Since God kicked it (as it were), those of us who didn’t believe in him/her/them anyhow have been provided with little else in the way of ritual and emotional consolation, except perhaps the endless selection of books on the self-help shelves of the (proverbial) local bookshop. Capitalism’s attempt to address these very problems through buying STUFF (“this laptop will perfect your work/life balance!”, “this app will get you laid!” etc.) doesn’t quite fulfill its many promises to that end, either. And those of us who look to other individuals to address our emotional needs overlook the sad irony that not only is there no one-person solution to the complexity of human emotional fulfillment, but we rarely trust solutions provided by single individuals anyhow, relying often on thumbs up/star/review systems before we are willing to even contemplate making concrete life changes we didn’t come up with on our own.
Possible topics to bounce around:
• Religion for atheists
• Individuals vs. crowds: we all need to believe in something or someone, what happens when it’s no longer ourselves?
• growing up religious: the battle scars
• growing up NON religious: the battle scars
• the romanticism of heroes: do one-size-fits-all deities actually exist?
• and really, has anyone actually read a HELPFUL self-help book on the subject of spiritual enlightenment?
- Religion without God: Alain de Botton on “atheism 2.0.” | Vox Online | Sean Illing
- Why science can’t replace religion | Vox Online | John Gray
- Speaking of Psychology. What can science teach us about the benefits of religion (podcast)
- Awakening from the Meaning Crisis | John Vervaeke
- Criticisms of materialism (wikipedia entry)
- Carl Jung’s Answer to Job (wikipedia entry)
- Being You | Anil Seth
- On Being a Bat | Thomas Nagel
- What is the Self | Thomas Metzinger
- Sam Harris (neuroscientist)
food for thought (bits'n'bobs from the evening's discussion)
• has been overtaken by science because it can no longer explain our world
• is for those who need a higher power to believe or to blame
• used to serve the why and the what (science however is only good at answering ‘what’ questions)
• at its apex hijacked culture, but does culture today offer what religion once did?
• offers us a mother, a father, and the chance to be saved (delegating authority to a higher power also alleviates stress)
• offers a dramatically intense story we can live through and survive
• offers us the comfort of a ready explanation
• promises justice
• keeps people where they are (through the threat of exiling non-believers)
• is effectively a limited case study (statistics)
religion (and interpretation)…
• has 2-3000 years of interpretation slapped on top of it
• are we asking too much from the stories? are we reading them wrong?
• we (WWW*) interpret stories according to the hero narrative but what if the figures in the bible were not written as heroes?
• perhaps christianity started to support the slave power structure
• perhaps abstinence in the new testament was popular with women who did not get to choose who to marry, and had to contend with one of three births ending in death
• there is another way to read the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar – Sarah is infertile, so gives Abraham a sex slave (Hagar), Hagar is mistreated by Sarah and flees, and then is convinced by God to go back to what is in effect an abusive relationship, to bear them a child (like, REALLY?!?!)
• Job is a rich guy, the devil convinces God to treat him terribly (ostensibly to prove his loyalty), Job wants to confront God but cannot physically find him, in the end he loses everything to an invisible deity (aka. for no palpable reason)
• this interpretation question also applies to other religious beliefs beyond christianity: ie. the myth of Sisyphus – tends to be read as a tale of endless torture, but from another perspective, Sisyphus has the strength and determination to continue to roll the rock up the hill every day
• hinduism has an exact number of cycles of death and rebirths (how did they arrive at a number?)
• only when you are in the human state do you have the chance to be one with god
religion (and society)…
• gods were once multiple, and they corresponded with aspects of life
• god of fertility, goddess of victory, goddess of beauty/love
• god of life, god of preservation, god of death
• ie. Emiphra – the God of contracts
• in early civilisations to trade one needed to have trust, so people found in religion a common set of values to help build that trust up.
• politics is similiar – on the right: nationalism giving people something to die for / on the left: wokeism – zealotry
• science cannot govern how we set up our social structures
• one cannot derive ought statements from is statements
• manipulating data happens in science (and in religion)
• ‘science progresses one funeral at a time’
• sciences offers the pill – religion tells why you should take the pill
• has blind spots much like the maps of the past
• brains do not actually see what is in front of them they see what they believe is in front of them.
religion (and us)…
• we have to be curious but know that many questions cannot be answered
• in difficult situations the brain creates a mould of the world and then a model of onesself inside that world to help perform complex actions in the world.
• one can’t force people to be introspective
• the solution is to learn to question
• the desire to be a better human, taking our limitations into consideration
• morals are built through building society not religion
• there’s no way out for people without access to education unless one has ‘alternative options’ (ie. the internet, access to knowledge)
Last but not least: we have an insane amount of privilege to be able to even sit here and question religion!
“the reason for thinking is to avoid thinking” – Edward de Bono
*WWW (white western world)