Monday, July 31, 2006

The Gods of Unexpected Flakes

August 1

Apparently my attempt to encourage people to read a little Margaret Atwood excited a flurry of unexpected flakes -- one, noting that my own views echo those of the great philosopher Baruch Spinoza; another, espousing Laztheism, a particularly appealing combination of navel-gazing-do-nothingness, and a third, the one mentioned in yesterday's post who challenged the notion that atheism is a religion, obviously still hoping for a knock-down-drag-out with somebody other than me.

Reading his passionate rant makes me think he needs a blog of his own, but, knowing him to be a retiring soul who is hesitant to put his name to anything on cyberspace, I'll give him a little of my space today.

It was I who questioned the notion that atheism could be categorized as a religion. Besides, not having the essential elements of dogma, rituals and orthodoxy, it lacks another vital component: The Why of things. One holding an atheistic position fundamentally is debunking any God connection to What Is, which in itself is not a bad idea; there are far too many God-connected ideas floating around that need debunking. It is causing more than one to adopt totally irrational views of things. But for a religious or philosophical concept to be of worth, it must address primarily the notion of What Is. Although references may be made to What Isn't as a way to get the reader or listener directed to the correct path, the concept has to be espoused principally in positive terms (What Is) rather than the negative (What Isn't). The diligent seekers of the truth will begin only to be satisfied when they believe that they have stumbled over the stones of What Is. Falling into the hole of What Isn't provides little satisfaction.

Throughout the millenia, man has been bedevilled by the questions that arise in his mind as he stared out into a star-studded night sky. Questions for which there seems no answers, yet he has the questions. From that perplexing observation, he necessarily asks himself, "Why do I have questions for which I find no answers?" Then he is off on the journey of wanting to know...know What Is.

Men have come up with ever so many questions: Are the workings of the Universe the product of intelligent design, or did a huge rock slide occur out there somewhere, and did we read something in stones, pebbles and dust that came tumbling down -- or up -- or sideways? What role does God play in our lives? Of what importance are we to God? Do extraterrestrials and hamsters have souls?

Do we have souls? I'm told we do, so what caused zombies to lose theirs? One of my favorite questions is, Is the devil for real or just an invented boogie man by church officials to keep the unenlightened in line?

I do hope some atheist rises to the challenge and defends the stance of atheism. It is always fascinating to hear such defenses, for it is usually done by intelligent people, although a fanatical atheist on a roll is a hilarious sight to see.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all in favor of the world having atheists. If nothing else, with well-presented arguments, they sometimes keep those with tendencies to be religious from being fanatical. That might be a good idea for use in the Middle East as away to off set an overabundance of religious zeal. Maybe a large contingency of UN-backed atheists could bring an end to all this senseless killing, maiming and suffering, most of which is done in the name of God. Don't you get it? If there is no God, there is no reason to defend his name, therefore peace. That's it -- Peace on Earth through Atheism! Let's run that by God and see what It has to say.

As a matter of fact, I hate to tell my friend that most of the atheists I know are defenders of peace, giving that exact reason. They are not so self-righteous as those who claim to be on a first name basis with God. They are, perhaps, smug, because they came to their belief through great and lengthy study, and think their conclusion to be scientific and the other -- that there is a god, or even that (as a committed agnostic says) there might be -- is just wishful thinking on the part of naifs with no proof of anything.

I think the acceptance of the possibility of god is like Dr. Andrew Weil says of what doubting, scientific medical men call the placebo effect. There is no scientific reason for it to work, but if it works, why not accept it? And I doubt that god thinks about our conclusions one way or the other.


Benedict S. said...

I'm not an atheist but I still feel inclined to support the notion that the atheist might yet be considered a religious person. To qualify as religious one does not, in my opinion, have to declare allegiance to a particular religion. So out the window with "the essential elements of dogma, rituals and orthodoxy." And given that the answer provided by the "religions" to "the why of things," consists almost entirely of superstition and wishful thinking, membership in one of the orthodox sects hardly qualifies one as a knower. To that question, no position seems any more likely than that of the nihilists, that no answer is the best answer. While I do not share that belief, I find it much more acceptable than the one centered upon mythical tales.

And lest we get off onto an asymptotic tangent, myths do in fact have their uses, but only when they are considered as means for communicating truths that are not mythical. Jesus's parables -- earthly stories with heavenly meanings -- serve similar purposes.

Finally, I think your correspondent's time would better be spent debunking one or more of the "too many God-connected ideas floating around." Surely, one of those ideas must be closer to the truth than the others. Perhaps by chipping away at the false Gods we can begin to get a better view of the God that remains.

Bert Bananas said...

"But for a religious or philosophical concept to be of worth, it must address primarily the notion of What Is."

Balderdash! People Magazine is making a fortune, and having to fight off similar competing religious tomes, all of whom/which ask an even more primary question: "Who is."

Speaking for the Moravian branch of Laztheism, I can tell you that the notion that every question has an answer was thoroughly debunked during the Sisysphean Synod of 1104.

Ollie Oaf said...

Mr. Bananas, whhat happened during the Sisysphean Synod is something I really don't know much about. Was it as devastating as the Black Plague or the Great Flood? Or as enlightening as coming down from the mountains with engraved stone tablets?

Benedict seems like very kind and reasoning person. Even his strong rebuttals are wrapped in bubble paper, so as not to cause any harm. One of the things that caught my attention was his suggestion that an atheist could a religious person. That could never be, for the reasons cited in the "rant" FFH posted, but an atheist could very well be a person on a spiritual journey, particularly one with an early-age mind set, experiencing the utterly nonsensical facets of particular religious beliefs. I, too, would conclude that, if there were a God, It surely wouldn't manifest like that. So, in a traumatized state, the victim begins spiritual recovery therapy by going back to Square One: there is no God, (an atheist in the purest form) and works his way up the spirituality ladder with rationality and intuition. Along the way, a gorgeous sunset or two or brightly colored butterfly delicately landing on a leaf will lead him to swing open the door to the notion that a huge rock slide could not have caused this. Then atheism for him becomes a thing of his past.

Am I still ranting, or am I making my case?

Benedict S. said...

Ollie Oaf, you're probably right about an atheist not being religious. I confess that when I (mildly) suggested that she might be, I had in mind a spiritually tuned-in person who has completely lost faith in the "God" touted by the religions. One of the difficulties faced by my main man -- Mr. Spinoza -- was his use of the word "God" to describe the pantheistic being that he claimed as his God. The word "God" had been so loaded down with superstitious baggage by myth-mongers he found it virtually impossible to make a case for a defensible God. He was treated as an atheist, an epithet that seems to have bothered him more than just a little.

In any case, later philosophers and learned men came to respect Spinoza, one even referring to him as a "God-intoxicated Jew." Goethe called him “theissimum, indeed, christianissimum,” the ultimate Christian. Responding to Nietzsche, who had remarked that the last Christian died on the cross, Will Durant replied, "Nietzsche forgot Spinoza."

So, I beg to be forgiven for speaking loosely of atheistic religious persons. I had Spinoza in mind, and of course, he no more than I, was an atheist.

Bert Bananas said...

What if someone gave an answer and nobody showed up?

Finding Fair Hope said...

Bananas, there's a possibility that's happened a number of times in human history...

John Sweden said...

kNOw Answers, kNOw Problems.

John Sweden said...

Information 39, 41, 92, & 139 recovered from a Disk “Wild Hairs”.

39: ”Gentle rains caressed HEr presence on what would become a second day of beginnings.
SHe awoke. Clouds drifted on breezes created a day before. A sun appeared at HEr awaking, giving warmth to air, rock and new sand. Smells of a salted sea, floating on airs, telling tales of all mountains dissolved into mist. A sound of a water, giving a voice to a shape of a land, spoke in languages of timeless transformations, Slurp, Slurp, drip, drip, gurgle, gurgle. A world for all its majesty of motion, energy and sound, was still and empty. SHe was alone and without meaning. SHe alone lived. SHe yearned for her spirit, for meaning, for purpose in a world of HEr beginnings. SHe was in HEr world, not part of it. SHe searched a way to enter. Along boundaries between a soft restless motion of waters and a hard stillness of land, in a space between warmth of a light and coolness of a dark, SHe found, a wild hair, a crack between spirit and matter. Slurp, Slurp, Drip, Drip, Gurgle, Gurgle, Slurp, ”Life Begins”. Chapter 257 in a ”Book of Beginnings”.

41: Some say God is love. It is more accurate to say love is God or hate is God. To miss this point, is to confuse a point of origin in a universal concept of a God. Love cannot be found through a God because it debases the universality of a God. A God however can be found through both a love and a hate because of their universal potential for a spirituality.

92: A answer is a problem, Knew answers, Knew problems; kNOw answers, kNOw problems; kNOWn answers, kNOWn problems

139: Life, on the third day of the beginnings, took SHe by surprise. SHe awoke from a dream of forms. As SHe had dreamed, so it was, that all forms came into being. There, in a world shaped by the Slurp, Slurp, Gurgle, Gurgle of the waters, was results of her dreams. Frightening and beautiful, flying, crawling, swimming, running, slithering, rooting, branching, blooming, buzzing, mating, reproducing, dividing, dying, stinging biting, sucking and all the time eating and being eaten. There suddenly existed billions upon billions of noisily, EVOliving masses, of dreams and nightmares. Slurp, Slurp, Buzz, Buzz, Gurgle, Gurgle, Chirp, Chip, Slurp, Slurp, Eeek, Eeek, Gurgle, Screech, Slurp, Roar, Meow, the rhythm of life began to play itself out. SHe came to kNOw, that all is an intimate part of her kNOWn being. SHe was mother of all and death of all. Alone in SHe thoughts, SHe spent the day in daydreams. A daydream would shape and reshape a entire destiny and forms of a whole biomass, to change a single color, on a single wing, of a single butterfly. Thus, she came to kNOw answers kNOw problems. ” Chapter 257 from the “Book of Beginnings.”

theosthenes said...

Folks sure do get all het up about religion. Disregarding the mid-east thing, and the Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials, and the Knights Templar, everyday people hold beliefs very dear and their freedom to do so is basic to our USA. Recently, I sent one of those FWD type emails to a friend here in F'hope which was about the omission of God in Roosevelt's quote on the new WWII monument in DC. Boy hidey, this friend went off in a way that resembles the rantings of 60's/70's demonstration speakers. Even called me a Fascist along with all my friends (he is one of them, too). He ignored my comment which was about preserving history accurately rather than "cram(ing) God down your throat". Yep, folks get all in twirl about God and the effects of belief and its relation to society. The attempts to cancel God are just as controlling as those to preserve God. Freedom of religion should not include the supression of religions of others nor the the suppression of stated beliefs taken therefrom. Cramming "nothing" down your throat will choke you just the same as the of cramming God. Human nature makes us clannish and stereotypical and critical of those different from ourselves. It naturally creates a struggle for dominance. The rest is political.

Bert Bananas said...

Theosthenes (the bee's knees), you are showing Laztheist tendencies!