for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Discuss arguments for existence of God and faith in general. Any aspect of any orientation toward religion/spirituality, as long as it is based upon a positive open to other people attitude.

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for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by Metacrock » Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:34 pm

as you may recall I have an argument from religious instinct. I haven't argued it in years. It's just been sitting around gathering pixels (pixelized dust?). but the other day an atheist who posts on carm saw it and put up a post attacking it.

The reason I put it up in the first place, long long ago, was because it really turns on something that I was told as a young sociology major that a good social scientist would not be caught dead believing. I thought I had good answers for them and it amused me to commit a "sociological sin" like that.

But these athesits wer mocking as though I'm just stupid to know anything about social sciences. I guess that's what I get for flaunting my heresy against the spirit of Talcot Pasons.

But I want to ask you this. the specific ideas aren't so important. one of the proofs I use of a religious instinct is Jungian ache types. Because Maslow says they are found in all psychological studies, and he felt they actually proved the supernatural, and he was an atheist!

Its not important that the arche types be proven but I argue that religion is normative for humanity so it can't be irrational or pathological, although one can have an irratioanl or patholgocial religion. the thing itself is not negative or incorrect in and of itself, becasue we are fit for it, it's part of who we are as a specieis.

my arguement is simple, we fit religion

(1) God moduel in the brain
(2) univeral cuturally.
(3) archetypes universal to all cultures.

I argued that concepts of God require cultural constructs. if they are universal it is impossible that all cultures would have the same construct just by accident. or if not impossible at least damned unlikely.

something that is a cultural construct (requiring language and sophisticated ideas and symbolic nature) can't be genetic, if it is universal this can't be just an accident and thus is remarkable.

that's the question, what do you think? am I full of it on that? am I in the ball park?
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by tinythinker » Sun Mar 16, 2008 2:43 pm

Metacrock wrote:But I want to ask you this. the specific ideas aren't so important. one of the proofs I use of a religious instinct is Jungian ache types. Because Maslow says they are found in all psychological studies, and he felt they actually proved the supernatural, and he was an atheist!
I do not specialize in this area, but from what I understand it is not unreasonable to suggest that comparative religion and cultural anthropology can be used to support the idea that there are common themes and relationships that are embodied in symbolic forms in each "culture" or "cultural system". These symbols reflect generally shared stories and meanings which are then passed on and reinforced or reinterpreted from one generation to the next. There are frequently noted similarities between symbols or between stories of different cultures that are not though to come from a common (even if distantly remote) shared history or diffusion. Sometimes these similarities are very superficial, such as two cultures using a particular shape or image. Other times the similarities can appear to be profound, which is to say, that deep down they seem to be re-telling a common mythical form, or as Jung referred to them, an archetype. It is also true that we each have our own frame for understanding our experiences and the reported experiences of others, a way in which we construct and amend our individual maps of "reality". And sharing the same stories and symbols, i.e. the same cultural "text", suggests we share substantial portions of this frame and/or of our maps. To what degree the apparent similarities reflect our interpretations of the symbols and stories of others based on our own frame and map (i.e. ethnocentrism) and to what degree these similarities reflect similar evolved behaviors and the same needs as members of our species (and commonalities in how we perceive reality and encode our maps) is an interesting issue. To claim that the social and behavioral sciences have made any conclusive and sweeping refutation of any useful of Jungian thought at this level of analysis strikes me as either ignorance or limiting oneself to a very narrow selection of scholarship and a more narrow form of interpreting that scholarship. This level of analysis neither "proves" nor "disproves" the supernatural (which, as you know, I am personally disinclined to accept).





Metacrock wrote:Its not important that the arche types be proven but I argue that religion is normative for humanity so it can't be irrational or pathological, although one can have an irratioanl or patholgocial religion. the thing itself is not negative or incorrect in and of itself, becasue we are fit for it, it's part of who we are as a specieis.
I would say that it seems perfectly normative for people to be religious. That of course begs the question of what it means to be religious. There are several definitions that I like, but to be consistent with my answer above, I suggest it involves the priorities we use in framing and mapping our reality and in particular how we understand the meaning of existence and our place within it. This often includes shared stories and symbols about our distant origin and what a complete and well-lived human experience entails. This is frequently associated with the various transitions recognized throughout life - common transitions include birth, becoming an adult, marriage and/or becoming a parent, and death). It can also point to other aspects of what it means to live a full and proper life, including an orientation towards something beyond our own ego/superego, which may include a system of socially conscious ethics or the production of and participation in (sacred) art and music, to name a couple of common examples. Even the tendency towards magical and superstitious thinking, which may play major or minor roles in such framings and mappings of reality, seems to be a fundamental aspect of human psychology. And as a part of a cultural system, there is rich source of symbolism reflecting generally shared stories and meanings which are then passed on and reinforced or reinterpreted from one generation to the next. The thing to keep in mind is that the idea of "religion" as a distinct part of our maps of reality (or even as a separate map) is not the normal human condition. It is, as you are aware, a Western concept rooted in the Enlightenment. Speaking from my own personal thoughts and speculations, I would say that "religion" (without such separation and distinction and as I have defined it here) is the original foundation of/reflection of our ancestors' maps of reality. To say it is "normative" to our species would almost be an understatement.





Metacrock wrote:my arguement is simple, we fit religion

(1) God moduel in the brain
The God module in the brain has recently been challenged by new research, but even without that challenge, there is nothing that says that such a "module" couldn't be a part of the inherited biology of all human beings from a common ancestor with that same trait. Besides, this makes the presumption that God=religion or that religion must include God. Even if one accepted that premise, I don't think such research can demonstrate the reality of God. The "light/perception" analogy demonstrates why I believe this.

To reiterate my perspective, essentially everything of which we are aware stems from our own direct experience. We then construct mental "maps" based on our own explanation-forming mental processes as well as from sharing and borrowing the explanations of others that we know and trust. These maps form the basis for what we call "reality", and when we believe that there is one true reality that can be known, we tend to refer to this as "objective reality". It is somewhat ironic then that our belief in and assumptions about an "objective reality" come from a consensus of subjective experiences about what is real! Hence even claims of "objectivity" are still extremely subjective. And when we go beyond the individual level, it can get more complicated when many people share large portions or overviews of their mental maps of reality. We tend to trust our maps based not only on our own interpretations of our experiences but because others claim to see things the same way.

A blind person might not have "light" on their map of reality, and hence the experience of light, which occurs in the perception known as "sight", would be some kind of false experience of reality (i.e. hallucination, delusion, etc). Furthermore, this blind person might suggest that based on brain scans of people claiming to "see", there consistently is a certain kind of activity in a particular region of the brain. Not allowing for light on her map of reality, this blind individual assumes that this brain activity must be giving a false sensation and a false perception, i.e., that "sight" and belief in "light" is just in your head and not objectively real. If we substitute "the Divine" or "God" for "light" and "mystical experience/samadhi" for "sight", then we can see why this analogy is apt. It corresponds to the work you implicitly refer to that has been done to try to show that when Buddhist monks, Christian nuns, and other contemplatives are in deep prayer and meditation, a similar reaction occurs in their brains. On the surface, the shared experience and its physical correlation do not "prove" or "disprove" the "objective" nature of mystical encounters. This of course is just as much of a problem for someone wanting to disprove the reality of the Divine as it is for someone trying to "prove" it.

These experiences are reportedly "noetic", which would suggest that their reality can only be confirmed by experiencing them first-hand. However, I do recall recently reading passage and corresponding footnote in The Good We Never Knew by Marcus Borg in which people who study visions, shamanic encounters, and other phenomena do distinguish (as do many people in these non-industrialized cultures) between hallucinations (in which reality is simply confused and distorted) and visions (in which there a different aspect of reality is said to be experienced). [I haven't read it yet, but I do believe there is a book with a title like "Cosmic Serpent" which deals with the question of whether such shamanic experiences are just hallucinations by examining the anthropological investigation of a group living in the Amazon.] I would say that direct experience of the Divine is the best argument for its reality. Ironically, such experiences, from what I have read, point to the reality beyond our maps, beyond our concepts and categories. In other words, from various accounts God/the Divine is experienced as a depth to reality that goes beyond our normal "frame" of understanding and which cannot (at least not accurately) be "placed" on our maps. In fact, allowing for a greater fluidity of our reality and flexibility of our maps would seem to be pre-requisite for having a such a deep spiritual revelation (and would be a part of it). Hence, to borrow an old and well-used image but very appropriate image (also used in that Borg book and by a Buddhist monk I know), it is like a sphere passing through Flatland.






Metacrock wrote:(2) univeral cuturally.
(3) archetypes universal to all cultures.

I argued that concepts of God require cultural constructs. if they are universal it is impossible that all cultures would have the same construct just by accident. or if not impossible at least damned unlikely.

something that is a cultural construct (requiring language and sophisticated ideas and symbolic nature) can't be genetic, if it is universal this can't be just an accident and thus is remarkable.

that's the question, what do you think? am I full of it on that? am I in the ball park?
It would not have to be by accident. The commonality of our basic biology, including our psychology and organs of perception, as well as similar needs and problems in relation to our environment could lead to the replication of similar familial, social, subsistence, and settlement patterns. Similar experiences played out with similar bodies psychology could lead to symbols and stories which share both superficial and substantial elements. Again, I don't think this can be argued conclusively either as a "for" or "against" the idea of God. I would also suggest that it is unnecessary and may confuse the issue. The Panentheistic model, especially from the perspective of Tillich, suggests God does not exist, God is existence. Hence this argument and (some of the) others I have seen seem to be violate this notion of God and reintroduce the God of Supernatural Theism - a God which is an object or phenomenon alongside other objects or phenomena, even if in a "class by itself".
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by Metacrock » Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:43 pm

how can you get the concept of God into your genes? those who try to give that answer in the scientific community will say it was a survive mechanism to pull together, ,then why doesn't talk of pulling togther have the same reaction as talk of God? It's obviously the actual concept that's in there.
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by tinythinker » Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:00 pm

Metacrock wrote:how can you get the concept of God into your genes?
You don't get anything "into" your genes. This is an unfortunate way of thinking that many evolutionary biologists recognize as a fallacy, yet when discussing "how things evolve", the hyper-adaptationists will discuss it that way regardless. At the birth of genetics in 1900 when Mendel was rediscovered (and his work then expanded to include animals as well as plants), people only knew that some features were inherited and "more or less" resembled a very similar feature in a parent or grandparent. Because Mendel was focused on discontinuous variation via discrete particles, it was easy to think of each particle as being related to a feature and bearing some factor or set of factors that would correlate to a particular variety of that feature. It was soon discovered and has since become common knowledge that this view is far too simplistic - there is not such thing as "one gene for one trait" or even "a suite of related genes for one trait". Yet still today, people will talk about finding the "gene for" this or the "genes for" that. In reality, what they are referring to are genetic components that are necessary for the the trait to (properly) develop or to develop in a particular fashion within the overall context of development within that kind of organism. Hence, one can view genes as placeholders that ensure that the cycle of ontogeny (reproduction, development/maturation, reproduction, development/maturation, reproduction...) is properly regulated and that various nested epicycles of biochemical processes are maintained and transformed as part of the continuation of that lineage.

This fundamental perspective is important because it means that genes help to perpetuate and guide this collection of biochemical epicycles that, in the growth and maturation phase, produce what we call the phenotype. That is, the observable aspects of our being (anatomy, physiology, behavior, etc). But "genes" are more like a recipe than a blueprint. If you blend certain ingredients at different times under different circumstance (in a small pot on medium, in a bowl with a whisk) and then combine those elements a particular way under still other conditions (layered in a casserole dish and placed in an oven at 350 degrees for an hour), the physical properties of the ingredients and the manipulation of them by the chef will more or less give you the same outcome. But as an experienced cook knows, it's never exactly the same twice, even if you use the same equipment, recipe, etc and obtain your ingredients from the same source. In a similar fashion, species/subspecies are a reflection of getting "more or less" the same results from highly similar recipes and using the same or very similar cookware and ingredients.

But as for the outcome itself, we don't have nearly all the answers as to why the physical properties of our own ingredients produce the outcomes that they do. We can observe the process to some degree and manipulate it, and we can look at how these proteins come together in this or that way to build larger molecules or tissues, but the question of why those larger molecules, tissues, and organs then exhibit novel qualities isn't always clear. Those who favor the concept of emergence suggest that some new levels of organization are marked by the appearance of new qualities and properties. Those who favor strict reductionism believe we just don't have enough data or properly sophistcated mathematical formulas to show that emergence is just an illusion. Others may believe there are unknown qualities or forces involved, although this concept, along with its more popular manifestations such as elan vitale, have been out of vogue in biology for nearly 70 years.

So we can also go the other way. Somehow, humans inherit the need and capacity to be social and to build and rely on social relationships. We inherit the capacity to be imaginative, and, along with our capacity to produce a very wide range of vocalizations, we are well-suited for complex verbal and nonverbal communication in the form of language. And, we seem to inherit a capacity and need to develop and use language and to employ it in our socialization. Even though some areas of the brain are more or less strongly associated with these and other capacities and tendencies, again, they only appear to work in the context of the whole brain. But because of an apparent spatial segregation of the brain by "task", this lends itself to the idea that each of them are indendently controlled by some gene or suite of genes "for" each task. Even if that were true, we still have no idea how all the primary cognitive elements derive from neurons and then into more and more and more complex and interrelated elements that ultimate produce our subjective experience(s).

However, since these aspects of neurology and behavior do arise again and again in the members of our species, the assumption is that they must be part of our inherited biology. And as such, (especially) if one conflates evolution as synonymous with adaptation, then such seemingly complex and useful traits must have come by increasing the inclusive fitness of our ancestors by virtue of possessing those traits. Hence the discussion of "how God gets into genes" becomes a discussion of "How can genes produce organisms with a capacity to conceive of something like God?" and "How do organisms with such a capacity to conceive of something like God increase their inclusive fitness?" Again, it gets back to the way of that there is a "gene for" this or that, in this case, a gene or suite of genes for the capacity to have ("imaginative") experiences of the numinous and then the capacity to interpret this experience as a (personified) Greater Being or Creator. This last bit, of course, does not imply on an Abrahamic view of "God" but would include cultural frames that do not have that kind of referent.

Of course, one could also suggest, as per my previous analogy in the last post, that if (bare, inorganic) Awareness were a fundamental aspect of existence along with Matter and Energy, then just as many organisms developed eyes to "see" light that some also developed part of their brain to perceive awareness, which in limited and self-reflexive form would be "consciousness". While this is not a supernatural explanation, ironically I don't think that it would be seen as a viable scientific idea to pursue. Not because it isn't possible and not because it has no experimental support (there are physicists who have suggested that "awareness" may be an aspect of the universe), but because it doesn't fit the prevailing ultra-reductionist paradigm. Because it may sound too similar to ideas, such as noetic experience, which are associated with spirituality and religion. I have no idea if this model will ever be taken seriously or if it would pan out, but I think it is the kind of thing that is the basis for revolutions in science. An imaginative new way of seeing something that defies convention.


Metacrock wrote:those who try to give that answer in the scientific community will say it was a survive mechanism to pull together, ,then why doesn't talk of pulling togther have the same reaction as talk of God? It's obviously the actual concept that's in there.
Because "pulling together" makes Darwinian sense, and talking about God as an erroneous or unprovable idea which facilitates social cohesion allows one to talk about the benefit of believing in God. Hence either biologically through genes or socially through memes, this perspective allows you to treat belief in God/experiences of God as a genetic trait like having blue eyes or a memetic trait like being a Republican. What matters in that perspective is how such traits persist, mutate, or disappear. They have no inherent value in and of themselves.
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by Metacrock » Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:14 pm

because "pulling together" makes Darwinian sense, and talking about God as an erroneous or unprovable idea which facilitates social cohesion allows one to talk about the benefit of believing in God. Hence either biologically through genes or socially through memes, this perspective allows you to treat belief in God/experiences of God as a genetic trait like having blue eyes or a memetic trait like being a Republican. What matters in that perspective is how such traits persist, mutate, or disappear. They have no inherent value in and of themselves.
I understand evolutionary theory. I understand we don't have genes for piano playing. But you have not explained how it is that the blood flows to certain centers when we think of God, hear peple talk about God, or pray; it doesn't do that with ohter things. we can talk about cars all night it wont behave the way it does when we talk about God.


It doesn't make sense that some behavior is said to be hertiable because all the guys that did behavior X survived since it helped us survive, but then behavior x is truend into something, belief y. now the brain ony reacts to belief y and not to behavior x. But the reason given is that belief y is the result of x. that does not make sense becuase it seems the brain should react to the behavior which produces the belief.


Look at it this way. You have people banding together to make religion because it helps us in certain ways. So the people who have genes that allow them to do that behavior survive and thus their genes survive. But their genes can't know that religion is undertaken as a way fo organizing these things that help us survive. So it looks like the heritable traits would be the things that made religion, (supposedly) not religion itself, which is too culturally specific to have a part of the brain that reacts to it. see what I mean?

am I just being stupid, or is there an idea there?

Here's another thing I want to pick your brain over; origin of religion. I find that atheists are still hung up on the structural functionalists approach, even though most of them dont' have a clue in hell that that's what it is. they think religion was invented to expalin things like why it rains and stuff. But in advanced field that study religion, I've seen people like Huston Smith say this is the old hat nineteenth century approach of August Compt or Charles Summner or someone. Its' outdated and modern social scientists understand it as the sense of the numinous. now is that true, or is that only in fields like comparative religion and religious studies and religious psychology?


finally do you still use the self description "atheist?" why?
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by tinythinker » Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:35 pm

Metacrock wrote:
because "pulling together" makes Darwinian sense, and talking about God as an erroneous or unprovable idea which facilitates social cohesion allows one to talk about the benefit of believing in God. Hence either biologically through genes or socially through memes, this perspective allows you to treat belief in God/experiences of God as a genetic trait like having blue eyes or a memetic trait like being a Republican. What matters in that perspective is how such traits persist, mutate, or disappear. They have no inherent value in and of themselves.
I understand evolutionary theory. I understand we don't have genes for piano playing.
I gave my intro to be up front about my own perspective within the umbrella of competing paradigms and approaches within evolutionary biology, not because I thought you were ignorant of evolutionary theory.



Metacrock wrote:But you have not explained how it is that the blood flows to certain centers when we think of God, hear peple talk about God, or pray; it doesn't do that with ohter things. we can talk about cars all night it wont behave the way it does when we talk about God.
That would not involve discussion of evolution per se. It would involve comparative and experimental neorology and psychology. That is, trying to "map out" what happens in the brain when people have certain experiences. Is there a common pattern or typical acitivity in the brain? In which areas and for how long? Is there a correlation between these areas and other activities and experiences? This is the work you mentioned previously where people have tried to identify a "God spot" in the brain (an idea which other researchers have challenged). As I wrote before, we don't have nearly all the answers as to why the physical properties of our own developmental resources (including our genes) produce the outcomes that they do. People do study the growth and development of the brain, and that is going in one direction. But there is no clear and complete map of "...and this is how these groups of neurons comes together in this particular way to form a higher order 'circuit', and this is how aspects of this group of circuits' acitivities lead to this level of organization in a heuristic pathway, and how that leads to the basis of a particular form of experience, and this is how the organic basis of such experience forms a basic type of awareness of the individual, and then this how a configuration of the brain producing such awareness is altered to allow a particular kind of awareness..." Instead we have bits and pieces and ocassionaly chunks of this picture of development (as well as function in the final mature form), and the closer we get to ideas like "awareness" and "consciousness", the less clear data we have and the more inference we rely on. Which is to say, we go in the "other direction" on the hierarchy of complexity and development. That is why I said before, we still have no idea how all the primary cognitive elements derive from neurons and then into more and more and more complex and interrelated elements that ultimate produce our subjective experience(s).



Metacrock wrote:It doesn't make sense that some behavior is said to be hertiable because all the guys that did behavior X survived since it helped us survive...
I know you are making a larger point, but just to be clear for any interested third party, I didn't say something is heritable because it is useful. Many useful things are not heritable in the biological sense. I said that some aspects of our cognitive ability are reproduced when our brains are reprpduced. That is, pathological cases excepted, all humans are born with large brains and they develop in such a way as to both permit and require the use of language. That's just one example, but the point is that it is there whether one thinks it is useful or not, whether one feels it is adaptive or that it is an adaptation or not. If two people have a baby, that baby is going to have a brain that both permits and requires that the child attempt to relate to the world in an abstract, symbolic way.



Metacrock wrote:but then behavior x is truend into something, belief y. now the brain ony reacts to belief y and not to behavior x. But the reason given is that belief y is the result of x. that does not make sense becuase it seems the brain should react to the behavior which produces the belief...

Look at it this way. You have people banding together to make religion because it helps us in certain ways. So the people who have genes that allow them to do that behavior survive and thus their genes survive. But their genes can't know that religion is undertaken as a way fo organizing these things that help us survive. So it looks like the heritable traits would be the things that made religion, (supposedly) not religion itself, which is too culturally specific to have a part of the brain that reacts to it. see what I mean?
Yes, and that is what I am discussing. That is why I referred to your concern about "how God gets into genes" being rephrased as a discussion of "How can genes produce organisms with a capacity to conceive of something like God?" In that case you would need an organism capable of "conceiving" of anything in a reflexive and imaginative way. Or alternatively one could ask, "How can genes produce an experience that we might associate with God?" In that instance, one could refer to Dean Hamer's controversial assertion about the "God gene":

________________________________________________________________________________________________
According to this hypothesis, the God gene (VMAT2), is not an encoding for the belief in God itself but a physiological arrangement that produces the sensations associated, by some, with the presence of God or other mystic experiences, or more specifically spirituality as a state of mind.

Simply put, the gene is involved in the breakdown of monoamines, a class of neurotransmitters which contribute to an individuals emotional sensitivity. The loose interpretation is that monoamines correlate with a personality trait called self-transcendence. Composed of three sub-sets, self-transcendence is composed of "self-forgetfulness" (as in the tendency to become totally absorbed in some activity, such as reading); "transpersonal identification" (a feeling of connectedness to a larger universe); and "mysticism" (an openness to believe things not literally provable, such as ESP). Put them all together, and you come as close as science can to measuring what it feels like to be spiritual. This allows us to have the kind of experience described as religious ecstasy.

What evolutionary advantage this may convey, or what advantageous effect it is a side effect of, are questions that are yet to be fully explored. However, Dr. Hamer has theorized that self-transcendence makes people more optimistic, which makes them healthier and likely to have more children.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

FYI, Hamer has been criticized by theists and atheists for various reasons - reducing spirituality to a sensation, how he operationalized his terms and how he gathered and analyzed his data (as well a how he has interpreted his data), etc etc. I am not trying to advocate or denigrate his work, but I think it is kind of along the lines of what we are discussing.



Metacrock wrote:am I just being stupid, or is there an idea there?
I think you are right on target in your thinking about how something would emerge biologically. Even for some the basic capacities for thought and the like, there isn't a "gene for" them. It is that the genes and other developmental agents help to recreate the conditions which leads to particular outcomes. Because of the interaction with other developing features and the external environment, certain basic traits are more or less stably replicated in each generation. But the more specific and complex the outcome, the more difficult it becomes to replicate biologically. In terms of pondering the oirigin of things like cultural archetypes and the like, I start with the assumption of imaginative beings with a capacity for reason, abstract thought, language, and a need to be social. In other words, those are my generic "biological building blocks" for more sophisticated human behavior. This is not to say we don't have other biologically derived behavioral tendencies and capacities which may be relevant to discussing particular activities, but rather that those basics are very versatile and have a great deal of expalantory power. And that leads to my recent discussion of these things: The commonality of our basic biology, including our psychology and organs of perception [the building blocks], as well as similar needs and problems in relation to our environment [factors interacting with those basics] could lead to the replication of similar familial, social, subsistence, and settlement patterns. [These] similar experiences played out with similar bodies and psychology could lead to symbols and stories which share both superficial and substantial elements. Hence you seem to be saying something that is virtually identical: [T]he heritable traits would be the things that made religion, (supposedly) not religion itself, which is too culturally specific to have a part of the brain that reacts to it.



Metacrock wrote:Here's another thing I want to pick your brain over; origin of religion. I find that atheists are still hung up on the structural functionalists approach, even though most of them dont' have a clue in hell that that's what it is. they think religion was invented to expalin things like why it rains and stuff.
Yes, well, that model suits (some of) them, doesn't it? But religion is a big tent where people put everything, and then they can't figure out why it doesn't all make sense as a big jumbled mess. We have to be very specific about what we mean when we discuss religion. For example, from a Western perspective, superstition can be viewed a way people gain a feeling of control over that which they cannot control, of knowing what they cannot know. Magic, the engine of supersition, can then be presumed to be an incorrect or unsubstantiated attribution of causality. What you are describing your complaint is "religion as supersition and magic". Similarly, we can define the supernatural as the hidden or occult realm of supersition and magic where the unseen forces at work operate, and we can describe the supernatural as a set of ontological category violations which provoke a sense of mystery (see Pascal Boyer's theory of religion, which he conflates with supernaturalism). But again, that is just one set of human experiences which are tied together. In fact, it is typical for us to simply label any beliefs or activities involving such themes as "religion". I have previously given my own preferred definition of religion, which does not require any of these elements (although they are often associated with religion because magic and the supernatural are generally presumed to be a part of the reality which religion is ordering).



Metacrock wrote:But in advanced field that study religion, I've seen people like Huston Smith say this is the old hat nineteenth century approach of August Compt or Charles Summner or someone. Its' outdated and modern social scientists understand it as the sense of the numinous. now is that true, or is that only in fields like comparative religion and religious studies and religious psychology?
It depends on the social or behavioral scientist. For example, a recent textbook I used in a course last semester says this toward the beginning of a chapter on Religion, Worldview, and Art:

"Most definitions that are currently in use do seem to agree that religion is a worldview in which people personify cosmic forces and devise ways to deal with them that resemble the ways they deal with powerful human beings in their society."

But this is an attempt to produce a broad generalization, which the authors note is problematic, and I think that people who specifically focus on religion in anthropology and sociology have more of variety of persective deal with "religion" in a more culturally contextualized way.



Metacrock wrote:finally do you still use the self description "atheist?" why?
To quote from my blog in an entry made on May 27th of last year...

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I also consider my position to be post-theism. That is, I do not require nor arbitrarily reject God language. The closest thing to established Western views of God I hold are akin to Tillich's object of ultimate concern, or what some may refer to as apophatic mysticism. In Eastern terms the closest references are non-personified and found in expressions such as Tao or Shunyata. So as far as some Super Creator from a particular human-made mythology - no, I do not believe in that. But neither do I embrace scientism, ontological naturalism/reductionism, nihilism, or the "absurdity of existence" schools of existentialism. To me, Being (notice the capped 'B') is beyond conventional conceptualization or descriptions, for example living/nonliving, finite/infinite, transcendent/immanent. That's why one employs terms like apophatic or ineffable.

Now, some people find this kind of description frustrating, like it is some way to put Being beyond scrutiny, or worse, when some people make very "effable" (cataphatic) statements about God or what not then retreat to " it's ineffable" when the questions get hard. In my view many constructions of "God" or "ultimate concern" are attempts to familiarize it and make it easier to discuss (and in some systems to predict or even control). Then there is the idea that to really open one's heart to the possibilities of our Being, it's hard for most, at least initially, to do so with a seemingly impersonal "force". Hence some personified construction may be useful initially as a place-holder. It is of course very easy to take such images and put them into service as symbols of power and control. I am opposed to such usage and the oppression which it can engender, as well as the fact that such placeholders tend to be shaped by the social psychology, cultural ecology, and political history of the people's making such imagery (polytheism versus montheism, for example).

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I would say though that I still edit that definition for clarity from time to time. For example, I think the version I am currently using says: I do not necessarily require nor arbitrarily reject any particular form of "God language". And then there is this from an entry on June 25th of last year...

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That is why I have referred to my current position with regard to the traditional theist-atheist debate as post-theist: that is, I am not limited by the rigid definitions of that dichotomy. If there is something worthwhile associated with more secular thought, great. If there is something worthwhile from a point of view based on the premise of a Higher Power, awesome. Nor am I the first to make this journey. It happens all the time. There are many works of theology and philosophy which hint at or directly tackle ideas that both draw on and transcend such categories.
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And then one from July 6th of that year...

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Of course all such discussions and philosophies are irrelevant outside of experience. Because religious language, including God-talk, is dynamic. It is understood in the doing, not in the discussing. Just as many people "know" a lot by reading a book on the topic but couldn't actually "do" what they were reading about to save their lives, one cannot make sense of religious and spiritual language without being engaged in what is being discussed.
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And finally there is the short fictional interview I posted at Ki Meela...

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That is also likely why I generally prefer more neutral language, including generic terms, rather than talking about "God" and then having a million and one other ideas being attached like pork on an appropriations bill. I also don't think it would be sensible - imagine the dialgue:

Is there a God?

-Oh yes.

So you DO believe in God?

-No, not all, where did you get such an idea?

But if you are saying there is a God, then how can you not believe in Him?

-I don't believe in "Him", or "Her", or "It", though I am inclined to accept the reality of what He/She/It represents.

Oh, and what would that be? Another name for God?

-No, no, no... there is no "God". Haven't you been paying attention?

(see what I mean?)

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More or less, then, I appear to be an "atheist" to most theists and a "theist" to most atheists, which ironically is pretty accurate.
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Metacrock
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by Metacrock » Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:57 pm

To quote from my blog in an entry made on May 27th of last year...

________________________________________________________________________________________________
I also consider my position to be post-theism. That is, I do not require nor arbitrarily reject God language. The closest thing to established Western views of God I hold are akin to Tillich's object of ultimate concern, or what some may refer to as apophatic mysticism.
you will never know what total and emense satisfaction that gives me! all those morons on CARM telling me I'm so stupid for this being itself stuff and here the most intelligent atheist on the CARM board accepts the Tillich deal, at least in some sense! at least you clearly don't think its' stupid.

I would be remiss if I did not say< ahahahahaahah I won I won won won I wong ahahah!

thanks Tiny I needed that. I know its' bus but I needed it! :mrgreen:
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by Metacrock » Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:02 pm

wow that was a really good post. One of the best discussions I've had on all message boards. ever. I've probably lost my intellectual acuity. I wish you could have known me in the mid 90s when I was at my best, before all the shit hit the fan. I'll be that again.

sorry to go on whining about that. Today our apartment flooded. I lost a lot of my books, a huge piles of my brother's writings, which he he can never replace, and two boxes of silver age comics!

I'll have more to say about the discussion latter. I should have been talking to you on this level all along. I am totally wipped out. i spent the day moving books from wet boxes, and piles of we paper mashe.

Thackery didn't make it. Bladwin, didn't make it, Arabian Knights didn't make it, and they got Batman! all my silver age Batman gone!
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by KR Wordgazer » Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:43 pm

I knew the flooding in Texas was bad. So sorry about your stuff, and your brother's writings, Metacrock. Really sorry about your Silver Age Batman, too. That's the pits.
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Re: for Tiny thinker (and all) religious instrict

Post by Metacrock » Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:33 pm

KR Wordgazer wrote:I knew the flooding in Texas was bad. So sorry about your stuff, and your brother's writings, Metacrock. Really sorry about your Silver Age Batman, too. That's the pits.

thanks Kristen. I appreciate it. O well, I'm sure the caped crusader will survive.
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