Instinct to the divine?

Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#31
Thank you for the compliment. I am often told I get too deep, but ideas and concepts fascinate.
Welcome.

People say the same to and about me; I have no small talk .This tends to put people off. I suggest trying to tone it down a bit unless you want to spend most of your spare time alone.
 
Oct 2011
7,649
MARE PACIFICVM
#32
WOW what an answer!.

Wasn't expecting an answer quite that deep, but I'll have a go

Yes, it's reasonable to define terms in any serious discussion for the sake of personal clarity., but not necessarily to reach consensus

"So in my view we must first decide, when asking "do you believe in God", whether we are asking "do you hold the intellectual position, with supporting rationale, that there is a God?", or are we asking "Do you act in the world and in your personal life as if God exists?""

Fort me, both I think: I will argue an intellectual position of Atheism. However, it has also become attached to emotion and attitude for me.. At the same time, as an ex Catholic, I no longer follow the rituals of the Church ;EG prayer, Mass, communion, penance,.In that sense, my lack of belief has effected my behaviour. i

Carl Jung, I think, claimed that our most powerful beliefs are the direct results of experience. I think it may be argued that beliefs are as much the results of experience as of rational thought. . I did not suddenly decide one day that I'd like to be an atheist . To be candid, it would be easier to believe and emotionally comforting. My position came more as the result of childhood experience, plus adult experience, and about 25 years of study and reflection. As a teen, I read The Bible and Thomas Aquinas. In my mid 20's I read Bertrand Russell. At 30 , as a mature age student, I read Plato. All of these things together with simply living resulted in my present position. It's possible, although unlikely, that my beliefs will change.

What do I mean by god? There is a Buddhist saying: "Ten thousand monks, ten thousand religions"

I'm sure my notions of god is differ a great deal from the beliefs of others. That bothers me not a jot or a tittle.

I outlined my belief about "what t is god?" in an earlier post, outlining the main things I do not believe. My position comes down to a materialist stance, which includes the mind/body dichotomy;

'God" includes the supernatural beings of all faiths, the spirit, soul, paranormal, anything non corporeal which cannot be proved to exist. So ,it excludes things such as light, electrical current, radio/tv/sound/xray/gamma rays . The mind and/or soul are for me a process, a dynamic of the living brain. There seems to be an objective reality to parts of 'the mind' such as memory and personality. The existence of life is measured by the presence of electrical activity in the brain . Plus ,injure the brain in specific ways, the person is injured, even destroyed.. The brain dies, so does the person. Although many claims have been made over millennia, no one knows exactly what happens after the brain dies.

You're right, of course; the existence of the divine is one of the most important and profound questions a person can face. So, I make no claims ,offer no solutions to others.

I'm sorry if I haven't been able to answer your questions. I've pretty much done the best I can .I'd like to think I could do better if I devoted enough time, but I'm really not sure that's true. My head hurts,.
Hey thanks for the reply. Lets start at the end of your post:
I'm sorry if I haven't been able to answer your questions. I've pretty much done the best I can .I'd like to think I could do better if I devoted enough time, but I'm really not sure that's true. My head hurts,
You shouldn't be sorry, and its no suprise that your head hurts, because what we are talking about here is quite literally the biggest question humans know how to ask.

So... you characterize yourself as an atheistic materialist.

From my point of view materialism is actually pantheistic rather than atheistic, and in fact I'm not entirely convinced atheism is even possible.

Materialism proposes matter as the ultimate reality, and so we should follow that idea and see where it leads. According to Einstein's mass-energy equivalency equation (e = mc2), mass is not independent of energy, but is actually just an extremely dense form of a quantifiable amount of energy (that number is what the equation calculates). There is nothing to matter except energy. Thus all matter is energy, so where does energy come from? Physicists agree that all energy is a remnant of the Big Bang, and that it can neither be created or destroyed.

Now, scientists seem able to make a fairly decent model of the Universe as far back as billionths of a second after the Big Bang, but of course they can never quite reach the singularity itself, and ultimately they never will be able to, because at that point all physical laws cease to apply, making any scientific modeling impossible.

Okay, so once we reach that point, we have a few choices: we can imagine the Big Bang as the moment a Divine Creator brought the Universe into existence, which might be called the traditional relgious point of view, or we could imagine that the Universe sprung into existence of its own accord without any impetus from a Divine Creator.

Most materialists adhere to the latter explanation, but that explanation is NOT materialist in any meaningful sense. Firstly because it proposes a Universe which is capable of causing itself without prior cause, which is not possible materially, and secondly because, as mentioned, the Universe at the moment of creation was by definition not subject to any natural laws as these cannot exist in a singularity, and the fact that something was able to happen in the absence of natural laws means such a Universe is supernatural.

And so this "materialist" explanation, if pursued far enough, ultimately proposes a Universe which is self-sufficient (non-causal) and also supernatural (ungoverned by natural law), and these are in fact two defining characteristics of God. Thus I call this viewpoint pantheistic rather than atheistic, as it has simply transferred the Divine ability from a transcendant or external Creator onto the Universe itself, leaving us with a Divine Universe without a separated God, which is in fact a good working definition of Panthesim.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#33
There you go again, taking my position further than I do. My position is not that complex and I'm not sure I want it to be. :rolleyes:

Something I'll tell you, but will not explain or argue; About 40 years, a very bright friend taught about his cosmological position: That we live in an a causal , deterministic universe. Not sure I agree completely these days. I lean more to soft determinism, but don't ask me under what specific circumstances we have free will. I have no idea..:hug:

I don't pretend to understand Einstein, so can't use him in my worldview.
 
Jun 2016
1,656
England, 200 yards from Wales
#34
Hey thanks for the reply. Lets start at the end of your post:


You shouldn't be sorry, and its no suprise that your head hurts, because what we are talking about here is quite literally the biggest question humans know how to ask.

So... you characterize yourself as an atheistic materialist.

From my point of view materialism is actually pantheistic rather than atheistic, and in fact I'm not entirely convinced atheism is even possible.

Materialism proposes matter as the ultimate reality, and so we should follow that idea and see where it leads. According to Einstein's mass-energy equivalency equation (e = mc2), mass is not independent of energy, but is actually just an extremely dense form of a quantifiable amount of energy (that number is what the equation calculates). There is nothing to matter except energy. Thus all matter is energy, so where does energy come from? Physicists agree that all energy is a remnant of the Big Bang, and that it can neither be created or destroyed.

Now, scientists seem able to make a fairly decent model of the Universe as far back as billionths of a second after the Big Bang, but of course they can never quite reach the singularity itself, and ultimately they never will be able to, because at that point all physical laws cease to apply, making any scientific modeling impossible.

Okay, so once we reach that point, we have a few choices: we can imagine the Big Bang as the moment a Divine Creator brought the Universe into existence, which might be called the traditional relgious point of view, or we could imagine that the Universe sprung into existence of its own accord without any impetus from a Divine Creator.

Most materialists adhere to the latter explanation, but that explanation is NOT materialist in any meaningful sense. Firstly because it proposes a Universe which is capable of causing itself without prior cause, which is not possible materially, and secondly because, as mentioned, the Universe at the moment of creation was by definition not subject to any natural laws as these cannot exist in a singularity, and the fact that something was able to happen in the absence of natural laws means such a Universe is supernatural.

And so this "materialist" explanation, if pursued far enough, ultimately proposes a Universe which is self-sufficient (non-causal) and also supernatural (ungoverned by natural law), and these are in fact two defining characteristics of God. Thus I call this viewpoint pantheistic rather than atheistic, as it has simply transferred the Divine ability from a transcendant or external Creator onto the Universe itself, leaving us with a Divine Universe without a separated God, which is in fact a good working definition of Panthesim.
Of course one can more simply say that because, as you say, "at that point all physical laws cease to apply, making any scientific modeling impossible" then we can only say we don't know, and can't derive conclusions from a supposed beginning (whether pantheist, atheist or theist) regarding which we have no evidence.
Personally I (as an atheist, in the basic sense of not believing in any normal concept of a god) prefer the term 'monist' to 'materialist', in that I see no reason to think that some other sort of 'stuff' other than the observable universe exists (ie the supernatural in the common sense of meaning 'spirit' or 'soul'), no dualism. The problem with 'materialist' is that matter is not the simple, solid, stuff once thought.
I think most people would want more than just 'uncaused' and 'random' (ungoverned by law) to define any god, or even pantheist divinity. Would it not usually also want some sort of purpose, even consciousness, even ethical preferences?
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#35
The statement "I think most people-----" is not a truth statement, but an assumption, and shaky one at that. That assumption is not true of any atheist I've come across, which includes at dozens on several atheist forums to which I've belonged over many years. That premiss can be used in logical argument as it would attract the basic caveat of all logical argument: IF A------. So, to accept the assumption,I'd need to see some hard evidence

I have already explained that my use of the terms 'god' includes the non provable concept such as 'soul' 'spirit' and 'mind (as separate from the body) but excludes provable phenomena such as light waves/sound waves/ radio waves/ xrays/ gamma rays .

As materialism can be said to be a form of philosophical monism, I'm content with my use of the term. I am unconcerned with pedantic differences. I content with an intellectual understanding with which I am comfortable in daily life.

It seems to me your are more intellectually agile than I, which is great;.keeps me on my toes. Right now, I've gone as far as I want with this discussion.
 
Oct 2011
7,649
MARE PACIFICVM
#36
Of course one can more simply say that because, as you say, "at that point all physical laws cease to apply, making any scientific modeling impossible" then we can only say we don't know, and can't derive conclusions from a supposed beginning (whether pantheist, atheist or theist) regarding which we have no evidence.
Well, speaking only intellectually I agree that holding a position of agnosticism ("I don't know") is the sole objectively reasonable position, simply because nothing objective can be known about the singularity, or the transcendant in general for that matter. Now, that being said, does that mean we should give up the investigation completely and be content with agnosticism?

This is where the materialists and the theists might diverge, but I think the divergence is more a question of temperment than anything else. If you are the kind of person who can look at an objectively impossible question, see it as such, and be content to just leave it alone as impossible, then the material explanation may suffice for you. If, on the other hand, you are the kind of person for whom these most ultimate, most fundamental questions are an object of obessive fascination, it may be impossible to just leave them alone, even when you recognize that nothing can be objectively known about them. Those are the philosopher or theologian types, and what they will generally do when they reach the limit of objective knowledge is begin searching elsewhere for answers.

And as it turns out there is a rich historical and literary corpus to explore on the side of subjective, rather than objective, knowledge. Thousands of sages, mystics, gurus, teachers, hermits, and monks, cross-culturally, throughout history, have claimed to receive subjective intimations about the nature of reality, consciousness, and/or God.

Now obviously the inquirer shouldn't just believe anyone who claims to know God at face value, as there is no doubt that many among those making such claims will be egotists, delusionals, liars, or attention-seekers, BUT there have also been rational, wise, kind, generous, selfless individuals who have made such claims and left us with their teachings. Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Lao Tzu, and whoever authored the Bhagavad Gita seem to fall into this category, just to name a few.

What should we make of it that those who take these teachings really seriously, and really give themselves totally to living and acting them out in the world often undergo a radical transformation for the better? To me that suggests that IF you are inclined to such a pursuit, you ought to at least explore those traditions and see what subjective, transformative knowledge they might have to offer. That being said, I'm absolutely opposed to religion or spirituality of any kind being forced on anyone, particularly children, and I'm well aware that untrammeled religiosity, particular the kind which emphasizes following rules over spiritual development can manifest itself as violent radicalism, and that is certainly a big problem.

Nevertheless, I find spirituality and the exploration of the transcendant, even if it must by nature be a subjective exploration, a worthy and noble pursuit, and perhaps even the highest calling a human can undertake.


Personally I (as an atheist, in the basic sense of not believing in any normal concept of a god) prefer the term 'monist' to 'materialist', in that I see no reason to think that some other sort of 'stuff' other than the observable universe exists (ie the supernatural in the common sense of meaning 'spirit' or 'soul'), no dualism. The problem with 'materialist' is that matter is not the simple, solid, stuff once thought.
I think most people would want more than just 'uncaused' and 'random' (ungoverned by law) to define any god, or even pantheist divinity. Would it not usually also want some sort of purpose, even consciousness, even ethical preferences?
I quite like the term "Monism", as it reminds me a lot of the non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta tradition coming out of Hinduism, 'Advaita' meaning literally, "not two". What's interesting is that you seem to posit this position non-spiritually, while the same stance in Advaita is usually deeply reverent and spiritual. I wonder how much of that is simply down to attitude. To me, the idea that the Universe itself, even if it has no purpose or ethical preferences is less than Divine is hard to swallow, because, if nothing else, we can simply drown in awe at the fact that it exists at all, and that it not only exists, but seems to dance to some kind of tune so to speak, some of which we have mapped out with the scientific laws.

One thought which just occurred to me is that it could be related to the cultural background of the interpreter. You can imagine that, if you grew up as a Hindu, existing in a universe consisting of a multitude of gods, and then you come to the spiritual realization that all of that, both earthly and divine, is taking place within one beautiful, harmonious, utterly self-sufficient, indivisible wholeness, that realization will likely be accompanied by wonder and awe. Whereas for the Westerner who inherits the idea of an all powerful, transcendant Creator God, the discovery of this same harmonious, utterly self-sufficient, indivisible wholeness as "all there is" might initially seem disappointing.

Nevertheless, on closer examination, I insist that even if one holds the position of atheistic monism, the existence of the Universe itself is a sort of transcendant divinity.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#37
" I insist that even if one holds the position of atheistic monism, the existence of the Universe itself is a sort of transcendant divinity."

Well that's fine for you. Not a position I'm able to share. I'm in awe of all kinds of natural realities. Especially so of the existence of the universe. However, to try to infer 'a kind of divinity' from such awe sounds a lot like an argument from ignorance.

Of course subjective experience is evidence for the divine. What it is not, is proof.

Yes, I'm one of those people pretty much stops at a position where something seems objectively unlikely. I avoid the word 'impossible' because I'm rarely in a position to make that judgement about anything

I don't consider myself a philosopher, and have no respect fo the discipline of theology .I consider it intellectually dishonest because the existence of god is accepted a priori.

I make no claims, and really do not care if others understand or share my world view.

My present position, which I describe as agnostic atheism was reached very slowly, over a period of 30 odd years.

. I started from being a devout Irish Catholic. The church and I parted company in1968. I was into my 50's before I realised that only did I not know, I did not believe.

Along the way, I sought, everywhere I could think of. In about 19723, I solved a Zen koan. The experience was transcendent, lasting about 20 minutes, Then it faded, never to return. The answer was non verbal, and lost it immediately the experience was over. I have never considered that a spiritual experience.

From there I turned to Hinduism. With a teacher, I read bits of the Rig Veda and Mahabharata, especially the Bhagavad Gita, which I still consider one of the most sublime books I've ever read.

I also went down the dead end of Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography, and was taught Kriya Yoga. In later years I conclude that Yoganada was either a liar or insane I suspect the former ,as he apparently lied about his caste. The story about the incorruptibility of his body after his death, turned out to be just that ;'a story..

I've had a life long interest in comparative religion. That was probably why I studied Social Anthropology at University .
 
Jun 2016
1,656
England, 200 yards from Wales
#38
Well, speaking only intellectually I agree that holding a position of agnosticism ("I don't know") is the sole objectively reasonable position, simply because nothing objective can be known about the singularity, or the transcendant in general for that matter. Now, that being said, does that mean we should give up the investigation completely and be content with agnosticism?
What's the difference between objectively reasonable and simply reasonable? I don't think it's a matter of objectivity (though that's a good idea) but of having something to base conclusions upon. Of course that doesn't mean give up the investigation, cosmologists, astronomers, physicists are still studying the matter are they not, and may yet come up with something.

This is where the materialists and the theists might diverge, but I think the divergence is more a question of temperment than anything else. If you are the kind of person who can look at an objectively impossible question, see it as such, and be content to just leave it alone as impossible, then the material explanation may suffice for you. If, on the other hand, you are the kind of person for whom these most ultimate, most fundamental questions are an object of obessive fascination, it may be impossible to just leave them alone, even when you recognize that nothing can be objectively known about them. Those are the philosopher or theologian types, and what they will generally do when they reach the limit of objective knowledge is begin searching elsewhere for answers.

And as it turns out there is a rich historical and literary corpus to explore on the side of subjective, rather than objective, knowledge. Thousands of sages, mystics, gurus, teachers, hermits, and monks, cross-culturally, throughout history, have claimed to receive subjective intimations about the nature of reality, consciousness, and/or God.

Now obviously the inquirer shouldn't just believe anyone who claims to know God at face value, as there is no doubt that many among those making such claims will be egotists, delusionals, liars, or attention-seekers, BUT there have also been rational, wise, kind, generous, selfless individuals who have made such claims and left us with their teachings. Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Lao Tzu, and whoever authored the Bhagavad Gita seem to fall into this category, just to name a few.

What should we make of it that those who take these teachings really seriously, and really give themselves totally to living and acting them out in the world often undergo a radical transformation for the better? To me that suggests that IF you are inclined to such a pursuit, you ought to at least explore those traditions and see what subjective, transformative knowledge they might have to offer. That being said, I'm absolutely opposed to religion or spirituality of any kind being forced on anyone, particularly children, and I'm well aware that untrammeled religiosity, particular the kind which emphasizes following rules over spiritual development can manifest itself as violent radicalism, and that is certainly a big problem.
I don't think I'd put any question aside as impossible, if we don't have evidence enough to answer we probably don't have enough to decide it is impossible that we ever will have. So people keep seeking, while being honest about our current unsatisfactory state of knowledge.
I really don't know what you mean by subjective knowledge. As you say yourself there will be "egotists, delusionals, liars, or attention-seekers", if you don't work with evidence that, if not 'objective' is at least available to others, how do yu know which they are? I don't see that it follows that if a belief helps person be kind, happier etc that the positive effects are any reason to think that the belief is true - ie the belief is meritorious, but that doesn't make it knowledge.

I quite like the term "Monism", as it reminds me a lot of the non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta tradition coming out of Hinduism, 'Advaita' meaning literally, "not two". What's interesting is that you seem to posit this position non-spiritually, while the same stance in Advaita is usually deeply reverent and spiritual. I wonder how much of that is simply down to attitude. To me, the idea that the Universe itself, even if it has no purpose or ethical preferences is less than Divine is hard to swallow, because, if nothing else, we can simply drown in awe at the fact that it exists at all, and that it not only exists, but seems to dance to some kind of tune so to speak, some of which we have mapped out with the scientific laws.

One thought which just occurred to me is that it could be related to the cultural background of the interpreter. You can imagine that, if you grew up as a Hindu, existing in a universe consisting of a multitude of gods, and then you come to the spiritual realization that all of that, both earthly and divine, is taking place within one beautiful, harmonious, utterly self-sufficient, indivisible wholeness, that realization will likely be accompanied by wonder and awe. Whereas for the Westerner who inherits the idea of an all powerful, transcendant Creator God, the discovery of this same harmonious, utterly self-sufficient, indivisible wholeness as "all there is" might initially seem disappointing.

Nevertheless, on closer examination, I insist that even if one holds the position of atheistic monism, the existence of the Universe itself is a sort of transcendant divinity.
It is awesome indeed, wonderful, inspiring - but one can really apply those terms without any hint of divinity or 'transcendence'. Surely transcendent means outside (or other than) the 'normal, physical' universe, how can that universe be transcendent?
 
Likes: bboomer
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#39
"It is awesome indeed, wonderful, inspiring - but one can really apply those terms without any hint of divinity or 'transcendence'. Surely transcendent means outside (or other than) the 'normal, physical' universe, how can that universe be transcendent?"

I don't see that either ,except as a . romantic subjective assessment. The fact (for me, at least) that the universe is beyond human understanding and utterly awe inspiring does not allow the conclusion that it must therefore be transcendent.

@Pacific _Victory

No offence, saying that you insist on a position is not an argument.

You've made a claim. The burden of proof is with you.
 
Jun 2016
1,656
England, 200 yards from Wales
#40
Personally I'd be a bit careful about the idea that "the universe is beyond human understanding". Certainly there's a good deal about it that we don't currently understand (that's half the fascination perhaps), but that statement could be taken to suggest that it is in principle and always beyond understanding, because some aspect is fundamentally out of reach - transcendent? It may be, but I don't think we know enough to say so.
 
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