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November 29, 2023


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When i was still socializing with the "brothers and the sisters" I soon discovered that most of them related to the teachings of Sant Mat as they did to the religions they were born in.

In those day I had only a vague idea of the relation between religion and culture. Today I see religion, ALL religions, as an expression of a given regional culture.

Mysticism, based upon personal "experiences, is a separate chapter as long as it is not brought into the public domain.

So, what is described in this blog about how the lady deals with "her" atheism, should not be an surprise .. she deals with it in an american jewish way with atheism .. it is a matter of indoctrination into an IDENTIFICATION. ...being "jewish" , jewish in the american way and probably also restricted to a subgroup in a given city, is an cultural identification ... nothing more nothing less it has nothing to do with the divine and all and everything with the society and the culture one lives in.

The same holds for other religions.

Be noted .. that in these parts of the world those of a given Christian denomination where more orthodox, more prone the make themselves seen "as", more strongli identified themselves with their religious denomination, when they happened to live in an social enclosure.

The same as nationality is not a thing within a given country only outside

People become French, Germany etc living in the nether lands. Muslims become muslims when living in europe ... as a tool to seperate themselves., make themselves seen as.

Has NOTHING to do with atheïsme, the lady just want the stand out in the crowd, profiling herself ...and ... she "forces" others to share her need for identification

hahaha ... shwe operates in the same whay as "brother" spence does.

She was herself trained and now trains her own children as Spence was trained in the many nuances and details of what and how to understand and live up their identification with a cultural tradition.

That is also done in specific classes of society in general.

The rest .. is hardly "educated" they just "grow up" ... they have a vague idea of what it is to have an religion an nationality and more of these things.

The vagueness and concreteness of that awareness is vertical spread in society in terms of classes

In India the lowest of the low are not even allowed to have a religion.

Time for coffee and look outside to the trees with their yellow leaves falling slowely in the mist that doesn't want to go.

Sounds an interesting book: “And if there's no supernatural being, then there's no supernatural place, either: temping as it was, I did not offer my children the consolation of heaven when the cat died or when they themselves began to understand that their lives had a time limit.”

I guess I was a bit lucky in that the old house I lived in as a child had a tatty garden yard and creaking outbuildings, so I was able to house a variety of creatures I ‘discovered’ in our local ponds and streams, as well as several recued animals. I had so many I learned to make – quite good – cages for the white mice and rabbits. One of the things I soon encountered was death. White mice only lived for a year or two so burials were frequent.

As a country lad, and being inquisitive, I wanted to know as much as possible about the creatures I encountered. I would often find a dead bird or animal out in the fields and began to realise death was a normal and regular feature of life, in fact, I realised how death was inevitable and far from being the end story of that organism, its death provided a source of life for many other creatures and organisms.

Although of course I was upset when a rabbit or cat died, life and death to me was an expected, natural occurrence, and also necessary for the birth-life-death cycles of every creature on this planet – including us.

As I understand it to this day (and although we may not like some outcomes), nature did not need or accommodate any such thing as ‘super’ natural explanations. That is, until the proliferation of thinking in we humans (and probably to assuage our fears and insecurities, not only of physical death, but of the death of all the contents of consciousness we call ‘me’) began to invent non-natural reasons to appease our quite normal question and insecurities, with the inevitable proliferation of Gods, souls, heavens' and hells' and a host of other abstract beliefs.

@ Ron

After reading about you looking after animals in your own way, you might appreciate "section 10" of Chuang ZI

In the Dutch translation I have at hand here and whicjh I happened to read yesterday, as I sometimes do just take the book out, to enjoy it as a bisquit with the coffee, Chuang zi explains in a "logic" way how education, destroys the natural way of things. I do not know if the english has that same taste as the dutch translation. ..anyway

Nobody who was formerly Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, and then became an atheist, is going around calling themselves a Catholic, Muslim, or Buddhist atheist. The only exception I can think of is Stephen Batchelor.

When people call themselves Jewish atheists, they're just saying they believe they're racially and ontologically different from other people. That's a false concept from both a biological and historical point of view. To be a race Jews would have to have been isolated from other populations. However, they never avoided crossbreeding and converted many non-Jews. In other words, from Day One Jews have married non-Jews, and therefore there is no way to genetically characterize them as a race. Nevertheless, many people find it difficult to accept the idea that Judaism is not hereditary, but a religion, and that Jews who abandon the Jewish faith, whether they adopt another religion or none at all, are no longer Jews.

When called on this, atheist Jews say they identify as "ethnically Jewish." But when asked to give a meaningful explanation of what makes a person ethnically Jewish, they come up empty. It's the same with anyone who declares that they have a distinct ethnic identity that sets them apart from the mainstream culture. One has only to ask, how? People of whatever skin color or claimed ethnicity put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us, go to jobs, eat basically the same food,

Where is the significant difference? There's none to speak of, which is why the term "diversity" is largely a made-up concept.

Anyway, is it really a "heroic" display of honesty for someone who was brought up Jewish to declare themselves atheist? Well, maybe it was 100 years ago. But the state of Israel was founded by someone who was a declared atheist, so maybe not. And a quarter of Jews today subscribe to the ethnic identify only category. Based on many accounts, it would take far more courage for a Jew to declare themselves a Christian or a Muslim This is true today.

My main point: we can point to the problems that arise from religious belief, and the case for religious belief causing dissension and wars is quite strong. But claims of ethnic identity have gotten a pass. I don't think they should. Ethnic identity is a coy claim of racial identity, and often a mask for racial supremacy. It's just as dangerous as plainspoken racism. The recent events in Gaza are proof enough of that.

@ SANT64
>>When called on this, atheist Jews say they identify as "ethnically Jewish." But when asked to give a meaningful explanation of what makes a person ethnically Jewish, they come up empty.<<

Culture being an artificial nature knows besides al sorts of "living beings" something that is called by biologists "race".

It is the identification with a given way of living and relation with others in the cultural universe we share with one another.

This identification is a very deep mental conditioning of which one can ask if it is possible to get rid of it.

Take ALL people in this country and even those that came from other cultures and have been here say 4 generations ..they all carry the stamp of "Calvinism" .. even if they have never heard of the word.

To go off on a bit of a tangent, if I may:

I tend to view with amusement the absurd egoic investment people tend to put into their children. This wanting to have one's own understanding continue in one's children. It's what I think of as the legacy trap.

Rather than being the distillation of the dysfunctional legacy idea, what I think parenting should be about is a distillation of compassion.

Sorry, bit of a tangent, like I said! That's my thoughts on parenting, in the abstract as it were. When I do bring up a child myself, de facto, sleeves rolled up, spit on my hands, will I still see parenting in the same light, when I actually encounter the real issues of it as opposed to an abstract and idealized version of it? I should hope so; but the honest answer to that question, that I find myself asking of myself now, is that I don't know!

Following on that tangential line of thought:

I do see how parenting might, in practice, be rather different than my so far abstract and, I suppose, idealized thoughts about it.

Some weeks back I was helping a dear young child with an essay assignment. A one-off; so that we spent an inordinate amount of time and effort over it; and had a great deal of fun over it too.

At one point, while discussing one strand of thought that she'd herself brought up, I spoke of how we'll all die, and why it's unconscionable for adults to attempt to have our ossified and dysfunctional religions live on in our children. And I noticed the child's eyes well up when starkly confronted with the thought of the adults, and I suppose me as well, dying. And at that point I remember thinking of myself as a complete asshole, all of my good intentions notwithstanding.

Truth at all costs, sure. In the long run the truly compassionate approach is one that stands with reality, sure. But all such theorizing tends to break down when confronted with the heartbreaking reality of a child's hidden tears, wrung up from the depths of an innocent and loving heart.

Which is why I am ...unsure, how my abstract thoughts on parenting might shape up when --- if --- I find myself engaged in the unrelenting everyday reality of it as opposed to merely the idealized abstraction of it.

It was easy for me. I grew up with virtually no religious beliefs. Okay, I was sent to Sunday school but none of what was taught stuck, in fact all I recall was the fun with other children. I wasn’t trained or schooled in religion. It must be more difficult for someone brought up in a religious atmosphere like Kate Cohen to drop their religious beliefs and traditions.

What I recall of my family environment was that we were allowed to ask questions, in fact, there was a kind of unspoken permission to question. Perhaps that is important when raising children. Not to train or condition them to a set of particular beliefs or philosophy but to allow them to inquire and ask question for themselves. But sadly, due to entrenched beliefs and traditions, it is almost impossible for people of some cultures to avoid indoctrinating their children.

I guess when explaining something like death to a child, there is no formula. Each child is different but along with supportive and loving parents the child would come to terms with their sense of loss in their own way.

"I believe, to the contrary, thant passing on one's preference for reason, evidence, and honesty -- pointing out, with conviction and context, where fiction poses as fact -- is the only truly moral choice. It's one of the most powerful ways to stop the cycle of evasion and politeness that has given religious belief far more cultural, political, and legal power than it should have.":

But it is just a form of dogma and bigotry to assume that in the depths of many religions, even in spirituality, there is no practice, no means of taking a more objective view of life. Indeed each religion, each spiritual practice has its own life view, and often entirely accepting and inclusive of all things and peoples, and scientific knowledge. Some of these are nihlistic, but some are affirmative and encouraging.

The author really needs to start, not with religion, but her own psychology.

Because that colors what she elects to call reason, evidence, honesty and even morality. Her own make up, conditioning and choices.

So then we aren't blaming Atheists, or Christians or Jews or Muslims as a group. We are just identifying our own tendency to need to blame someone, to make explanation for the condition of the world around us.

A true Atheist doesn't do that. They don't need to explain things that have no evidence of explanation.
They don't say "That doesn't exist"...They say "I choose not to believe in that because, in my humble view, the evidence isn't compelling."

This would replace yet another blinkered dogma, another form of prejudice and hate, with an open mind.

And an open mind is truly the only basis for reason.

But since we all have our conditioning, we must acknowledge that reason is also just an ideal, and based upon only the premesis we choose to agree upon. And often by accusing the premeses of others of being flawed.

But if we understand the limitations of our own thinking, our own system of belief, then that is the basis for a real Atheism...Not to say fairies in the garden aren't real, but to say we should not take something as real, which may just be a concept, because it is a familiar concept to us. Our greatest reason arises from objectivity, and that is no better used then with a critical assessment of ourselves..

Unfortunately, the author cited above is simply fomenting another form of prejudice, claiming it is "objective" and "reason" when it is just her reason.

Instead of owning her own reason, and encouraging her children to see her basis and its causes and limits, and go on their own journey of discovery, she just tries to teach them what she believes as fact.

But those are just her facts. Not facts. And claiming we know facts has gotten a lot of people into war, bloodshed and wasted life, even lost human lives.

But if we understand this is all the product of our own thinking, that our brains are indeed biochemical and not some ideal construction in a false and non-existent world of perfect concepts and "hard facts" then she helps her kids with something truthful, factual and functional. We live in a world science has already proven over and over again that is only whatever the gooey brain has done its best to replicate in our imagination, and acknowledging this serious set of limitations, she does her children a service. Not by heedlessly ignoring these truths and proceeding to condition her children to the ills of others, and how superior her thinking is to theirs, when all human thinking suffers from the same flawed foundation.

She doesn't serve them by looking at the flawed thinking of others, which really reflects the flaws and limitations of her own thinking. We tend to see the flaws and focus on the issues that reflect, subconsciously, our own. But she serves them best by looking at her own limitations objectively, and sharing these with her kids, in the goal of encouraging them to do the same as a lifelong practice for themselves.

That is a service to them and the world.

But Atheism as another "perfect way of thinking" is just another religion. And after arguing for it and against the rest of the world, a cold hard look at it tomorrow will demonstrate its very limitations, and human flaws.

If we really are just human. Let's own it.

True Atheism is a life long journey without end, only refinement and personal progress. If it is like true science, un-conclusive about most things but the smallest details, and unwilling to make claims about others we have never met, nor systems of belief we ourselves have never fully explored. And the beauty of Atheism as a belief, is that it isn't necessary.

If there were any system of belief that didn't need to comment on others' systems of belief, it is true Atheism.

True Atheism is entirely inclusive, because it acknowledges what science, religious studies and cultural anthropology prove over and over again...systems of belief and concept that arise culturally for a cultural purpose...pursuing the same themes of human psychology over and over again: To make sense of this world, to fund peace and purpose in it, and in each other. These are well-evolved themes that may indeed be hardwired into us. We should appreciate the variety of shapes they have taken, knowing they are, each, nothing more than a different colored and shaped, loved or hated idea balloon that was floated about and caught on and became popular, and had its time and place, but whose underlying themes are always universal human experience.

So indulging in judgments by claiming a basis of facts, when indeed facts haven't actually been explored with the proponents of those beliefs, or facts have been rejected because they don't fit our system of belief is entirely unnecessary for the true Atheist...

Until they try to opine about the beliefs of others.

Then all science is against that Atheist.

If there is a God, more than just a concept, or even just the highest concept of God...
He / She / They must love the true Atheist. They mean no harm and cast no ill upon others. They have no political or power motive in promoting their views. They have nothing to sell, and aren't looking for followers. They honor reality scrupulously in the most intense and specific ways. And they acknowledge the natural tendency to look and learn that is built in to everyone. And they encourage keeping that natural tendency alive, and celebrated.

If there is a God, they are in love with the true Atheist. And even excited when the true Atheist, as well as every scientist, discovers one more small thing about them.

If their is a God, everything discovered in all aspects of reality is actually a part of that God, created by that God, sustained by that God.

God is reality. Reality is God....
So there may not be a God...there may just be Reality. We hope!
And we rely upon what was given to us, the ability to learn and grow, to take us the next steps.

Have just looked at Spence's’ comment here which in his usual discrediting manner doesn’t help in any way toward understanding Kate Cohen’s heartfelt and sincere account of her atheism. It must be so difficult (for Kate) coming from any strong religious tradition to break out of such deeply ingrained influences.

I recall at a talk given by a local druid some years ago where, at the end he asked if anyone had questions. I can’t remember the content of his talk but it must have struck a chord with one person, an elderly Irish gentleman, who stood up and almost quite tearfully explained how his Catholic upbringing had succeeded in instilling his life with fears and guilt. I remember how he summed up his regret as saying he felt his mind had been ‘highjacked’ as a child.

I’m sure he would have understood Kate Cohen’s situation quite sympathetically and applauded her bravery and honesty.

@ Ron

For her to make that step, it might be as you suggest but that doesn't allow her to do with HER child what HER parents have done with HER.

Hi Ron
You wrote
"It must be so difficult (for Kate) coming from any strong religious tradition to break out of such deeply ingrained influences."

But the author wrote
"Americans who don't believe in God call themselves agnostics, humanists, skeptics, free-thinkers. They call themselves "spiritual." Sometimes they are called "nones" -- from the box they checked on a survey identifying their religion....

"That used to be me. I was one of the many people who identify with a religion while disbelieving in the Supreme Being that lends it authority."

She was never a believer, but in a religion that respects atheism. Read the books of Job and Ecclesiastes to find all the best arguments in support of Atheism that still remain Atheism's best case.

There was no break out for Kate. Merely a point of acknowledgment of her own experience.

Because Atheism is a tradition within Judaism just as it is within Zen Buddhism.

But she does not give her own kids the same freedom to think and discover for themselves which she enjoyed. ... She writes

"More radical still: I did not let them decide for themselves, as I would not with any other question of morality or the way the world worked."

Read this again. She refuses to let her own kids question her version of reality in far more matters than religion.

Yet in most religions, including Judaism and Christianity, they're congress a point where the child must make their own decision.

They may make the decision of a child who loves their parents. But the seed of making up one's own mind has been planted. And it is honored. Even as we learn what that really means much later. We learn because it has been planted... Every adult must make their own choices and be responsible for them.

Too bad Kate left behind one of the good things. She tossed the baby out with the bath water.

How can you raise kids to discriminate and think for themselves if you don't allow them, encourage them to pick their own beliefs, while preserving your right to question their thinking, and allow them, celebrate with them, their right to question your own?

"My insistence on telling my children what was true and what was fiction -- my refusal to leave the question open -- bothered even some of my nonbelieving friends."

What is true at best is just what we think is true.

But this woman is now as great as God for her version of truth Is the absolute truth... In a pig's eye.

Of those who switch to atheism, religious hypocrisy in their parents drives them there at a younger age.

It suggests that kids are more sensitive to hypocrisy than indoctrination, so why pussyfoot? Kate Cohen demonstrates character by living her convictions all the way.

That woman deserves to be Pope!

I still reckon she had courage Spence as I said: “. . . "It must be so difficult (for Kate) coming from any strong religious tradition to break out of such deeply ingrained influences." It would not just be she was never a believer, although she thought herself a Jew. And that Jewishness would be a major part of a deeply engrained culture making it difficult to break out. A bit like rejecting a family.

And yes, Um and Spence as she said: "More radical still: I did not let them decide for themselves, as I would not with any other question of morality or the way the world worked. My insistence on telling my children what was true and what was fiction -- my refusal to leave the question open -- bothered even some of my nonbelieving friends.” She also added: “I vowed to teach my children what I truly thought about everything, and that included what I thought about God.”

My impression of this is that she was expressing what she thought about everything. I don’t reckon she sat them down (like they do in Sunday school) and dictated her ‘’teachings’, I guess, when the occasion arose, she would convey her thoughts to them.

And Spence, you use the term ‘True’ atheism as though there is such a thing as an atheist who doesn’t have any views or opinions other than just serenely saying “I’m a satisfied non-believer.” All atheists I know and have read about have reasons and views as to why they don’t believe in Gods. Perhaps you believe that atheists should just sit quietly in the corner and not cause a fuss.

@ Ron

Maybe what she did and how she did it was worse than any sunday school.

It is a matter of INTENT and from the way she expressed herself, she was not just contented with her children listening to what she had to say ..SHE wanted to sattisfy herself that the message got rooted.

For one that comes from a family where the personal integrity of the body and the mind of the children is a sacred thing, what she writes and how she writes is unacceptable.

FOOD ...be it material or mental food should NEVER be forced into the child and the child under no circumstance has to be forced to "empty its plate, before leaving the table.".

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