Date: Mar 16, 2014 3:11 PM
Author: kirby urner
Subject: Re: How science shaped modern 'rejection of religion'

On Sun, Mar 16, 2014 at 7:28 AM, GS Chandy <> wrote:

> Under the title "How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World [Excerpt]",
> Scientic American has published a thought-provoking excerpt from a book
> "Imagine There's No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World", by
> Mitchell Stephens. Very much worth the reading, in my opinion.
> Myself, I am 'passionately agnostic' in my beliefs - as I think
> (notwithstanding Dawkins, et al) that 'atheism' may well be - in some sense
> - the opposite side of a Bible-thumping (or Quran-thumping; or any other
> kind) of fundamentalist religiosity. I've not read the book yet: I do look
> forward to doing that.
> (I must, however, admit that 'atheism' appears per se to be far preferable
> to 'unthinking deism' - or is 'theism' the word I should be using? Perhaps
> someone highly expert in the use of the English language, like Robert
> Hansen, might advise? I have searched Wikipedia and the dictionaries,
> don't find much help there).

Karen Armstrong, former nun, student of religions, is good at pointing out
that a focus on "beliefs" e.g. "belief in God" is in some ways a European
fixation that goes with having a belief in a soul with a permanent state,
such as "in heaven" or "in hell" with a deadline (called "death").

Not all cultures have that, and what we call "a religion" should, we must
remember (wearing our "A is for Anthropology" hats), a set of habits for
personal and group hygiene (sanitation rules), division of labor,
acknowledgement of stages of life with rites of passage, including burial
or incineration or other preservation / memorialization practice.

In other words, a religion is oh so much more than mere "head beliefs"
about some deity. When a secular society offers parallel or similar
solutions, that's when we can afford to take the weight off some religions
that are failing, and many are, a mess of cruft and accrued belief and no
fun to work with.

I favor spinning out newer "designer religions" built with a half-life of
ten to a hundred years but with the potential to renew themselves and/or to
join up with others, more like an art movement or literature. The Jungians
have proved an inspiration. Also the New England transcendentalists.

If these "designer religions" also happen to emerge from within Quakerism,
that's potentially a healthy sign. We're open to forking and branching, as
well as convergence (merging), just like on Github. We just need to
monitor and compare notes, see what's happening in the various meeting
houses, a Darwinian process one might call it (but of memes more than
genes, sorry Dawkins). # <--- monitoring Quaker memetic activity

I've accepted my Quaker heritage as "strong cards" (as in "a good hand") as
there's still enough liberalism baked in for me to introduce favorite
atheists to our practice and not get flak for it, either from them or from
the elders / leadership (I'm one of the leaders in fact) or from my
favored, who claim to feel "not harassed" or insulted about their dismissal
of the Great Spaghetti Monster.

I like that we're egalitarian are respond to "that of God in everyone"
(i.e. the "soul" to use a Euro word for it) regardless of said soul's pet
peeves and/or religious credo. Yes, you're a product of your culture,
aren't we all.

What western civvies, atheist, agnostic or theist tend to not doubt, ever
since Descartes' little experiment ("he thot, therefore he wuz"), is their
own existence ("egg-zyst-tense") as something more than partially
overlapping chaotic "processes" (where this word "process" is metaphoric,
as the first mistake of a "self" is to believe in a "thought process"
that's barely there and thread bare, and to reify / rectify it as badly
confused philosophy about some "thought process").

Buddhism and eastern civ in general have tended to counter the westerner's
"religious war" semantic obsessions with a new flavor of doubt, in the
existence of egos really worth that much fuss. Put up with 'em maybe, but
c'mon people, lets not go overboard taking these "selves" of ours too