Discussing Religion

Sun shining through Tian Tan Giant Buddha on hillside in Hong Kong

Richard 

Does anyone here think that spirituality and / or religion has any role in the creation of a better world?

Terry 

I think the only “spirituality” that is worth while is the one discussed in Sam Harris’ latest book, “Waking Up”.

Richard 

Can you summarise what that is for me, Terry? Thanks.

Terry 

What a lot of people don’t understand about Buddhism is that yes, there is plenty of wacky shit there, but the central focus of the religion is not a belief in something unreasonable. Rather, it is a focus on the PRACTICE of investigating ones own mind in order to alleviate negative states of mind (in the short term) and to reveal to ones self the fact that consciousness itself is non-dual in nature (in the long term).

In Harris’ book, he examines the evidence for the therapeutic benefits of meditation, shares his own experience of meditating and using hallucinogenic drugs, and outlines how we can secularise the message and practices of Buddhism while maintaining our scientific integrity. When he uses the word “spirituality” he does not mean anything supernatural. Rather, he is referring to the ability of all humans to have such “transcendent” experiences, as an inherent part of our biology.

It’s a well written and structured book, but it’s no good to read it unless you intend to read it with an open mind.

Richard 

Great summary that, Terry, thanks. I think ‘spirituality’ can be regarded as a means to fulfilling our potential / realising our true nature, or as you said, non-dual mind. What perhaps made it spiritual, i.e. somewhat abstract is that we had no means to measure or regard it in any other form than as ideas. Nowadays we can attach electrodes to peoples heads and study brain activity in meditators, which has allowed such spiritual practices to gain immense credence in recent years, and to be adopted as legitimate tools for combating things like depression.

Where my thinking differed was that I was willing – on rational grounds – to give things like meditation my provisional faith before science had endorsed it. The fact is that meditation was always beneficial, the sad part is that many could only benefit from it once science had backed it up, otherwise – with some reasonable provisional faith – many more need not have suffered so much.

Terry 

I think where many people get hung up is this idea that it is unverifiable. Harris states that he doesn’t think that science will ever reveal what exactly consciousness is, because it is the subjective experience of consciousness that in itself confirms its existence.

As for an initial “faith”, I disagree. If we are about to conduct an experiment for the first time on a particular physical phenomenon, we create a hypothesis. This hypothesis is not based on faith, it is just a question, to be confirmed, or refuted. The difference is in where the experiment is conducted: in your own mind.

Yes, the reporting is self-reporting and therefore subjective. However, the more we secularise the practice and examine its effects on all demographics, the closer we can come to a scientific answer to the questions surrounding meditation.

It isn’t different than any other subject of study that requires self-reporting, and with appropriate controls we can really get a handle on some form of truth. People who throw their hands in the air at these notions and exclaim:

“No! It isn’t perfectly independently verifiable in a lab therefore it’s bunk!” are being closed minded.

Keep in mind, no one is asking anyone to believe something on insufficient evidence, we are asking people to perform experiments on their own mind, with a genuine interest, controlling for their own biases as much as possible. To keep an open mind.

Richard 

The rationale that I alluded to is simply that hundreds of millions of people have practiced meditation for thousands of years, some of whom have dedicated their whole lives to just meditating, and so there probably is a good reason for that, i.e. meditation has an affect… it is beneficial. That reasoning alone gave me enough cause to want to try meditation and to see what would happen, and, as many who have also tried have found, meditation is for real… it works, and it can work on a truly profound level.

I extend that to those who believe in God. In other words, if it’s working for them and benefiting them then go for it. Maybe it’s hocus-pocus, maybe not. It wasn’t long ago that meditation was hocus-pocus, so who knows what will be discovered and validated in the infinity to come. The only caveat i’d stipulate – and this applies to any belief or knowledge – is that if it used to harm others then it should be severely challenged.

Terry 

I think that you have made an error in logic here. Mediation, as the empirical study of it has revealed, is beneficial. It always has been. It’s the view of meditation that has changed (to some degree) in some circles. Meditation, therefore, as a practice, is separate from religion, though it is often associated with many eastern traditions. If it is objectively beneficial, it has always been so.

This is different from God belief because if God doesn’t exist today, then God never existed. I agree with Dana’s assessment that Religion, on the whole, has been a destructive and negative force in the world.

That is why it is so important to separate beneficial practices like mediation from their religious roots. You need not believe in reincarnation to meditate. You need not even believe in the non-dual nature of consciousness, but, in my opinion, the longer you practice meditation, the more self-evident this fact becomes.

I do not agree with using meditation as a way to apologise for religious institutions. Rather, baseless supernaturalism has poisoned the well from which our true potential (as far as knowing our minds, nothing hokey or super human here) can be drawn.

It is true that contemplatives from all religious traditions may have stumbled upon the truth of the non-duality of the human mind, but their subsequent applications of this discovery to bronze-age non scientific beliefs led them ultimately astray, and into violence and tribalism.

By scientifically studying contemplative practices, we can make this type of “spirituality” accessible to anybody, no matter if they are an atheist, or a Scientologist (although the latter may interpret their experience as being having a direct line to Zenu).

Richard 

I agree that is it helpful to secularise meditation, but if we take all that is good from religion and then refuse to credit it, then, of course, religion is going to look bad! Also, if we want to benefit most from meditation, who are we better to consult… the Buddhists who have been practicing for thousands of years, or the scientists who’ve just jumped onboard?

Meditation is an essentially simple practice that unveils the complexities and nuances of our minds, and, as i’m sure you have found, there is much to be learnt about meditation, especially if you want to maintain it and gain from it in the long term. If you are serious about developing mindfulness, for example, then you will, eventually, be reading Zen literature, because it has insights garnered over hundreds of years that Western psychologists do not yet have. And, because of the profound benefits of meditation practice, you will end up feeling indebted to those Buddhist monks who, not only made such immense efforts to deepen their practice, but who also kindly shared what they had come to understand so as to benefit others.

Yes, there is much bad that has stemmed from religion, but I can’t see how that is any different to the field of science. But should I judge science based on its worst practices and direst consequences or on the multitude of good that has also come from it? All I can do is repeat what I said before… the bad makes headlines, it impresses deeply upon our minds, whereas the good is very easily overlooked, but, with honest investigation, it becomes more clear just how pervasive the glue of spiritual and religious teachings and actions holds humanity together.

Richard 

As for an error in logic… I’m not sure that I have. The only reason that western science now validates meditation is because you have the equipment to measure its benefits. Without that equipment western science would have just continued with the same attitude it holds to God now, i.e. ‘no evidence’. Maybe one day that equipment will exist and, if such a God thing does exist, then we’ll be able to detect and prove it.

Terry 

Richard. Please know that I did not intend to offend you when I said that you had an error in logic. However the comparison between science and religion is an old chestnut just does not stand up to scrutiny.

Science only gives us a method for finding out what is real and what is not. Most religion establishes assumptions which tells us what to believe.

I agree that we should give credit to the Buddhist and other contemplatives for having the insights that they did. However they have not contributed greatly to any of the great physical discoveries that scientists have made about the universe. As I stated before the application of science method to meditation will help to refine it and disavow bit of its supernatural and irrational roots.

Terry 

When a religion tells you to spread the word of God by inciting violence against those who do not share your religion you can directly tied to blame for those actions to the religion itself.

Terry 

When employment of scientific method leads scientist to discover the physical processes necessary to develop a nuclear bomb you can not blame science itself for the use of this technology.

Terry 

This illustrates that is in fact not blame for the moral failings of humanity. Moreover if you could say that the subscription to moral relativism and ancient religion for ethical direction leads to the misuse of technology.

If scientific principles were used to determine our ethics then we be more likely to act ethically in more different situations. This idea is laid out in much more detail in Sam Harris’s book The Moral Landscape.

Richard 

No offence was taken.

‘Science only gives us a method for finding out what is real and what is not’.

This is exactly what the Buddha said about his teachings, and what Yoga masters state, and what the mystics from all religions have proclaimed. The problems that come from religions are not the fault of the religion itself… you won’t find Jesus or Buddha advocating violence and war… but from the same human attitudes that utilise science to make weapons etc. I can’t see how either science or religion can be at fault for what humans do with them. As for the supernatural and irrational roots of meditation… i’m not sure what you mean?

Richard 

You make a lot of good points – too many for me to address, so if I miss something in particular that you do want addressing then let me know.

Terry 

By superstitious and irrational roots I just mean that the other beliefs that sometimes get packaged up with the practice of meditation (reincarnation, claims about the significance of meditation with respect to physics, etc).

You are correct that the Buddha takes an empirical stance on meditation, but as far as I know (which, admittedly, is not very far), he has, in other records, been shown to have made claims about the universe that he says he learned through meditation.

It is this extrapolation that I remain agnostic about, and will not believe until they are substantiated in some way. However, the non-dual nature of mind and the effects of and my experiences with meditation are things I have glimpsed directly, so I have no issue with them.

As for claiming that no contemplative has ever advocated violence, there you are flat wrong. Muhammad and Jesus have both done so, and the efforts of apologists to explain this scriptural passages away using context and symbolism are weak attempts at maintaining an unsupported belief system.

Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather someone modernise and revolutionise all religions in this way so that incitations to violence would be ignored by all adherents, but as we have seen, these are merely initial steps toward rejection of nearly all the tenets of the religion, because without the violence and coercion, what reason to people have to stay? Humanism is the only framework under which we can all flourish and look after one another, and adopting meditation as a component of humanism would be a great way to add “spirituality” to an already magnificent worldview.

I still disagree with your characterisation of science vs religion. In the Bible and the Koran, there are countless examples of savagery and the God and prophets asking humans to violently spread the word. To speculate about Muhammad and Jesus and what they really meant or what they did or did not say or do is merely an exercise in mental acrobatics. Without the Bible and the Koran, these religions would cease to exist, so it matters what is written in them. As far as I am concerned, scriptures from the basis for a religion, so, for all intents and purposes, they ARE the religion. If the holy book tells you to kill in he name of God and you truly believe in the infallibility of that book (as many do), then you will likely commit murder.

Remember that Christianity has gone through many years of apologetics and interpretation to make it more benign, but the bible is still at its roots.

So, you can blame that system of beliefs for perpetuating violence.

Science, however, only helps us to distinguish fact from fiction, it is our value systems (humanism, religions, etc) which informs us on how to use those facts. Can you see the difference now?

Richard

Christianity existed before the Bible. And, anyway, who wrote the Bible? Who edited and revised it? Who selected what went into it? I’m not sure why you think that scriptures ARE the religion. If you take the Bible away then you will still have Christianity, but if you take Christ’s teaching away then you have no Christianity. So, surely, Christianity is Christ’s teachings, and the Bible is simply a book that documents them?

And, again, beliefs about the infallibility of the book have nothing to do with the essence of the religion or its teachings, and everything to do with the motivations of the humans who compiled it.

So, i’m not sure where we are at now with this discussion. We have a fundamental difference in what we consider to be a ‘religion’ and the merits of what is contained therein. I’m more inclined to disregard the accumulated junk and seek out and focus on the core teachings, whereas you seem to regard it as a whole package, which, if it had to be taken or leaven, then i’d join you in dumping it.

Fortunately, we can separate out the teachings from the distortions that followed, and as such benefit from those teachings. I think we could all agree that Jesus was a good man with some wonderful, important teachings. If it had been left at that then we’d have no debate, and we’d all recognise him as a fine teacher, but if we have to include the mess that humans then made then it’s a different story altogether. I don’t know what else to say.

Richard 

When the Buddha became enlightened he, effectively, had the mind of the universe… the non-dual mind… Oneness. He knew everything because, as he discovered, he was everything, and he reported back what he saw of how the universe worked, hence karma, reincarnation etc. Why did he report it back? To help us. How did he expect us to believe him? By developing faith in him through practicing his teachings. If he so proved that he was right about 99 things that could be proven then there would be more chance that we’d trust those teachings that could not be proven.

Richard 

For what it’s worth, this Oneness is what I believe to be ‘God’.

Terry

Yea I think we’ve reached the limits of discourse. I’d be interested to know how you know the core teachings of any contemplative without their scriptures. Enlighten me, how do you know the teachings of Jesus without the bible? How do you, Richard, specifically, know what the Buddha taught that is independent of the writings about or by him?

Terry 

For the record, I remain unconvinced that Jesus even existed.

Richard 

That’s a good point. But I think the answer is more nuanced. Yes, the only reason I know the teachings of Christ are because I read them in scripture, but the reason that I appreciate the teachings is not because they were in scripture, but because of their content. I’m more than happy to put aside and challenge any content within the scriptures that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Of course, there was a time when Jesus’s teachings were passed down through an oral tradition, so there is no need for scriptures to exist to hold his message, it just so happens that it was a useful format for holding his message… and useful for distorting. The point is, me getting the information from scriptures is not the basis for my respect for them.

Richard 

Maybe he didn’t exist, it’s irrelevant to me, if Hitler had taught the Sermon on the Mount I would have still respected the content of the teachings.

Terry 

Let’s clarify. The stories about Jesus were, at first, past down through oral tradition, which, in my opinion, is even more subject to revision and confabulation. Haven’t you ever played the game telephone?

So, most scholars agree that Josephus is the first person to actually write about Jesus, and I do believe it was almost a full century before he did. So. Oral tradition for almost a century? Not likely to provide an accurate historical record. But all that is besides the point. Jesus, if he existed, was not the first to say the things he did. What is attributed to him is not enough to justify worship. Nor is what is attributed to the Buddha. Nor is what is attributed to any of the prolific scientists in all of history.

Also, while I think it is great that you are willing to toss out the parts of the Bible that do not hold up to scrutiny, as all skeptics should, this is not the position taken by most people who consider themselves Christian. They all, to a greater and lesser degree, take the most incredible claims about Jesus and others, on faith.

If everyone just tossed out the parts that do not make sense in relation to reality, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. My point is, I don’t give a crap what Jesus said. I will not apologise for the cult of lies and subjugation that has been built around Jesus just because, maybe, some guy once said, “hey, why don’t we treat each other nicely?”

I just want to address one thing you said about written records: that they are useful for distorting. Quite the contrary. It is the variability of the written records that lends credibility to the criticisms of Christianity. It’s when people start writing things down that we can compare writings from different historians and cultures.

You seemed to imply that the oral tradition would be less subject to distortion. If I am incorrect in this assumption I apologise, but that claim certainly will not stand up to scrutiny.

Richard 

My point was just that whilst scripture was the basis for learning what Jesus apparently taught, there are other ways of receiving that information, so, in other words, scripture is not the basis of a religion, it is just one form of documentation. The basis for a religion – in my view – is its ideas, the rest is irrelevant to me, and whilst I recognise that it’s not the same for others, I don’t think that should reflect on the substance of the ideas.

Whether Jesus existed or not makes no difference to me, I just like the ideas, wherever the originated. There is a non-violence teacher called Walter Wink who re-interpreted the sermon on the mount as a non-violent teaching, i.e. like Gandhi etc. and it just revealed even more brilliant layers. If that teaching is understood and applied then it is an incredible teaching, perfectly capable alone of transforming the world if everyone adopted it. And i’m not going to dismiss it just because of the bullshit and baggage surrounding it.

Terry 

Well, that’s your prerogative, but many more things have been said since that do not have to be twisted to find the good in them.

Richard 

What, you find it hard to find the good in the sermon on the mount? I think it’s pretty explicit in its profound goodness, it’s kind of the basis for western civilisation… well, the idea of western civilisation, not the horrific realities of it.

Richard 

I think maybe sometimes people try too hard to be atheist when, really, it’s no loss of face to acknowledge that there are some truly wonderful teachings in religion.

Richard 

I also think that strategically speaking, you’d be much more successful in spreading the truth if you did acknowledge the good. I think sometimes atheists carpet bomb when all that’s needed is a laser guided missile.

Terry 

I already told you that I have no interest in apologising for a religion’s “hits” when it’s “misses” are far more numerous. I can appreciate that there are good bits, but I really don’t think the religion deserves much credit. It says more about human nature, which I think is ultimately good.

Terry 

It has nothing to do with loss of face either. And I do acknowledge the good. I have, repeatedly. I just refuse to apologise for its overall negative and oppressive nature.

Terry 

I like your guided missile analogy. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could just disregard the bad bits and accept the good bits? Except they do NOT do this. I can do it, you can do it. A typical Christian? Not so much. And I include all supernaturalism as part of the bad bits.

Richard 

You see, I agree with what atheists are doing in challenging religions, but I don’t think you are being too effective. Ultimately, the questions you raise are of the upmost importance – as we know, we are dealing with life and death issues – and so the atheist movement needs to take its position more seriously, i.e. it needs to think about how to be more effective.

Now, if someone comes up to you and lays out an onslaught of all things that are bad about you then you are liable to either ignore that person or defend yourself. But if someone approaches you sincerely, with understanding, and acknowledges your good characteristics whilst pointing out a few flaws, then you are much more likely to listen to them and accommodate them. This is what I mean by being a laser guided missile.

I don’t see many atheists with balanced, reasonable attitudes, and I don’t see much desire to develop balanced, reasonable attitudes. You seem to want to attribute all the good things done by religious people to their inherent human nature and all the bad things they do to religious indoctrination… is this a fair, balanced view? I don’t think so.

Certainly there are religious people who are inspired to do horrible things directly because of their religion, but there are also many who are already violent and cruel in nature and are just looking for a vehicle. Likewise, there are many religious people who do good, not necessarily because their religion taught them to or inspired them to, but because they have good natures. However, there are also many, many examples of human beings who have had their lives transformed directly because of religion, and who have gone on to do a lot of good.

Your point is that the balance is in the favour of the bad, whether that is true or not, I don’t know. I don’t see anything wrong with the essence / core of most spiritual teachings… most are beautiful and important and much needed in this world. The problem is that we as a species have issues, and to such a severe degree that we are even able to take explicit messages of peace and love and use them to torture and kill. That perversion does not exist within the core teachings but from the warped minds and ulterior motives that interpret them. Maybe we would be better off if those people had never shared their teachings, or maybe we just haven’t had enough time to judge their effectivity. I don’t know. All I encourage is balance.

Terry 

I challenge you to turn your skeptical eye on the last post and ask yourself what potential assumptions you have made about me considering the context of this discussion and see if you can identify any potential contradictions in your statements. When I post I go over and over them to make sure I don’t do these things, and while I most definitely do make errors in judgment, etc, I really think you have to seriously reflect.

I don’t mean to be condescending, but consider where you are right now on the Internet, what the potential experiences of others are, and what you tend to assume about atheists, in general, without really knowing what you are talking about.

Richard 

I think you want me to read between the lines, but i’d rather you were just explicit about what you mean, otherwise it just leads to more misunderstanding. My statements aren’t aimed at any particular person, but to those who are dedicated to challenging injustice and falsehood. This is a general conversation about ideas. I know nothing about you and you should read nothing personal into what I have said. In fact, i’m not sure that I have at all addressed anything about you personally.

Terry 

First I just want to say I am not upset or anything, I just think you are making assumptions.

I am currently having a conversation with you. Not with a religious person. When you say that you don’t see many atheists with a balanced approach, consider that it might be that, when dealing with you, they are not expecting an apology for religious BS.

When I, and I think the VAST majority of atheists talk to religious people, I am friendly, considerate, and sincere. I do care about them and I will concede points in order to build a rapport so we can have a constructive discussion. Many atheists in a online community use that environment as an outlet for their frustrations. Many of us have come from religious backgrounds where we were oppressed or are absolutely disgusted with the religious oppression that still goes on in the world. For you to assume that because atheists express themselves a particular way in an online community that they do the same when speaking to a religious friend or family member, is unfair. These online communities are supposed to be safe places for non believers to express themselves honestly free of religious burden. Not free of criticism, but as free as possible from assumptions and bias.

As for attributing all the good things done by religious people to their apparent human nature? Sure, I am willing to concede that some of these good things are inspired by what they believe in, if that’s a more balanced view, but, to me, it is a much more positive, and accurate, view that humans by nature tend toward positive social behaviours. All you have to do is look to evolution to see the value in these behaviours. This is evidence that roots “goodness” into our biology, making it intrinsic, rather than extrinsic. I like to inspire people to realise that their desire to be good is intrinsic, for if it is extrinsic, and all of a sudden their belief system is shaken, they will be less likely to be faced with an ethical crisis.

I would challenge you do provide concrete examples of people whose lives were transformed by religion. It is my position that in those cases it has more to do with finding community support and companionship. We are social animals, and we could actually do a better job of providing this sense of community if we stopped dividing ourselves into tribes and committed ourselves to a global human community. You need not hold beliefs in the supernatural to feel part of a community, which is why I object to giving religions credit for such “transformations.”

I do believe that the balance is in favour of the bad, because even the good parts are contingent on believing in some hocus-pocus. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a person, if you are a Christian, you’d better also believe that Jesus rose from the dead, or its all for nothing.

You say that you don’t know where the balance lies, but then you say:

“I don’t see anything wrong with the essence/core of most spiritual teachings… most are beautiful and important and much needed in this world.”

You seem pretty confident in where the balance lies here. Why do you contradict yourself?

Then you say:

“That perversion does not exist within the core teachings it from the warped minds and ulterior motives that interpret them.”

This, again, is YOUR interpretation of the teachings found in scripture. What basis do you have to form a conclusive opinion on what the original teaching was when all you have to go on is the same text that all adherents follow? I read the Koran and take it literally. I see a violent passage and think to myself, well, symbolism or not, there are plenty of good people who, if they are unlucky enough to be born into a very strict Muslim family, and suffer extreme indoctrination (see: brainwashing), that they would probably act out these violent passages to get to paradise and avoid punishment for criticising the faith or apostasy (see: death).

It doesn’t matter how much you say about interpretation, you are NOT in any better position to interpret those documents than anyone else. Nor is any Muslim cleric nor scholar. The fact is that those texts are taken at face value by many and are, sure, interpreted and symbolised by many, but the problem IS that such a text can motivate sufficiently subjugated, but otherwise good people, to do horrible things. Science does not do this. Ideologies like religion, Naziism, Stalinism, can and do do this.

Believe me, it might not seem like it right now, but I am a very balanced arguer. If you look back on our conversation I have conceded many points, as have you, but your main error was to assume that I talk in exactly this way to people who I deeply wish to see the world through the lens that I do. That it is beautiful and meaningful in and of itself, that humans are flawed but ultimately good, but that’s okay because we have each other and this beautiful planet (for now) to live on. That we do not need superstition, or deities to tell us wrong from right or to punish us for meaningless crimes after we die. That this life is our one and only life and to do anything less but to look after one another and try to inspire happiness and a sense of community for all humans is to fall somewhat short of our full potential.

This is who I am. This is the message I am bringing. It is not one of negativity, but one of great optimism, if only humanity can get their heads out of their asses long enough to see that we all want the same thing, and we don’t need to keep dividing ourselves over it.

Richard 

This is a good message, and I will say now that I have appreciated this discussion and that I respect your thoughts and your manner. I have addressed nothing personally to you, so where it has seemed that way I apologise.

What you have written above is quite eloquent and inspired, and it is a message that deserves to be shared and, if heard and acted upon, could help people. But that’s the position Jesus and Buddha and others have found themselves in (I don’t include Islam in these discussions because I know nothing about it).

Jesus and Buddha saw problems in the world and through compassion wanted to help solve those problems, and through wisdom felt that they were able to. You yourself seem to be in a similar position in principle… you see problems, you have some ideas for solutions, and because you care, you share them. I think we’d both agree that this is a reasonable thing to do, I mean, it’s through sharing ideas that we develop… that positive change can occur.

What we know, however, is that there is an inherent risk in sharing ideas, and that is that we have no control over how they are interpreted and acted upon, nor even how they might be edited and distorted. For example, your above post might be copied and pasted and shared across Facebook by someone who found it inspiring. Someone else might find it on their Facebook wall and also like it, but decide to take a few bits out that they disagreed with, and, all of a sudden your original message has changed a little bit… and so it could continue.

Now, if all of this leads to a mangled, distorted version of what you originally stated, influencing someone to go and punch someone in the face, then where is the fault? Is the fault in your original message? Is the fault in your desire to share a message that you feel could be helpful? I mean, you know that your words could be misinterpreted, misrepresented and, potentially, used in a harmful manner…

What are we supposed to do? There are problems in the world that need addressing, but the very process of addressing those problems can lead to even more problems. Should we factor this in before we speak? Should we risk assess our message? Is it possible to have any inclination as to what circumstances future generations might be filtering our ideas through? Did Jesus have any idea that one day there’d be such a thing as nuclear weapons under the power of crazed right-wing lunatics baiting armageddon? These are some serious issues that need to be addressed. Help can lead to harm, but no help guarantees continued harm. What to do?

Richard 

Again, you wrote a lot, and made very good points, but it would be exhausting to address everything, so if there’s thing in particular you’d like a response to then let me know. Also, how do you create paragraphs?

Richard 

Oh, also, as far as I am aware this is a discussion group for atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers. I am certainly a free-thinker and probably an agnostic. If this was a support group for people who have suffered through religion then I wouldn’t be talking here. I don’t think i’ve been disrespectful or insensitive to anyone within the context of what this group is about.

Richard

And, also also, my interpretations should be judged only on the merit of their content alone. Do they stand up to reason? Are they beneficial? And so on. I don’t know if anyone can have The Right interpretation, but we are certainly free to decide which interpretation is most acceptable… whatever ‘acceptable’ includes to you.

Terry 

Thanks for the response.
I think we’ve had a good discussion here. We differ on some points but that’s okay. I see your point about quote mining my post as an example.

My only response to that would be that we still have access to the original content (for now), and if we lost access to it, I would expect people to think for themselves rather than to take a quote from a piece of my writing whether it accurately reflects my position or not.

We as humans often rely too heavily on authorities to tell us what to think and to say and to feel. If we used this organ we have sitting inside out skulls a little more often to think critically then we wouldn’t need mixed or misinterpreted messages from my writing or the writers of holy texts.

Through self examination and the use of empirical data we can evaluate claims and statements on their own merits and this is always preferable (though not always practical) to taking someone or some book’s word for it.

Thanks very much for the engaging discussion and I want to assure you again that I did not take anything personally and that I feel quite satisfied at where we have ended up.

Namaste

Advertisements