the decision-making criteria is even more essential. I am not so big on "TRUTH" as an objective property of a belief system, or of any individual's thoughts. The process of living "the life" of the belief system, presents as logical and productive -- only with feedback from comparative standards.

    An example is the "Green" belief system. It has some very important tasks to be achieved. However, if one of the tasks is make decisions based on data-independent ideas away from logic and science - like any religion this internal flaw of practice will kill it. Green is great -- self-important "know-it-alls' making decisions about what are the appropriate decisions, is no different than any religious meme gone a muck, from the influence of selfishness. ie Making a garden in your yard beats being critical of your neighbor's SUV - every-time.
     
  12. Alex

    Alex New

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    I was thinking of this in a different way... i.e. religion as a gateway to genuine connection with spirit/divine/god/source.
     
  13. Mr Opti

    Mr Opti New

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    Glad you liked it!

    I think that it can be really frustrating with people who clearly don't see the whole picture but believe they know the TRUTH. I once heard Ken Wilber saying that it's not until you reach the integrative stage that you can see the validity of the lower stages and be content with people being where they are. So maybe all of us below the enlightened stage will have a hard time to see that "all is well" :)

    Yes, I think that the more you evolve spiritually, the less important a certain belief system/religion will become. But the care for people will not diminish, on the contrary, empathy will grow, so it still can be relevant to use the language of religion to reach people and help them on their journey.

    I'm not sure what you mean by Christianity not being about truth telling. Maybe I would need to understand what you mean by Christianity. Could it be that as a movement or organization (or whatever you might call such a vast and sprawling thing as Christianity) it has little to do with truth, but on the individual level, on the lower stages, the believer thinks that it is all about the truth?

    I think I see religion more as a language to use when exploring life than a gateway to the divine. This language can be of great value when you want to communicate experiences or sort of make sense of them afterwords, but the experiences themselves are the essential part of the journey, and no words are really necessary for them to do their job...
     
  14. Brian_the_bard

    Brian_the_bard Lost Pilgrim Member

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    I don't know enough about Islam to judge but with Christianity, it is not the religion but politics that cause the violence. There is not one shred of instruction in the NT to fight, kill or go to war or to force religious views on everybody else! It is always politics that causes wars. Perhaps we should get hard on politics and insist that it delivers the goods scientifically etc. ( Maybe we can start with an interrogation of UKIP members? ;))
     
  15. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Many Christians are what I call Old Testament Christians; and the Old Testament is full of religious killing and war, including multiple genocidal Divine instructions - go kill everybody over there etc
    Most Christians read from the Old Testament in their rites just as much as from the New Testament

    That said however I think religion and politics are both used as pretexts for wars which are really about power and control
     
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  16. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Certain religions seem inseparable from politics - just as the electric and magnetic effects are inseparable in an electromagnetic wave!

    BTW, I am a UKIP member!

    David
     
  17. Alex

    Alex New

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    very Wilber-esque :) a little aloof/borderline-condescending, but with a profound nugget of truth :)



    that may have come off wrong... just saying the institution is not in the business of getting at and revealing the truth regardless of where it might lead or how it might conflict with doctrine.
     
  18. Brian_the_bard

    Brian_the_bard Lost Pilgrim Member

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    Then I would question their definition of "Christian" When I use the word, I am referring to a follower of Christ who on many occasions refuted OT teachings, sometimes calling them "the traditions of men" and was the one who said "put your sword away. Don't you know that he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword" and told us to love each other, to turn the other cheek, to forgive men their sins, etc etc etc.

    That's why I chose UKIP. My point was that I don't understand how somebody can have problems with religion because of the trouble it has caused while being involved in politics which is potentially even more deadly.
     
  19. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    The problem with Christianity is that somehow it can recite words like that, and yet differ massively about practical matters. There are no-doubt Christians working for arms manufacturers, and they presumably don't see any contradiction between their faith and the way they earn their money. Personally, I don't find the concept of religion very useful. Most, maybe all religions are a strange blend of spirituality and politics (sometimes of the most brutal kind).
    UKIP is remarkably non-violent - something that is important to me - for example here is Paul Nuttall's response to the attack on Syria:
    http://www.ukip.org/paul_nuttall_has_condemned_the_us_missile_strikes_on_syria_as_trigger_happy

    David
     
  20. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    I would wonder about their definition of Christian too...
    But none the less the reality is that most Christians today and historically do accept the Old Testament and use it in their services
     
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