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The Failure of Atheism

 
Greg Rogers
 
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Greg Rogers
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12 April 2021 18:22
 

The Harris / Dennett / Dawkins / Hitchens thesis was that we could more forward morally if we could eliminate pre-modern superstitions.  However, it appears to me that the sacred impulse is strong and that atheism merely replaces old irrational superstitions with new ones (i.e. political tribalism) which aren’t necessarily an improvement.

Thoughts?

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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12 April 2021 18:29
 

Rationality is a real problem.
Until we can recognize, acknowledge and find constructive patches for our irrational impulses, we may have to continue stumbling along in the twilight.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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12 April 2021 18:58
 

I think that may depend on whether or not your country is currently in the midst of a partisan death spiral.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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12 April 2021 19:27
 

Only 10% of Americans don’t believe in any higher power/spiritual force.  I’m not sure why you think that 90% of Americans still believing in superstitious things counts as an elimination of superstition.

 
Skipshot
 
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13 April 2021 00:25
 

If atheism isn’t the answer to making the world better, then what is?

 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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13 April 2021 03:12
 

atheism isn’t the solution, it’s the start.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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13 April 2021 12:56
 

I didn’t think atheism had a purpose. It’s just a description of a mental state. It can’t fail or succeed.

 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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13 April 2021 14:18
 

Rationality. Scientific objectivism. Reductionism. All valuable useful tools.

Can they lead a person to “the sacred”?

I suppose it depends on how you frame it and what greater context you place it into.

Rationality by itself, is a pretty dry-bone, limited view. It’s like saying the only “real” time is noon, when the sun is directly overhead and the light is the strongest. It denies the equal reality of midnight. We are not fully rational beings. Not by a long shot. Every night we descend into the world of dreams, which, as we experience them, are just as real in the moment as are any waking experience you care to think of.

Music, art, literature, mythology — all well-up from the depths of the subconscious. The subconscious is the mysterious black box at our core; the inaccessible curtain we can’t pull back; the invisible wellspring of inspiration.

I think that in order to be a complete and sane human being, you have to embrace the unknown within you. You have to accept the subconscious, the irrational, the “Shadow” aspect as C. G. Jung put it.

There is a way to merge the rational quest for knowledge and understanding, with the pursuit of the sacred and spiritual.

As much as I like and admire Dennett, Dawkins and Hitchens, I think they are too lopsided, too far into the “noon-is-the-only-reality” view. Harris, I believe, seems to be developing a broader perspective.

If there is one person that I would say embodied the merging of the scientist and the artist, the mathematician and the poet, the heart and the mind, I would say it was Carl Sagan.

“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

I’ve bolded the last sentence of Sagan’s quote above. I think he’s calling for the merging of science and the spiritual/religious, declaring that it is possible to join the two, perhaps into something new. Carl Sagan has influenced my perception of the world greatly. When the original Cosmos series first aired on television, he took the ideas of science to a new level, past the usually boring presentation that most people experienced in school. He gave the discoveries of science a sense of awe.

This quote by Albert Einstein, sums up what Carl Sagan spent most of his life trying to convey to the rest of humanity:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

 
 
Greg Rogers
 
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Greg Rogers
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13 April 2021 18:37
 
Cheshire Cat - 13 April 2021 02:18 PM

Rationality. Scientific objectivism. Reductionism. All valuable useful tools.

Can they lead a person to “the sacred”?

I suppose it depends on how you frame it and what greater context you place it into.

Rationality by itself, is a pretty dry-bone, limited view. It’s like saying the only “real” time is noon, when the sun is directly overhead and the light is the strongest. It denies the equal reality of midnight. We are not fully rational beings. Not by a long shot. Every night we descend into the world of dreams, which, as we experience them, are just as real in the moment as are any waking experience you care to think of.

Music, art, literature, mythology — all well-up from the depths of the subconscious. The subconscious is the mysterious black box at our core; the inaccessible curtain we can’t pull back; the invisible wellspring of inspiration.

I think that in order to be a complete and sane human being, you have to embrace the unknown within you. You have to accept the subconscious, the irrational, the “Shadow” aspect as C. G. Jung put it.

There is a way to merge the rational quest for knowledge and understanding, with the pursuit of the sacred and spiritual.

As much as I like and admire Dennett, Dawkins and Hitchens, I think they are too lopsided, too far into the “noon-is-the-only-reality” view. Harris, I believe, seems to be developing a broader perspective.

If there is one person that I would say embodied the merging of the scientist and the artist, the mathematician and the poet, the heart and the mind, I would say it was Carl Sagan.

“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

I’ve bolded the last sentence of Sagan’s quote above. I think he’s calling for the merging of science and the spiritual/religious, declaring that it is possible to join the two, perhaps into something new. Carl Sagan has influenced my perception of the world greatly. When the original Cosmos series first aired on television, he took the ideas of science to a new level, past the usually boring presentation that most people experienced in school. He gave the discoveries of science a sense of awe.

This quote by Albert Einstein, sums up what Carl Sagan spent most of his life trying to convey to the rest of humanity:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”


So what is your take on Jung?  I was interested, then hostile… but it is getting more reasonable to me.  It seems we need stories…the question is whether they are good or bad ones.

 

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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13 April 2021 19:23
 
Cheshire Cat - 13 April 2021 02:18 PM

Rationality. Scientific objectivism. Reductionism. All valuable useful tools.

Can they lead a person to “the sacred”?

Short answer: yes.

Less short answer: the can allow us to ask the right sort of question to identify the sacred from the imaginary.

 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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13 April 2021 21:16
 
Greg Rogers - 13 April 2021 06:37 PM

So what is your take on Jung?  I was interested, then hostile… but it is getting more reasonable to me.  It seems we need stories…the question is whether they are good or bad ones.

I think you either have the type of personality that “gets” Carl Jung’s ideas, or you don’t.

It makes sense to me that there are pre-programmed universal images and notions buried in the brains architecture, neurons, and even our DNA. A book I read a while ago, The Accidental Mind, said that the brain was a “kludge,” basically an ill-fitting conglomeration of old brain structures layered one on top of the other. The reptilian mid-brain still exists and functions within our mammalian bodies, as do even older structures. Millions of years of evolution and the brain architecture of these earlier ancestors are still within us.

There’s a phenomenon called “blindsight” which shows this is true. People who have experienced brain damage to their mammalian visual processing center and who consciously can’t see a thing, are capable of walking through a room full of obstacles and managing to not to collide with any of them. They can do this because the older reptilian visual center still exists and is processing information from the eyes and navigating the movements of the body without the involvement of the conscious mind.

As I said before, the subconscious mind is a black box with contents unknown to our conscious selves. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that the past experiences of not only our primate ancestors, but of our non-human ancestors can still bubble up to the surface in our dreams, hallucinations or daydreams. This seems like a pretty good mechanism for Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious.

 
 
Skipshot
 
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13 April 2021 21:44
 
Cheshire Cat - 13 April 2021 09:16 PM

As I said before, the subconscious mind is a black box with contents unknown to our conscious selves. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that the past experiences of not only our primate ancestors, but of our non-human ancestors can still bubble up to the surface in our dreams, hallucinations or daydreams. This seems like a pretty good mechanism for Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious.

Psychology is still unable to resolve these assertions because so far there is no way to objectively test for them, so beware of wading too deeply.

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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13 April 2021 22:54
 

We’re getting off-topic, but Jungian archetypes really seem like just ways to dress up subjective observations in language to make them seem objective.  At best they’re descriptive categories, but not prescriptive.  This makes them useful in communicating ideas about what we see, but it’s more like the literary allusions of poetry than scientific terminology.

 
Poldano
 
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14 April 2021 01:52
 

Why does atheism necessarily involve a loss or rejection of sacredness?

Can’t what is real be considered sacred without the necessity of dressing it up in a false sense of understanding?

With respect to the OP assertion, I concur that the only way that atheism could be considered a failure is if there were implicitly an objective necessarily associated with it. The same comment applies to any purely descriptive statement. This is no doubt the is/should quandary popping up in a different form, about which I’ve expressed some apparently divergent views. What are the implicit objectives of any so-called purely descriptive theory, AKA belief? Do we expect pragmatic power to inevitably result from any true (or applicable) statement?

[ Edited: 14 April 2021 01:59 by Poldano]
 
 
MrRon
 
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14 April 2021 05:28
 
Greg Rogers - 12 April 2021 06:22 PM

The Harris / Dennett / Dawkins / Hitchens thesis was that we could more forward morally if we could eliminate pre-modern superstitions.  However, it appears to me that the sacred impulse is strong and that atheism merely replaces old irrational superstitions with new ones (i.e. political tribalism) which aren’t necessarily an improvement.

Thoughts?

Atheism is not a worldview. It cannot “fail” in any meaningful sense. It is merely the rejection of the single proposition “God exists”, and therefore is not a “replacement” for anything. Just as being an A-Bigfootist or A-Leprechaunist does not replace belief in those things with something else. Atheists merely have not been convinced that any gods exist. That said, atheists can and do have varied political, philosophical, and moral beliefs.

As far as eliminating pre-modern superstitions, how is that not a good thing in and of itself?

Ron

 
LadyJane
 
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14 April 2021 08:23
 

The word sacred doesn’t seem very useful for an atheist.  Except maybe in parody.

 
 
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