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October 24, 2013

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Yes, I can see that where physical needs are taken care of, worries and a sense of security would lessen the investments in religious beliefs. Perhaps also as important is the feeling of being acknowledged as a human being with all that that entails.
One of the criticisms of atheism is that it lacks community. I wonder if some European countries have a different community culture that takes the place of religious communities?
Here in the UK there are spiritual organisations that prey on the lonely and unloved – an easy target for recruitment.

Regarding death, perhaps because the ego/mind includes the concept of a ‘self’ and carries the burden of assuming that its contents (accumulated knowledge) are ‘who I am’, we are more afraid of losing this very strong sense of identity than we are of physical death. Atheists and/or anyone who can see the mind/self/identity issue clearly could perhaps be more attuned to the innate intelligence of the total brain/body organism and less identified with the maintenance and continuation of one (although very important) aspect of our totality – the ego/mind.

...the ego/mind includes the concept of a ‘self’ and carries the burden of assuming that its contents (accumulated knowledge) are ‘who I am’...

If you're suggesting that there's more to consciousness than content and mentation (including the unconscious), please elaborate. If "I" am not the mind - its content and activity - what am I, according to you?

...perhaps because the ego/mind includes the concept of a ‘self’ and carries the burden of assuming that its contents (accumulated knowledge) are ‘who I am’, we are more afraid of losing this very strong sense of identity than we are of physical death.

Without a "strong sense of identity", there is no "you" to be afraid of losing itself or suggesting the possibility of having no identity.

Thanks cc, I appreciate your questions. I too think that consciousness is the result of mentation and what makes the 'me' is the accumulation of all the information (contents) my brain has 'stored' since birth – ‘I’ am my memories

I also think that we are more than these contents. I'd say that we are the totality of the brain/body and not only the brains contents (the mind), yet we identify (it seems) as regarding who we are mostly with these contents.

We are described by our relationships with the environment - and yes, it is all processed via the brain which 'chooses' what inputs are registered. And if for its security it 'chooses' for example a supernatural belief then that becomes part of its identity - I am a Christian, a Hindu etc., (or it could be a nationalistic or cultural belief). If further, one becomes so attached to that one particular content of the mind then life is viewed from that perspective.

It is the mind’s attachment to a particular content (or contents) with the accompanying fear of losing that aspect of one’s identity – which for some, can feel like death. It is the ‘death’ of these attachments that I see as the basis of our fear of death. I am suggesting that we invest in seemingly unassailable beliefs in order to maintain what we feel as a "strong sense of identity".

It is not about losing one's identity or the ego, of being no ‘you’ (it's always there) it’s a question of being aware of the attachment to a particular thought or concept that poses as 'me'. It is possible for the brain (mind if preferred) to see or be aware of the process of attachment. Religions can be dropped, allegiances can be changed and so on, yet ‘you’ are still there – but I would say that it is a ‘you’ that experiences life more real than through the structures of what can be life-negating (or life-avoiding) concepts.

Religions can be dropped, allegiances can be changed and so on, yet ‘you’ are still there – but I would say that it is a ‘you’ that experiences life more real than through the structures of what can be life-negating (or life-avoiding) concepts.

You're still being vague and alluding to some sense of identity that is not conceptual, and I don't see how this is possible. Biological identity is a given. It's who and what I think I am that we're discussing. Yes, one can have a "life-negating or life-avoiding", sense of oneself, but that's beside the point. I'm just trying to clear away all the mystical nonsense this question is mired in and you seem resistant to the possibility that "you" are nothing but what you think.

What I am actually is revealed by what I write, by audio-video technology, and by instruments that measure biological functions, but who and what I am to myself is my conceit and it's entirely conceptual.

No, I not am alluding to anything; I am saying it is the over-identification with aspects of the contents or concepts that comprise our sense of self. I have not denied the reality of the conceptual or thinking self; in fact, it is that conceptual sense of self which I refer to – the malleable ‘you’.

We all know that this ‘self’ (our identity) is a mental construction. And we all know that this construction is composed of is concepts – which I have called its contents. These contents are not necessarily fixed; some are such as the concept I have of my body or where I live, but many of our opinions, beliefs, ideas and memories are constantly changing.

My comments are all in response to the blog’s original statement regarding:- “. . . the fear of dying and being non-existent forever”. And what I thought I made clear was that it is the identification or attachment to certain concepts that gives us an increased fear of death.

We defend these concepts, our ideas and opinions as though we were defending our bodies from attack – this is our conceit. I read recently of a clergyman who said that to have his beliefs threatened felt like death. To believe and invest in our concepts as though they were real physical entities is to invite a fear of dying.

As I said, the concepts that make ‘you’ are always there albeit that they are ever changing. Again, it is the attachment to concepts that I believe amplifies the fear of dying.

[HA-HA, Tucson, you fell for another neo-con con job. This is a fake article. Lesson: don't believe everything you come across without checking out its veracity. Applies to religious beliefs and political propaganda. Here's the proof that this article is fake:
http://paulswansen.com/united-nations-international-health-organization-survey/

http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=54884

Be sure to read the lengthy response from "opposite" in the discussion thread above. It seems to have some well-researched health statistics. Here's an example:
-----------------------
#6
Percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in "excellent health":
U.S. 12%
England 2%
Canada 6%

Where is this survey? What’s the sample size that was used? And could it be that the discrepancy exists maybe because seniors in the UK and Canada have more regular check-ups or access to a better diagnostic medicine infrastructure alerting them to problems sooner? I’m not sure what exactly this is supposed to tell us.

Using self-identification in lieu of actual hard facts seems like a bad idea to determine quality of a nation’s health care system.

So in keeping with the pattern of this rebuttal let’s get some actual facts in here about the health of seniors for these three countries. Life expectancy for people 65+ seems like a great way to measure that and the good old OECD was kind enough to provide this data for the three referenced countries.

- USA: Males; 17.1 years / Females: 19.8 years
- UK: Males; 17.6 years / Females: 20.2 years
- Canada: Males; 18.1 years / Females: 21.3 years

In other words, while seniors in the USA may self-identify as in “excellent health” the actual OECD data (Source:http://www.irdes.fr/EcoSante/DownLoa...uestedData.xls) suggests that citizens 65+ in the UK and Canada are in fact in better health as measured by their life expectancy.

So disregard the following comment from Tucson. But it's worth reading as an example of how easily people can be fooled into believing made-up stuff is true. Lesson: if something sounds unbelievable, it probably is.

-- Blogger Brian

----------------------------------
An "Investor's Business Daily" article provided interesting statistics from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization.

Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after
diagnosis:
U.S. 65%
England 46%
Canada 42%
Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within
six months:
U.S. 93%
England 15%
Canada 43%
Percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six
months:
U.S. 90%
England 15%
Canada 43%
Percentage referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:
U.S. 77%
England 40%
Canada 43%
Number of MRI scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per million people:
U.S. 71
England 14
Canada 18
Percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in
"excellent health":
U.S. 12%
England 2%
Canada 6%
And now for the last statistic:

National Health Insurance?
U.S. NO
England YES
Canada YES

it is the attachment to concepts that I believe amplifies the fear of dying.

I agree, but it's a matter of being loosely, flexibly, adaptably attached to one's concepts/contents, or rigidly and unyieldingly attached, because there's no possibility of being conscious without the attachment that constitutes the sense of identity.

Well, as far as we know, we are our memories. If we are these memories (the experiences that formed our concepts within the time, place and people we were born into) then those experiences, now memories, is where our identities were forged. To be aware of how the identity was formed can diminish its effect. Consciousness is still there registering the change whether it is loosely or rigidly attached – or no attachment whatever. Consciousness apparently is impartial, it just reflects what arises in it.

Here’s one that I read recently regarding consciousness – and may ‘scupper our boats’. It’s from Sam Harris’ book ‘The End of Faith’ (p 208). “The idea that brains produce consciousness is little more than an article of faith among scientists at present, and there are many reasons to believe that the methods of science will be insufficient to either prove or disprove it.” It may all one day require a review of our attachments!

Neo-con, huh? Oh yeah?
Well how about commie pinko back at ya.
Put that in your ganja pipe and smoke it. (or mine).

I think it is well known that there are longer waits for medical care and procedures in Britain and Canada regardless of the percentage accuracy of the statistics I posted here that came through my inbox. That email makes the rounds about every six months or so like a chain letter. If it wasn't true it wouldn't keep showing up in my spam box, right? It has to be true ;)

I think there are ways to structure statistics to support most arguments and many articles are written pro and con, this way and that way regarding socialized medicine.

In my experience, annecdotally, the problems with Canadian and British health systems has been born out by my conversations with a few Brits and Cananuks. An ex-pat resident of France likes it there but said it was a bad place to get sick.

A few European countries have social med systems that work and are solvent. Many don't. The problem (or lack of it) seems to be more in the realm of the level of corruption of the governments that run them rather than the political philosophy behind these systems. Denmark is much more responsibly managed than Spain, Italy, Greece or Portugal.

There is a great deal of corruption, waste, and deceit in our government right now. I see no reason to believe it can switch over to being a euro-style social democracy and competently manage health care to any degree that would be better at assuaging death anxiety than religion or sex addiction.

Consciousness is still there registering the change whether it is loosely or rigidly attached – or no attachment whatever.

Consciousness - awareness of what's going on as understood by its contents - can't register what isn't going on, so if there's no attachment to or identification with any concepts, there is effectively no content, and therefore no consciousness as we know it.

"No attachment whatsoever" is known amongst Buddhists and others as "non-attachment".It's a religious precept, not a demonstrable fact. At best, it's aeceticism; at worst, delusion.

Believe it or not, like it or not, you are identified with and attached to your content. It's not a problem. There's nothing wrong. But if you're attached to and identified with notions like non-attachment, you need to examine the content you are.

tucson, I got the "neo con" language from a comment on the second link I shared above:

"Neocons have no respect for the truth. They prefer a lie that comforts them." - See more at: http://paulswansen.com/united-nations-international-health-organization-survey/#sthash.htiQVD0P.dpuf

Sounds right to me. It's pretty clear that liberals are much more likely to be part of the reality-based community than conservatives. Check out the percentage of liberals and conservatives who accept the reality of global warming and evolution, for example.

Very rarely do I get any emails or other messages from fellow liberals that make me think, "Wow! This is crazily untrue." But it happens all the time when conservatives send me stuff.

Conservatives, including neo-cons, just seem to be much more ideological and "faith-driven," believing that what they believe is true just because they want to believe it so much.

“The idea that brains produce consciousness is little more than an article of faith among scientists at present, and there are many reasons to believe that the methods of science will be insufficient to either prove or disprove it.” It may all one day require a review of our attachments!

What reason, what evidence, is there for thinking that consciousness might be more than a product of brain activity? How are you going to test it? Sam Harris has done much for the cause of freedom from religion, but...


Blogger Brian wrote: "It's pretty clear that liberals are much more likely to be part of the reality-based community than conservatives."

Funny, it is the opposite for me if you exclude the type of conservatives who base their beliefs on scripture or religion.

As if it matters, I tend to be a live and let live sort of person. Leave me alone, I'll leave you alone. But let's do it within a budget of money we actually have. Radical neo-con concepts, I know.

As Blogger Brian has demonstrated in his neuroscience commentaries we tend to interpret our world through colored lenses. In his case, his lenses are blue(self professed) and mine are red (sort of).

What stands out in my mind is how profoundly divided this country has become over the last 12 years. People just can't get what the other side is saying. Each side appears absolutely crazy to the other. This has the makings of a civil war or some kind of societal breakdown.

Certainly not the type of society that eases death anxiety

Yes cc I agree. My understanding and limited experience also tells me that consciousness arises in the brain - and I am quite happy with that. Whatever the future outcome of the mechanics of the brain may reveal I believe they will contribute to helping others to discard the shackles of superstition and the supernatural.

The reason that Harris speaks in this way is that consciousness - what it is and how it works - is still a huge mystery.

The hard problem of consciousness has not been solved (how physical processing gives rise to a rich inner life) - and some believe that it cannot be solved with man's limited cognitive capabilities/biases.

Of course no one can deny that a brain is required for consciousness (as we know it) to arise - but is a brain sufficient? Probably, but we just don't know as yet.

Sam Harris is a respected neuroscientist and philosopher (amongst other things) and a tireless critic of magical thinking in all its varieties. He's obviously not allowing for a supernatural explanation - but he is sensibly cautious not to jump to premature conclusions at this point in our understanding.

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