August 31, 2006

Will Technology be a means to Moksha?

Posted in philosophy of mind, religion, science, soup at 1:07 am by Jerry

I just listened to an interview led by Robert Wright discussing with Daniel Dennett various topics, and ending with the hot topic of the day, which is consciousness.

My own interpretation of the conflicting views of consciousness (especially after watching this interview) is that it is a question of whether we can actually BE another person.

Dennett, if I understand him correctly, does believe we will be able to BE another person when our technology is so advanced that we are able to download all information from within another person. Others, in opposition to Dennett, believe that knowing all the collected information of another’s inner self cannot equate with sharing that person’s experience of one’s self.

Dennett’s philosophy intrigues me. Because, if he is right, in the future we will have the technology to download everyone’s self into ourselves. Therefore, we could become everyone. Does that freak you out? It’s not that new of an idea. The eastern philosophy, Hinduism, runs along much of the same lines here. The “Atman” is the Hindu understanding of the self. And the “Brahman” is the Hindu understanding of a God that is Ultimate Reality, everything else. And the path of Hindu enlightenment is to actually experience the Atman becoming the Brahman.

Now, based on what I’ve mentioned above, this western perspective of Brahman would only include the Ultimate Reality of all human beings. But if technology were able to take it to the farthest level, I suppose Brahman could include all other information available in the universe. And by that logic, we would be able to become ALL. And if the downloaded information was interchangeable, eventually, “we” wouldn’t exist. Our former selves would be gone. Which, if I understand it correctly, is the equivalent to the ultimate goal for Hindus, called “Moksha”.

Technology would have made religious monism a reality.

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August 30, 2006

A Valuable Kind of Heresy

Posted in church, non-fiction, philosophy at 8:13 am by Jerry

Here’s something from an article in my latest copy of Philosophy Now written by Grant Bartley (assistant editor):

Advances in rational understanding can be achieved in at least three ways:

  1. Through novel ideas popping up, their rationale unentangled by old proofs;
  2. Through the refinement of an existing set of ideas; or
  3. Through heresy

The article itself is called The Truth about Heresy? An interesting though somewhat muddled read about traditional heresy and contemporary heretics.

August 24, 2006

My Orwellian Church Experience

Posted in church, politics, psychology of religion, scripture, theology at 9:43 am by Jerry

Welcome to Big Brother Church! The place where you’ll be taken care of.

Our sermon topics for the year:

  • Faith is the highest intelligence.
  • All forms of pride conflicts with humility.
  • Don’t preach without a penis.
  • Every sperm is sacred.
  • Weakness is better than strength. (Because God is said to reveal more of his strength where you are weak. So, stay weak otherwise God won’t reveal his strength!)
  • This world is a means to the end.
  • God can only create good out of nothing, and humanity can only create evil out of nothing.
  • Love of money is the root of all evil.
  • Tithing is giving to God, not the Pastor.
  • The bigger the church building, the better we serve our community.
  • Christianity is free.
  • The bible is a science textbook.
  • The bible is an encyclopedia.
  • The bible is God’s fax.
  • The Good News is “A man was executed by being tortured to death. If you don’t think he is also God who came back to life, you will suffer forever in the afterlife. So believe and be saved!”
  • “Fear” and “Reverence” are synonymous.
  • Love people for who you want them to be.
  • Unity = Conformity
  • All Christians are close friends.
  • Coincidences are miracles.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Supernatural!

Posted in fiction, film, mythology, philosophy of religion, science, scripture, theology at 9:02 am by Jerry

Have you noticed that Superman is very much like a materialistic Messiah?

An alien who is materially stronger, faster, “His eyes are a flame of fire” (Rev. 19:12), can literally see beyond surfaces, hear the cries of those who want to be saved, defy gravity by ascending into the clouds or walking on water. His only weakness is the sinful material called Kryptonite. And though Kryptonite came from his home world, not even Superman knows its origin. Only his father from beyond knows.

Ancient cultures viewed birds as heavenly messengers. Modern day scientists hope to gain knowledge of the heavens by technical flight. And the religious? Just exactly how do they receive a heavenly message? And would the message be non-material, only effecting a non-material soul?

I looked up “Supernatural” in the dictionary…

–adjective

1. of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.
2. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or attributed to God or a deity.
3. of a superlative degree; preternatural: a missile of supernatural speed.
4. of, pertaining to, or attributed to ghosts, goblins, or other unearthly beings; eerie; occult.via

…and I’m still confused.

Is the supernatural non-material? Or is it greater material? Because, if it’s non-material, where does the material world end and the non-material world begin? And how do they relate from one to the other? How does the non-material world have a material effect on the material world?

August 23, 2006

1 Corinthians 1:20-25

Posted in family, philosophy, scripture, theology at 2:31 pm by Jerry

I’ve been reminded of this passage in the bible a number of times in a short little while, whether it be in comments to a post of mine, a post written by my brother, or otherwise. My brother wrote:

I can’t get enough of this stuff. Here is a section of the first chapter in First Corinthians and one of my favorite scholars commenting….

1 Cor 1:20-25
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (NIV)

“A God discovered by human wisdom will be both a projection of human fallenness and a source of human pride, and this constitutes the worship of the creature, not the Creator. The gods of the “wise’ are seldom gracious to the undeserving, and they tend to make considerable demands on the ability of people to understand them; hence they become gods only for the elite and “deserving.” It should be noted that Paul is here acknowledging that there is another sophia, God’s wisdom, which he is about to explicate (see v. 24); but that wisdom turns out to be the exact opposite of human wisdom.” (Gordon Fee)

I have always been taught that Jesus had to come, but for me, this puts it in a fresh new light. The world needed revelation because we are unable to know this God with our own wisdom. And this revelation had to be Himself. How many of our explanations of God are merely what we have created out of our fallenness and pride? I am loving what this book (First Corinthians) together with Gordon Fee are doing to my heart and mind.

Here’s my response:

“I have always been taught that Jesus had to come”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

“The world needed revelation because we are unable to know this God with our own wisdom. And this revelation had to be Himself.”

The world still needs THIS revelation.

“How many of our explanations of God are merely what we have created out of our fallenness and pride?”

Here’s two: “this book (First Corinthians) together with Gordon Fee”

Isn’t Jesus himself supposed to be a miraculous sign? And if Jesus is fully God and fully man, then wouldn’t his teachings also be human wisdom, however perfect they are? Sounds like the apostle Paul and Gordon Fee care very little for Jesus, the human.

Human and Divine Hiddenness

Posted in philosophy of religion, psychology, religion, scripture, theology at 12:40 pm by Jerry

11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13 (NASB)

The bolded part in the verse above makes me ask myself some eschatological (study of end times) questions about self-awareness — (1) Will a world without God bring about complete self-awareness? (2) Could I accept a world that wouldn’t eventually be completely self-aware? (3) Is the pursuit of greater self-awareness enough, in whatever the context?

I noticed Verse 11 could be used in both religious and secular contexts, separately, or in a succession. If the contexts were in a succession, “childish” could be used as a label for the religious or the secular. I wish I knew one way or the other.

Religious philosophers are currently discussing the “Hiddenness of God,” trying to justify the lack of evidence for God’s existence. And this is important to atheists because they want require evidence if they are to believe in a Supreme Being. From what I’ve read so far, I don’t think these theistic philosophers are doing so good. Nevertheless, the question I’ve come up with concerning the hiddenness of God, is — “If God exists, is there a reason God doesn’t want to be falsifiable?”

August 22, 2006

When Faith Sacrifices Our Life For Its Own

Posted in culture, philosophy of religion, science, scripture at 6:43 am by Jerry

ANYONE can declare ANYTHING to be the will of a Supreme Being…

…but if we want to change someone’s mind on something, we are gonna have to provide good reasons. And these good reasons will have to be logical, ethical, and practical.

“What happened to obedience?” a fundamentalist might say. I say, “Let’s make better use of it!” Let’s obey what’s ethical, logical, practical. Make obedience into an informed obedience, not blind obedience. Knowledge is our friend, not our enemy. IGNORANCE IS OUR ENEMY.

Someone once told me “God is not logical to us.” I responded, “But is God logical to God’s self?” My answer is “Yes!” Otherwise God is all chaos. So, if God works within logic why shouldn’t we try to do the same?

Another person quoted Genesis, and said to me, “Knowledge is bad because Adam and Eve took from the Tree of Knowledge.” I said, “Whether the biblical writers meant to or not, I think the emphasis should be on the word ‘and’ instead of the word ‘knowledge’. It’s the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” (I take whatever life I can out of scriptures, and leave the rest.)

I’ve been warned a number of times when pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies that I should not let higher education destroy my faith. But what kind of faith is it when it is an opponent of knowledge?

Faith, in my understanding, is not anti-intellectual. Faith is a temporary tool we use to find more truths, to take our hope for more understanding into fruition. Faith in anything is meant to be a means to its own annihilation, not an end in itself. Making faith an end in itself is making faith an end to learning, a barrier to knowing.

Many scientists use temporary faith as a tool to focus their energy on the theories they are currently exploring. And exploring is the key word here. What is our spiritual life made of if it lacks the aspect of exploration? Why squash our innate spiritual thirst?

If there is no exploration in our spiritual lives, then whatever faith we have is killing us. If our spirits are not learning, they’re not growing. And if they’re not growing, our spirits are dying.

August 20, 2006

Imago Dei

Posted in philosophy of religion, religion, science, scripture at 6:04 pm by Jerry

I’m not a scientist, but I think it’s pretty obvious that creationism should not be taught in a science class.

Metaphysical (what is all) and ontological (what just is) arguments that are not falsifiable lie outside of the scientific method. Science has higher epistemological (knowing how you know) expectations from humans than religion does.

And if you asked me if evolution should be taught in a religious class, I’d say, “Yes.” (It’s so easy for me to imagine a fundamentalist responding with, “Oh sure, we can’t invade their territory, but they can invade ours?”)

Anyone can see, to some degree, that nature changes or evolves into something else. And if God exists, God would then be the author of evolution. But it’s IDENTITY that is a big issue among many theists, isn’t it? How does the saying go? — “Who can be proud to have chimpanzees for ancestors?” Yes, pride is the issue, isn’t it?

So, remind me, why is it that we NEED to have God create the human form out of formlessness instead of many forms? I just thought of a verse from the bible that I have to quote here:

31“But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

Mark 10 (NASB)

Maybe succession is the problem. If humanity, understood as the “Image of God” (Imago Dei), evolved out of apes, will a greater species evolve out of humanity? If yes, then which species will be the last that is the first?

August 19, 2006

How To Read An Unwritten Language

Posted in family, literature, psychology at 8:37 pm by Jerry

I just finished reading a book by Philip Graham called How to Read an Unwritten Language. It was a book given to my wife from my mother-in-law. Becky still hasn’t read it (her loss). From beginning to end, I was never convinced that the title was a good one. It just sounds too much like a title for a non-fiction text. I understand why it was chosen, but I think Graham could have done better.

Aside from the title, the book was really good. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book psychologically involved to this extent. The spiritual/religious imagery was so subtle, and in my experience, original — which is always good. Rarely do I find symbolic imagery used from more than one religion. Most of the time I can only find Christian imagery.

Religious imagery was not a large component in the novel. But I think it was there because the novel was about finding personal meaning in unique stories. The stories were many and varied, but they were all filled with psychological struggles. The main character sought out these stories because they gave him what he wasn’t getting from the relationships he grew up with and entered into. Of course, I won’t tell you how it ended. I’ll just say one word — original.

I’m gonna place this novel in my top fifteen list (hovering somewhere), which means I’ll definitely have to read it again.

August 16, 2006

The Evangelical Work Ethic

Posted in church, philosophy of religion, psychology of religion, scripture, theology at 9:51 am by Jerry

I was hoping to continue my conversation in the comments of my previous post (Is “Salvation” worth saving?), but suddenly the contributions stopped. So I wrote another post here in response to the discussion.

What is salvation? Can we do anything to get into Heaven? What do the biblical authors mean when they say things like “by grace you have been saved through faith” and “work out your salvation” and “we love, because He first loved us”?

Can we purposely think things and feel things that will get us into Heaven without God’s help? Or is there no human work (physical, mental, emotional) we can do to get into Heaven? Does God take care of it all? OR, does salvation require both divine AND human work for us to get into Heaven?

At the end of the conversation that developed in the comments to my previous post, the eternal suffering the bible says people will experience in Hell was justified by the desire to be able to choose, for ourselves, whether we will answer the Afterlife Ultimatum with a ‘yes’ to God or a ‘yes’ to eternal suffering. I thought this to truly be intriguing. Do all Evangelicals want to believe people will go to Hell because they want to be able to work their way into Heaven to some degree?

That sounded a little too individualistic, didn’t it? Not to worry. Evangelicals know the Golden Rule. Their Work Ethic includes working for others’ salvation as well as their own.

Evangelicals may describe their product in advertisements to be “FREE”, but we know that sacrificing one ideology for another is not free. There is a trading of goods, of sorts. It’s a capitalistic spirituality (Capitalism isn’t always a bad thing, is it?). Evangelicals, (1) purchase basic ideological materials from the bible, at specified cost in one’s conscience, (2) put materials together in a personal form, (3) gain a profit by selling it at a higher cost.

The original cost in one’s conscience is accepting a relationship based on an abusive Afterlife Ultimatum. The higher cost is, in addition to the original cost, considering seller trustworthy, accepting sales pitch filled with euphemisms, and becoming a salesperson as well. Profits are: finding others to sell product to in order to repress struggling conscience with the perceived psychological comfort of a community told to act spiritually intimate. I say “act” because genuine spiritual intimacy would uncover each other’s conscience. (Was that harsh?)

Obviously, the value of “Freewill” among Evangelicals is high. But what exactly is the meaning Evangelicals derive from having Freewill versus not having Freewill? Is it a piece of cosmic control? You know, to control in whatever small degree, one’s destiny? Some may say it’s about being “accountable” or having “responsibility”. But I don’t understand why determinism is thought to exclude responsibility.

If all was determined, we’d still be responsible for our own lot, hate it and/or love it, and make changes to it (Determinism doesn’t mean against our will). Only, after many changes were done, we’d eventually realize we were unconsciously fulfilling our own destiny. Some seem to think there’s no meaning in life without Freewill. I think, we don’t need to create something out of nothing to give it meaning. If we didn’t CHOOSE to love someone, our active love STILL has meaning.

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