W. H. Auden and T. S. Eliot were two intellectuals whose early writings were rages against the negative side of human nature as this influenced societies. Auden became an orthodox Anglican. Eliot converted to Catholicism.
IMHO, these two intellectuals came to a common realization of how their voices affected others. I do not think this realization had anything to do with personal fear of impending death. It may be that, realizing the brevity of life, they chose to leave “an affirming flame.”
It is easy for intellectuals to note the horrors wrought in the name of religion. It is easy for intellectuals to find inconsistences and antinomies is “sacred” books and in the beliefs and actions of religious adherents. What is not so easy, and what is direly needed, are voices of affirmation from intellectuals who are able to move beyond language games and the thrill of oneupmanship in battles over belief. What is not so easy is to replace facile negativity with “an affirming flame.”
Happy Holidays to all!!!

Merry Christmas, Ierrellus! O:)

Thanks, Anon.
I guess the us vs them, right vs wrong considerations of beliefs are much more fun, easy or self-satisfying to do than to consider where and how we can get together.


I see your point and I agree. It is too easy to become mired in the “oneupmanship battles over belief.” It is however the nature of organized religion to teach its adherents to be repulsed by atheism. Such repulsion is a fundamental condition of its existence. It takes a big person, religious or non-religious, to get past this and to introduce an affirming discourse. I do actually try to make strides this way.

What do you think of Stumps’s take on spirituality?
I see it as affirming - and so do, I think, a few others.

Doesn’t it look more like a desire for conformity, being liked and accepted in old age, rather than “an affirming flame”. Affirming of what?

Thomas Paine on his death bed was hounded by Christians to recant his deism. His memory had been trashed, his burial was attended by a mere handful of mourners, and his grave was desecrated. Now THAT was an affirming flame, an affirmation of love for humanity and it’s individuals, and reasoned faith in the God he never named as such, Truth.

IMHO, Stumps is right on the mark here–a classic affirmation statement!

Nah, I think these conversions had less to do with any old age desire for conformity than it had to do with legacy–what does one leave behind, negative or positive views? While I agree that the negative, in the sense of scraping barnacles from the boat of belief is necessary, I think spiritual folks try to outgrow that sort of youthful rebellion. I’m aware of what happened toTom Paine. The social problem of belief oneupmanship was clearly at fault here, not any actual belief dichotomy such as atheism vs spirituality.

Oneupsmanship? If so, then it was not only on his death bed, but on death row waiting for the guillotine in France. If he didn’t believe in what he professed, he was doing a lot more than being strong on his religious opponents, he was spitting in God’s eye when on the verge of coming face-to-face with Him.

I see your point. On TP’s side it was personal affirmation, not oneupmanship. And I’m comforted by Mark Twain’s response when on his death bed he was asked, “Sam, have you made your peace with God?” And he replied, “I didn’t know we were having an argument.” I don’t think TP was having an argument with God either. His argument was with the folks who claimed to be so close to God that they could read God’s mind, but acted inhumanely toward other people. It was negative only to those whose arrogance outweighed their morality. I keep my written negative responses to “man’s inhumanity to man”; but still realize that I must get past reaction. Any negativity eventually gets past idealistic corrections and sinks into them vs us addition to discriminations and wars. I have great respect for TP. I don’t think he had the luxury of living long enough to move from negative reaction to positive reaction on a spiritual level. If he were alive today, he doubtlessly would
see little to be positive about–our nominal Christian nation that cannot feed its poor or take care of its homeless, a nation that is behind many others in health care and education. For me, it’s a pity that TP could not recognize the compassions of Jesus or Sidhartha as legitimate paths toward social integrity.

It would be better to say “human inhumanity to humans” since women and children can also be very cruel as well.

Agree, Jonquil. Inhumanity has no sex or age.
I read Thomas Paine’s “The Age Of Reason” as a young man. It wowed me then, mainly because my experience with nominal Christians had been negative. As I got older, I began to consider what of religion I had been taught was good for me and for my relationships with others. I don’t think T.P. got to that point. Accepting deism, he threw out the baby with the bath water. He did not have to recognize what was positive about Christianity.
Yesterday, I watched the debate “Is Religion A Force For The Good?”. Coming from Toronto and aired on CNN, the opponents in the debate were Christopher Hitchens, author of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and Tony Blair, former British PM who is into faith-based charity. Both Hitchens and Blair presented good arguments. There was no debate winner!

What is positive is undermined by its lies–particularly its (Paul the worst of the bunch) portrayal of divine revelation. Is not compassion on a foundation of lies not suspect itself? Paine recognized that we need to start with Truth and build on that with further Truth, not smother it with self-serving, invented “morality”. And if we don’t know, admit it. I know that’s not comforting, but unmasking a lie can be devastating.

I think of religion more in terms of spirituality and transformation and less in terms of any one particular organized form. For example, I like the idea of “Christ-consciousness” which is a way of being that can be viewed across cultures and boundaries. All consciousness of whatever form or manner, such as Buddha-consciousness, or Deist-consciousness, etc., give all of us humans something to share and celebrate.

Happy New Year!

i really like that jonquil

I can relate to both sides, having had the mind for both.
The natural thing that came first was negation; to identify, dismiss, and condemn those elements that I perceived as degrading to spiritual endeavor.
This part took a majority of my younger life; naturally so.
Only after I explored, and subsequently dismissed a wide range of approaches and practices did I finally have enough information to help me identify what my affirmations were; by consequence of being aware of what my negations were.

Our first introductions are presentations unto us. It should not surprise us to see ourselves first dismissing then.
We only later develop our affirmations, and they are often highly reflective and involved.

Jonquil and Stumps, I agree. Stumps, there does seem to be an evolving within a lifetime of anyone concerned with spiritual matters from protest to affirmation This does not mean, IMHO, that protests against inhumanity are forgotten or are diluted by conformity. At any age spiritual people are upset by how people use people for personal ends. It means that affirmation seems to accomplish more toward finding a morality of inclusions than does protest. Negativity breeds negativity, even if the negativity is a personal battle for inclusion or dignity. Tom Paine may have forgotten the “I” that is involved in a spiritual odyssey. The “we” in any prescribed ethical system cannot extend beyond the common evolving of perspective in order to claim some universal truth.

To me, it’s a simple reasoning.
Aside from the timeline of observation above, there is also the simple fact that (for most I believe) negations are ultimately empty of long term satisfaction because they are not your own.
They are rejections of other’s ideas and feelings about life.
The rejections may be yours, but the ideas being rejected are not, and ideas are worth far more in value than agreements or disagreements.
But eventually, people seem to want something that could sate their spirit, and negations aren’t terribly good at doing that.
Negations seem to be good at exciting.
Affirmations seem to be good at resting.

Thanks, Stumps, but logic yieds to necessity.
Historical accuracy of sources does not determine “truth” of religion as social influence. Ebionites did a job on you, sir. Digging deeper into the human psyche, one finds grounds of religious beliefs in needs for personal self-substantiation and social cohesion. These needs persist regardless of their expressions being characterized as “true” or “false” or “good” or “evil”. Perspectivist takes on “truth” inevitably yield to “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Necessity is "truth!
So, is affirmation a necessity?

Affirmation isn’t a necessity, not at all.
It’s a consequence of perspective shift.
Some make entire lives out of negation; indeed, one could argue that we need such individuals collectively.

Affirmations occur, essentially, when someone figures out what’s good enough to let well enough fall where it lands and just focuses on what they can affirm.
In short, affirmations are pragmatic latches to conceptual ethos’.

That all being said; I think I live in an age that provoked me to affirmation by just being terribly fed up with the shear sick mess of negation surrounding my every turn.
Not every age is this way, but the age I am part of is obsessed with negation to the point of nearly equaling the concepts of truth with the concepts of rejection.

This is most likely a ramification of the changing of spirituality and religion within the culture as information speeds off at rates so insanely high that the rate of it’s increase alone poses a challenge to cultural tradition.

In the west, the Bible is the theological text culturally seen as the assertion of the wisdom of ages.
It weighs in at about 5 megabytes worth of information.
Today, we currently have an estimated 73 exabytes worth of information.
In 2003, we had an estimated 3.5 exabytes worth of information.
Next year, we’ll be at 112 exabytes of information at the same growth rate.
In 10 years from 2010?
In 2020, by the same rate of growth, we’ll be some where around 5,482 exabytes, or 5.4 zettabytes.
To fathom this, by 2020 we’ll have enough information in the world, that it would dwarf today’s Library of Congress by 2.7 million times!

Text books won’t get removed from academia because of fashion.
They’ll be removed from academia because there’s just no method possible to keep printed text up to date quickly enough.

So in such a world as this…I can understand and sympathize with the mass interest in negation.
Indeed, there is MUCH to consider and MUCH to dismiss.
In fact, it seems relatively mind numbing to propose that any assertion can be made with new information moving at such rates.

“The smoky candle end of time Declines.” T.S Elliot, Burbank, 1920