Posts Tagged ‘religion’

david brooks
(I guess I am going to keep doing these.)

Friends, this week’s David Brooks column is…a little bizarre.  I don’t completely know what to make of it.  It’s definitely about Christian homophobes, and how they need to conduct themselves in the new, slightly-less-homophobic America that the Supreme Court has gay-married us all into, and I can’t tell if it’s this clever mixture of diplomacy and stinging criticism, or if it’s just astonishingly dopey.  Experience leads me to believe option two, but…man.

Just, look at this, check this out.

(more…)

Advertisements

I like to wait to jump into these arguments until they’ve sort of blown over a little bit. It gives me time to think, it gives the aggrieved a chance to get riled up and then find something else to distract them, it leaves us with the opportunity to try to lay out some ideas in a way that doesn’t have to navigate the thorny situation of a person trying to justify the opinions of their TV heroes or something.

I want to talk about this fight between Bill Maher and Sam Harris on one side, and kind of on the other side Ben Affleck and Reza Aslan.

I’m on the Affleck/Aslan side of the argument, and rather than going through the details of their fight, I want to try to recontextualize the argument in a way that maybe suggests that this fight is misguided.

(more…)

Part of a series that includes:

Atheism

Materialism

Mysticism

So. I have been holding off writing this part while I thought about it, because I have had this fear that what I was saying was a basically ordinary thing, that only seemed complex or significant to me because of the process that I went about to get to it. I remember once when I took the SATs, and I didn’t have a graphing calculator, so I took a minute to re-derive the quadratic equation so I could use it to solve problems. This felt very satisfying to me, like I’d accomplished something great and important, but obviously it wasn’t of any more practical significance than it would have been if I’d just remembered what the quadratic equation was.

The idea that I have here sort of synergizes with that, though – that in a way what I want to talk about is the difference between talking or thinking about something or changing something at a surface level, and changing something at this deep, deep psychic level. At the top they look the same, but they aren’t the same, and that’s important.

Maybe this will be made clear. Anyway, another caveat: I’m going to be referring to “zen” here as a specific practice as I’ve gleaned it. I am not a Zen Buddhist, really; I don’t come from a Zen Buddhist culture, I am not trained in a Zen Buddhist tradition, I don’t participate in it as a living religious culture. All I’ve done is read a little bit, and the misfortune I have is that the word “zen” as a kind of meditative practice appears to be the only word for the thing I want to describe. So, I’ll get to that to, but I want to just here at the beginning clear up what I mean, and apologize for stealing people’s vocabulary.

(more…)

So, here I am, continuing on with my PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I talked before a little bit about what I think the world isn’t, and how we can have a functional morality within an atheistic context; then I talked a little bit about what I think the world is, and about how we navigate it. Today I am talking about Mysticism, and why I think it’s important, and this is the part where it begins to get weird (it’s going to get even weirder as we go) and where I’m probably going to start earning the scorn of my fellow atheists (who are my “fellow” only in the loosest-possible sense of the term).

Mysticism typically refers to a kind of intuitive, direct communion with the divine reality, but I don’t believe in a divine reality, so that’s not what I mean by it. When I refer to mysticism, I’m talking about something that’s a little simpler, and doesn’t make ontological statements (that is, statements about the nature of what things are) about the universe: “mysticism” is a sort of philosophical position in which we argue that the essential or important experience of the universe is a non-rational experience.

I realize this sounds pretty crazy, probably more crazy to people who know me, and understand me as being aggressively rational or logical, but maybe I can explain it a little bit. To do that, I need to back up.

(more…)

So, prompted by some comments about how certain atheists (*cough*richarddawkins*cough*) tend to make all atheists look bad by acting like huge pricks all the time, I figured I’d participate in the process of the differentiation of atheists by laying out what my own philosophy of the world is, rather than according to one particular thing I think it isn’t.

Before I talked specifically about the atheistic part of the world as I see it – the idea that there is no guiding benevolent force directly interacting with the universe in any perceptible way and sort of concomitantly, that any other kind of deity (the God as Watchmaker, for instance) isn’t particularly relevant. This time I want to write about what I think the nature of the world is, and the way in which we live in it.

(more…)

On the internet today, someone that I know said that, even though she wasn’t an atheist, she thought we all deserved a better atheism than Richard Dawkins gives us.  I am an atheist, and I’m inclined to agree — I think Dawkins (et all those guys — Hitchens, Harris, &c) did an important service by making atheism a reasonable subject of conversation in the national discourse.  But they also did it in sort of the only way that you CAN do that in the national discourse in America, which was by being huge fucking pricks about it.  This is kind of not their fault, I guess — Richard Dawkins didn’t decide that the way that we all ought to communicate our ideas is by having our individual platforms and then yelling at people from them.  And it’s important that SOMEONE carved out the space, but it’s also misleading to let these guys define what atheism is for everyone.

This is especially because “atheism” isn’t really a tradition or a philosophy; it’s a broad category of many different traditions and philosophies, unified only by a single characteristic that they share in common.  “Atheism” is as, or more, diverse than “theism”, and only some terrible prick would insist that all theists believe the same things.

Anyway, this got me thinking that maybe I ought to write down my own ideas about my own kind of atheism in a systematic way.  I’ve had a lot of occasion to think really long and hard about what I believe and why.  A lot of this is because of my challenges with depression and alcoholism — you know, I think a lot of us can get by pretty well without having thought rigorously about our (for lack of a better term) LIFE PHILOSOPHY (our own individual theories about “how we should be in the world”), but when you go through some of the emotional and psychological challenges that this kind of philosophy specifically provides a bulwark against, you end up putting a lot of work into it.

A lot of people find religion, or find a philosophy to help them get through rough times.  I went through rough times, but I mostly just made mine up.  This is it; I figure if I write it down, maybe someone else who’s having a rough time might find something useful in it.  It’s what you might call Religious, but Not Spiritual.  There isn’t a name for it so far as I know, but it technically breaks down as Atheistic Materialist Zen Mysticism.

I will now elaborate.

(more…)

Toxic Atheism Drives People Apart,” says the headline, which is about as banal a headline as a person could muster. Couldn’t you say that Toxic Christianity Drives People Apart? Toxic Waste is Bad For Your Health. Toxic Apples Will Give You a Stomach Ache. Yes, duh, that’s why we call it “toxic”. Thanks, hoss. It beggars belief that anyone is going to write an article, much less a book, exploring the intricacies of the circular argument, and let’s be honest, you write for a newspaper or some such, maybe you don’t always pick your own headlines (I know that at io9 they [rightly] NEVER let me pick my own headlines). Let’s take a minute then, and try to see what Chris Stedman is getting at. Sure, the headline makes me grit my teeth, but surely this isn’t going to be the sort of thing that’s really just a long list of cherry-picked and false comparisons, standing in against an argument that no one seriously makes, just generally a general clouding of the discourse by someone unwiling to make an actual argument, someone who’s really just worried about how much people are shouting at each other.

Surely not.

(more…)