David Fitzgerald Spots Christian Myths, Misses Atheist Myths |356|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Jul 25, 2017.

  1. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    A lot of Christians - particularly Fundamentalists - believe the Bible literally. It is that literal belief that causes all the problems because it stops people thinking about what they do, and persuades them to just follow rules - some of which may have entered the religion by mis-translation, or by authors inserting their own ideas, or may be interpreted in deeply unfortunate ways.

    If enough people believe a substantial holy book literally, then someone else can comb it for odd verses that fit his personal prejudices (just think of the criminalisation of homosexuality) to achieve wicked ends.

    Most of us here are prepared to take a whole set of strange concepts very seriously - I don't find the Jesus story incredible, just horribly politically convenient - so should we think of Jesus as just one more paranormal phenomenon? The difference (for me at least) is that the phenomena we concern ourselves with at Skeptiko are not one-off events that support human institutions with all their flaws. We are trying to look at the phenomena of consciousness as carefully as possible - mainly looking at phenomena that are repeatedly reported.

    If (say) Eban Alexander were the only person to have had an NDE (or even one of a very small number of historical figures), and his case had been written down 2000 years ago, then I'd be just as keen to abandon 'Ebanism' as a myth, as I am to abandon Christianity as a myth (or as some very distorted record). If 'Ebanism' had evolved into a consistently kind and considerate religion, it might be enough to strip it of its historical roots, but we know that Christianity has a morally very mixed past - inspiring the very best to the absolute worst of human behaviour.

    Thus I am with David Fitzgerald, until he gets to the issue of consciousness, paranormal phenomena etc. Clearly he hasn't really studies any of these phenomena, and just takes science at its word when it tells everybody to walk on - nothing interesting to look at here! I used to think that way myself, and I really hope he can be persuaded to browse this forum - exploring the many links which it contains. Perhaps his enthusiasm for the truth will lead him in a new and fascinating direction :)

    David
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    According to something Idries Shah hinted, the Sufis quite consciously invented the major religions. It's claimed that Sufism pre-dates Islam; in fact has always existed. At times it's been a reality without a name and, in distorted understandings, a name without a reality. Apparently, Sufis know the spirit of times, places and people, what new central messages will take a grip, and how to introduce them. The rest is contextual padding, perhaps designed to make messages more memorable and believable to the general run of people.

    I don't know if this is true or not, or whether it in turn is a myth. It's also claimed that Sufis have intervened throughout history in ways that don't immediately seem to be spiritual, but rather, mundane -- improving the chances of people to cultivate spirituality. Thus it is claimed that Sufis have often been involved in such things as medicine, engineering, and science in general, to improve the lot of populaces. Maybe also in the introduction of ideas about how to form and run nation states: who knows, we might owe to them the idea of democracy.

    Conceivably, we might even owe to them the present trend towards lack of religiosity. Religion was for a long time, and still is to some extent, the only way that some people can have some kind of appreciation of spirituality. But as many of us have come to realise, one can be a spiritual person without undue attachment to any particular religion; indeed, only when religion is transcended may there be the chance for the emergence of a greater degree of spirituality.

    Perhaps all injections of knowledge bring with them the power for things to evolve, at least for a time, before they eventually succumb to entropy and have to be reformulated in a way more suitable to the new time, place and by-now-more-evolved people. It was maybe necessary for us to become less reliant on religion, but the initially corrective spirit of the Enlightenment in the West may have outstayed its welcome. Now may be the time for some new paradigm to emerge that will in turn act as a corrective for the denial of spirituality.

    It could be this kind of issue that motivates a lot of people who comment on Skeptiko. Maybe we perceive that the world is FUBAR and yearn for something that makes more sense to us, something that will restore the balance to a world tipped too far in the direction of materialism -- which was fine, for a time, as a tool for apprehending the nature of the universe. But whilst those who set the stage for materialism (e.g. Descartes, Newton, Leibniz) retained one foot in the spiritual, today, materialists seem perched on one leg and about to fall over.

    The "meta-myth" of what Sufis do for society may or may not be literally true; just as the sayings and doings of Jesus may or may not contain some elements of literal truth. Whether or not Jesus literally existed, or Sufis literally existed and continue to exist -- as personifications of internally felt states -- my view is that they possess a kind of validity that at least approximates to truth. There is no reason why we can't have a society where myths (including materialism) can't be appreciated for what they bring to us, whilst at the same time we don't completely buy into them.

    It's not that materialism is wrong per se; but it becomes wrong when we elevate it to an all-pervading reality that explains everything. Wrong because it simply can't explain such things as consciousness and quantum mechanics: it's why we are expected to shut up and calculate rather than rock the boat with our introspective musings.

    Speaking personally, the one thing above all else that convinces me that materialism, as a universal principle, is wrong, is the simple fact of the amazing complexity of living beings, and the fact of my own consciousness. Why the heck should I be here at all pondering this kind of stuff, and why should all of you be here and likewise pondering it? Why should we endlessly tease away at it, and be able to communicate something of our ponderings to others? In addition to why, how? How can stuff thought of as mindless matter have given rise to me and my ponderings, and to you and yours? Why do we feel the irresistible impulse to share them?

    The only materialistic explanation boils down to time and chance. We have to believe that given enough time, chance events are sufficient to explain everything. This is predicated on the existence of "laws" of nature which constitute the one free miracle we are allowed. None of it could work without some kind of regularity in nature, but why should nature be regular? As I see it, materialism could only work as a universal principle if everything were chaotic, in which case we wouldn't be here arguing the toss about it.
     
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  3. Silence

    Silence Member

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    I think that's simply the human condition, isn't it? I mean you could replace the word "Christian" with "science" or "republican" or "American" or any other group.

    As for the Christian side of things, it seems to me that faith is evolving away from the dogmatic literal interpretation. I think the average American Christian of today is much more science friendly than those of 100 years ago. Most Christians that I know don't believe the universe is 14,000 years old (or whatever the supposed biblical number is). 100 years ago I'm sure that wasn't the case.

    I guess it may not be evolving fast enough for some, but at least in my little corner of America I don't see a huge, repressive, dogmatic Christian force. Seems more the opposite in that many churches are fighting to stay relevant with young families, etc.
     
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  4. Andrew9

    Andrew9 Member

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    An idea keeps coming to mind which not been clearly stated so forgive me if I put it briefly.

    Whatever one makes of the historical record there is the impressive impact the teachings of Jesus had on civilisation over the past 2000 years even if the spirit has kind of dwindled. Countless people dedicated their lives to promoting that cause. Civilisation was reshaped in a largely positive way. Where would we be if it had not occurred?

    Granted there have been many misuses, some extreme, especially after the first 500 years or so. Superstitions have multiplied and many have used it for their own selfish ends.

    However it seems to me that it took a very real and exceptional Person to initiate this especially in the face of such opposition.

    And to me the same argument can be applied to other major world religions.
     
  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Every now and again I wish the forum had a "Like*100" button! I would have used it for this comment.

    Can you offer a link to some relevant information? Was this your source?

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/450553.The_Sufis

    David
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
  6. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Well, maybe it's not the person so much as the myths associated with that person, be he real or apocryphal. As if, the myths were right for the time, place and people: almost as if there was a latent potential awaiting the myths, to fulfil human needs at that time, and hence be almost immediately adopted. We might see something similar on a smaller scale when some new phrase or fictional character or whatever catches on and the "meme" spreads like wildfire ("jump the shark", "flying spaghetti monster", "fake news", etc.). When the circumstances are just right, such memes provide a means to express some new idea that almost everyone has had on the tip of their tongues. If that's the case, it needn't necessarily have been the Jesus myth. It could have been the myth of some other, similar character: the world was ripe for it.

    It strikes me that this might have a parallel with the idea of morphic resonance: blue tits rapidly adopting the habit of getting milk from milk bottles delivered on doorsteps; chemical compounds rapidly becoming able to crystallise; rats learning mazes, and so on.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
  7. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Right - the only real explanation for a new religion may be social. One reason to suspect this, is that it would seem that a fair number of people have mystical experiences - some of them very deep - and most do not result in a new religion.

    David
     
  8. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    You are too kind. And yes, The Sufis is perhaps Idries Shah's seminal work (though he wrote many other books). It's available in Kindle format for a mere £2.99 here:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sufis-Idri...swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1501085851&sr=8-1

    The book should give you a good grounding in Shah's ideas about Sufism. I can thoroughly recommend it.
     
  9. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I suspect that humans and animals (maybe also plants) are controlled by by some sort of consciousness. Thinking about humans, it is clear that we usually use our consciousness using very well explored mechanisms (signals propagating down nerves and hormones), but clearly we have far more control than that. For example, the book "Irreducible Mind" documents many strange things that can happen under hypnotic control - congenital skin lesions healed, or warts removed. Experiments were done in which patients were told under hypnotism to heal certain warts or other lesions and leave others alone! Subsequently these patients were re-hypnotised to finish the job off! Incidentally, it would seem you don't need any neurons to be intelligent!
    http://www.basic.northwestern.edu/g-buehler/FRAME.HTM

    Now when you think about phenomena like that (and may others are documented), what materialistic explanation can there possibly be? Science ignores 'inconvenient' phenomena! It is as though when push comes to shove, 'we' can exert control over our bodies in all sorts of ways. I suspect that MR is actually a manifestation of abstract consciousness - not tied to any body.

    David
     
  10. questioner

    questioner Member

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    The difference between a cult and religion? 100 years
     
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  11. chotki

    chotki Member

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    I know that as modern Westerners we tend to believe in the myth of linear progress, but history is a bit more complex than that. The truth is that excessively literalist fundamentalism is a product of modernity and not the standard for 2,000 years of theological reflection. So the "average American Christian" of 100 years ago, the time of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, is very much a regression from:

    • Origen and Gregory of Nyssa (3rd and 4th centuries) rejecting the literal historicity of the Canaanite conquest narratives in Joshua as unworthy depictions of God.
    • In a similar vein, the ardent pacifism of the early Church over against "flat" readings of the Bible that are now assumed to be requisite. Just because something is depicted somewhere in the Bible didn't mean it had to be read as normative. Thus Tertullian (2nd century) could pithily declare, "The Lord in disarming Peter henceforth disarms every soldier."
    • Recognition that other religions and teachings can be vehicles of salvation, from Justin Martyr's theory of the spermatikoi logou (2nd century) to Meister Eckhart's insistence that Plato was inspired (13th-14th centuries) to Nicholas of Cusa's belief in transcendent truth uniting various religions (15th century) to Pope Pius XI (r. 1922-1939) telling his legate to Lybia: "Do not think that you are going among infidels. Muslims attain to salvation. The ways of Providence are infinite."
    Not evolution, but a return ad fontes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
  12. Charlie Primero

    Charlie Primero Member

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    I Laughed Out Loud when that meat robot said it had Free Will.

    Fitzgerald should spend more time studying Philosophy and less time trolling Christians.
     
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  13. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    At around 23:35 David Fitzgerald said,
    "We are the love in the Universe. There is love in the Universe because we have this consciousness".

    I rather hoped he would elaborate on that, but the only snippets I could glean from the rest of the podcast was that he considered consciousness was something very natural, and that it arose from the brain. He didn't seem to go much further than that. It seemed to leave his initial certainty about love in the universe resting on very uncertain foundations.

    To be fair, that wasn't the topic he came to discuss, and he was mostly undogmatic about the other areas, just unsatisfyingly vague.
     
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  14. Brian_the_bard

    Brian_the_bard Lost Pilgrim Member

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    I would say that where an organized religion isn't a genuine conviction, it is more of a game than a cult - in the Transactional Analysis sense of the word "game" perhaps.
     
  15. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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    Mormonism is a living evidence for your statement. (Free)masonry is, too.
     
  16. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    However, before I spend an exorbitant amount on the book ( :) ), can you tell me what makes you feel that Sufism is somehow 'more right' (or maybe more fundamental) than other religions? I mean enthusiasts for all religions claim their their religion is somehow special.

    David
     
  17. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Well, you asked me to give a reference, and I gave it. Sufism isn't a religion, so much as a spiritual tradition. I myself am not a Sufi and nor am I sure that Sufism is completely as portrayed in Shah's books. There are divided opinions on whether Shah was a genuine Sufi, and I myself am agnostic about Sufism. One thing, though: Shah has many fascinating things to say about religions, human psychology and much else. If you read the book, you'll find that it is like no other book on spirituality/psychology that you've ever read. At £2.99, I think it's worth the risk. But if it fails to intrigue and satisfy, I'll happily refund you!:)
     
  18. beyondmortality

    beyondmortality Member

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    The so called teachings of Jesus pre-date Jesus. They are reflected in judaism and Buddhism.

    I'm not sure where you come up with the notion that Christianity somehow has propelled humanity into a much more civilized and caring world.

    Going back to Constantine, christians slaughtered, pillaged, and destroyed non-christian temples. Under Constantius II, not only was it illegal to practice paganism, but the worship of idols was punishable by death.

    There was centuries of Christian Inquisitions, known as the crusades, in which Christians slaughtered millions of people.

    The christian slaughter of innocent people then continued in the Spanish Inquisition.

    The missionary conquest in the Americas was in fact Native American genocide.

    In current times we see the protestant christian terrorists group known as ku klux klan murder and terrorize blacks, Jews, and Catholics.

    Then there's the systematic rape of tens of thousands of children throughout the world and the massive cover-up by the Catholic Church--which continues today.

    Just because christians preach love and humanitarian values, doesn't mean they actually practice what they preach.
     
  19. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I was of course joking about the cost, and I think I will read the book - it is more a question of my time and my finite brain! I wanted to be sure it would be worth it!

    David
     
  20. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Good. Do let me know what you think.
     

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