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November 02, 2009


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The other side of at least the Christian religion is the very opposite of 'special-ness.' you were unworthy, a worthless sinner, who Jesus had to do this for because nothing you could do was good enough. Then when you accept the sacrifice, you quit trusting your own instincts because they are also untrustworthy and you must follow the guidebook and those who interpret it for you even when you look around you and think that doesn't make sense. You still have no value unless you do exactly as you are told.

I've often wondered how the religious would spin things if, at some point, intelligent life is found beyond this one tiny orb. Even more so, what if such life is found to be more civilized or more highly evolved than ours?

This is one of the the best article Brian. Or I should say I related with it so much!

I am reading Carl Sagan's The Varieties of Scientific Experience (this name is no coincidence, the editor wants to say, "Hey, William James, scientific experience is no less spiritual than religious experience!"). The whole first chapter of the book echoes your idea: human, as exemplified in the West by medieval Christianity, has been too arrogant to think that himself is at the center of the universe. Not until the emergence of astronomy which latter demonstrated that our planet is so insignificant in the vast Universe that this arrogance was finally partially cured. Some think that religion/Christianity inculcate humility. By insisting on the centrality of humanity in the Creation (even the whole "God's plan"), religions can in fact promote arrogance of the human species. In contrast, science, by recognizing the very late appearance of homo sapiens in the Universe, can inspire true humility. The religious stance which takes science seriously as it is (instead of interpreting it distortedly as so often done by other religionists, also claiming "take science seriously") is Relgious Naturalism (RN). The basic premise of RN is that Nature by herself, as understood by science, is the appropriate source of religious response (awe, reverence, gratitude, etc.). Carl Sagan has not identified himself as a Religious Naturalist but his thoughts are remarkably in-line with this promising "religion" for the 21st century (yes, I like RN, sorry).

sapient, I'm glad you related to the theme of this post. It's sort of hard to put this notion of non-specialness into words -- more of a feeling than a cognition (as so many insights are).

Alex, I've looked at the book by Sagan that you mentioned several times in bookstores, but haven't bought it yet. Maybe I'll search for a used copy on Amazon. Thanks for the summary of the first chapter. it sounds like the book is worth getting for that chapter alone.

No, you shouldn't buy that book, used. It deserves buying new! After reading a used copy, you will regret not having bought a new one! Do blog it when you have finished the book (so acquire it soon, please!). Anticipating.

For the moment, let me treat (hook) you with two excerpts from the first chapter alone:

"Many religions have attempted to make statues of their gods very large, and the idea, I suppose, is to make us feel small. But if that's their purpose, they can keep their paltry icons. We need only look up if we wish to feel small. It's after an exercise such as this that many people conclude that the religious sensibility is inevitable." (p28)

"And in fact a general problem with much of Western theology in my view is that the God portrayed is too small. It is a god of a tiny world and not a god of galaxy, much less of a universe." (p30)

so find the god of the great universe and perhaps you find yourself

or else find yourself and begin the road to knowing who any one of these gods may be.

its all the same in reality whether you approach the puzzle from the slant of the scientist or the theologian ultimately the same unassailable truth will result, if it is unassailable truth you are after.

If not keep beating about the same bush forever, and still believe you are as special as you think you might be.

you also confusing the aspiration for truth as the aspiration of religion, nowhere nearly related, the stuck and fixed scientist is as stuck and fixed as the blind theologian.

You can go round the periphery in circles, seeking meaning or you can pierce it in an instant as simple as that, your choice or your conditioning, but your intellect will never know, only a vague hint of the reality will you ever assume to be true.

Ashy, What and where is the thing that does the piercing? What are its boundaries?

Ashy, what is this "unassailable truth"? Please describe it so I can decide whether I want to assail it. Also, if you say it can't be described, then why do you keep talking about it? And if it is unassailable, then why do you feel the need to keep defending it (leaving aside the question of whether it exists)? If that truth is threatened by this blog, it must be weak and wussy.

Alex, you'll be pleased to know that I found a new copy via Amazon that was one cent cheaper than the lowest priced used copy. Ah, I love Amazon.


Meaningful words in common language can be (mis-)used to assemble cognitively meaningless sentences.

This is often seen in religious/semi-religious/philosophical language.

As seen in the one Pelvis and Brian are answering to/questioning.

Alex, I heartily agree.

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