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


September 11, 2010

The Presumptuous “Why?”s

Posted in art, atheism, history, mythology, philosophy, psychology of religion, science at 5:26 pm by Jerry

The question “Why?” is a crafty one.

It seems to have the amazing power to take you to an understanding of another’s motivations, a primary cause, and a deep perception of reality. It can be a means to disillusionment, a breaker of personal paradigms, and a schooling of scepticism.

Can there be any questions more powerful than this one?

Way back when, questions like “What?” and “How?” always seemed too mechanical for me, too impersonal. I was looking for ‘the meaning (purpose) of life’, why we are here.

I thought, I can’t begin to explore what I’m meant to do unless I’ve at least started to seriously look into what kind of person I’m meant to be. I wanted to avoid unhealthy choices (and their consequences) by knowing what is truthful, what is right, what is life-enhancing. I remember hearing more than once among gathered christians sometime ago, “We are not human doings, we’re human beings.” And my christian self tried to make the best of this odd cliche by choosing to interpret (or re-write) it to mean: choosing righteous acts rely on having a righteous understanding of our being.

I think it’s safe to say that I made the “Why?” question the greater context where all other questions can find their answers. I made it their home. And this means that I’ve also made the ‘Why?’ question a cosmic question. I saw it as the means to the most authoritative (authoritarian?) understanding on anything and everything. This is a huge creation of mine because the ‘Why?’ question has the power to direct you to a source that is conscious, a source with intention, with personal motivations. Making it a cosmic question is fundamentally making the assumption that there is a cosmic consciousness, a personally motivated intention.

How is it that I made such an assumption? Here’s how: I believed in the existence of a personal being powerful enough to create all that is natural, including a reality that is supernatural. It is this type of perception that sees purpose and reason behind all that is non-personal. And if you feel fundamentally (existentially?) lost, it is this type of perception that assures you that you are surrounded by direction, by purpose, by insight that is all encompassing. Then, you can “know” (in your heart) that something someone (communicating from where?) far more authoritative than our unreliable humanness will take care of us. And this personal (hidden?) being is the ultimate source for finding security and significance.

BUT DON’T FORGET!!! All this personal direction is based on an ancient assumption (most likely inherited from one’s parents), an ancient assumption that a “God” exists.

I’m an atheist now. The big “Why?” questions have shrunk down into human form. Now, I wait for evidence of this supreme being before making the question “Why?” an all-encompassing, personal context for other questions like “How?” and “What?”


May 27, 2010

not so Good but definitely Ol’ Absolute Morality

Posted in atheism, film, history, philosophy, politics, religion, scripture at 10:41 am by Jerry

December 1, 2009

My Doubts Sing Beautiful Songs To Me

Posted in atheism, film, philosophy, poetry, psychology, psychology of religion, science, songs at 3:41 pm by Jerry

Within the religious world I was brought up in it was not entirely rare to hear someone (including myself) say, “I felt called”. This often happens after a whole lot of deep, sincere prayer. And what was meant by this calling, this answer to prayer, was that we were called by “God”.

Some were bold enough to outwardly say it was God who called them, but others would only allude to it. I suspect, for the latter, it was not knowing for sure if it was in fact God calling them. They have been wrong about God’s will for their lives in the past and would hate to make anymore false assumptions, because, as the cliche goes – to assume makes an ass out of.. well, you know the rest.

As for those who keep claiming a direct line of communication from God despite being wrong in the past, well, I suppose they feel faith is always a greater virtue than doubt. Which is odd, when you really think about it. If we were to ask religious people how many times a doubt about their personal understanding of God’s will in scripture or otherwise has led to greater understanding, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were to say, “Oh, yes, there have been countless times when God has corrected my limited understanding of Him.” In other words, either God or you have welcomed DOUBT into your spiritual life to make room for greater understanding.

For the more humble-minded religious person who seeks to save faith-face by not claiming “God” to have called them, a psychological perspective can be taken (putting off claims of a direct communication of God’s will for hindsight-prophecy). These believers are freed to accept the possibility that the “calling” might just be a part of us, deep inside, that knows what we really want or really need – to be closer to the truth. And if we’ve repressed this “calling”, ignored it or simply over-looked it in the past only to later find ourselves giving it a voice, it is in those moments we do hear voices, voices that care deeply for us…  voices that are the expressions of our own doubts.

October 25, 2009


Posted in philosophy, psychology, soup at 6:58 am by Jerry

Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn’t seem to be working.


How do you take “one step at a time” when the more you’re involved in, the smaller the steps become?

Edit: I’ve got it! Learn to rock climb. (Dammit! I hate it when i find the solution and it isn’t an easy one!)

July 25, 2009

Concrete Morality

Posted in atheism, philosophy, politics, religion, soup at 10:27 am by Jerry

“Do you believe there is absolute morality?”

You gotta love this question, because if you say ‘no’ then it is easily assumed that you believe morality is conditional, flawed, and therefore, you have no solid ground to stand on when deciding what you think is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Some may go so far as to assume you lack any true standards.

It’s true that there is little to nothing that I “believe” in. However, there are many things or ideas that I accept. (You know, it’s strange that these words, ‘believe’ and ‘absolute’, can be held onto so tight by many of those who get upset when you assume them to be “Fundamentalists”. Huh!)

For those interested, I don’t believe absolute morality exists but I accept the idea that concrete morality does. The literal definition of ‘concrete’ means “to grow together”. As an adjective it can be used to define things as ‘particular’, ‘real’, ‘actual’, ‘tangible’ rather than abstract. As a noun it can be used metaphorically..

an artificial, stonelike material used for various structural purposes, made by mixing cement and various aggregates, as sand, pebbles, gravel, or shale, with water and allowing the mixture to harden. via

I like ‘artificial’ in the sense that it emphasizes that morality is human made. I like ‘stonelike’ in the sense that morality is capable of providing tangible stability. And I like ‘various aggregates’ in the sense that what’s made is made out of diversity.

Morality, to me, is the result of a collective growing together, whether it be intentional or unintentional. When people cross paths, some sort of relating happens. My wife teaches her students, “We cannot not communicate”.  And this communicative experience will naturally establish itself in some kind of rule-enforcing political form (totalitarian, democratic, etc.), for better or worse. And these rules, if broken, are intended to guarantee negative consequences for those who break them. But if the rules are followed, the collective demonstrates an act of reciprocal altruism, however imperfect it may be. And naturally, within this collective, sub-groups develop of people establishing more of these social contracts although with a lesser legalistic nature.

Some might wonder, by using the word “concrete” do I think at some point in the future the moral standards will harden into an unchanging entity. First of all, and let me make this clear, I don’t accept notions of prophecy or fortune-telling. So I don’t know what the future will be for morality, but if at some point the moral standards are hardened concrete and are in need of having some ingredients added or subtracted in the mixture, there’s always room to revise the recipe, collect the edited list of ingredients, and make a similar but better concrete foundation to replace the one being stood on.

Also, some may ask, “Then the horrors of the past are justified because the morality of that day had yet to evolve?” I say, “No”. Whether they knew it was wrong or not, our human ancestors are responsible for discriminatory actions that we, today, consider to be ‘immoral’. Having the individual freedom to decide which of the many good (acceptable) choices will be our own is a must. And expecting a society to protect all individuals that belong to the society from whatever harmful characteristics it may have is just plain common sense. “Then, where is justice for the victims of the past?” they may ask. I say, “Just like morality, justice too is not absolute …it’s concrete.”

June 29, 2008

History Questions

Posted in art, culture, fiction, history, mythology, non-fiction, philosophy at 7:05 am by Jerry

  • Is history an actual story (or “narrative”), or is it just seen as one?
  • And if history doesn’t, in fact, consist of any type of narrative, what can we lose and gain by revising it as one?
  • If.. history is written as a man-made narrative, a fiction, should we only have one version?

March 16, 2008


Posted in culture, philosophy at 3:43 am by Jerry

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. – Andre Gide

February 21, 2008

One Simple Rule?

Posted in culture, philosophy, religion, science, scripture at 6:36 am by Jerry

This video is called “One Simple Rule,” which makes a lot of sense when you consider it’s universality. Where it becomes complex for me is when I start asking questions such as:

  • Why do we want to be good to ourselves?
  • Why don’t we want to destroy ourselves, not just in part, but completely destroy ourselves?
  • Why is there still something rather than nothing?

Without a material answer some have inserted “God” (for many reasons I won’t go into here), but the questions still remain if “God” is included in the “we” and the “something”.

September 13, 2007

Placebo Paradise

Posted in church, culture, mythology, philosophy, psychology of religion, theodicy at 8:51 am by Jerry

More dialogue with fellow blogger that makes me want to record some of the responses. Although, due to either technical difficulties or censoring, this response has yet to be published on Ryan’s blog… [Edit: It was in fact a technical difficulty. And I assumed censoring my comments was an option Ryan might consider (lumping him with others who have indeed blocked my comments). My apologies to Ryan.]


You said, “Affirming a strong connection between goodness and truth doesn’t change the fact that the world is not yet as it ought to be, nor is this affirmation invalidated, from my perspective, by specific instances where good results come through less than ideal means or sources.”

I think it has been a consistent characteristic within the history of humanity to want to know that the trouble in our lives will be resolved in the end and everybody (at least, everybody that ultimately matters) will live happily ever after.

And when an individual/community cannot find strength and hope in the present goodness of life, false hope (like a placebo of “illusion or the projection of human fantasies”) is a life saver, providing badly needed comfort and security.

These fantasies of salvation may require a lot of mythical/philosophical abstractions – which can be a great exercise for the mind – as Freud pointed out. Although, ideally, I think people should outgrow the need for a placebo. But until then, trying to reveal the placebo may be detrimental to their overall health. Perhaps, Freud knew this as well.

A pleasure as always,

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