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June 03, 2008

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I've been watching "The Tudors" series on Showtime cable TV. King Henry VIII beheading (or worse!) anyone who didn't swear allegience to him as head of the Church. Now THERE'S some religious intolerance.

Along with so much else of world history... it gives me the sense that in the grand sweep of things, we really are moving towards more rationality and tolerence. The incredible increase in communcation media may make us more AWARE of religious zealots, but I think their numbers and influence are slowly and unsteadily shrinking.

(Sure, plenty of people may TALK about being Catholics, but how many really blindly follow the Pope's orders? How many people, when faced with serious illness, rely on faith healers instead of good ol' Western Scientific Medicine?)

As individuals, there are plenty of people still caught in fundamentalists thinking, and many of them will be ready to grow out of it with time. There is good reason to make efforts to help such people, explaining and demonstrating that life goes just fine when I accept that my beliefs are only my beliefs. It's great to continue such efforts... and I feel there's no need to despair, since the big trend is in the right direction.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Whoa Brian, crusader of truth! Slow down a minute bro....

You have a good point here, but Tingley, perhaps unfortunately, has at least half a good point also. Forget his point about proving God's existence with this or that tool, the senses or the heart. That's the point that's driving you crazy, and I am on the same page. But the idea that cultivating the heart might be a useful thing is at the very HEART of Tibetan Buddhist practice, which as I understand it, can basically be summer up as "have a kind heart." I think it is the following enormous leap that Tingley makes, that "trusting on'es heart actually proves something" that drives you nuts. An open heart does not mean that all the superstitious crap we bought into is actually true--on the contrary--but why throw the baby out with the bath water?

Adam, good points. But your use of "heart" is different from Tingley's, which is along the lines of "I just know it in my heart."

Knowing in this sense seems different from compassion. Knowing that God exists because your heart tells you seems different from feeling compassionate toward someone suffering.

Like I've been writing about recently, we all have a sense of "knowing." This isn't really a knowing in the sense of 2 + 2 = 4, but more in the sense of a feeling of rightness.

If we didn't have that sense, we'd be in a perpetual state of perplexity, unable to act. So I agree that each of us has to trust our "heart," if by that we mean that sense of inner knowing.

As you said, what irks me about Tingley is that he elevates this personal sense of heartfelt knowing into a conclusion about the cosmos that is objectively true -- a justification for the rightness of Christianity (and other monotheistic religions, one would suppose.)

Brian,
I understand your point that the stretch from knowing it in one's heart to actually believing in something objective is perhaps crazy, if at least not accurate.

The point I want to emphasize (and one I have been thinking about recently) is that perhaps we can actually cultivate "knowing in one's heart." For example, do I "know it in my heart that it is sad or painful" if I see someone hit by a car? Perhaps. Do I know it in my heart when there's an old person walking too slow in front of me, or do I just want to get around the person? If I am being honest with myself, perhaps I know, perhaps I don't. I have been recently intrigued with Tibetan Buddhist practices that are designed to actually practice "knowing in one's heart," and I think the focus on this type of knowing, as opposed to rational knowing, is actually a very important distinction. I am not repeating this because I think you disagree, I am just clarifying my point.

This'll sound silly, but I think it's got some relevence.

If you're gambling at a roulette table, almost everyone gets these really strong feelings, like, "I KNOW that the next spin will be Red. I can just FEEL it!" We must be biologically wired to get intuitions like that. It must have some evolutionary purpose. (We see patterns when they exist, and also when they don't exist.)

We don't need to ignore or deny such feelings... but as human beings, we also have rational minds, and when there's time (when we don't have to make the decision instantaneously), we can check our feelings vs our reason. In the case of roulette, reason very clearly demonstrates that our intuition in this case is worthless. Whether the next spin will be red, black, or green (it turns out) has precisely nothing to do with our intuition or feeling about what it will be.

When I see a beggar on the street, my feeling may be to give him money. It'd give me a warm feeling inside to do so. But my reason tells me that depending on the particular situation, hand-outs may be helpful, or may be harmful.

"Following your heart" may for some mean to ignore or deny reason, and just do what feels best. That's surely a simple solution... just like it's a simple solution to blindly follow a religious dogma or a political party. But maybe there's greater success when we take the trouble to examine each situation, case-by-case, taking into account reason also.

Maybe it's OK for some of us to be unbalanced on the side of feelings, and others on the side of reason. Maybe it balances out on the species level.

Not everyone needs to be Bill Gates. But it's worth noting that he's far and away the most charitable man on earth... and all indications are that he's basing his charity on reason, not feelings. He reasons out which charities will help the most people to the greatest extent... and his conclusions may reveal possibilities that would never be found if he only "followed his heart."

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Having known many people who know in their heart things that are diametrically opposed to each other, I believe in fostering our intuition but understanding it better go with what is physical reality. Intuition is handy in a disaster. We need to be more aware of instinct which wild animals have but domestic ones like us have forgotten. But as for knowing... someone could know they could walk in front of a fast moving train and be just as dead no matter how much they 'knew'. I like mystery and it works for me. I think it adds to the joy of life.

How very afraid of the unknown must be those poor souls that must have an explanation for a personal god, an explanation which must be on the third-grade reading level, and a god who must be re-created each week in man's own likeness.

The fear is so overwhelming as to subvert sense past generations; so conditioning that even the death of one unbeliever is too small; so complete that even circular logic is too perfect.

Can I coin the term "adeiphobia", or is it taken?

Stuart,

While in Hawaii, was Kileau volcano still erupting? Is the Volcano House still worth staying at?

Roger wrote...
> While in Hawaii, was Kileau volcano still
> erupting? Is the Volcano House still worth
> staying at?

At the volcano crater, there was a huge plume of steam (or whatever that stuff is) shooting out, but no lava. I believe the lava is coming out of the side of the volcano and flowing underground to the sea. We took a helicopter ride, and there were places where you could see through holes in the ground to the orange glow.

At night, we snuck past the road blocks (for safety, they don't let people get close) to see the glowing plumes in the distance where the lava hit the ocean. In daylight (from the helicopter), you couldn't see the glow, just the wild and massive plumes of steam in the 2 or 3 places where the lava was flowing into the ocean.

I don't know about the volcano house. The helicopter ride was $200 and very cool. The volcano crater was also worth seeing, but lots of the roads around the volcano were closed for safety.

It blew my mind when they told me about a previous flow that destroyed a shoreline town. It took 2 years for the flow to reach the town. During the whole time, they tried all sorts of methods to try to stop the flow from reaching the town, but ultimately nothing worked. There was a church that they where they actually moved the building to safer ground, but mostly everything was destroyed. Must have been and "interesting" 2 years.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Stuart,

That steam stuff, might be a fumarole. Pahoehoe will turn into aa, that might explain the time to reach the town.

"During the whole time, they tried all sorts of methods to try to stop the flow from reaching the town, but ultimately nothing worked."

--I wonder if 'letting go' would have helped in this situation. I think, I understand the force of magma at a hot spot.

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