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Reason and science-based spirituality

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  • #528422
    Manatee
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    ChrisSunami said:
    Science is by definition limited. By design it only considers occurrences that are replicable. This means that all truly unique events are outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

    In fact, it is the very limitations of science that make it powerful. Therefore, describing science as limited is anything but a misunderstanding. Taking umbrage at that description is the greater misunderstanding.

    I’m tired of people assuming that if you are a person of faith or if you have reservations about science it means you’re speaking out of ignorance. I’ve studied quantum mechanics, evolution and chaos theory –I certainly know as much about those subjects as the vast majority of atheist non-scientists I’ve met.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6URaJ_SfWU

    #528423

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    As for “reason and science-based spirituality,” two pursuits come to mind.

    (1) Using the science of ecology and other fields of knowledge to meet human needs in ways that promote better relations

    (a) among humans;
    (b) among non-humans; and
    (c) between humans and non-humans.

    (2) Using the physical and social sciences and other fields of (dis)provable knowledge to determine how to promote human compassion and empathy and reduce indifference and hate.

    I say “reduce” because I think it’s a mistake to entertain utopian ideas about the evolution of human consciousness. I get utopian responses when I talk with some folk about ‘love,’ along with, at the other extreme, cynical and fatalistic views on human prospects.

    Pursuits (1) and (2) are compatible with the emphasis on compassion found in most, if not all, religions. But the emphasis on ‘proof’ and the open-minded pursuit of truth is a matter of science, whereas the emphasis on belief, irrespective of ‘proof,’ is a key part of religion.

    Science’s allowance for revision makes it more workable for fallible human beings than religion which involves claims of immutability (even though religious institutions are constantly changing according to the historical circumstances–ie the Protestant Reformation and other changes since.)

    The common theme of compassion can unite theists and atheists alike. Religions can unite people of the same or similar faith, but it divides people in so far as religious doctrine is the focus.

    But if the doctrine of your faith is not what ultimately matters, then why continue to call urself a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu or so on ? In other words, (Chris Sunami) how is being a Christian pertinent to realizing your potential for empathy and compassion?

    If we focus on the common human concern for compassion and empathy, we sooner or later get to the point of questioning our particular religion and perhaps even questioning why compassion and empathy require us to have faith in any deity of any religion.

    I humbly suggest what unites human beings is not faith in a deity, but instead it’s our common need for and common recognition of compassion and empathy, as a matter of our collective well-being and survival.

    And when it comes to devising systems of knowledge thru which to more effectively develop our compassion and empathy, ‘science’ is superior to religion in that it upholds the ideal of knowledge being open to revision, subject to experimentation, and measured against apparent ‘results.’ Religion, on the other hand, involves doctrines containing assertions of immutability, along with unprovable, extraordinary claims.

    I respectfully suggest the basis of morality is not belief in, and obedience to a deity that may or may not exist. It is, instead, empathy and compassion, of which our honest and open-minded pursuit of truth is a part. In order for that pursuit to be systematic and verifiable to any and all human beings with functioning rational faculties, spirituality ought to be based in science

    If someone hasn’t already, I suggest terms such as ‘moral science’, ‘science of morality,’ ‘science of spirituality’ or maybe ‘science of love,’ or ‘science of empathy and compassion.’

    #528424
    bjx
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    Sorry if this post is not completely relevant to this thread, I respect TomOver but sometimes have trouble understanding his posts. I think this video is relevant though:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pL5vzIMAhs

    It is shocking in this day and age that so many people still believe in God. After the Newtown shootings, a journalist asked a woman whether the shooting shook her faith in God. Her reply was “No, it actually made her faith in God stronger!”. I guess a nuclear bomb exploding in a populating area would’ve caused her to practically morph into an angel itself.

    I read that the 88% of African-Americans identify themselves as Christians, whereas the least likely to identify themselves as religious were upper-income white people. So basically, blacks are rewarded for their faith by being discriminated against, shat upon, horrible schooling, unequal sentencing, poverty, no access to healthy foods, obesity, etc. while non-believing rich whites have every educational advantage, Whole Foodstuffs, lighter sentencing (if at all), and beautiful MILFs.

    No wonder American missionaries target nations with non-white populations for recruitment. In many parts of Asia, half a bowl of rice will get the typical undereducated & impoverished Asian to attach themselves to the most absurd of causes, whereas developed white countries would laugh these same missionaries out of their borders.

    #528425
    Chris Sunami
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    tdziemia said:
    For me, science + morality = reality. Science explains the material world, sometimes imperfectly, sometimes nearly perfectly. Morality explains the rest (usually more imperfectly than science). No need for god, thank you very much.

    For me, saying you don’t need God if you have morality is like saying you don’t need the sun if you’ve got electricity.

    bjx said: In many parts of Asia, half a bowl of rice will get the typical undereducated & impoverished Asian to attach themselves to the most absurd of causes, whereas developed white countries would laugh these same missionaries out of their borders.

    You may think of this as an enlightened attitude, but to me it sounds an awful lot like ignorance and prejudice.

    Here’s an alternate theory that fits your dataset equally well: Perhaps the material wealth of the developed world has led to widespread spiritual blindness, and/or an idolatry of money so complete that it crowds out all truer forms of worship.

    TomOver said:
    In other words, (Chris Sunami) how is being a Christian pertinent to realizing your potential for empathy and compassion?

    There is a great diversity of religious belief in the world, but since you are asking me directly, I’ll give you my answer: The most important function of religion is to bring us into relationship with God, and nearly all religions do that in one way or another. I am a Christian, however, because Christianity is the religion of the personal relationship with God –the religion that teaches us that God cares about who we are as individuals.

    The relationship with God is an end unto itself. If compassion and empathy grow out of that –and I believe they do –that is a “bonus,” not the goal. (This is not true of Buddhism, but Buddhism, in its purest form, is a non-theistic religion.)

    #528426

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    Chris Sunami said: I’m tired of people assuming that if you are a person of faith or if you have reservations about science it means you’re speaking out of ignorance. I’ve studied quantum mechanics, evolution and chaos theory –I certainly know as much about those subjects as the vast majority of atheist non-scientists I’ve met.

    I am certainly not trying to ascibe any kind of ignorance to people of faith; I’ll try to be more careful how I’m expressing myself. My mother was an extremely intelligent person of deep faith, so such a thought would be alien to me. And yes, good point about science primarily dealing with events/phenomena which are replicable, and having that as a potential limitation (though I’m struggling to think of examples). As for whether morality is possible without belief in god, what about a person who tries to live their life according to the example of a man like Jesus, but without believing in god? Is this person doomed to pursuing an imperfect morality? That doesn’t make sense to me.

    #528427
    Chris Sunami
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    @tzdiemia Sorry if I jumped down your throat, been tired and a bit snappy recently.

    My larger point about science is that it’s intrinsically about limits –you stick only to what you have clear, replicable empirical evidence for. In practice, that cuts out a huge swath of human experience, even if, in theory, science could eventually encompass a lot of that territory.

    As far as morality, to unpack my metaphor a bit: If you have electricity, you’ll have light even at night, or indoors, or when it’s cloudy. So it might seem as if you can do without the sun. But in reality, without the sun, the entire Earth would be a cold dead dark planet.

    You can do perfectly well with an elaborated system of morality, without reference to religion, for a extended period of time. But ultimately, it all rests on God, in a metaphysical sense.

    #528428

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    ChrisSunami said:

    For me, saying you don’t need God if you have morality is like saying you don’t need the sun if you’ve got electricity.

    But why does it have to be a Christian God ? Even if we accept the idea that there is no morality (or anything else for that matter) without God, does that necessarily validate the doctrines that distinguish one religion or sect from another?

    In other words, if we accept, as some suggest, that God is love, that still does not explain the necessity of the doctrines of the world’s major religions, whether it involves ideas of reincarnation, heaven, hell, virgin births, resurrections, and so forth.

    You may think of this as an enlightened attitude, but to me it sounds an awful lot like ignorance and prejudice.

    I relate to you on this one, Chris. Thanks for you support bjx, but parts of your post seem cynical and coarse. But thanks bjx for telling me my writing is bad.

    Here’s an alternate theory that fits your dataset equally well: Perhaps the material wealth of the developed world has led to widespread spiritual blindness, and/or an idolatry of money so complete that it crowds out all truer forms of worship.

    Perhaps. This seems related to how much of organized Christianity in the US is tangled up in materialism and exhibits a might makes right mentality in terms of the abuse of political and economic power.

    As someone who prays ‘experimentally,’ I’d like to work with Christians fighting against injustices as they perhaps tap into a Liberation Theology ethos. We can have discussions such as these when we’re not working on building solidarity with the oppressed.

    The most important function of religion is to bring us into relationship with God, …the relationship with God is an end unto itself. If compassion and empathy grow out of that –and I believe they do –that is a “bonus,” not the goal.

    Thanks for your openness, Chris. This is exactly what I have a problem with, when it comes to religion. For me, my approach is the opposite of yours: compassion and empathy or altruistic love is the basis of morality, whereby I have a ‘relationship with God’ only if doing so genuinely fosters that pursuit. And that’s why I posted about An Experimental Prayer: to keep all options open for doing all I can to love, that is, doing my best to help make the world a place of less suffering and more well-being.

    What you say about the relationship with God being an end in itself reminds me that it’s not only organized religion that seems problematic. Actually, it’s any mentality whereby we dilute our focus on the issue of suffering and well-being as it pertains to this world, (the world we know exists) by turning our attention to a realm of being we merely believe exists.

    Some of those who burned people at the stake didn’t do so for veiled political reasons, but, instead, seemed to have thought they were doing the heretic a favor. They may even have thought the unspeakable torture they were causing to another human being to have been an act of love : better to suffer the agony of burning at the stake than to burn for eternity in hell.

    Of course, people have committed atrocities in the name of science and in the name of secular notions of ‘progress.’ But that is less likely to happen with the combination of two things: a detailed understanding of how to put love into practice, and a sense of what is good and bad that is based on the world we know exists, not the hereafter which may not exist.

    Why not put spirituality—- that is, our process for getting to our deepest sense of meaning—- under the rational scrutiny of science? We’ve applied that scrutiny to so many other parts of the human condition.

    When it comes to regarding ourselves as ‘educated’ and ‘modern,’ we tend to give reason and science more credence than mythology and superstition, when it comes to things such as sexuality, child-rearing, nutrition, evolutionary biology, geologic history–you name it. Why should our ways of getting our highest sense of purpose be anything other than scientific?

    #528429

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    ChrisSunami said:

    You can do perfectly well with an elaborated system of morality, without reference to religion, for a extended period of time. But ultimately, it all rests on God, in a metaphysical sense.

    Even if we assume that the operation of the universe necessarily means there is a divine consciousness willing it all into being, how do you, Chris, know the human mind can even begin to comprehend it via Christianity, which is your professed faith, or via, for that matter, whatever ideas of God we might conceive?

    You believe, as a person of faith, God is all-knowing and all-powerful. But are you ? How do you know you are not mistaken about your belief in the divinity of Christ and your belief in heaven and hell ?

    Does the fact that more than 2 billion fallible human beings call themselves Christians necessarily make their beliefs true ? I suggest: Christ was neither a lunatic nor a liar; he was, like other extraordinary and well-intentioned humans before and since, honestly mistaken.

    I’m open to the possibility of being wrong about my current disbelief in God. Are you open to being wrong about your belief in God ?
    Your likely answer speaks to the problem I have with religion : putting belief and obedience over the honest pursuit of truth. A scientist’s theories may be mistaken, but no one credibly claims, for example, that Einstein was infallible, or that no parts of his theories can be questioned.

    #528430
    Chris Sunami
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    Contradictory doctrines exist because our understanding of God is necessarily imperfect. Part of what we have to understand about many religious ideas is that they functioned differently in their original context. Human societies have greatly changed, and even assuming God has not changed, it means that much of what was once valid religion is no longer valuable for many people as a vehicle through which God can be perceived.

    Why should our ways of getting our highest sense of purpose be anything other than scientific?

    Human beings lived successfully, and by many indications happily for hundreds of thousands of years with only rudimentary science and technology.

    On the other hand, only a few thousand years into the historical era, modern science and technology –which we often devote to finding new ways of killing each other –have wrecked our environment to the point that the entire future survival of the species is beginning to look dim. That’s one possible answer to your question.

    #528431

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    ChrisSunami said:

    Contradictory doctrines exist because our understanding of God is necessarily imperfect.

    So then, are you willing to pray alongside a Muslim, Hindu, or Jew or participate in worship rituals with believers in other types of religion ?

    Part of what we have to understand about many religious ideas is that they functioned differently in their original context.

    So then, are the Old and New Testaments books from which to draw inspiration but not sources of immutable rules wholly applicable to modern society?

    Human societies have greatly changed, and even assuming God has not changed, it means that much of what was once valid religion is no longer valuable for many people as a vehicle through which God can be perceived.

    This comes across as you offering a gesture of understanding to someone, such as me, who does not share your faith. Thanks. Instead of perceiving God, for me it’s a matter of getting more in touch with a sense of higher purpose based on my concern for others.

    Your quote above calls to mind that parts of the New Testament were written quite some time after the crucifixion of Christ, and that political and other considerations may have distorted how Christ is depicted in those writings.

    (Tom Over )Why should our ways of getting our highest sense of purpose be anything other than scientific?

    (Chris Sunami) Human beings lived successfully, and by many indications happily for hundreds of thousands of years with only rudimentary science and technology.

    (Tom Over) I’m using ‘science’ in the broad sense to denote the activity of using both our rational and intuitive faculties to discover and make use of causal relationships.

    (Chris Sunami) On the other hand, only a few thousand years into the historical era, modern science and technology –which we often devote to finding new ways of killing each other –have wrecked our environment to the point that the entire future survival of the species is beginning to look dim. That’s one possible answer to your question.

    (Tom Over) Chris, it’s thru the systematic application of causal reasoning, thru science, that humankind has recognized the damage we’re doing to the habitability of Earth. Discarding modern science in some romanticized attempt to emulate prehistoric humans is not our best way to address our eco-crises. You talk like an anarcho-primitivist. Perhaps some of those folk consider themselves ‘Christian anarchists,’ somehow.

    Human ingenuity is our best, if not only, tool for making the most of our chances of continued survival and quality of life as a species. But, if I may use a metaphor, necessity being the mother of invention, I suspect human ingenuity may in the future express itself in less Earth-damaging ways.

    Necessity may also mother new forms of spirituality whereby we have a far greater sense of our connection to the rest of the ecosystem than we do via current forms of spirituality. If there is a human future, it may involve a spiritual focus on taking care of the planet that sustains us.

    We might nurture and maintain that awareness via systems of knowledge which we organize with science in a world of dis(provable) phenomena. That future spirituality might involve not investing ourselves, cognitively nor emotionally, into ideas pertaining to a non-material world of non-material beings such as gods, devils, and souls.

    #528432

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    Manatee said:

    P.P.P.S.– I can’t help but feel that spending great deals of time debating religion or science is really just a great way to get out of doing an honest day’s work– which I have just indulged in right now! …Or perhaps its my inner Calvinist, he has this phrase about “idle hands”…

    But seriously, this is a matter of further developing our morality in collaboration with others, so as to move forward, doing many sorts of honest work or what Buddhists call ‘right livelihood.’

    Move on and away from this talk if you prefer. But to me our spiritual beliefs are relevant to how we live our lives.

    #528433

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    @ Chris Sunami: to what degree could having a relationship with God, on the one hand, be one in the same as, on the other hand, having compassion and love as one’s highest ethic ?

    As you say, the latter seems (to you and many other faithful folk) to flow from the former. But perhaps at least some people’s spirituality may be such that the two are inextricable, with neither being more important than the other ?

    #528434

    tdziemia
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    Chris Sunami said:
    On the other hand, only a few thousand years into the historical era, modern science and technology –which we often devote to finding new ways of killing each other –have wrecked our environment to the point that the entire future survival of the species is beginning to look dim. That’s one possible answer to your question

    Yikes!!! I certainly do not see it that way. Rather, I would say “short sighted humans intent only on their immediate gratification, and not on any kind of stewardship have used technology to satisfy their desires with little regard for their fellow humans now or in the future.”
    To me, IT IS A MORALITY ISSUE. Because on the one hand, humans have taken nuclear technology, and used it to develop a clean, safe energy industry that reduces pollution and improves the quality of life, and to develop medical diagnostics and therapies that save thousands of lives of each year. But on the other, they have taken the same scientific principles and used them to create weapons that have killed hundreds of thousands of people.
    It is not the science or technology that is good or bad; it is the human intentions, actions, and their subsequent results, and to me this is morality (let us not forget, it was Christians who decided to drop those two atomic bombs on non-Christians, thereby ushering in the age of nuclear weapons!)

    #528435

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    And, as for the future survival of the species, well, science has no particular issue with that, as species are evolving and dying off all the time, and there is nothing special about ours, I suppose. Dinosaurs were once at the top of the food chain, and look what happened to them. What would religion think of our species dying out? Would that be seen as a punishment from god for our behavior? Would god be expected to re-make a new species like ours?

    I’m not being disingenuous. I can imagine this gets some discussion in religious/philosophical circles, but I’ve not red about these specific thoughts.

    ronically, it would prove that intelligence is of limited utility to the survival of species, which is a pretty neat thought … (though I’m not sure who will be around to purse the implications of that thought).

    #528436
    Chris Sunami
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    TomOver: I’m open to the possibility of being wrong about my current disbelief in God. Are you open to being wrong about your belief in God ?

    No, I’m all in on God for this lifetime.

    So then, are you willing to pray alongside a Muslim, Hindu, or Jew or participate in worship rituals with believers in other types of religion ?

    I’ve often prayed with believers of other faiths. I wouldn’t take part in any ritual that conflicted with my core beliefs, but there’s a lot of common ground between the Abrahamic religions at least (Muslim, Christian, Jew).

    So then, are the Old and New Testaments books from which to draw inspiration but not sources of immutable rules wholly applicable to modern society?

    Although many churches don’t publicize the fact, the New Covenant upon which Christianity is founded on is an explicit shift away from the legalism of the Old Testament. Christianity is not a rule-based religion.

    This comes across as you offering a gesture of understanding to someone, such as me, who does not share your faith.

    No it was intended as an honest statement of my beliefs as I currently can best express them.

    to what degree could having a relationship with God, on the one hand, be one in the same as, on the other hand, having compassion and love as one’s highest ethic

    It sounds very Platonic, and I’m a big fan of Plato. Are you also willing to accept his contention that what we perceive as reality is only a pale shadow of the infinite and the eternal?

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