Spritzophrenia

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Posts Tagged ‘agnostic’

Agnostics and Labels: Video Blog

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 10, 2010

WooHoo!

I can’t recall, but I may have hinted that new things were afoot at Spritzophrenia. Now for the first time I’m proud to present an Audio (Video?) Blog courtesy of Iain at Phrenic Philosophy. Maybe you could call it a podcast, but it’s not audio alone – yet. Iain’s a regular contributer here at Spritzophrenia and has become a friend, so if you’ve wondered about the human face behind the text…

Edit If you don’t want to view the video, Iain’s made a transcript here. What a great guy, huh?

The idea, impetus and all of the work to produce this has been done by Iain at Phrenic Philosophy, so please go visit him there and tell him Hi. This is just a start, of course it can be improved, but what do you think? Suggestions?

Also, what do you think of labels, or the idea of being a “committed” agnostic? What about being “fired on by both sides?”

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Posted in agnostic, Philosophy | Tagged: , | 22 Comments »

Am I A Rationalist?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 5, 2010

When I was at university Rationalist House was just down the street, but I never crossed its threshold. The building looked archaic, and I imagined old men inside, perhaps bitter atheists. Much like people must conceive of old churches. I’ve been thinking about *how* I undertake my search, and wondering if my love of reason makes me a rationalist?

I thought, “If I’m going to call myself a rationalist, I’d better understand what that means.” In the library, I picked up a book and began to read 1.

Maybe…

Rationalism regards religion as a personal question … [and] does not deny the existence of God or a future life.

Surprised? I was. I definitely want reasonable beliefs, but not a rationalism which by definition excludes spirituality. However the following section in the book makes it clear that an atheist-leaning agnosticism is the ‘rational’ presumption. Oh well.

The Rationalist Press association defines rationalism “as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a system of philosophy and ethics verifiable by experience and independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority.”

A noble idea. I mustn’t forget the postmodernism of the end of last century attacks the idea that one can create a grand narrative.

Rodin - The Thinker

The writer makes a good deal of noise about ethics, at times there was a moralistic do-gooder sense about his writing. I wonder if that’s the defensiveness of an atheism which was accused of leading to amorality by outsiders?

He quotes Chillingworth, an “eminent Christian writer” of the time who says

Reason gives us knowledge; while faith only gives us belief, which is a part of knowledge, and is, therefore, inferior to it … it is by reason alone that we can distinguish truth from falsehood.

Also one Bishop Butler who says, “Reason is the only faculty we have wherewith to judge concerning anything, even revelation itself.”

That whole belief and reason thing interests me a lot, and I intend to write more about it some time. I was also concerned rationalism might ignore our emotions.

On the contrary, it fosters and regulates the emotions. There is no denying that some of the noblest thoughts born of human genius have emanated from the impulse of emotion, but it was that emotion was controlled by reason.

Controlled? I’m not sure if I deprecate emotion to that level.

I wondered if being a rationalist would turn me into one of those rabid hater-type atheists I see on twitter and in other places on the intarwebz. I very much appreciated these comments:

“Gentleness is one of the greatest of virtues, and to promulgate our opinions in what is conventionally … termed a gentlemanly manner…[is wise]”

“Of course, destructive work must be done [of error]; but a man need not put himself into a passion in doing it.”

“While some rely entirely upon faith as their rule of life, others seem to attach too much importance to the lack of it. The latter contend that belief cannot save mankind, but they ignore the fact that neither can mere unbelief.”

I heartily agree.

Maybe Not…

Since researching this, I’ve been doing some more thinking and reading. I do think it’s important to figure out the best method to search for truth. Yes, I’m still committed to reason and experience… but perhaps not to the extent of calling myself a rationalist. In my next post, I write about the reasons.

Agree or disagree? How does this rationalist approach to finding reality make you feel?

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Notes
1. All quotes are from Charles Watts The Meaning of Rationalism (1905) in An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism (Prometheus, ed Gordon Stein, 1980)

Posted in agnostic, atheism, ethics, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 42 Comments »

Anne Rice: I Quit Christianity!

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 30, 2010

Reactionary. News-driven. That’s what I try not to be. Atheist friend Marty tweeted this yesterday, and I read Anne’s Facebook page. Today I see Matthew at Jesus Needs New PR has blogged it, so with thanks and apologies Matt, I’m yoinking yours. Even though I’m highly interested, I’ve got other work to finish today. What’s Cool?

***

Anne Rice announces on Facebook that she’s quitting Christianity!

Yesterday on Facebook, Anne Rice updated her status…

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

Anne Rice

And then later, she updated her status again…

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Currently her status is…

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. ” Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew comments:
I love Anne Rice!

However, I do hope this new “non-Christian, Christ-centered non-Christianity Christianity” that she’s embracing will lead her to stop writing books about Jesus. Wow. Have you read them? They’re so boring in my opinion. Oh, I still buy them. But I don’t read them. (Stupid, I know.)

***

All I’ll add is there’s a lot of other people like her, some of whom I know personally. This is the kind of belief I eventually chose, and probably would choose again if I go back to a faith based on Y’shua. Maybe without the vampire stories 😉

You get multiple updates from me today, you lucky lucky people.

[Update: Rice also writes in part, “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But …” You can read the rest at JesusNeedsNewPr]

So what are your thoughts on her status? Or you can check out What’s Cool?

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, hardship, life, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Somewhere, Over The Rainbow

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 28, 2010

Do I want there to be a God? Do I want g0d to exist? Or perhaps another kind of spiritual reality, like Nirvana? Yes, today I think I do.

I’m inhaling the scent from the flowers a dear friend gave me. I’m looking at the sun shining through the trees outside my window, and thinking it would be nice if there was something more than the mere material world. Maybe God. A nice g0d, of course. That would be kinda cool. I’m not claiming my desire for the numinous is evidence g0d exists, although some have argued that.

I can hear my imaginary friend say “Aha! How can you possibly search for meaning without utterly passionless detachment? You’re biased.” To which I smile, “Of course I’m biased. Show me someone who isn’t”.

As Iain writes, there are dangers of wish fulfilment in religion. No-one is completely objective but I think commitment to a position is perfectly ok. It doesn’t preclude the ability to reason well. Philosopher Roger Trigg says scientists are committed to an intellectual position when they work, but this doesn’t invalidate their research.

Dancing in the sunlit forest

Sikh religion ascribes importance to the sanscrit word sat. It means “truth” ¹ and is used in many ways: satsangi (follower of truth), satguru (conveyor of truth), satsang (speaking of truth), and more. I’m committed to truth, as well as to my desires. As Trigg concludes:

It is fashionable to fix one’s attention of the fact of commitment. This is understandable. If our commitment determines what we regard as true, all that matters is whether a commitment is sincere. … As we have seen, however, commitments involve claims to truth which are logically prior to the commitment. It follows that what ought to be of fundamental interest is whether the claims are true and the commitments justifiable. ²

Here’s an example of commitment to an opposite point of view, respected atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel writes about not wanting God to exist:

I am talking of … the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true… It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God: I don’t want the universe to be like that. … I am curious whether there is anyone who is genuinely indifferent as to whether there is a God – anyone who, whatever his actual belief about the matter, doesn’t particularly want either one of the answers to be correct.” ³

The obscenities inflicted upon us by religious zealots revolt me.

However, would I like there to be a g0d? Today at least, I say yes. How about you?

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Notes
1. Sat means more than the English word “truth”, but we’re keeping things simple here. Thanks to Brian at Church of the Churchless for introducing me to the word.
2. Roger Trigg, Reason and Commitment (Cambridge University Press, 1973).
3. Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (Oxford University Press, 1997) page 130 – quoted in Timothy Keller, The Reason for God.

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The Police | Spirits in a Material World

Posted in agnostic, God, god, music, personal, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 97 Comments »

Rejecting God Is Justified?

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 21, 2010

Why should you love God if she forces you to live through pain and doesn‘t keep her promises? I watched The Rapture last night. It’s the story of a bored, hedonistic woman who finds faith, and eventually loses it again.

Some reviews claim The Rapture is the best movie of 1991, and that lead actor Mimi Rogers deserves an Oscar. I’m not sure about that, but I did find it compelling. It’s an independent film, and I had to ignore the intermittent “made for TV” ambience. However, this film is not trying to convince you to follow a particular religion. Sure, the concept of “the rapture” is a common christian idea that true believers are caught up to heaven when Jesus returns. From my experience the ethos portrayed in the film is a fairly fringe kind of pseudo-Christianity, but I don’t think that’s the main point. The Rapture is asking bigger questions about belief in general, some of which will sit very well with atheists. One commenter wrote they’ve seen the film 10 times and they’re still not sure what to make of it.

Edit. The Rapture is not an easy or pleasant movie experience – don’t get it for a romantic first date.

The video below contains scenes from the movie, I’m not sure why the Foo Fighters soundtrack, but it’s a great song and worth watching for that alone. You can download the movie on BitTorrent if your local DVD store doesn’t have it.

Also see 10 Must-See Spiritual Movies.

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, hardship, movies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

This Is Hard

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 19, 2010

My twitter friend Anne complimented me recently saying “It takes guts to blog about personal spirituality”. I took a great deal of comfort from that, because she’s right. It’s hard.

The post-Enlightenment West is unusual among many world cultures because we regard talking about religion as a private matter. I read of somewhere – was it Bali? – where a typical meeting of strangers includes “How are you? “, “How is your family?” , “Are you married?”, and “What religion are you?”. I assume not all in the same sentence!

I firmly believe that not talking about the inner life diminishes us, yet fighting your own culture ain’t easy. In the words of the song, “I fought the law, and the law won.” Many people simply do not want to engage with this stuff. I’d probably be a millionaire by now if I switched to blogging Oprah-esque personal development.

Writing about what I do is difficult because it’s personal. It affects me. I don’t talk about spirituality, agnosticism, atheism out of mere academic interest. It’s apatheism, a portmanteau of apathy and theism/atheism which says, “I don’t know and I don’t care that I don‘t know.” I care that I don’t know. The question of whether or not there is some higher reality to be found affects my life, my emotions, my fears and my frustrations.

Not having a firm position feels rather like rowing a solitary boat through a rolling sea. Up, down, no safe haven in which to anchor, and no fellow passengers to share the oars.

“Doing” spirituality is hard and I’ve never been fond of spiritual “work”. If one is going to include spiritual practices as part of one’s search, such as meditation or even just listening openly to a friend of a different faith, that takes time and effort. I can’t honestly say I’ve spent a lot of energy on this yet. It’s ambitious to think I could experience enough in one lifetime anyway. Books are safer.

The search is also hard in an intellectual sense. I’ve spent time reading very obtuse philosophy debates in online forums. “Before we debate God,” says one, “let’s decide if ‘god’ is a coherent concept.” Phew. At the end of this, often my head hurts and I feel stupid. I do value good reasoning, after all, half my undergrad degree was in philosophy. But at the end of the day, there will always be a better argument around the corner and I simply don’t have time to understand them all.

I’m also bruised by the times when someone who likes to be seen to be intellectual wades in and wins the battle, while simultaneously killing her friends. I’ve been one of those people, and I’d rather lose the ego. It’s a weakness of intellectuals; some of us learned to feel self-worth because we knew more big words than someone else. When others do have better arguments, it’s humbling.

Writing about a spiritual search also exposes me on a whole different level. See, there’s a funny thing: When it comes to religion people not only judge what you think, they also judge your character. Online friend Kimh asked if my writing will be abstract study, or more of a memoir. I think it has to be at least partly personal because otherwise it‘ll be dull as iron. But I don’t want it to be about me. I want to hide behind argument and erudition. I don’t want to have my life up for scrutiny as well. Frankly, sometimes I’m not a nice person at all. Apparently we all have secrets, and it’s OK to keep some of them hidden– at least that was the theme of Dexter season three. But he’s an imaginary serial killer.

Writer Matthew Paul Turner recently wrote of the difficulty of being truly honest in a Christian context where you’re not supposed to talk about some things. I think it’s hard being honest full stop, regardless of one’s persuasion. What if I’m making some obvious mistake and people laugh at me? What if my friends disown me? What if I offend people who don‘t share my (non)beliefs? It would be much easier to merely present ideas. Ideas are external to me, I‘m safe. However, in the case of spirituality, ideas are carried within a life.

Right now, the sun is shining through my window, and warms my chest. With support from friends, much of the time I’m happy. I remind myself this is a path I’ve chosen and I can step off it any time. The adventure remains, and also a hell of a challenge.

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PS: Go check out Anne’s very cool blog if you’re interested in innovative small business.
How do you feel talking about your personal beliefs with other people?

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Posted in agnostic, hardship, life, personal, personal development, Philosophy, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Agnostic Attitude

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 9, 2010

Agnosticism manifests itself best as an attitude. It is a way of life driven by the desire for ultimate things. It is a love in the way that philosophy was a love of wisdom for Socrates. It is a ‘passionate commitment’ to a certain form of life, in Wittgenstein’s phrase. What marks it out is a confession of ignorance – a confession both in the sense of an admittance and in the sense of a framework.

Dr Mark Vernon, After Atheism, p 137

I like this. Vernon is an agnostic christian, rather than at the atheistic end of the scale.

Posted in agnostic | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Great Leveller

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 8, 2010

From the website run by his wife:

John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies”

David Burge fell asleep in the Lord Jesus Christ last night (Sunday, July 4, 2010). David was surrounded by his family during the last moments of his battle with leukaemia.

He was only 42. Only the most hard-hearted would sneer at the hope of another life. David, I miss you and I love you. You were my friend, my schoolmate from age 10, a deep thinker and good guy.

David Burge

===

Strangely, I was thinking about the fear of death the other day. The fear of death has never been a biggie for me. My friend Nathan cited it as the key thing that made him want to become a christian. He was regularly afraid of death as a teenager. These days Nathan is still a great guy, but is now an atheist, as I understand him.

I was nearly 41 when I first felt the fear of death, just a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t doing much, just walking up my path. Oh, I’d been afraid of dying before. A particularly harrowing moment rock climbing, or on top of a mountain in a storm. Yeah, I was scared of dying. But I wasn’t scared of being dead. This time it was actually experiencing being dead which scared me. How weird that it should come upon me when I was doing nothing.

I think of the poignant moment in Blade Runner, when the android Roy states it is his “Time To Die”.

At university, a member of the atheist club suggested that as we have no fear contemplating our non-existence before birth, so it makes sense to have the same lack of fear contemplating our non-existence post death. This has stuck with me and makes a lot of sense.

I recently found out this argument can be traced all the way back to Epicurus, a favourite philosopher of mine. Apparently there are good arguments against it too, but I don’t know what they are.

Either way, death is the great leveller. It has a way of making us stop and reflect, and this is a good thing.

I hope to see you again, Dave.

Posted in agnostic, Christianity | Tagged: , , , , | 20 Comments »

Atheist Music

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 28, 2010

Welcome back to music week. Today, atheist music and there’s such a lot to choose from. In the end I’m going with XTC | Dear God (more below)

and

Mainly because I love Slayer. I wanted to post the title track of Slayer’s “Christ Illusion” but it doesn’t seem to be on youtube. So “Skeleton Christ” will have to do. Lyrics

Interestingly, I read that singer Tom Araya is some kind of nominal Catholic but says he’s quite happy to sing the lyrics his atheist bandmates write.

I came across a new word this morning – misotheism. I think this song expresses that.

Don’t forget to check out other posts in music week. See you tomorrow for day three.

Posted in agnostic, atheism, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Fly Like An Eagle – More Agnostic Music

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 28, 2010

Steve Miller Band | Fly Like An Eagle. Art is in the ear of the beholder, and this is “agnostic” to me. Besides, it’s great music 😛

Posted in agnostic, music | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »