The taint of God.

Discussion in 'Consciousness & Science' started by Carl Jung, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Paul Tillich said, just before he died, that his dream was that one day people in the west could speak of God again without shame.

    I thought a bit about this and came to realize that, at least as a purely logical and rational concept, God can be given certain attributes (such as simplicity, perfection etc. etc.) and his existence could be discussed in the same way one discusses other conceptual theories - such as the Multiverse, the Hive-mind, Panspermia, different interpretations of QM and Time-theory. There is nothing more wrong with discussing the logical attributes of God as a foundational explanative theory than discussing, and eventually deciding, upn whether one accepts a certain theory of time or not.

    However, since Nietzsche, Freud and Darwin, this has somehow become a taboo - and one could not discuss the logical implications of a perfectly simple being as an explanation behind our contingent existence. At least not with anyone in academia today. Discussions of God are answered with derision and ridicule - even though most have no understanding of the logical structure behind, say Augustines or Aquinas', worldviews.

    But it gets worse, if one for example finds Aquinas concept of contingent and necessary objects as a useful logical distinction then one could not bring it up - because it immediately threatens one with the taboo taint of possible theism. Whole areas of logical discourse are simply neglected - because they carry the God-taint.

    But it gets worse. A culture that so fears the taint of God eventually must cut itself of from, and indeed revolt against, any historical understanding of ones roots. Not because of a romantic notion of kindness against our forefathers but simply because a true understanding of human rationality (or wisdom as we call it) requires a foundation that can't be found in the empiricism of scientism.

    I always wondered about those persons, who I think rightly, so objected to Dawkins spiteful ridicule of theism. Have they never been to a University in western europe? Why on earth react to Dawkins? He is a mere brain-child of western nihilistic culture.

    As John the Baptist was the prophet of Christianity so Nietzsche was the prophet of Modernity - and his predictions have become all too true. To me, the typical western individual today, lives his life without hope - and has learnt to shut of that need in the same way as a quadriplegic shuts of the hope of ever walking again - because thinking about it hurts.

    What is the cause behind this rotting of the western mind? Was Nietzsche correct?
    Am I wrong in this diagnosis of western culture?
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2013
  2. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Ooops! I wanted to post this in Extended consciousness and Spirituality - but I can't seem to move it.
    If any administrator finds the placement of this thread awkward I would be very thankful if it was moved.
     
  3. Liberty

    Liberty Member

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    Maybe kinda right & kinda wrong. I feel that the majority of "normal" people truly have a sense, that all the explanations currently on offer, are somewhat incomplete. I mean, they pretty much have considerable 'faith' in technology, but they don't accept Science as the last word on human origins or morality. They've seen the ridiculous things that a dishonest Religion can do, but they still "act as if" there is "something out there" - maybe God, maybe something else.
    Anyway, I wouldn't count Christianity out just yet - it's endured through quite a lot of crap in 2000 years.

    What I want to add is, as an agnostic, I've taken my fair share of shots at religion - attacking their hypocrisy while complaining that they are not living up to their own message. But at the same time, where are all those "agnostic charities" or all those "spiritual but not religious" soup kitchens ? What about my own hypocrisy? I've very honestly tried hard to find a purely secular organization that could in principle effect some monumental social change - but it just ain't There. There's no tradition of "plain human helping plain human" - nothing that would ever equal the power of religion, anyway. . . .
    And then I see this new Pope, and hear him preaching AGAINST the b.s. prosperity gospel, and I realize : Damn! Look at the awesome Power he's got ! He can mobilize millions with a single phrase.
     
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  4. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Good post, CJ. I'm not equipped to analyze all those causes, but when I read (Catholic) philosopher Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self (a few times over), he spelled out in great detail a lot of the cultural/attitudinal/pĥilosophical elements that went into the passage from an age of belief to deism to where we are now. I haven't read his latest opus, which I think focuses on this more specifically, and I think would be a good place to look: A Secular Age (2007)

    The wikipedia article on it has a very detailed description of its contents.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Secular_Age

    Check out especially the last part:
    In Sources of the Self, (1989), he makes an interesting argument that, in a paradoxical way, the major modern non-believing moral stances (for example, the Romantic inner voice of nature/the modern valuing of authenticity and self-expression, or the Enlightenment-inspired autonomous "rational agent") developed more fully the moral "sources" (aspirations, articulations of what is valuable) found in earlier "believing" moral systems. E.g. Augustinian inwardness paved the way for the Cartesian turn, the mechanistic universe was originally a demand of theology, the Enlightenment "affirmation of ordinary life" (contra the hierarchical aspect of the Christian religion, specifically Catholicism) took its inspiration from its first valuation within the Christian gospels themselves, specifically "the notion that God’s goodness consists in His stooping to seek the benefit of humans".

    The impetus towards the non-believing alternative moral sources was when people "recognized that these moral sources could only be properly or fully acknowledged, could only thus fully empower them, in their non-theistic form". Example 1: "The dignity of free, rational control came to seem genuine or total only when free of submission to God". Example 2: "The goodness of nature, and/or people’s unreserved immersion in it, seemed to require its complete independence, and a negation of any divine vocation."

    But then, like you (and Taylor) point out, these developments lead us into problems, at the same time that they led to improvements, or fuller articulation of those moral goods.
    ---

    Regarding the part of the text in the new book I bolded, in the first book he talks about this as "the heroism of unbelief" which accompanied the rise of scientism. I.e. scientism is not a "neutral" value system that simply arose automatically because of advances in science and technology, but contains a "moral stance" (it's pretty much the one Dawkins repeats, and it's completely Victorian), which includes, amongst other things, 1) a furthering of the ideal of self-responsible, individual freedom (people had an obligation to make up their own minds on the evidence without bowing to any authority) and 2) the "heroism of unbelief": "the deep spiritual satisfaction of knowing that one had confronted the truth of things, however bleak and unconsoling. For example, Victorians spoke of the manliness required to face the bare truth."

    EDIT: CJ, since you recently said you were discovering the value in Aquinas and theology, I noticed this interesting reference to Radical Orthodoxy in the wiki article I posted above (not that I adhere to it!):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_Orthodoxy
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2013
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  5. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Thanks for your answer.

    I think that what Nietzsche's critique of our Culture implies is that the "normal" person is in a way a cultural christian - even if they affirm atheism - for they hold to views of good and evil which are essentially christian. Nietzsche therefor is not even interested in conversing with the common man in the street - he writes strictly for an intellectual elite who can appreciate the metaphorical view of modernity that he offers up. There is no rational foundation for values, there is no rational foundation for the self and there is no rational foundation for knowledge to be found in a rational or empiricist philosophy. The Nietzschean superman has somehow overcome his Theist roots - and transcended the resulting Nihilism by affirming the essentiality of his own Self. However, the idea of any essential nature of the self has been ruined through his critique. I don't quite see how he gets those two points together...
     
  6. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Very interesting! I have not read anything of Charles Taylor but I will see if I can work him into my reading schedule:)

    Radical Orthodoxy seems a possible answer to the question, although I'm not quite ready to go so far...
     
  7. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    So when we have understood that the Humean causal Critique, the Darwinian psychological Critique and the Nietzschean cultural Critique of realism and knowledge all remove the foundations necessary for their own efficacy - are we not then more than justified in holding to a more naive world-view where theism, myths, fate and teleology can have a place?
     
  8. Michael

    Michael Guest

    Can we explore this for a bit? Why would a world view which contains theism, myths, fate and teleology be naive? What is it about myths that allows one to consider them to be an expression of naive-ness? Isn't the notion that there is an active integrated reality in which I fully participate a more sophisticated mode of being then one in which I am merely an object among other objects?
     
  9. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    What I meant by naive in my post was something akin to our primal experience of the world and the conclusions of a mind untouched by the multitude of sources of doubt. A naive experience of the world would be direct and intuitive, not naive as in foolish.
     
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  10. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    You are surely correct about the question of sophistication. Though I think that theism, fate and teleology are difficult concepts to come to terms with intellectually - but natural to accept on an emotional/spiritual level. Kinda the opposite of the scientism of modernity and the relativism of post-modernism...
     
  11. Michael

    Michael Guest

    It is immensely sophisticate and appears endlessly difficult to grasp. I'm just scratching the surface myself. Without belaboring the point further, it does seem clear to me that the only way to have spiritual experiences is to start by accepting that these experiences are real and that they are of real events in the world. So when I read about someone who sees another person engulfed in a glowing light that apparently no one else can see, it must be that I believe them. It must be that this someone has developed a particular mode of being in existence that opens the individual to these kinds of inner perceptions of outer reality. This utterly defeats the skeptic who would naturally argue if the glowing light cannot be photographed or measured or, at very least, seen by others, that it must be an illusion or a confabulation, or anything at all that would explain it away. I suppose this is so because we can't have people seeing things that aren't there. It wouldn't be proper. It is sadly self defeating. The skeptic self-creates the impossibility of this inner perception of outer reality. This ability to perceive the subtle reality has to be accepted, that is the first step. And then I guess the hard work begins, except for a fortunate few who seems to be born this way or are naturally inclined towards this mode of being.
     
  12. nbtruthman

    nbtruthman New

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    One I think relevant aspect that hasn't been mentioned here is the evident connection between the ascendance of secularism, scientism and the denial of the spiritual, with the decadence of popular culture especially the arts. Loss of belief in meaning and purpose to life has been accompanied by what seems to me an inevitable degradation to the positive emotional power, meaning and purpose of music and painting. This is not just in the despair and boredom evoked by atonal modern classical music, but also by various schools of academic modern painting. Of course the primary example is in modern junk popular "music". Much of it (like "death metal") hardly deserves the term music. The old saying "judge the tree by its fruits" applies here.

    Of course this thinking is old fashioned and non politically correct. With cultural relativism, the prevailing scientistic anthropological paradigm, “right” and “wrong” and "higher" and "lower" are culture-specific, and different cultural forms are all of equal value.
     
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  13. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Hmm, very good point. Perhaps my doubts make spiritual experiences more rare.
     
  14. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Oh, yes, I always wondered why popular books and music made me want to vomit - until I read Schopenhauer. Chopin would have turned in his grave had he heard popular "music" and the genius of many spiritual poets of the ages would have been hard pressed to find anything other than disinterest at hearing modern attempts at poetry.

    But yes, I agree with your NB. It is almost a miracle that Nietzsche could see so clearly so long ago. Indeed - I think popular social media is the very epitome of Nihilism. The craving of attention for attentions own sake.

    I have always wondered why this is not obvious to the public? Should not someone living in the tragyed of our modern age be shouting this from the rooftops? Or is it the fear of meaninglessness that keeps a lid on discussions like these?
     
  15. nbtruthman

    nbtruthman New

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    I think it has been an insidious, progressive "dumbing down" and lowering of level of musical and artistic consciousness of the majority of the population, from generation to generation, slow enough to be imperceptible to most observers. To the point where for countless millions in the debased popular culture nearly meaningless garbage noise and even worse, cynical pathological antilife junk "music" satisfies the atrophied musical impulse. The same applies to the situation with TV entertainment, where slowly, mindless reality shows and situation comedies have grown to dominate the airwaves. Even supposed popular education sources like Discovery and History channels have become dominated by cheap reality shows.

    Nobody is shouting their outrage from the rooftops primarily because the number of people with undiminished musical, artistic and other sensibilities is a miniscule percentage of the population, and because of fear of ridicule. Those doing this would expose themselves to ridicule as snobbish dinosaurs with no understanding of cultural relativism. Also, in my opinion many or most of even this tiny minority have themselves been brainwashed into the scientistic paradigm and instinctively buy into the notion that these areas of human endeavor are ultimately irrelevant and meaningless. And that even if it were a problem it is insignificant compared to the major problems facing society. This attitude is part of the "zeitgeist".
     
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  16. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Ah, yes. I fear I had to give you a thumbs up - even though I swore to myself that I would never use those things.

    I am an avid reader of poetry and I also write some myself. I have never really understood the utter garbage that is offered up as poetry these days. You can usually find more metaphor, lyrical tendencies and spiritual depth in reading your average ad for toiletpaper - and then I'm being nice. It has degenerated because the poets who used to remind us of emotional truths have now been brainwashed into the view that there is no difference between the platitude and the sublime. Gosh, I get really depressed just thinking about it. The depravation of western culture is a truly sad thing.

    Some people close to me always warn me that I'm out of step with our time and warn me not to express my views in public - which I suppose is the clever thing to do. I just galls me that they do it from the couch during the commercial break of an episode of some inane show where talentless individuals compete for some meaningless prize through spiteful behaviour and disgusting backstabbing.
     
  17. Stephen McDermott

    Stephen McDermott New

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    Many fascinating ideas here - thank you! - especially in how modern moral stances evolved out of "believing" moral systems - . . . the idea of "the heroism of unbelief" (represented in Moby Dick by the character of Bulkington in Chapter 23 "The Lee Shore") has also fascinated me for some time, you put it well above:

    scientism is not a "neutral" value system that simply arose automatically because of advances in science and technology, but contains a "moral stance" (it's pretty much the one Dawkins repeats, and it's completely Victorian
    and in Carl Jung's post the idea that some philosophical ideas like contingent and necessary objects or teleology are intellectually taboo . . . (although Thomas Nagel has brought ideas of teleology in his latest book: Mind and Cosmos) and this article discusses the scientific support of that idea:

    http://chronicle.com/article/Where-Thomas-Nagel-Went-Wrong/139129/

    But highly regarded scientists have made similar arguments. "Life is almost bound to arise, in a molecular form not very different from its form on Earth," wrote Christian de Duve, a Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine, in 1995. Robert Hazen, a mineralogist and biogeologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, struck a similar note in 2007: "With autotrophy, biochemistry is wired into the universe. The self-made cell emerges from geochemistry as inevitably as basalt or granite." Harold J. Morowitz, a biophysicist at George Mason University, argued that evolution has an arrow built into it: "We start with observations, and if the evolving cosmos has an observed direction, rejecting that view is clearly nonempirical. There need not necessarily be a knowable end point, but there may be an arrow."
     
  18. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I feel uncomfortable when people talk wistfully about a time when belief in God was accepted as normal, because I feel that the rejection of that idea that has happened since, is really a consequence of the degeneration of the various faiths over many hundreds of years. When I was a kid (and a Christian) it used to puzzle me that so many horrible things were done in the past - supposedly in the name of Christianity.

    OK - I agree a lot of mankind has thrown out the baby with the bathwater, but the rot goes back a very long way. In Christianity's case, perhaps back to the Emperor Constantine who molded Christianity to be a tool of control.

    Even the very freedom we enjoy to discuss these issues here, is only possible because religion became a matter of choice.

    Maybe a spirituality that comes from the bottom up, and which has nothing to do with government, is gradually putting back something of what has been lost - perhaps Skeptiko is part of that.

    I'm not sure whether what has happened to art and music has quite the same cause, but it is quite extraordinary. I tend to feel that the problem there has been an obsession with always creating something new. Very few people really can invent something that is new and worthwhile - so emphasizing novelty tends to produce rubbish.

    David
     
  19. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    The most obvious point of teleology is that we know of it directly and intimately. We know that we plan and execute aimed at different goals. Only someone who denies consciousness denies this.
    This is the usual problem with responses to Nagel - such as the one above. He is not trying to make scientific claims for teleology - his thesis is philosophical. We know that our minds are teleological - and our minds are part of nature.
     
  20. Carl Jung

    Carl Jung Member

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    Though I didn't find myself speaking wistfully of God (perhaps I did) that was not my point. My point (or rather, Nietzsches) is that the foundation for all of our lives is theistic (whether we admit it or not) and without this foundation we are and aim at naught.
     

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