July 31, 2014

Our Means For Hope

Posted in atheism, faith, science, secular humansim tagged , , at 7:05 am by Jerry

“There is no better method.” I agree.

I suppose the challenge is that, despite the “wonder” (or awe) we may experience through humanity’s use of the scientific method, it’s still not as personally satisfying for a lot of people unless “God” is considered to be a part of our reality.

But this is where I think humanism also plays a strong role in the lives of the non-believer. It’s about encouraging ourselves (and others?) to seek and find what is personally satisfying in our natural world. And it’s more than just satisfying our fives senses. It’s also about finding new perspectives in life that change our priorities or highlight different values.

The longer we live, the more we see that personal satisfaction is not always easy, or simple. Discovering our own place in the bigger picture of inclusivity and diversity leads not only to finding purpose and meaning for one’s own life but also leads to an awareness of various de-humanizing actions against one another. Being faced with a myriad of social responsibilities are overwhelming and not something we had in mind when seeking personal satisfaction.

Hope in a “God” may ease this burden for a lot of people and inspire them to keep moving forward – a result that I think is worth appreciation. But what also needs appreciation is how non-believers build up the courage to move forward without that ethereal belief.

We find hope in all sorts of places for all sorts of burdens. It can start with simply hearing the words, “It gets better” from those with similar burdens, similar stories that can help us get through the next day. We may find hope by taking action, getting involved by creating public awareness, and supporting a grass roots movement to bring about change. We may find hope through the pursuit of educating ourselves, learning more about the burdens we face, where they came from, who’s involved, how has the matter evolved over time. We might seek political change through our votes, and letters to our representatives. Or maybe we just need to step back a bit, read a book or go to the lake, have a beer with friends and then return to face our burdens with a little more strength.

For a lot of people, no matter how unrealistic “God” may seem to be, he is still the ultimate default in times of trouble, the cherished “go-to” when things get tough. God may not be the only go-to, mind you, but anything else is too weak for personal satisfaction. Maybe it’s all just a different version of “stepping back”, an escapism or respite from the natural world? I don’t know. The result is that people find a way to move forward one way or another. And that’s nothing to scoff at.

In the end, when we feel less burdened, I think we need to remind ourselves to reflect on the different means we turn to in order to gain new found courage. Because it’s an opportunity to evaluate and keep in mind our best options for seeking inspiration and hope during those times when we need it most.

Not surprisingly, I prefer the natural reality over a supernatural one, and I encourage others to do the same. Because, along with the scientific affirmation of it’s true existence, we know it works. We know that somewhere, in our natural reality, we can find hope, and so can anyone else.

April 17, 2014

Empathy, and the Long Reach of Reason

Posted in critical thinking, culture, film, history, humanism, justice, literature, philosophy, politics, psychology at 4:17 pm by Jerry

January 21, 2014

Scientists Are “Tackling Mysteries One By One”

Posted in atheism, bible, critical thinking, film, history, mythology, philosophy of religion, science, science fiction at 2:51 pm by Jerry

January 19, 2014

Cold Critical Thinking

Posted in critical thinking, film, songs at 6:33 pm by Jerry

While watching Frozen, the latest Disney movie Emma is obsessed over, I’ve been thinking about the not-so-warm and fuzzy-feelin’ connotations attributed to ‘critical thinking’. I’ve even made a connection between the two. I know, I’m weird that way. (I don’t actually think there was any intention to portray a view of critical thinking in this movie, but I’ve used it as such.) :)

Frozen is about Elsa, a princess with a power inside of her so overwhelming the power is feared more for it’s destructive abilities than for it’s ability to make things of beauty. Which is why she is encouraged to keep the power hidden from others and herself. The fear of her power is so great that Elsa is lead to believe that hiding the power can only be accomplished if she isolates herself from others, even her younger sister Anna, who wants nothing more than the warmth of a loving relationship with her older sister. Eventually, Elsa’s responsibilities to care for others, especially her throw-caution-into-the-wind sister Anna, make it impossible to hide who she is, to hide the power within her.

Elsa’s power is the power of cold. And I see her power as a metaphor for an exceptional power to reason, or better yet, an exceptional and passionate power to think critically. And even though Anna doesn’t have any super powers, I look at her as a representation of the oldest power known to humanity itself, the power of attachments, the power of love (awwww).

A song that really stands out in this movie is Let It Go. It’s a great part of the movie. Finally, Elsa got out of her own prison to find a safe place to completely be herself, discovering her creative potential and exercising her poetic ingenuity. As sad as it is to trade one form of isolation for another (because everyone needs companionship of some sort), this latter form of isolation provided the greatest freedom she’s ever had.

But, eventually (spoiler alert), we learn that Elsa and Anna should have never been separated in the first place. In hindsight, we see that Elsa without Anna is far more susceptible to hurting someone with her power, and Anna without Elsa is far more susceptible to trust unwittingly in people or situations that are unreliable.

Elsa is the reasoning potential within us to think critically, the part of us that hungers for any knowledge that will clarify our understanding of things. But, critical thinking also has the power to take apart well-meaning, thoughtful constructs that we grow attached to. It doesn’t make you feel safe and secure. At least, not in the beginning. Critical thinking can challenge the strength of our relationships, testing us to see if we really know what we love, revealing overlooked knowledge that may change our feelings for what we are deeply attached to. Admittedly, safety is tentative in the critical thinker’s world. But future respites of safety may be stronger, built on higher probabilities, even more secure than what we’ve relied on in the past.

Anna is the part of us open to experiences of love and all the different feelings that come with personal attachments. But, the power of love can overlook any short-comings to the point that there is no resemblance of clear thinking, only the desire to remain attached, remain committed, to trust, to have faith, to be certain of feeling secure and safe whether you are or not. Admittedly, without the power of critical thinking, one’s safety or security can be over-estimated, even delusional, yet unwavering. But, if the power of love would combine itself with the power of critical thinking, hope would be more than just sentimental. Hope would become a realistic driving force in the pursuit of our goals, our dreams.

I apologize if I’ve ruined the movie for anyone who has beared with me on this daydreaming venture. Chances are, I’ve created a false dichotomy here and maybe should’ve left it alone instead of dissecting a children’s movie. On the other hand, I’ve followed one of the many meanderings in my mind and decided that my blog is a safe place to just let it go.

January 13, 2014

My Path Back To Christianity

Posted in faith, science tagged at 7:50 am by Jerry

Richard Carrier gives us an intelligent and compassionate look at the facts…

Humanity has gathered volumes of factual knowledge that unintentionally, but overwhelmingly contradicts the imaginative world of Christian faith.

The only hope for me to become a believer again is if I lost all memory of, and repeatedly ignored learning about, these kinds of facts and their logical conclusions.

Because, seriously, these conclusions are a tremendous challenge to the presumed characteristics of God!

January 7, 2014

Wish Fulfillment

Posted in atheism, humanism, psychology at 10:30 am by Jerry

powerless

When I saw this meme, I contemplated what might be the best responses I would hear from a believer. The first one that came to mind was, “Atheists’ standards for proof are too high.” And then my atheist response to that was, “Does anyone need proof of the existence of earth? Why can’t God be as recognizable to every human being as the earth we stand on?”

And then I thought of another believer response to the meme…

“It’s not that God can’t prove his existence, it’s that he chooses not to. From my experience, God wanted my natural need of him to seek him out.” 

I have to admit, I felt a sense of accomplishment when I came up with this one. It asks the atheist to think of a personal need for God, and according to the believer, whatever pops in the atheist’s mind would be personal evidence of God reaching out to the atheist!

But then, what kind of God would an atheist need? I don’t think any atheist like myself would need any biblical version of a God. So then “God” really isn’t any particular supreme being. “God” represents the cliche “wish fulfillment”.

Sure. I “wish” there were a lot of things different in this world of ours. But then I have to think realistically about my desires. What kind of change is worth hoping for? And it’s this question that becomes less of a cosmic pursuit for me, and more of a social, humanist pursuit. For me, “God” doesn’t fit into this practical pursuit.

December 22, 2013

Homophobia and Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in bible, church, culture, love, psychology at 6:35 pm by Jerry

homophobia

For those christians who are incapable of recognizing homosexuality as anything more than a “lifestyle,” a “belief,” a “behaviour” or a stumbling block needing to be removed, they will never understand why others accuse them of fearing and/or hating the LGBT community.

Do I believe that these christians are without any compassion or love for the LGBT community? No, I suspect all of them having some form of  love and compassion for all of humanity. To me, this isn’t an either/or situation here. It’s a matter of cognitive dissonance. People are quite capable of having both love and fear for the same person (or deity).

October 27, 2013

Demons In An Atheist’s Closet

Posted in psychology, theology at 9:19 am by Jerry

personal demonsAccording to christian theology: God expected humanity to consistently please him, obeying him all the time; and any actions of ours that don’t please him, that disobey his will, are called “sin”; and it is for the existence of “sin” in our lives that we need to accept God’s forgiveness.

Looking back, it’s incredible that I had at one time thought this belief to be realistic. How can anyone please or obey anyone else all the time? It can’t be done. It is highly unrealistic to even consider the possibility.

There was never a time when humanity wasn’t trying to learn how to improve their lives, trying things out, observing what does and doesn’t work. There was never a time when anybody consistently walked the proverbial “narrow path”. We are always off balance to some degree, weak, vulnerable to the unknown that lies ahead of us. Sure we try to center ourselves, walk whatever balance beam we’ve created for ourselves. But to expect us to never fall over one side or the other is not reasonable.

And yet, to become a member of the christian church, it is expected of you to accept God’s forgiveness for the existence of sin in this world through his human sacrifice 2000 years ago.

Of course, christians are free to believe what they want to believe, but I don’t see how it’s necessary to accept God’s forgiveness for the existence of sin in this world. And believing in a God that sanctions a human being to be tortured and hung on a cross until death to represent this forgiveness is horrifying.

Jesus-on-the-cross-1

A reasonable God would not deem the mere existence of sin worthy of being considered an offense. And a moral God would not expect a human sacrifice to overcome this offense, to represent forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness from someone is done after realizing we have hurt them. We didn’t kill Jesus. Nor should we consider the existence of our sin to have killed Jesus. And it’s not necessary to believe that God’s feelings are hurt by our inability to please or obey him all the time! No all wise and knowing God would stoop to such pettiness.

But I did. I believed it whole-heartedly. I lived it, breathed it, taught it, preached it. My past is a closet filled with all sorts of theological beliefs that are now my personal demons. And today I live with the embarrassment and shame, knowing that these ugly, superstitious views were once mine. Of course, I shouldn’t let it get to me. What’s in the past is the past, right? I need to forgive myself for painting the world over with a wide biblical brush, for categorizing or boxing in myself and my fellow human beings in iron age views that judged us for not measuring up to the standards of an imaginary supreme being.

But I didn’t just dabble in it now and then. I wasn’t a “Sunday christian”. My theological daydreaming consisted in believing in all sorts of crazy, egotistical things. There was a time in my past when I believed that I could sense the presence of angels. I once hallucinated that northern lights formed into a picture of a man kneeling outside of a fish’s mouth (read: the book of Jonah). I contemplated the destination of people who had died in my lifetime. I had opinions about what I thought was the “will of God” in certain situations.

For 30 years I believed these kinds of things. It’s not easy for me to get over this. In fact, I’m bitter. I’m bitter that the majority of my life consisted of this kind of behaviour, these kinds of beliefs. And even though I may have a special appreciation for secular humanism coming from an evangelical background, I envy “cradle atheists”. I know we are all guilty of all sorts of foolishness in our lives, atheist and believer, but the kind of foolishness which is my religious past weighs heavily on me.

September 23, 2013

Where Did Religious Rules Come From?

Posted in theology at 6:28 pm by Jerry

Jesus has rules

If a christian relies on a substitutionary purpose for Jesus’ death, that christian is still practicing religion. That christian is still living by the archaic rules written in the bible. That christian’s lack of legalistic ritual in everyday living to satisfy salvific restraints still rests on the theological belief that there are sin-revealing rules aimed to condemn humanity despite Jesus’ interception. Any emphasis from that christian on the “freedom” Jesus provides is also an emphasis on those God-given rules.

It’s popular to paint religion as the enemy and Jesus the hero but, to me, the only way Jesus could be portrayed as a hero in this scenario is if those “holy” standards could exist apart from the existence of God. But God is said to be the beginning of all, and his standards are based on his character – which HE deems to be holy. So, these rules used in the evil practicing of christian religion came from God himself. And as much as these rules were/are able to train you in the way you should go they are also able to condemn you to hell if you don’t have a special loving, worshipful relationship with God.

For those believers who like to tout that their beliefs are not religious, non-believers like myself still manage to be condemned by “sin” said to be revealed in us through christian doctrine. How is that not a practice of religion?

July 28, 2013

Love It!

Posted in bible, film, philosophical theology at 4:33 am by Jerry

Poor apologists. They’ve gone from ancient stories of divine demonstrations (or human illusionists) to claiming a remarkably specific yet abstract cause for the unknown beginnings of the universe. :D

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