I fully support the purpose of this group and think it a worthwhile effort, but I'm beginning to think it is futile to have a rational discussion about these things..because we are talking about a fundamentally non-rational phenomena. What really brought this to my attention was when I browsed the walls of several Jesus/Christianity groups on Facebook. Have a look for yourself:
No matter when you look at this page, I can virtually guarantee what you see from people every few minutes is a fountain of emotion. "I love you Jesus!" "I can't live without you!" "You give me strength" "When everyone else is gone, you still love me!! "I can't do anything without you, my savior!" These comments pour in constantly..day in..day out. These people have a deep psychological need for an imaginary friend in Jesus and/or a surrogate parent in God "the father". It's not rational. It's emotional, based on a primal desire for comfort and protection. There are some of us who don't have that constant need, but obviously many more who do. I hate to sound like a downer and feel bad for having no suggestions..but I just wanted to share this. By all means, we should attack superstition and apologetics on all fronts..but as long as we are engaging in education and rational discussion, we aren't dealing with the real issue for most people (pure emotion).
Wanderer, you said, "This aspect of belief is centered around our deepest sets of motivations - it centers around our sense of self, our very feelings of value, of how we see ourselves relative to the world, and on the metaphysical side, how the world really is. This is why people are so resistant to the ideas of science, because the metaphysical element is more peripheral to them. If you undermine their metaphysics, they are resistant to it because they see it as a personal attack. This is why I have been arguing (and end up arguing in my paper) that rather than appeal to their rationality (which they will resist), we need to appeal to their sense of self. All that remains is figuring out the best means to do this." It ties in with Alice's point that we're hard wired to hear stories.
In a sense the story of humanity as gene/meme hosts does compete with religious metaphysics. Our story has all the elements of a plot. The failure of evolution to include planning, how that leads inevitably to planetary resource limitations becoming our species limiting factor. And salvation, if you will, necessitating we cast off the narrow perceptions and drives from genetics and memetics, to see the larger picture. By admitting that religions are mind viruses, they can take the first step toward a more sophisticated perception of our crisis. Their need for authority can be transferred to scientific experts, but only if that "conversion" is concretely expressed by some kind of ritual. We need a strong secular celebrant community to compete with the community bonds they'll have to abandon. I think the common ground for this community can be built on our common need to survive, and the challenges of working together to be green. They are not threatened by an imaginary hell but by climate destabilization, here and now as well as for their children. We can all redefine our selves together, we atheists need to do metaphysical work too.
Park – I’d go with story telling – our brains are hard wired to hear stories – they don’t have to make sense or be logical – but obviously we can come up with some sense driven stories that attract passion and emotion that can substitute the drive and need that is religion. BUT this drive and need is different in everyone and so the story needs to be tailored in each case. Although we may develop themes. My mum once said that she thought there were 3 types of people attracted to her religious group – those who loved God, those who loved service and another one that escapes me at the moment – it might have just been ones that we lost and crewed up and needed somewhere to go.
Indigenous stories that I am aware of from Australian Indigenous groups are about
1. Creation – how all came to be here
2. Survival – how to find food and water
3. Culture – how to fit into society
Other factors in Christianity for example are:
1. The story book - Bible
2. The mythical creator – God
3. The Building – The Church
4. The Minister – group leader
5. The community
6. The actions or service to others giving us fulfilment of some kind.
So we starting with the story and move on from there covering all aspects.
1. The stories – Evolution / big bang / physics / biology / chemistry
2. The amazing fact that there is no mythical creator – that things just have evolved and isn’t that just amazing and that humans have a primal need to project human like qualities onto things around them so they imagine that a being must have made everything because they have this identification – but it’s an illusion or trick of the human mind.
3. The building – well we don’t have a building as such – but it might be the local pub where the local atheist group meets – or it could be online in a virtual building of the nexus.
4. The minister – again we are lacking this leadership – perhaps we can find such a leader in our lives who has naturalistic beliefs – mentors are important – perhaps though books we can gain this mentorship – Richard Dawkin’s book for example – then we’ve covered the story book, the creator and the minister.
5. The community is on nexus
6. The actions or service to others – well we are meeting that need in here too.
Wanderer – I concur with much of what you’ve said. I disagree with your last point – that we need to follow only the emotional path. I think there are as many supernatural believers as ways to entice them away from it. Although, I can see the value in having a plan and reasoning through that plan so as to perhaps gain a percentage of those supernatural believers with the fixed reasoned plan that you have come up with.
My cousin reckons that if you have enough young people lambasting and reasoning you can turn anyone out of social pressure you sort of break them. They did this when at uni with a bunch of students with the same intention of converting them, they went to a religious place and converted one of them away from the church.
I like what you say in terms of providing for them what they are lacking if they choice to leave religion. Therefore taking away their reasons for staying, because you are both providing the reason for leaving – because supernatural is nonsensical and also the resources that will meet their needs if they act of this understanding of nonsense.
I’m going to put the needs list in my group Compassionate / Nonviolent Communication – as a reference to what our shared human needs are – we all share the similar needs and so looking at this will assist us in knowing what they might be gaining by being involved with the church and therefore the list provides us with what needs to be offered outside of the church for them to safely leave.
Just goes to show – a university education isn’t that meaningful doesn’t it! LOL
Yes, sorry re the who gives a crap statement; that was more my own response – I get het up about people going on about valuing morals and values because I’ve not met a person yet who isn’t a complete hypocrite about them.
I’ve been educating my 9 year old on the Bible – in case he should have some one try to use it on him in later life and get sucked in – so I read him some bible stories and we are looking at how they came to be what they are about and what in them doesn’t make sense and why.
One really obvious one was – the story of the block on the hill with the ten commandments from god – one of which says don’t steal – followed by another story about one of his grand sons who goes into a city and steals a whole lot of treasures, because god is looking after him! What the! What complete crap!
I’ve also got the bible on CD – suggested by someone here in nexus – a great idea – as it’s more easy to listen to than read – I’ve never read it before so it’s been interesting if not totally boring, repetitive, fanciful and ignorant crapping on about righteous I’m pretty good and this is how you should do things, and look I’m magic I can make bread and fish spread real thin. So interesting learning’s there.
I’m piecing it all together, and working out just how Christianity came to be, and the basis I thought it had is much different. The old testament just seems more like a history of a family going way back. Basically a story about a wealthy and privileged family – who were able to at some point not only remember it all, but write it down also. More reflects their own pretentions to self importance than some amazing meaningful important knowledge about survival.
Also it turns out that Mary lied about having sex and Joseph was too dumb to work it out and accepted that god made her pregnant – and that therefore Jesus isn’t really the 14th son of the 14th son of the 14th son at all – he was the milk mans boy!
And that really Jesus was just finding ways to try and become the king in a nonviolent way by way of nonviolent resistance to the powers that be – the Romans – I’ve only gone half way through Mathew and then half way through Mark so far. I wonder if he could be copied in his style to start a new ‘religion’ going. Just go around persuading people that I’m special and can do special stuff – the reason that people weren’t sure about believing that Jesus was special is because none of it was true – the healing the sick and stuff – amazing scam though – in fact I think it would be called marketing these days.
OK finished my bible rant now…
The reason I shouldn’t rape? Well to say “shouldn’t” implies extrinsic motivation, where going against demands attract punishment of some kind. I don’t like extrinsic motivation – and neither did Jesus – so I’m told by Walter Wink – via Marshall Rosenberg – bit of Chinese whispers going on there – bit like the “begetting” that goes on at the start of Matthew!
I prefer intrinsic motivation. Why I don’t want to rape – I don’t want to rape – because I don’t like the idea of harming another person or forcing them to do anything against their preference.
Why I don’t want to steal – because I’ve done it before and it’s really easy sometimes, but I really don’t want to get caught and pay any penalty for doing it and because I find it is really stressful to do whilst I’m worried about getting caught.
Why I don’t kill – I’ve never done that – and I’ve never thought it was a good idea – although I did have to come to killing fly’s and mosquitoes – I justified killing them – first mosquitoes because they hurt me and so I will stop them and fly’s – I feel concerned about the health implications of having a small animal throw up on my food. Although in both cases I do my best to keep them out of my area with fly screens and shut doors and windows – to protect their lives.
I don’t need god or religion to work this out – and neither did the guy on the mountain either – because clearly he worked it out on the mountain on his own seeing as how there was no-one up there with him and god doesn’t exists.
By the way there is no such thing as good and evil – so thinking about being good is redundant. There is preferable from my perspective – and that’s what gives us morals and values. I prefer to gain acceptance by others and so conform to culturally appropriate patterns of behaviour because gaining acceptance by others in my social group meets many of my needs such as:
Greater autonomy to choose ones dreams, goals and values, celebration, integrity, meaning, self-worth, fun, play, acceptance, appreciation, closeness, community, consideration, contribution to the enrichment of life, emotional safety, empathy, honest that empowers me to learn from my limitations, love, reassurance, respect, support, trust, understanding, warmth, inspiration, peace, food, protection from bacteria or predators, rest, sexual expression, shelter, touch and perhaps water.
Well hopefully now that you've met me and some of the other members of this group you will not feel that we are all hypocrites about morality...
I agree that intrinsic motivation is a central element of a good theory of ethics or values in general. And obviously I don't believe that you need a god to get to a good working understanding of values. But where you really lost me was here:
By the way there is no such thing as good and evil – so thinking about being good is redundant. There is preferable from my perspective – and that’s what gives us morals and values. I prefer to gain acceptance by others and so conform to culturally appropriate patterns of behaviour because gaining acceptance by others in my social group meets many of my needs...
While all of these individual experiences are part of what we generally understand to be part of the good life or living well, giving a laundry list of virtues does not tell us what the root of values is. And gaining acceptance from others and conforming to "culturally appropriate patterns of behavior" is precisely the opposite of intrinsic motivation. I suppose you are trying to say that you value others because they are useful for experiencing pleasure/reward by helping you satisfy your intrinsic desires? Well this is a decent step in the right direction. The question on people's minds, religious or not, is: what is it that makes my experiences or the fulfillment of my desires worthwhile? We obviously answer that question thusly: it is the experience of life itself which makes anything of any value. There is nothing else. This simple truth is the basis for an atheist morality. And I think just the two of us together have shown how easy it is to get from point A to point B when it comes to values. But of course now we have to go to work convincing others and filling in all the holes. What is justice, what is morality, what is the difference between right and wrong? Is it, for example, simply the case that my experiences matter more to me than anyone else's? Am I supposed to infer from this that I am to be a selfish prick? How do you convince a person who is a selfish prick that he is simply not experiencing life as fully as he possibly can by creating the misery around him which he is incapable of perceiving? And so on.
Alice, you said, "There is no ultimate meaning to why we are here - there is only the meaning we weave out of our own lives. Our lives are ultimately meaningless - but because we like to feel that we matter and are significant in some way - our living in the illusion of meaning gives us feelings of security and pleasure - and so we manufacture meaning."
I agree that "there is only the meaning we weave out of our own lives." But disagree that "Our lives are ultimately meaningless..." Take a step back and look at what we are doing, in our conversation here. We are creating meaning. We are using human-made language (even though memes have independent reproduction). Without speakers and hearers, this event would not exist. Every day human beings create meaning, in art, music, poetry, dance, architecture, commerce, agriculture, all of our activities.
Think about the experimenter effect in physics. The particle/wave takes a definite location because a scientist measured it. We are not separable from "reality as we know it." With our language we created this idea of "reality." That concept functions, for our needs, in the context of our language using community. Were all of us to die from a supernova event, "reality" as in "reality as we know it" would cease. Yes there may be alien intelligences who also know reality in their own way. It's not all or nothing. Every complex adaptive system, like a paramecium, knows its environment and therefore participates in the experimenter effect. Whenever a macroscopic coherently moving mass responds to a photon from a distant galaxy, the photon takes a definite location. It's stops being in several places simultaneously. I disagree with the Schrodinger cat in a box idea because I think the cat can by itself collapse a wave function. In sum, "Our lives are ultimately meaningless." is misleading if not self-contradictory. We do not need an external source of meaning, only to respect ourselves as the creators of meaning even in everyday gestures such as stroking the cheek of a child.
"We like to feel we matter and are significant in some way." Here I see every action, even trivial choices, as significant. Remember extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. I'm a many-worlds person in that I think there are an infinite number of possible futures. Every action changes the direction our experienced universe takes into the future, selecting it from among alternative possibilities. In other words that action participates in the collapse of those infinite superposed possibilities. While an action now might seem small, such as your smile to a passing stranger, over time it could have significant effect. Imagine that the recipient was a grad student who just had her idea casually trashed by an insensitive professor. She was feeling so unworthy. That little smile could make the difference as to whether she abandons her thoughts or publishes them a year later. The paper could revolutionize some field thirty years after. We never know which actions have long tails and which will be overwhelmed by some catastrophic chaotic event that seems unrelated. Did you do the dishes before the prospective home buyers showed up at your door? Did you do the dishes before the 9.0 earthquake? You never know what will connect meaningfully.