Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘God’

How God Tickles Our Brain (Part Two)

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 17, 2010

Religious experiences, near death experiences, mystical oneness, spiritual feelings: How are they experienced in our brain? What bearing does this have on the question of God’s existence or our escape from Samsara? Bill continues his guest post from part one:

The lobes in the mind become active from some source of input, and your mind reacts to that stimulation.

For example, there are localized spots in two lobes (the nucleus accumbens and the ventral pallidum) which, when activated, give you a deep sense of pleasure. (Aw, come on, there has to be something in the brain that causes the pleasure sensation). An experiment with Rhesus monkeys (who have similar spots) involved giving them a button, which when pressed, stimulated their pleasure centers. If left to their own devices, those monkeys would have starved themselves to death as they became fixated in a non-stop cycle of pressing their button.

When someone tells you that the purpose of human life is to seek pleasure, it is not impossible for that purpose to be fulfilled by a suitably engineered helmet.

The lobes in the human brain fall into two broad groups: the four lobes that make up your conscious mind, and all the others that make up your subconscious.

brain and skull

A large number of activities in the sub-conscious are reflex conditions that have evolved over time, and exist in us because that reflex in ancient times made our specific ancestors survive in primitive settings.

Being subconscious, we are not aware of the mechanism, but we are aware of the resulting emotion. Public speaking today is often difficult because our successful ancestors fled when surrounded by eyes, and survived. We have a built in reflex to want to flee when surrounded by the eyes of an audience.

Our personality is not inherited – it is a mix of life time experiences reacting with the underlying reflexes. And in acquiring our personality, we acquire our belief system.

There is constant feed back from those we trust as infants (infants who have trust in elders tended to live longer in primitive times, so we also have a built in trust during our infancy). This feedback influences our personality, and as a side effect, our belief system.

Some beliefs rapidly become self-evident through proof: pain is unpleasant and avoiding it is worthwhile.

Some beliefs become self-evident through repetition: if you are bad you will go to hell.

And some through reflexes giving us internal input-response relations. When I stroke a pet cat, it purrs and that gives me a pleasurable sensation. Therefore it is nice to stroke a pet cat.

Now, there was a relevant experiment that used human volunteers. It involved a helmet that stimulates the subject’s temporal lobe.

The temporal lobe’s prime purpose is to give us feelings of empathy with others – it meant that humans could work in packs a long time ago, and as teams nowadays.

When there is no one present, stimulation of the lobe causes the person to emphasize with no-one, and through a process known as agenticity, create some sort of “being” to account for the presence felt.

The device became to be known as “the God helmet”. It was placed on the subject’s head, the button was pressed, and the subject reported a sensation that was consistent with the subject’s core religious attitude.

It was found that the stimulation of a theist’s temporal lobe produced the presence of the relevant god, of a Buddhist led to a heightened oneness with the universe, and atheists reported a warm and fuzzy feeling that they couldn’t quite pin down.

To understand religious belief mechanisms properly, we need to tie to this phenomena those of the Limbic system and the three lobes that carry religious conviction. Then we shall be able to decide if religion is a by-product of stray neurological activity, or the way a God “tickles” lobes to confirm his presence to the believer.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I was once in the triage ward of a hospital. I was waiting for surgery to deal with an internal burst blood vessel. In the early hours of the morning, my blood pressure caused an alarm to sound, and suddenly my bed was surrounded by several nurses and a doctor, doing all sorts of presumably coordinated activity. One nurse smiled at me, stuck a syringe in my arm and said “You are going to be ok” A few seconds later, I went to sleep, and when I woke up, all had been put good, and I was discharged a couple of days later.

Now – something very strange happened in the period between the needle jab and falling asleep.

I was suddenly aware that I was in the presence of an invisible (to me) entity that had an intellect vastly superior to my own. What is more, I instinctively “knew” that this being was totally aware of every single detail of my entire life.

When I was discharged, you might be curious as to why did I not run to church? Well, there was in my way of thinking a serious fault in what this superior being had done – or rather not done. Why had it arrived at that particular moment, and then simply watched as an idle bystander? Why no communication? And where was he or it all the rest of my life? This did not seem at all rational. And I found no solace in the catch-all “God moves in mysterious ways”.

I later came across a paper published by Dr R. Joseph. His research material showed that activation of the amygdala, hippocampus, and temporal lobe are responsible for religious, spiritual, and mystical trance-like states, dreaming, astral projection, near death and out-of-body experience, and the “hallucination” of ghosts, demons, angels, and gods.

These lobes are not part of the four bits that make up the conscious part of the brain. When stimulus in the subconscious turns on the images visible to the conscious, the conscious part of the brain has no idea where those images are coming from. And the conscious is absolutely certain that the images are not self induced.

More than one F-84 pilot flying at night, through a cone-of-silence, reported on landing safely that during the scariest part of the flight, they had hallucinated that they were sitting on the wing of their jet fighters, watching themselves fly the airplane. This was originally thought to be a consequence of spatial disorientation, but is now seen to be a result of limbic stimulation caused by the extreme anxiety of flying solo at night in life threatening circumstances.

In short, when the limbic system is activated the subject has strong religious experience, when the temporal lobe is activated when no one is present, the subject has a mild religious experience, and when the conscious part of the mind becomes aware of the subconscious part, the subject invariably reports being in the presence of an invisible all knowing being who has total knowledge of the subject’s life.

These three responses has a causal effect in that three other lobes of the brain may then hold a belief in a deity, either for the first time, or to reinforce an existing belief.

A side effect of the three lobes holding the belief, is that whenever input is heard or seen that challenges that belief, the conscious brain looks for any reason whatsoever in order to be able to discount the input.

The same thing happens with non-believers – they are also constantly looking for any reason possible to discount any input that might disprove their non-belief. We all inherit the same systems.

The limbic system, the temporal lobe and mind expansion can be triggered by stress, drug, illness, random internal neural activity, external electro-magnetic activity, input from any of the five senses and, not proven but included for the sake of completeness, a deity activating these components as part of his divine will.

So – you look at a starry night, a newborn child, a perfect rose, a portrait of Christ – whatever – and the sheer majesty of the emotion evoked from what you see or feel causes the temporal lobe to activate. You could become convinced you are in the presence of god, whose presence now explains the mystery of what you are seeing.

The only thing you have to resolve is whether that temporal stimulation is natural or supernatural.

In my case, I became convinced it was natural.

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Masif Djs | Reaching Into My Brain (Edison Factor Mix)

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Posted in agnostic, Biology, God, god, Science | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

The Universe Is Out To Get Me

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 9, 2010

Funny news, especially in light of our discussion on what “The Universe” might be:

Universe Admits To Wronging Area Man His Entire Life

‘Dave’s Got A Right To Be Angry,’ Says Cosmos
MINNEAPOLIS—Following decades of allegations from the 44-year-old data processor, the vast conglomeration of all matter and energy known as the universe admitted Tuesday that it was directly responsible for every single hardship in the life of Dave Schwartz, and apologized for continually foiling him at every turn.

“Dave has good reason to say the universe is conspiring against him, because, well, it is,” said the cosmos, acknowledging that it has thwarted Schwartz’s hopes and dreams from the moment of his conception. “He may sound melodramatic when he goes on and on about the whole world having turned against him, but he’s actually not that far off. The forces of time and nature genuinely want him to fail at life, and fail hard.”

“So, yes, his anger and frustration are totally understandable,” the universe added. “Pointless and futile, but totally understandable.”

Universe

The rest of the spoof is at the Onion. Seriously though, what do people mean when they talk about “The Universe”? You can read about that here.

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Posted in agnostic, humor, humour | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sex, God, Science and Music (Part One)

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 11, 2010

You say, “Don’t talk about Sex, God or Politics”. I say, “Why not? Let’s face it, we’re all interested in them”. Books I’ve dipped into recently include:

Sex At Dawn

“The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality”
Authors Ryan and Jetha say humans evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care and often sexual partners. Apparently this is against the mainstream scientific opinion. They use primatology, anthropology and other fields to argue that humans are not naturally monogamous and thus we should ease up a little in our sexual mores.

Despite centuries of religious and scientific propaganda, the basic illusions underpinning the supposed “naturalness” of the conventional nuclear family are clearly exhausted. … We need to seek peace with the truths of human sexuality. Maybe this means improvising new familial configurations. Perhaps it will require more community assistance for single mothers and their children. Or maybe it just means we must learn to adjust our expectations concerning sexual fidelity.
~ p 308

Bonobo monkey and friend

Bonobo monkey. Apparently we’re related. The Bonobo is the hairy one.

I’d like to mention that in New Zealand we have pretty good welfare for single parents which has led to big social changes, and I would argue, good changes.

Sex At Dawn‘s approach also seems fairly propagandist to me, but the book finishes abruptly and the authors acknowledge they don’t offer many solutions. They do have a far-too-brief look at open marriages, swinging and similar. In my admittedly tiny sample size of people I know who’ve tried “polyamory” as it’s now called, all three couples found it too hard, and even damaging to the primary relationship. Ryan and Jetha suggest that the positive evidence of successful polyamorous couples is hidden, as we like to be private about that sort of thing.

Some of the book’s use of the evidence has been criticised too:

As a primatology/anthropology graduate student, I’m SO glad to see this review! Just reading through this book annoys me because of the vast amount of inaccuracies and flaws. The positive reviews genuinely confuse me so it’s good to see a more critical reader. ” (Sarah Soffer)

and

I’ve studied primatology, evolution, and especially evolution of sex, so this book infuriates me too.

I nearly did not buy it as it is so ‘wrong’ but seeing how so many people have been uncritically accepting all these weak arguments I felt I had to read as much as I could stomach and try to at least make people think more critically and hopefully look to the literature themselves.” (L. Saxon)

Even if they’ve over-interpreted the research, it’s still possible some of their conclusions may be true, they aren’t the first to suggest we should just loosen up and relax our ideas around sexual fidelity. But as for how to include that in my own life? That’s a hard one, and I’m not sure I want to include them. Regardless, it’s a well-written, entertaining and interesting read. What are your thoughts?

Thanks to HappyGirl for lending me great books relevant to my research, or just plain interesting. Hey! What about the science and music? Check out Part Two.

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Posted in agnostic, ethics, Judaism, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

On the Making of All Things New

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 20, 2010

Some foresee a re-making of the universe at the endpoint of the future. The Physics of Immortality and The Grand Design led to fantastical speculations in my head. Perhaps the g0d of a cosmos where time is only one of multiple dimensions can go back and change history. All tears must be wiped away. Perhaps a re-making of time might somehow heal all wounds, while leaving creatures free to choose, because they’ve already chosen.

On making old things new,

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.

~ T.S. Eliot, the opening lines from Four Quartets.

Sun rays in the woods

The real g0d is far beyond the merely human-like God, while still encompassing him/her. A shape, who is yet a person, the breath of the multiverse, a Someone dazzling, blazing, beautiful. In whatever form we find ourselves, our desire will be to journey “Further up, and farther in”. Perhaps eternity really is more like the great gig in the sky?

Pink Floyd | Time

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Posted in agnostic, cosmology, God, god | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

God And Alien Life

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 13, 2010

A new, possibly Earth-like planet has recently been discovered. This seems to have slipped by the major news media. I can remember in the early 90s (?) when the first extra-solar planets were discovered. Now, we seem to have discovered tens if not hundreds. This is awesome!

Gliese 581 g, the planet discovered, is 20 light years from Earth with basic and essential conditions needed to support extraterrestrial life.

Earth-like exoplanets have been predicted for years by scientists in what is called the “habitable zone” around a star, but the identification and measurement of one has been called the beginning of a new era in the search for life beyond our galaxy.

Perhaps I should stress the words possibly Earth-like. Wikipedia notes Gliese 581 g has over 3 times our gravity, which I presume is still within the bounds of possibly allowing life. No giraffes, ‘though— I’m guessing any life there would be short and flat. Squashed elephants, anyone?

[Edit: See my update here.]

On Agnostic Forums this news was claimed by some to be a nail in the coffin for the “Fine Tuning argument” for the existence of God. I’ve been trying to get clear in my head exactly what a fine tuning argument claims. I think it’s something like this?

1. The existence of the universe is extremely unlikely
2. The best explanation for highly unlikely things is that a mind was responsible.
3. Therefore a mind was responsible for the universe.

The first premise is supported by most experts, for example Hawking and Mlodinow in their recent The Grand Design, where they spend almost a chapter on this question. It’s the second premise that I am mulling over. Is it always the case that we credit highly unlikely happenings to a mind? It seems intuitively right.

Eta Carinae Nebula

Eta Carinae Nebula

There is also an argument against fine tuning, which goes something like, “The universe is very unlikely, but we know it happened because we are here, therefore unlikely things do happen sometimes”. This latter kind of argument doesn’t satisfy me, it seems to be almost question-begging.

There were various comments on Agnostic Forums, a couple of which I’ll repeat here:

I would be very skeptical of any ‘scientific’ claims about ecosystems on extrasolar planets. So far we are nowhere near being able to determine an extrasolar planet’s ecosystem. Simply detecting those planets is a relatively new science. The only observational evidence we have that extrasolar planets even exist is the effect they have on the stars they orbit.

And,

If we are not alone in the universe, man made religions need to find a way to reconcile that fact with their core doctrines.

What do you think? If we found alien life, would that be a problem for world religions?

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The Firm | Star Trekkin’

Posted in agnostic, cosmology, god, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Will You Take The Pain I Give To You?

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 4, 2010

Yesterday we looked at pain in Genesis, and discussed the Christian idea of the distortion of the world, the breaking-down which theologians call “the Fall”. Remember, I’m agnostic, but I’m wearing my Christian hat today.

Matthew Fox is one modern heretic who focuses on Original Blessing rather than original sin, as do Jewish theologies, but I see this as the other side of the paradox. Humanity, and all of nature are full of good, as well as broken-ness. We can hold this alongside the belief that pain came into the world very early on.

“Fall” has a nice Autumnal feel about it don’t you think? The leaves are no longer green, they retain their structure but are beginning to die.

Literalists claim there was no death before the fall. Conceptually, it’s rather hard to see how Eden could have been anything like the forests of today without leaves dying and rotting to provide mulch and minerals, to give one small example.

leaves

Can theistic evolution cope with the pain inherent in an evolutionary view?

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

~ Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” published in Scientific American (November, 1995) p. 85, via Iain at Phrenic Philosophy)

Does Dawkins paint his story rather too thickly? My suggestion at this point is to hope that perhaps less “conscious” beings than humans don’t truly “suffer”, in the way that we do? A purely materialist universe, as Dawkins says, is pitiless, indifferent and cruel.

The problem of pain and evil is not an easy one for theists either. It’s something I’ve pondered for many years, even as an agnostic. Philosophy is not a static field and I understand, contrary to popular belief, that the weight of argument is in theists’ favour at present. Check out contributions by Swinburne, Plantinga, contributors to God and the Philosophers and others. Ergo the problem of evil is not a proof against God, it’s at best a probability. More on this another time.

However, when considering the horrors of suffering, the recent floods in Pakistan for example, I always keep in mind two approaches: One can cope with suffering via the intellectual path or the emotional path. (Most likely a mixture of the two.) Even if I present a watertight case defeating the argument from evil, this won’t satisfy someone whose friends have recently died of disease, or remain permanently disabled. Knowing the arguments didn’t satisfy me, after all, when I merely experienced betrayal and a broken heart some years ago. It was this which caused me to walk away from God.

If we know the intellectual reasons I believe this may help, in the big picture. However, when in pain, we don’t want sophistry, we want comfort and strength. On that note I recommend Philip Yancey’s modern classic Where Is God When It Hurts?. It’s a profound book and I rate it highly.

Buddhism takes the reality of suffering as one of its foundational starting points. Alternately, I believe if there is some kind of pure Being there, who knows us intimately, then this g0d somehow shares in our suffering, and the suffering in nature.

.

What Do You Think?

How do you think about suffering and spirituality? Does a higher power disgust you, or help you when you think about these things? This is part three of a series, starting with part one.

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Pleasure constricts us
That is the way
Empty perversion
Crippled by fate
(I believe in pain! In disease, cruelty and infidelity.)
Front Line Assembly | Final Impact, Bio-Mechanic

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Biology, Christianity, Emergent, ethics, god, Judaism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Interview with a Modern Pagan

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 13, 2010

I strongly believe we need to talk to each other about our spiritual lives. Even though we may respectfully disagree, I believe that peaceful co-existence of all religions in the 21st century depends on this.

Some people believe the solution to religious conflict is to suppress or exterminate spirituality, at the very least by ridicule. I think history shows this is highly unrealistic— look at the way religious life has sometimes thrived under active persecution. Polls consistently show that even with a decline in traditional beliefs, new spiritual practices are springing up to take their place. Whatever the spiritual landscape looks like in a few hundred years time, I doubt it will be 100% atheist.

Hence, I interview various believers and non-believers here on Spritzophrenia. I’m grateful to Freeman Presson for his willingness to share about his life. Freeman strikes me as a humorous and thoughtful man. Without further ado, I present:

Symbol of Enlil, Sumerian God of the Sky, Earth, & Water

Symbol of Utu? Sumerian sun God, known as Shamash in Akkadian

Interview with a Pagan

Jonathan: Freeman, let’s start with the classic “Age, Sex, Location?”

Freeman: Birmingham, Alabama, USA will do nicely. I don’t need to hide, I don’t even remember where the closet is. I’m going to pass on that age question, don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression. Let’s just say I have been an adult for a fairly long time now.

Jonathan: Tell me a bit about your background – did you have any kind of spiritual upbringing?

Freeman: I was raised in a mainstream Protestant church. My first mystical experience happened in that church when I was four — but it was before a service, and had nothing to do with Christianity. I was a
fairly devout little guy from ages 8 – 12, until I decided to actually read the entire Bible.

I put it down after finishing Revelation, and I remembering thinking “I don’t know what I am, but it’s not that.”

I got along with closet atheism for a while, but the spiritual realm was not done with me. Along with a lot of this and that, including some early attempts at magic, and some intense experiences with entheogens in my late teens/early twenties, I settled into a phase of “dabbling in Zen.” Then there’s another blank spot before I found a teacher and spent over 10 years really practicing.

I sort of abruptly exited regular Zen practice in the late 90’s, and along with my new love (now my wife), began to explore some more down-to-earth experiences.

Jonathan: How would you describe your spiritual path now? How did you come to practice what you do?

Freeman: It started with figuring out what sort of experiences my wife was having, and developed from there. Her tutelary spirit, Lilith/Lilitu, introduced us to some other deities from the Ancient Near East. I had never heard of my Ilu, Ningishzida, before I was directed to work with him. It had the definite feel of bringing someone out of a quiet semi-retirement.

When we found some other people who wanted to participate, we formed Temple Zagduku. Our work is a mixture of shamanic, devotional, and magical practices. We have more or less regular relationships with six
Deities. We adopted the motto “Namsaga,” which is one of the Sumerian terms for pleasure: as far as we could tell, it is the closest to “bliss,” as in “Follow your bliss.” It’s our equivalent of “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

So we are loosely reconstructive, hard polytheists, although I am at root “model agnostic” about the workings of the Divine. If someone wants to insist that it’s “all in the mind,” I just grin and say, “So
you agree with me that the mind is a vast and wonderful place. Good.”

Jonathan: Can you tell me a bit more about what a “hard polytheist” is?

Freeman: That is one way to classify a point in the space of modern Pagan theologies. Some people believe the Gods are some sort of archetype or function of the mind; some believe they are all aspects of the One; but a hard polytheist accepts the simple explanation that there are individual Gods and Daimones who each have their own powers and personalities.

As I said before, when people say that the Gods are archetypes or whatever, I don’t argue with them. I might say, “So, the Gods are all in your mind? At least we agree that the mind is a large and strange place.”

[Jonathan’s note: We discussed polytheism on Spritzophrenia at White Men Need More Ganesh]

Jonathan: What does your magic involve?

Freeman: Nowadays I do more meditation and journey work: theurgy rather than thaumaturgy. It’s about developing my self and my relationships with my Deities and guides rather than producing “special effects” in the outer world.

Jonathan: What’s your day to day life like? Do you spend your whole time doing ‘spiritual’ stuff?

Freeman: Quite the opposite, it is a struggle to find time to do my practices any more, or to schedule anything with a group. We are busy folks with a little kid like anyone else.

Jonathan: Why the Sumerian connection, for you? You sound like you’ve researched that a bit.

Freeman: I don’t know why I, in particular, would have that connection. You’d expect Celtic or perhaps Germanic Deities, or something from the American Indian realm; but they called me. It would never have occurred to me. I tried to work with Hermes first. I got a sense of “something” there but no real interaction. Then I got “clobbered” by my Goddesses and introduced to some of the others.

Jonathan: (The question I ask everyone) How do you know your beliefs are true?

Freeman: I don’t call something a “belief” if I know it’s true. The phrase” scientists believe” in place of “current scientific theory suggests” gripes my butt. I have had experiences that I couldn’t have had any other way, and my experiences are undeniable. If I could ‘prove” any of it, it would be science instead of spirituality.

I do not have to justify my spiritual practices and experiences. I’m not selling them as a cure for anything but boredom… but spiritual boredom (anomie) is a serious condition in its own right.

Jonathan: Thankyou Freeman, I hope to chat again in future.

Freeman: You’re welcome.

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For those interested in reading further, Freeman writes at http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com and http://ulbh.livejournal.com You can also read about one of my own Pagan experiences and more interviews. If you’d like me to interview you, leave a comment.

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Posted in god, pagan, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Make Babies or Islam Takes Over?

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 10, 2010

Great local pizza and a bottle of chianti last night. At dinner I picked up a newspaper:

“European Christians must have more children or face the Continent becoming Islamised, a Vatican official has said.” I note that with their view on contraception, the Vatican is particularly keen on making babies anyway.

This ties in serendipitously with my recent posts. Quoting from a longer article on Snopes, who declare such claims “mostly false”:

babies!

“The falling fertility rates in large segments of the Islamic world have been matched by another significant shift: Across northern and western Europe, women have suddenly started having more babies … Immigrant mothers account for part of the fertility increase throughout Europe, but only part. And, significantly, many of the immigrants are arrivals from elsewhere in Europe, especially the eastern European countries admitted to the European Union in recent years.”

In short, the best demographers can do is make broad guesses about population trends based on current conditions and assumptions about how (and how much) those trends might be influenced by societal changes. Or, as summarized by [population expert] Walker:

“The human habit is simply to project current trends into the future. Demographic realities are seldom kind to the predictions that result. The decision to have a child depends on innumerable personal considerations and large, unaccountable societal factors that are in constant flux. Yet even knowing this, demographers themselves are often flummoxed. Projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality.”

See also my humorous White People Need More Sex.

Frankly, the question of Islam and its relation to modernity is complex; I’ve read various commentators, both Muslim and not, both extreme and moderate. I particularly enjoyed Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam Today. I’m not attracted to conservative Islam and I want to concentrate on other interests, perhaps I’ll write more fully in the futuretime.

This morning Romy sent me “Burn a Quran Day“, a tragical church parody ad:

I love it! For any Muslims watching, please remember this is a joke— a parody made by people who do not support burning of sacred books.

Also in the newspaper, thought reading machines are closer to reality. This is cool, and brings hope for severely disabled people, let alone the science fiction utopias of the future. Naturally there may be negative sides; if it becomes possible to read thoughts from a distance then Government spying on your brain may be possible one day. It may become impossible to have mental privacy— would any of us truly want our spouse to read our thoughts? All science brings with it the potential for both benefit and misuse, so concentrating on the positive, it’s a wonderful advance. Looking forward to the day when I can type at the speed of thought.

Even if a bigger Muslim population eventuates, if we encourage all peoples to live together in peace, there is hope. Please remember and publicise the 1st International Meal With A Muslim Day, next week. I’m not sure I can find someone in time, but at least if I can raise awareness, I’ve done my part.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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White People Need More Ganesh

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 9, 2010

I dreamed briefly about Ganesh last night, the god of wisdom, beginnings and removing obstacles. Meryl commented recently and asked why I find Hinduism weird; it’s mainly the polytheistic side that makes me feel funny. Blue gods, gods with many arms, elephant-head gods… Nevertheless, I found Ganesh ’warm’ enough in my dream.

Ganesh

Ganesh

I‘m amazed to discover he’s “invoked as Patron of Letters during writing sessions”. I’m a writer. Mystical connection, hello? Apparently Ganesha Chaturthi, the festival celebrating him usually falls between 20 August and 15 September— right now. Spoooky. He “is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees in the duration of this festival.”

Many neo-Pagans also believe in multiple gods, of the goddess and her consort at minimum, and possibly a whole lot more for those who identify with the ancient pantheons of the Greeks, Celts or Norse. Hindus can be atheist to pantheist to polytheist to monotheist and more. Indian religions are not one big unity, that seems to be an error of the West in naming the whole lot “Hinduism”:

Westerners approaching the Indian tradition for the first time … are faced with two equal and opposite problems. One is to find something graspable amid the apparently bewildering multiplicity; the other is not enforcing such a straitjacket onto the material as to overlook significant aspects of the diversity. The classic example of the latter is ‘Hinduism’: because of the existence of the name Hinduism, Westerners expect to find a monolithic tradition comparable to other ‘isms’. They remain baffled by what they find until they discover that Hinduism is a label that was attached in the 19th century to a highly complex and multiple collection of systems of thought, by other Westerners who did not appreciate that complexity.

Imagine the area covered by Europe and the Middle East at the time of the beginning of the Common Era— and suppose that outsiders had attached a single label to ‘the religion’ of that time and area. This will give an idea of what happened when ‘the religion’ of India was labelled Hinduism, and the extent of what needs to be unpacked to understand the tradition in its own terms.

~ Sue Hamilton, Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Uni Press, 2001) p8

I love the Indian people, we had lovely neighbours growing up. It’s the large painting of Ganesh in their living room I dreamed of. I have thoughts about gods being representations of a deeper reality, something Jungian perhaps. I’ll leave that for you to discuss.

So there you go, a mystical/emotional/stupid brain experience (take your pick), made me think warmly about Ganesha. Maybe there’s hope for me yet?

Respond

How do you feel about multiple gods, some with alien-looking bodies?

The Moody Blues | Om More Westerners giving it a go. Damn hippies! 😉

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I Used To Believe

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 6, 2010

The public image of contemporary philosophers is that their personal stories are all stories of losing faith or of never having had it. The stories in this volume shatter the image. …

… They are stories by contemporary philosophers— many of them world-renowned— of coming to faith or returning, or of enduring in faith. The spiritual journeys narrated were never easy, there’s a lot of suffering and desperation here, and perplexity.”

~ Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale

Man before Buddha

God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason, features Christian and Jewish theists. One of the longer pieces is Peter van Inwagen’s Quam Dilecta, which tells the story of his rejection of teenage spirituality, twenty years of atheism and his long slow turn to Christianity. He writes with an urbane cynicism that I find amusing:

My attachment to Unitarianism (and its three pillars: the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Neighbourhood of Boston) did not survive my going away to college. That sort of thing is, of course, a familiar story in every denomination, but it’s an easier passage for Unitarians, since it does not involve giving up any beliefs. My wife, who is one of my most useful critics, tells me that this is an unkind remark and ought to be omitted. It seems to me to be an important thing to say, however. I did not experience the crisis of conscience so common among Evangelical or Roman Catholic university students who leave the church. … It is, however, simply a fact that a Unitarian can sever his connection with Unitarianism without changing any of his beliefs.

~ p32

Have you given up a belief? (Perhaps one belief out of many, a scientific belief or belief in humanity, if not a spiritual one.)

Is it possible to have a spiritual life without beliefs? Perhaps we could say that Buddhism is also a practice that requires no intellectual assent. But is this, in fact, the case?

Respond

? What do you think?

“In yourself, believe. It’s alright”, sing the phenomenal King‘s X. There’s a live version here, with an inspiring message— recommended. Or, you can listen to

King’s X – Believe. Belief Lyrics.

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Posted in agnostic, Christianity, Emergent, Judaism, music, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »