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September 23, 2009


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The following passage helped me to understand Culpitt's meaning of non-realism.

"In brief, we don't know and we cannot know THE world, absolutely. We know only OUR world, a world shaped by our ideas, seen from our perspective, and built by us with our needs in view. Such is Cupitt's non-realist philosophy. It implies, by the way, that we have no privileged knowledge of ourselves either, hence Cupitt's phrase "Empty radical humanism". It means "We alone improvise our knowledge about everything — including even ourselves". There is no absolute or perspectiveless vision of the world: the best we can have is a slowly-evolving human consensus about a purely human world. It doesn't sound much; but it works remarkably well in practice, which is why in America this philosophical outlook is called ‘pragmatism’. In religion, the move to non-realism implies the recognition that all religious and ethical ideas are human, with a human history. We give up the old metaphysical and cosmological way of understanding religious belief, and translate dogma into spirituality (a spirituality is a religious lifestyle). We understand all religious doctrines in practical terms, as guiding myths to live by, in the way that Kant, Kierkegaard and Bultmannn began to map out. We abandon ideas of objective and eternal truth, and instead see all truth as a human improvisation. We should give up all ideas of a heavenly or supernatural world-beyond. Yet, despite our seeming scepticism, we insist that non-realist religion can work very well as religion, and can deliver eternal happiness. Cupitt sees his religion of ordinary human life as the "Kingdom theology" that historic Christianity always knew it must eventually move to, after the end of the age of the Church and the arrival of a religion of immediate commitment to this world and this life only."

---A religion of immediate commitment to this world and this life only, sounds interesting. One could replace religion with the word philosophy. Maybe, maybe not.

This is more like the kind of thread that catches my attention these days. "how to use "god" to live and think in an ungodly way".

I suppose it seems hard to give up all the past God beliefs as they are so ingrained into the brain. I do wonder now how to get on with things without a type of nervousness looming over my shoulder about the apparent hollowness of life without a God. I suppose one of the answers is to make as many friends as possible!

On a side note, Brian, when you meditate does your mind subside into a kind of void or stillness? I haven't practiced meditation regularly or much to acheive such a state, but i am willing to believe it may be possible, granting that subconscious thoughts also subside. It would represent a type of awareness without thoughts akin to the deep sleep state without losing consciousness. Is such a thing worth trying to achieve? Or should there be perhaps a warning to people in general about the unpleasant side effects of meditation.

If your mind does attain a thought free state, how long does it take to settle down? And what kind of feelings does it produce at the time and afterwards?

It's handy to have a tome like "The Portable Atheist" when you need it.

David, when I meditate my mind is still doing what it does, "minding." Some days I enter into a state of quasi-quietude; some days I don't.

There are many different approaches to meditation. There's no right way or wrong way. As you said, "unpleasant side effects" may exist, but if someone follows their own way, rather than a rigid set of practices, it's difficult to see how meditation could be harmful. If an unpleasant feeling comes up, just stop meditating and go do something else.

For me, the most interesting meditative question is what my consciousness is like when I'm not busily doing, but rather being. Or at least more "being" than during the rest of my active day, which is filled with "doing."

So I find that doing as little as possible each morning is an enjoyable adjunct to my life. It seems to help settle me into a more stable, open, and responsive awareness of the rest of the day.

Over-reacting to events (whether inner or outer) is a problem for most of us. Finding our psychological center of balance can keep us from over-tipping emotionally, just as finding our physical center of balance is essential in dance, walking, tai chi, and other activities.

Hey, don't spoil it for me! I'm only 3/4 of the way through the book.

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