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November 22, 2018

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Wow... Take the references to God Out and look at the slanted view of reality!

It isn't possible to take the references to God out, because JB is talking about God. Or rather, the deluded belief that there is a God.

Either God is able to intervene in the world, which is the basis of the world's traditional religions, including Sant Mat (basically an offspring of Sikhism), or God is absent from the world except, perhaps, as a detached observer.

If God is able to intervene, then what JB says is correct: God is responsible for the horrible suffering that occurs in this world. Now I recognize that religious believers have all sorts of ways of explaining why God allows suffering to occur, but these are rationalizations, not logical arguments.

And if God is only a detached observer, uninvolved with the world and inaccessible to humans, then what's the point of believing in God?

Hi Brian
The world is a wonderful and tragic place, filled with undiscovered and unfolding mystery.

To discuss this creation with or without God and do so objectively, one must acknowledge the good, the bad and the unknown.

To pick only the bad things and associate those alone to a God one doesn't actually believe in, is not clear thinking.


Either God is able to intervene in the world, which is the basis of the world's traditional religions, including Sant Mat (basically an offspring of Sikhism), or God is absent from the world except, perhaps, as a detached observer.

But, if God is everywhere, a belief even traditional religion
subscribes to, then God's consciousness is embedded within
us. We are God ("totality of consciousness" per a modern
mystic). We are the creator of this relentless suffering. We
are responsible. We could intervene but we don't.

Instead we've lost awareness of who we are, of our complicity.
We need a scapegoat for acts we architected ourselves. We
wash our hands of these unthinkable deeds.

Round up the usual suspects. But for crimes of such magnitude,
who ya gonna blame. We manufacture a God out "there" far
off scheming In his workshop hideaway. An evil-doer, Satan
in a white robe.

We are the hapless victims, the poor victimized sheep, and
we're mad as hell, self-righteously railing against this pitiless
monster. Weeping and wailing, we hold up pictures of those
he's starved, murdered, abandoned.

Charges pile up. Crimes against humanity. The policeman
whispers "We like him for all these charges".

Verdict rendered. The death penalty. Drawn and quartered
first though. Caricatured, ridiculed, framed for a thousand
ills retroactively to the beginning of time.

The Anti-theist mobster within smiles and lives to rant another
day.

It is funny how certain people blame God for allowing our own bad behavior and then use the bad outcome as proof God does not exist. As if God is responsible for what we do or do not do.

With that kind of thinking the only acceptable God would be one that doesn't let people do what they want.

Spence: "To discuss this creation with or without God and do so objectively, one must acknowledge the good, the bad and the unknown. To pick only the bad things and associate those alone to a God one doesn't actually believe in, is not clear thinking."

As I've said before, the existence of good can be plausibly reconciled with the absence of a benevolent God, yet the existence of suffering cannot be plausibly reconciled with the presence of a benevolent God. This remains true even with the definition of God as the sum total of everything.

There seems to be an unexamined assumption that God-as-totality solves the problem of evil and suffering. Yet, considering the totality of existence as God just makes the problem of suffering even more impenetrable.

The injection God, however one defines it, into the problem of suffering only unnecessarily complicates the matter. While God was originally invented partly to serve as some sort of nebulous resolution to suffering, it is abundantly clear that this figment does anything but.

Hi JB
You wrote
"There seems to be an unexamined assumption that God-as-totality solves the problem of evil and suffering."

You misunderstand. It's not God's job to solve that problem. It is our job to solve it. This is where Atheist and Theist agree. What brought us here, face to face with evil and suffering is anyone's guess, but it really has no material bearing.

Anti-theists would rather blame than fix. This is why I had stated that where we see suffering, we should go help.

To blame God, whether you believe in God or not, is a poor substitite for helpful action.

And to blame God when you don't even believe in God really is completely illogical.

JB, nicely said. I've had thoughts along the same lines (but not as clearly thought out). The way I see it, atheism has a pleasingly simple approach to suffering: it is part and parcel of life on earth. And maybe also life anywhere else in the universe.

Living beings are born. Then they die. And in between there is pain as well as pleasure, sadness as well as happiness. So with atheism, the suffering that is seen is the suffering that we get.

But religions have to engage in tortuous dogmas to explain how a good God created and oversees bad suffering. Layers of concepts get added on to the atheist position. Complexity replaces simplicity.

Hi Brian
You wrote
"The way I see it, atheism has a pleasingly simple approach to suffering: it is part and parcel of life on earth. And maybe also life anywhere else in the universe."

Many theists also agree with this.

All mystics state as much in their teachings.

For example, Sant Mat explains that we can't know at this level why suffering happens. The answer is of limited value. Our job is to accept what is on our plate and get through it responsibly while doing our best to help those around us. Human beings are here to help each other. It's simple. But more than that.

Meditation is given to us to give us the strength to get through this life.

And that strength is significant.

Spence: "What brought us here, face to face with evil and suffering is anyone's guess, but it really has no material bearing."

What? The cause of a problem has no material bearing on a possible resolution? That's like saying that the cause of climate change has no bearing on possible solutions to climate change. We come up with solutions when we know the cause. The best solution will always be that which directly addresses the cause.

The same is true in terms of the value in ascertaining the etiology of a disease state. Until you know the cause, you are stabbing blindly in the dark. Granted, knowing the cause doesn't always translate to the problem being amenable to a solution.

This is the case with suffering. We do know the cause of suffering, broadly speaking, but have no solution because suffering is innate. Eliminating suffering from conscious existence is like eliminating the wetness from liquid water.

Spence: "And to blame God when you don't even believe in God really is completely illogical."

Of course I don't believe even in God. I'm being sardonic to illustrate a point.

Hi JB
You wrote
"What? The cause of a problem has no material bearing on a possible resolution? That's like saying that the cause of climate change has no bearing on possible solutions to climate change. We come up with solutions when we know the cause. The best solution will always be that which directly addresses the cause."

Only the local cause has any utility to a solution. You drive down a street that turns out to be closed. Your delay was caused by the closed street.

To then ask why the street was closed is not material. It's not a functional discussion. You are trying to get to your vacation destination. Why spend days in that town arguing with the locals about why the road was closed?

An athlete broke their bone. Setting the bone doesn't require mapping the events that led to the fall and the break. The bone is fixed entirely differently from all that : seeing the bone in detail is what we need to know.

Meditation and prayer work in a similar way, providing direct insights into your own self. And if prayer and meditation prove, as they have, to bring peace and contentment, to improve focus and brain health, that has purpose and utility. Whatever belief system brought you to prayer and meditation only has utility in getting you to do it.

Spence: "An athlete broke their bone. Setting the bone doesn't require mapping the events that led to the fall and the break. The bone is fixed entirely differently from all that : seeing the bone in detail is what we need to know."

Yes, there are always local causes for every particular event that causes suffering. This is distinct from the overall cause of suffering.

The cause of my sorrow for the loss of my father to a glioblastoma brain tumor was obvious. The existence of sorrow in general is a different question from particular instances of sorrow. Although different in some respects, the cause is also obvious.

Suffering is an ever-present baseline of reality because of our intrinsic limitation and the fact that we are aware and must experience (and therefore, that we are acutely aware of our limitation).

Using your example, fixing the bone is temporary because the athlete is found to have low bone density due to underlying osteopenia (weakness of the bone). Without discovering this, the fix is nothing short of a band-aid because it doesn't address the underlying conditions that led to the break.

Sorrow is the acute manifestation of the underlying conditions of consciousness and limitation (the underlying lack). Sorrow is the acute manifestation (the broken bone ) brought about due to the underlying human predicament (weakness of the bone).

Any treatment (including meditation and "prayer work") are only band-aids, because our innate predicament is unchanged. These may be temporarily useful to assuage suffering, but they do nothing to address the underlying conditions that invariably create this category of experience.

The total elimination of suffering can't be experienced because that would entail eliminating consciousness. Nonexistence, which awaits us all will bring non-suffering only because it brings total extinction.

Hi JB
You wrote
"Using your example, fixing the bone is temporary because the athlete is found to have low bone density due to underlying osteopenia (weakness of the bone). Without discovering this, the fix is nothing short of a band-aid because it doesn't address the underlying conditions that led to the break."

Upon CT scan the bone is seen to be unusually thin leading to a blood test and an MRI. Then treatment for the break and osteoporosis proceeds. In no case did we need to understand the major causes of the break or the osteoporosis.

All that was needed was a deeper look at the present.

You wrote
"Any treatment (including meditation and "prayer work") are only band-aids, because our innate predicament is unchanged. "

Meditating and prayer change you, connect you with inner vision and insight, calm your thinking so you also have better vision of the world around you.

It doesn't change the basics of existence and life. Meditation, like exercise and diet, and in combination, maximize our capacity to adapt to tragedy and even to invite challenges that make us stronger, and better able to help others adapt to the tragedies that overtake each of us. They are largely unavoidable. Explanations

Like the unexpected death of my brother—in-law last Sunday, and my capacity to give comfort to my sister over these holidays.


Spence: "maximize our capacity to adapt to tragedy and even to invite challenges that make us stronger..."

Yes, nearly everything we do is aimed at cultivating resilience in some form or another, as it is all about survival. Greater resilience equals greater ability to survive.

Yet, we wouldn't be be habitually seeking that which "make us stronger" if we didn't know that we are are innately weak and vulnerable.

The realist knows that all our attempts to build resilience are survival tactics of an organism bound for destruction. This is why I say that an unvarnished registering of reality is not conducive to survival.

Even "no-self" ideas likely wouldn't be latched on to if they didn't present some form of value to an individual. No-self is another attempt to insulate one from suffering; to create a certain sense of detachment. I think of that book by Anam Thubten, No Self, No Problem. The motivation for disseminating such notions is transparently obvious. Psychologically, it is a warm blanket.

Spence: "Upon CT scan the bone is seen to be unusually thin leading to a blood test and an MRI. Then treatment for the break and osteoporosis proceeds. In no case did we need to understand the major causes of the break or the osteoporosis."

You can trace one cause back to another deeper cause and back yet to another deeper cause. There is contingency all the way down.

But all of it is due, at its base, to limitation. And limitation can't be fixed.

Why are we limited? This is like asking "why is there something rather than nothing?"

Hi JB
You wrote
"No-self is another attempt to insulate one from suffering; to create a certain sense of detachment. I think of that book by Anam Thubten, No Self, No Problem. The motivation for disseminating such notions is transparently obvious. Psychologically, it is a warm blanket."

Yes very true. The best of these deal with the hidden assetts within the human mind.

That's why worship, prayer and meditation in their purest forms work so well. They tap into natural processes.

This is a whole world of inner experience...

" Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
-Rumi

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