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January 19, 2010


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"Oh My God" - the movie site:

Oh My God - the trailer on YouTube:

They are sometimes described as different methods of insight into reality.

Seems that there will always be value judgments on which is the best or most accurate. Indeed many will argue that religion is not an insight into reality at all, rather it concerned a belief as to what reality constitutes.

Even a mystical experience remains subjective evidence, and thus will always be questioned as to its validity as a method of insight into reality - because the mystical experience cannot be objectively validated, the question remains whether it is a false creation by the mind, as opposed to reality.

Others will argue that the subjective experience of love is not objectively provable, but we know it is part of reality. However, love and other subjective emotions are experienced by most human beings, so there is more credence for they being real, than someone who believes he is the messiah or has had union with god, since such experiences are not commonplace at all.

Also, these subjective experiences are states of mind. We believe we are in love or are the messiah or have experienced union with god or the tao - whether such a subjectively experienced state reflects reality is another question altogether.

So some will maintain that science is the only insight into reality. the evidence would seem to support it, but perhaps mystical tradtions remain useful as a means of trying to enter and study the mind.

Yes, I liked the following,

"In everyday life, we neither believe nor disbelieve in facts as a general category; we just encounter particular ones in perfectly ordinary ways; and any challenge to one or more of them will also be perfectly ordinary, a matter of evidentiary adequacy or the force of counter examples or some other humdrum, non-philosophical measure of dis-confirmation. The conclusions we may have come to in the context of fancy epistemological debates (a context few will ever inhabit) will have no necessary force when we step into, and are asked to operate in, other contexts."


"...In short, if you believe this, how can you also believe that? The answer is that the realms of belief supposedly existing in a condition of opposition and conflict are, at least to some extent, discrete. What you believe in one arena of human endeavor may have no spillover into what you believe, and do, in another."

--I can see a time or situation for simple belief and simple non-belief. Then, there are those moments when one doesn't need to engage in belief and/or non-belief.

George, you hit on some key points that also seem to be central to Smith's book. Namely, that the human mind has all sorts of ways of relating to reality -- rational, emotional, perceptual, active (physically), and so on.

Religions serve a purpose. They must, or they wouldn't have been part of human civilization for so long. They help people to deal with fear of the unknown by providing belief systems to cling to (for example, if your house fell down in Haiti, it was God's will).

The question is how effective religion is in helping people to live more satisfying lives, and what the side effects of taking the blind faith pill are.

Like you said, religious experiences are subjective. They are founded on beliefs that themselves rest on conceptual abstractions. God isn't a concrete reality, but a thought-structure in the brain.

This is why scientific knowledge is more effective in dealing with a wide class of human problems: when these are rooted in objective reality, a system that accurately understands that reality, including cause and effect relationships, is going to usually work better.

But we're complex. As noted above, art, music, poetry, dance, imagination, fantasy, and such are also parts of the human experience. So for many people, religion is a satisfying aspect of their subjective relationships with the world.

I've got no problem with that. Religious believers just need to accept that (1) they can't make pronouncements about objective reality without demonstrable evidence, and (2) they've got no right to expect that other people should accept their dogmas on the same blind faith basis that they do.


Neatly summed up, reality versus the human mind relating to reality.

Religion seems more about a search for meaning as opposed to reality.

It seems half religion's struggle is to convince itself that its meaning is grounded in some reality. But this surely cannot be a search for reality because it requires meaning first. Thus religion's starting point is invariably an unprovable god, from which flows different explanations of the creation of reality - whereas science starts only from what is actually known to be.

Nevertheless there remains this persistent feeling there must be something more noble than this earthly existence with all its imperfections and seemingly ephemeral temporary nature.

Its this feeling, which has prompted religion, but the question is whether its explainable as a by-product of a highly evolved brain that has developed a subjective self-consciousness perspective of the world - or whether it is something more inherent to the human condition such as a soul or what Huston Smith or the mystics might argue to be an inherent spiritual dimension common to all ppl and eras.

Science can't really explain away this feeling because science is after all an abstraction, and this feeling is a personal subjective experience. And after all, its these subjective experiences that are the most poweful and most memorable. Even for myself, the awe of the universe is breathtaking, but it will never compare to the immediate first person experience of a subjectively experience state such as love. And it is thus no wonder religions or mysticism with its emphasis on subjective experience of ecstacy is what is sought to try explain this feeling and bring meaning. Thus, people's historical attachment to their subjective experience is no surprise, but it sheds no light on reality, i.e. on an objective reality.

The mystical outlook is also contradictory. It encourages a direct seeing for yourself (albeit a mind's eye seeing), but discourages the world of direct sight and sense as an illusion. Knowing thyself may well be a very noble pursuit, but it sheds no light on everything else.

The blind faith pill is an interesting one, since it might lead to a sunnier outlook with meaning and happier societiers (all is debatable) - but it sheds no insight on reality, especially if one wants the cold hard truth.

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