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Main Discussion Zone => General Religious Discussion => Topic started by: Babdah on September 27, 2011, 09:57:43 PM

Title: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 27, 2011, 09:57:43 PM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?  How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?  Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: JeffPT on September 27, 2011, 10:18:49 PM
First of all, without God, the universe actually makes a lot more sense.  Second, I don't believe in God, and I feel great.  No emptiness here.

As for the rest of it; there are lots of great answers.  Some of them will include such things as wishful thinking, a desire for ultimate justice, the human ego, a fear of death (more so, a fear of no longer existing), etc.  But the most important thing to remember is this....

The truth doesn't give a shit about how you feel about it.  It doesn't care if you feel empty inside.  It doesn't care if you long for the transcendent.  It doesn't care if you hunger for the spiritual.  It doesn't care if you don't like it.  The truth just IS. And regardless of how it makes you feel, an adult response would be to acknowledge it and move forward in the manner that suits you best. 

Just because you long for something to be true, doesn't make it true.  Acknowledging that is a grown up thing to do.   
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: superfly on September 27, 2011, 11:23:40 PM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense


maybe you feel this way, i do not.

so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?

i do not long or desire for the transcendent (what ever that may be). I'm sure there are others who share this lack of longing/desire as well.

How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?

i have plenty of meaning and purpose in my life, thanks.
i'm an agnostic atheist and i do not feel unfulfilled or empty. how do you explain that?


Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?

who is this "we" you keep speaking of?

i have none of these longings, and i suppose there might be stuff that exists beyond the material world. so what?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Noman Peopled on September 28, 2011, 02:20:18 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?  How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?  Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?
Well, without some sort of direction - sense - people would do nothing and quickly die out. Easy to see why evolution would "build in" motivators.
Longing for the transcendent and spiritual is easily explained too; people like to think that everything is in some (cosmic) order, or if it isn't, it will be - precisely because it doesn't appear to be. What better to combat fear of death than to claim it doesn't exist, for instance?
Note that human longings are hardly limited to spirituality. History shows that basically anything can fill that human demand under the right circumstances, from war to mathematics - people also long for, say, sex. If there is no Aphrodite, does that make any less sense?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: rickymooston on September 28, 2011, 03:09:41 AM
Don't think you tried hard to answer your question.

If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?

Off the top of my head, without the benefit of actual psychological research on the subject?  :police:
- humans are social species we look to belong to cliches.
- we have brains that look for patterns

The above might offer some theories. Now obviously, psycologists may have tons of other theories explaining why religious beliefs capture the human mind.

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How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?

Again, I'd want to actually look into what reasons feeling fullfilled might serve. As social animasls belonging the group offers benefits.

Meaning can be seen in the social context of wanting to belong to a group.

Another aspect of meaning is related perhaos to understanding how things work.

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  Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?

What is the spiritual? If you listen to nice music, is that spiritual?

Is the meanng in poetry spiritual?

Why do you think material and spiritual are mutually exclusive?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Anfauglir on September 28, 2011, 06:36:01 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent? 

There are no dragons.  I wish I had one.  Therefore dragons must exist?   :o
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: One Above All on September 28, 2011, 06:41:58 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent? 

There are no dragons.  I wish I had one.  Therefore dragons must exist?   :o

Exactly. This is not "desire for the transcendent", this is good (metaphorically speaking) old-fashioned anthropocentrism. Humans want to believe that they can influence the universe because of our egos. That's all there is to it. We want to believe we're "special"

Note: The "we" used throughout my post only refers to people who actually believe such nonsense
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: gonegolfing on September 28, 2011, 07:16:56 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?  How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?  Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?

Well, if you're a theist and truly serious about those questions, there's plenty of solid answers to them at bookstores and your local libraries.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you more than likely already have your mind set and think you know the answers to those questions and just want to argue about our answers or preach with yours ?

Again, if you're serious, then I'd suggest you get off your ass and go do some serious reading and study, like the rest of us did, before asking questions that have been answered centuries ago.

And by the way, just because we're not knuckle dragging and eating grasses and living in trees anymore, like the rest of our primate relatives, doesn't mean you have to go and get all gaa gaa and think we're truly unique or special just because we can contemplate things. Evidence clearly shows we're still prone to savagery and stupidity and delusions if we're not careful and still fight basically over the same things that our smaller brained hairier cousins do.

You're feeling unfulfilled and empty because your an uninformed selfish brat. Read lots, think lots, and then get over yourself and accept the fact that you're the primate that you truly are, and all will be much better  ;)

Cheers
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: plethora on September 28, 2011, 07:46:33 AM
You're feeling unfulfilled and empty because your an uninformed selfish brat. Read lots, think lots, and then get over yourself and accept the fact that you're the primate that you truly are, and all will be much better  ;)

Nice bitch slap!  8)
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: screwtape on September 28, 2011, 07:55:06 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense,

I do not accept this premise.  Please explain. 

I find we make less sense with god.  The omnipotent creator of all being created the universe to display his glory to us?  It is all there for us.  Really?  In xianity, we are the center of the universe.  Without god, we are insignificant, barely existant specks of mostly water that the universe does not notice.  I find the former to be the height of ego, while the latter more accurate.

He created two prototypes in a paradise garden and left in it a tree from which he did not want them to eat and a serpent which may or may not have been god's sworn enemy?  Really?  Sounds like a bumbling "omnipotent" being set them up for failure.

According to xian theology, people are the most awful, disgusting, horrible creatures worthy only of destruction while simultaneously being the most precious, important things god loves infinitely and above all else.  Really?  T

We are supposed to be "above" animals, different from them, better than them.  Yet, by any definition of the word, we are animals.  There is nothing not animal-like about us.  We follow every rule of biology and natural law that every other animal does.  We may have more developed brains, but so what?  Every animal has its specialty.  It seems to me that this would make perfect sense in light of evolution. 

Maybe if we were made out of stainless steel and actually broke laws of the universe I would find it convincing that some magical power were behind it all.

so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?

It produces chemicals in our brain that feel good.

How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?  Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?

brain chemistry.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: plethora on September 28, 2011, 07:59:36 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense,

The universe exists. Humans exist. What part of that doesn't make sense to you?
It's plugging a god in there that makes no sense.

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so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?

People have brains capable of abstract thought. People also have emotions. Some people will feel that way. So what?

It's very arrogant of you to assume every human has longings and desire for the 'transcendent'. I certainly don't have any such longing or desire.

... and desiring something doesn't make it real.

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How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose,

Like I said, people have brains capable of abstract thought and people have emotions. Everybody assigns meaning a purpose to their lives. Some people assign it rationally and others believe in fictional deities.

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or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?

I don't feel unfulfilled or empty. I have myself, my loved ones, my music, my work ... my life fulfills me. Not some fictional daddy in the sky.

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Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?

Again, the arrogance of assuming everyone hungers for such things. I have absolutely no 'hunger for the 'spiritual' (whatever that means). Reality is good enough for me thank you very much.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: violatedsmurf80 on September 28, 2011, 09:38:16 AM
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If there is no God, we don’t make sense[/quot]

That is such a sweeping statment, to assume every body thinks this that what seperaterates us from other aminal that we can reson and figure it out.

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How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts

it is easy, you have to figure out meaning and purpose it for yourself. 

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Why do we hunger for the spiritual

because you dont know anything else in life, figure it for your self and then you will learn that hunger for spiritual will demish and a thurst for knowledge will sumcomb you which will never be fill
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 28, 2011, 11:47:52 AM
I understand all the points made in this thread but to say that the only thing that separates us from animals is consciousness (from what i understand), if this is the case whose to say that when animals develop one (chimps for example)and they wont become the dominant species.     
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: One Above All on September 28, 2011, 11:50:16 AM
I understand all the points made in this thread but to say that the only thing that separates us from animals is consciousness (from what i understand), if this is the case whose to say that when animals develop one (chimps for example)and they wont become the dominant species.     

What is "consciousness" to you?[1]
 1. This is a serious question. As far as I know, "consciousness" has not been defined
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Omen on September 28, 2011, 11:53:16 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense,

Non-sequitur, how do you arrive to the conclusion that 'sense' means anything related to 'us', much less the existence or non-existence of a god?

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so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?

What human longing for the transcendent?  What is the transcendent?

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  How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?

Psychological studies and subjective emotional dependencies.

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  Why do we hunger for the spiritual

What hunger for spirituality? What is spiritual?

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and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?

What does the explanation of these 'longings' have anything to do with existing or not existing?

Your entire post is filled with nonsensical non-sequiturs and loaded terminology, literally not a single thing is relevant to explaining anything to do with reality or even if we gave you the benefit of the doubt of a god existing.  The implication that the only 'purpose' or 'meaning' that exists can only exist with the existence of a god is as meaningless as implying that no 'purpose' or 'meaning' can exist without a god.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: screwtape on September 28, 2011, 12:26:22 PM
if this is the case whose to say that when animals develop one (chimps for example)and they wont become the dominant species.     

no one.  It is entirely possible. 
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Omen on September 28, 2011, 12:29:52 PM
I understand all the points made in this thread but to say that the only thing that separates us from animals is consciousness

Your first statement is not necessarily true because consciousness is not defined and no one made that statement in this thread except you.

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if this is the case whose to say that when animals develop one (chimps for example)and they wont become the dominant species.     

What does that have to do with anything?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: albeto on September 28, 2011, 02:36:21 PM
I understand all the points made in this thread but to say that the only thing that separates us from animals is consciousness (from what i understand), if this is the case whose to say that when animals develop one (chimps for example)and they wont become the dominant species.     
We know chimps have consciousness.  So do elephants and dogs and a variety of other animals, birds and...well, fish?  I dunno, they seem pretty clueless to me.  If you define consciousness even in a very vague way, you refer simply to the relationship between the mind and the understanding of it and its place in nature.  The character of god need not apply to this equation. 
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Anfauglir on September 29, 2011, 04:18:10 AM
if this is the case whose to say that when animals develop one (chimps for example)and they wont become the dominant species.     

no one.  It is entirely possible.

Well quite.  Or machines, for that matter.  It seems that Babdah wants to hold humans as something apart, something special, so that it would be literally unthinkable that any OTHER species might overtake us.

In practice, of course, its grossly unlikely (assuming we don't wipe ourselves out).  But I CAN see a point not too many generations away where a primate or computer is granted at least some of the rights that we currently grant only to homo sapiens.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: plethora on September 29, 2011, 04:52:23 AM
I understand all the points made in this thread but to say that the only thing that separates us from animals is consciousness (from what i understand), if this is the case whose to say that when animals develop one (chimps for example)and they wont become the dominant species.     

I certainly don't think 'consciousness' is the one thing that separates us from other animals.

Many animals experience 'consciousness' in the sense that they are self-aware. All of the great apes, dolphins, killer whales and elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror. So I do not think 'consciousness' is exclusive to humans.

What separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our intelligence. We have been the only species capable of complex speech (spoken and written) and highly technological advancement.

There is nothing that prevents another species from evolving into a similarly intelligent species or eventually becoming the dominant species if circumstances lead to that.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Anfauglir on September 29, 2011, 06:08:48 AM
We have been the only species capable of complex speech (spoken and written) .....

Heh - so far as we know.  Certainly by reference to what we describe as intelligence (which I've always suspected is somewhat circular), but can we KNOW that a dog's barking and sniffing and body posture does not transmit a similiar amount of information to that in a human interaction? 

A dog's concerns will be quite different to those of a human when "conversing"......preparedness to mate, general health, where the food is.....

...hang on......   ;D
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: screwtape on September 29, 2011, 07:15:35 AM
But I CAN see a point not too many generations away where a primate or computer is granted at least some of the rights that we currently grant only to homo sapiens.

I think the goddamn squid or goddamn octopi are smarter.  And they creep me the heck out.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: plethora on September 29, 2011, 07:17:03 AM
We have been the only species capable of complex speech (spoken and written) .....

Heh - so far as we know.  Certainly by reference to what we describe as intelligence (which I've always suspected is somewhat circular), but can we KNOW that a dog's barking and sniffing and body posture does not transmit a similiar amount of information to that in a human interaction? 

A dog's concerns will be quite different to those of a human when "conversing"......preparedness to mate, general health, where the food is.....

...hang on......   ;D

^^ ha! :D

There is 'complex' communication between animals for sure. Certain apes are quite organized in large groups when it comes to attack strategies (i.e. ambush techniques). Dolphins are quite organized when it comes to feeding off a school of fish too.

However, none of this can compare to the complexity of language of humans. Walk into a book store or a library and really contemplate how much information is there.

We also win at complex abstract thought and even musical creativity. I've never seen a group of bonobos or dolphins make complex music with complex time signatures.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Anfauglir on September 29, 2011, 08:25:19 AM
We also win at complex abstract thought and even musical creativity. I've never seen a group of bonobos or dolphins make complex music with complex time signatures.

Oh, I absolutely agree with that - how could I not? - my disquiet is in the conclusions drawn from it.  Take whalesong, for example.  We have no idea what it communicates, so how can we be positive that it does not contain the same degree of abstraction or creativity? 

I suppose....say an Englishman of the 18th century came across a Russian from the 21st.  He would not understand the language, and the Russian waving his flash drive (that contained all the knowledge of the world) at him would mean nothing.  Dress that Russian in a gorilla suit and how would he tell it was intelligent? 

My point - if I have one  ;) - is that we can only really measure intelligence by comparison to our own particular type of intelligence: and then only where we are able to communicate effectively. 

I read a funny piece once about trying to test the imtelligence of penguins - they gave a verbal reasoning test (on pen & paper) to a penguin and a researcher.  The penguin scored zero, the researcher 100.  Someone pointed out that the penguin couldn't read English and so the test was flawed.  So, they translated the test into Serbo-Croat....and both penguin and researcher scored zero.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: plethora on September 29, 2011, 08:39:04 AM
^^^ I see your point.

It was Ludwig Wittgenstein who said "If a lion could speak, we would not be able to understand him." The lion's frame of reference for thought processing is so far removed from the human that even if it spoke English it wouldn't make any sense.

But we are still the species that exceeds by far in a collection of intelligent abilities.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: screwtape on September 29, 2011, 11:06:34 AM
I bet the first thing chimps would use an internet and a camera for is to send photos of their genitals to other chimps.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Noman Peopled on September 29, 2011, 01:04:06 PM
I bet the first thing chimps would use an internet and a camera for is to send photos of their genitals to other chimps.
Isn't that what people do? If not, it's pretty damn close ...
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Azdgari on September 29, 2011, 01:33:28 PM
I believe that was his point. :P
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 29, 2011, 07:04:09 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but you more than likely already have your mind set and think you know the answers to those questions and just want to argue about our answers or preach with yours ?

No i sure dont know them or want to preach!!!!   If i knew the answers i would not of ask them in here!!!! 

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If a lion could speak, we would not be able to understand him." The lion's frame of reference for thought processing is so far removed from the human that even if it spoke English it wouldn't make any sense.


Much like me!!!

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What is "consciousness" to you?

something that thinks before it acts

If animals had a "consciousness"  they would not act out of pure instinct, therefore would not kill a person that feed them
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: hypagoga on September 29, 2011, 07:07:59 PM
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What is "consciousness" to you?

something that thinks before it acts

If animals had a "consciousness"  they would not act out of pure instinct, therefore would not kill a person that feed them

Well probably there is where your problem is. Even if that was what consciousness was, many animals think before they act. As for killing the person that feeds them, how is that different from a person betraying/killing someone that helps/feeds them? It doesn't require a lack of forethought to do stupid things.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Azdgari on September 29, 2011, 07:11:17 PM
How do you explain animals that don't kill the person that feeds them, then?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 29, 2011, 07:17:11 PM
How do you explain animals that don't kill the person that feeds them, then?

Mutual respect???

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Well probably there is where your problem is. Even if that was what consciousness was, many animals think before they act. As for killing the person that feeds them, how is that different from a person betraying/killing someone that helps/feeds them? It doesn't require a lack of forethought to do stupid things.

i think that would be considered impulse maybe?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Alzael on September 29, 2011, 07:30:55 PM

Mutual respect???

Wouldn't the ability to respect another lifeform be a very good indication of consciousness.

i think that would be considered impulse maybe?

If it can be considered to be simply an "impulse" then the same explanation could apply to the animals you were using as an example. Which means that it fails to be useful as an example for consciousness.

You could have simply admitted this, instead of trying to make poor excuses.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 29, 2011, 07:43:19 PM

Mutual respect???

Wouldn't the ability to respect another lifeform be a very good indication of consciousness.

i think that would be considered impulse maybe?

If it can be considered to be simply an "impulse" then the same explanation could apply to the animals you were using as an example. Which means that it fails to be useful as an example for consciousness.

You could have simply admitted this, instead of trying to make poor excuses.

if you never fail then, how can you learn?  if animal behavior is like this would it not be proper to say that some people are like this also? therefore if you say that society has nothing to do with would be correct and therefore punishment will not correct them, only make them more violent?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Alzael on September 29, 2011, 07:59:47 PM

if you never fail then, how can you learn?

Not what I asked. I asked you why you didn't just admit that you failed, instead of continuing to try to make justifications for a failed point. You learn by admitting that you failed and then correcting it. Not continuing on with the same behaviour. So this question, as well, fails. Perhaps you'll actually learn this time.


 if animal behavior is like this would it not be proper to say that some people are like this also?

No, because you used it as an example of why animals didn't have consciousness. If the same behaviour is in humans and humans are consious, then it can't be an example of a lack of consciousness. If you excuse the human behaviour as impulse, then the argument can also apply to animals, which means that the example you used does not demonstrate a lack of consciousness in animals.

You can say that humans are like that as well, but the argument regarding a lack of consiousness still fails for the exact same reason. All you've said is that humans are essentially animals, which while being true, has little bearing on what it seems you are trying to justify.


 therefore if you say that society has nothing to do with would be correct and therefore punishment will not correct them, only make them more violent?

This also has nothing to do with the point we were talking about. At least keep your thoughts in some semblance of coherence, please.

As to what you said, punishment does not make animals (nor people) more violent in and of itself. It is the manner of punishment that does so.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 29, 2011, 08:11:02 PM
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I asked you why you didn't just admit that you failed,

Ok i failed

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you are trying to justify.

i am trying to figure out if animal even have one in the first place. if they do do they have rational thought process. were as we do or are they more impulse then rational thought.

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It is the manner of punishment that does so.

how so?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Alzael on September 29, 2011, 08:15:23 PM

how so?

There's a difference between punishing someone by taking away their tv privileges, and beating them with a stick to within an inch of their lives.

I actually have to explain this to you?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 29, 2011, 08:18:57 PM
No i understand the difference but then how do people blame it on socity?
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Alzael on September 29, 2011, 08:35:39 PM
No i understand the difference but then how do people blame it on socity?

Because there are many different things that factor into our behaviour, society being one of them.

For example, in a society with a high poverty rate you have people who have little food, no shelter, etc. Being unable, or nearly unable, to satisfy ones basic needs can make a person desperate. Especially if you involve dependants like children.

You see, for a person who has a relatively decent job and an ok place to live, it's an easy thing to say that it's wrong to steal. It's an entirely different thing if you're constantly hungry and living in a urine-stained box in a backalley.. In that sort of position you might see the thought of mugging the next guy you come across in an expensive suit as your only hope of making it to the next day. Whereas a well-off person would have little reason to do such a thing. This is one of the reasons why poverty and crime are so well-linked. Because the society makes people desperate just to survive, and they are more willing to cross moral lines because they think they have no other choice. Then once you've tip-toed over the line once it becomes easier to justify the next big step.

Society is a huge factor into our behaviour. This is why you can stereotype people in different cultures. Canadians (like me) don't behave (on average) the same way that Americans do. Because we live in different societies with different cultures and differing priorities.

There are other large factors as well, family being another one, genetic make-up to an extent, personal experiences, etc.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Babdah on September 29, 2011, 08:41:41 PM
No i understand the difference but then how do people blame it on socity?

Because there are many different things that factor into our behaviour, society being one of them.

For example, in a society with a high poverty rate you have people who have little food, no shelter, etc. Being unable, or nearly unable, to satisfy ones basic needs can make a person desperate. Especially if you involve dependants like children.

You see, for a person who has a relatively decent job and an ok place to live, it's an easy thing to say that it's wrong to steal. It's an entirely different thing if you're constantly hungry and living in a urine-stained box in a backalley.. In that sort of position you might see the thought of mugging the next guy you come across in an expensive suit as your only hope of making it to the next day. Whereas a well-off person would have little reason to do such a thing. This is one of the reasons why poverty and crime are so well-linked. Because the society makes people desperate just to survive, and they are more willing to cross moral lines because they think they have no other choice. Then once you've tip-toed over the line once it becomes easier to justify the next big step.

Society is a huge factor into our behaviour. This is why you can stereotype people in different cultures. Canadians (like me) don't behave (on average) the same way that Americans do. Because we live in different societies with different cultures and differing priorities.

There are other large factors as well, family being another one, genetic make-up to an extent, personal experiences, etc.

ok. i get it. any suggestion as to what to read? to learn more about how religion is false ? or just to educate my self about this
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: Alzael on September 29, 2011, 10:57:19 PM

ok. i get it. any suggestion as to what to read? to learn more about how religion is false ? or just to educate my self about this

Well Richard Dawkins has some good books on the subject such as the God Delusion. Christopher Hitchens has a lot of good ones as well such as "God is not Great". Also Sam Harris has several good books and Bart Ehram has a lot of good stuff as well.

Really though, what I would actually recommend is to pick a holy book from a religion other than the one you were raised in and read it while thinking about it from the position of a skeptic. Write down all of the questions that come to mind, such as "How do I know this is true?" or "Where is the evidence that this happened?", anything that makes you question what the book says. Then try to see what answers the people of that faith provide for those questions (most of the questions you'll have written down will likely have been asked many times before so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding them). Then ask yourself why their answers don't convince you (or why they do).  Also note down whenever it says something that you have a hard time believing and also note why you don't believe it.

Then take whatever holy book is used in the faith you were raised in and apply those same questions to what you read there, trying to be as skeptical as you can (sometimes hard to do when it's your own religion you're thinking about, I know). Then ask for answers from others of the faith (don't answer them yourself, see what others tell you). Then note why they convince or don't convince you. Then compare the two sets of notes, and by that time I think you'll have had a lot of revelations about the nature of religion.
Title: Re: desire for the transcendent
Post by: kcrady on October 01, 2011, 03:55:22 AM
If there is no God, we don’t make sense,

What, in your view, is the linkage between "God" (however you define that) and "making sense?"  As far as I can tell, we make as much sense as any other organism or class of objects in Universe.  How, in your theistic cosmology, does a Vampire Squid "make sense?"  How about Toxoplasma gondii?  Tau Ceti?

The unspoken premise of this question is that humans need some sort of external authority to impose "sense-making" upon them.  You have provided no evidence or argumentation indicating why this should be so.  Even if that were the case, what about "God?"  If your concept of "God" happens to be within the conceptual ballpark of the anthropomorphic monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) in which "God" is said to be a male personal entity with humanlike thoughts, emotions, desire for status and power ("King of kings and Lord of lords!") and so forth, and his authority is needed to impose things like "sense-making," morality, purpose, and so forth upon us, then your model only kicks the problem back a step.  Who decrees that "God" "make sense?"  Who gives "his"[1] life meaning and purpose?  How can "God" have morality, without a Moral Lawgiver to impose it on "him" from above?

The usual answer--that things like "making sense," meaning, purpose, and morality derive from "God's" nature--may be applied with far greater logical validity to human beings.  For example, take the common moral injunction forbidding theft.  "God" is usually said to, in some sense or other, "own" the Cosmos and everything in it.  I do not know of any theological viewpoint in which it is considered metaphysically possible for a capital-g "God" to steal anything.  Nor would it be possible (apart from metaphor) for anyone or anything to steal from "God."  Even if someone could somehow steal, say, the Andromeda Galaxy from "God," "God" is not in any sense harmed.  How can a prohibition against theft derive from "God" when it isn't even applicable to such an entity? 

The concept of "theft" arises in a specifically human context.  Humans need or want material things (farmland, money, a television) that can be taken from them by other human beings, and this action results in harm to the victim.  Thus, a prohibition against theft makes sense in a human context, but does not make sense in a monotheistic context of "God."[2]  You can go down any list of moral precepts you choose and encounter the same situation; likewise for concepts like "purpose," "meaning of life," and so on.

So, we have no reason to link any notion of "God" to the question of whether humans "make sense" or not. 

so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?

First of all, I would have to say that genuine longing and desire for the transcendent (however defined) appears to be fairly rare among humans.  Mysticism is a lot of work.  It requires considerable time and sacrifice.  Most people are not willing to give up their car and television (or their farm and oxen in pre-industrial times)--not to mention things like beer, sex, or nice clothes--to live in a monastery contemplating the transcendent.  Or (in a secular scientific context) pursue a degree in astrophysics, mathematics, or physics so that they can dedicate their lives to probing the mysteries of Universe.[3]

How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?

The primary method of survival for humans is tool-making.  Whether you're talking about a Clovis point or a cyclotron, tool-making involves the act of adapting available resources to serve teleological ends.  We make a tool to serve a particular purpose.  While some animals do make and use tools, they do not do so in the wide-ranging way that humans do, and their survival is not wholly dependent on tool-making as ours is.  Humans have a natural tendency to look at Universe through human-colored glasses.[4]  We tend to "see" human-like sapience where it does not exist.[5]  Since we survive by making things "for" various purposes, it is not a great leap to expect that we would look at Universe and ourselves and wonder, "What for?"

Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?

Again, genuine "hunger for the spiritual" sufficient to motivate a person to actually cultivate mystical experience (spending an hour a day in meditation/tai chi/yoga/Thelemic magickal practice/whatever, monastic life, expensive and/or difficult pilgrimages to sacred sites, etc.) is fairly rare.  Most religious people are content to substitute unquestioning acceptance of the second-hand dogma of clerical institutions (usually the ones that just happen to be prevalent in their local culture) for any sort of "spiritual quest."  This common religiosity usually serves other purposes to a greater degree: community-building, provision of mutual support and charitable aid, tribal identification, a communal moral framework, the ego-gratification that comes with being a member of the One True Faith, a framework for status-seeking and/or finding an Authority to submit to, etc..

Your question also founders on the assumption of a duality between "the spiritual" and "the material world."  A neutrino can shoot through Planet Earth at the speed of light as if Earth isn't even there.  Is the neutrino "material?"  Certain mushrooms that can be weighed on a scale or dried, ground up, and placed in a test tube, can generate profound mystical experiences when ingested.  For that matter, so can entirely synthetic chemicals like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).  Are they "spiritual?"  Our current best scientific understanding holds that the "stuff" we can see and touch (plus most of the things we can't, like radio waves and gamma rays) constitutes around 4% of the known Cosmos.  The rest is composed of stuff we call "dark matter" and "dark energy."  "Dark matter" apparently responds to and generates gravity similar to normal matter, but it doesn't interact with normal matter or electromagnetic radiation.  If it were so that there were enough different, mutually-interacting types of "dark matter" to constitute life, Jim, but not as we know it, would such incorporeal creatures be "spiritual," or "material?"

Once we dispose of the "material/spiritual" dichotomy, which is slippery at best and false at worst, we're back to the two, basic questions that distinguish atheists from theists: Does any sort of deity/deities exist?  How would we know?
 1. "God" is usually declared to be male, by all-male clerical establishments who base systems of male supremacy and privilege on this notion.  Coincidence?  I think not.
 2. It could make sense in a context of a society of non-omni-attributed polytheistic "gods" and "goddesses" who need/want celestial palaces, magic thunderbolts, and whatnot which could be taken from them by other "gods" and/or "goddesses," but such beings would be in the same place we are when it comes to the question of the "source" of purpose, meaning, morality, and so on.
 3. This despite the fact that you don't have to foreswear beer, sex, or nice clothes to be an astrophysicist--you just have to be willing to work with a lot of scary mathematical equations.
 4. What other-colored glasses could we look at Universe through?
 5. We have received no rain this year.  The rain god must be angry with us, that's why he's not giving us rain.  Maybe we can appease him with sacrifices...