some views on religion

i’ve often thought one possible reason why people choose to believe in religions is because they just have a desire for something to believe in. i mean, they are afraid of what they don’t know, and so when one religion says that what they are preaching is right, just because of some ‘miracles’ or something that have occurred, they just go ahead and believe it because they don’t want to find their own answers. well, something to that extent anyways,
ugh, im not terribly fantastic at getting my point across , never been one for description, and sometimes when thoughts come so brilliantly (well id like to think that anyway lol) in my head , they somehow sound like crap when i try to explain it…
ive never been quite a religious person before, even though i have attended 10 years of school in a private catholic institution, and know anything i could ever want to know about catholicism im grateful for my parents letting me choose my religion when i’m old enough to think and not baptizing me the instant im born.
ive actually got nothing extreme against religions, except when they think that they’re the only right ones and everyone who has other views will go to hell. this is just plain ridiculous since nobody knows whether heaven or hell even exists in the first place. i also think its not very fair to be born into a religion and be forbidden to convert although i accept this is a norm for some religions, i think that everybody should be given a fair opportunity to make their own rational decision on which religion they feel most agreeable with, if they should wish to choose a religion at all.
heaven and hell may exist for all we know, but there are other limitless possibilites. i just hate it when some religious people have such narrow-minded views, this extends to atheists who have views that there is absolutely no god at all, for we can hardly be certain of anything in this world, can we?
well, these a little of my views anyhow, do you agree?

I agree with most of that…i suffered throught a private school too as well…just recently i ended all ties with the school.

Your parents make these decisions for you because they feel it is in your best interest. At the time. You are usually young and incapable of making such measures at the time. Its true. Yet none of these beliefs you were raised with are permanent. Instead, When your capable of thinking by on your own (Id say 18-21) You begin to form your own beliefs. Ages vary.

recently i discovered the world and its ways on a much more hands - on feel …i started to THINK. I started to actually UNDERSTAND things. I wasnt held captive by my parents and I became more open-minded, more liberal…Naturally, I drew some inferences from all the “shit” i was taught before hand. I think everyone goes through this stage… We all have a philosophy on how ‘things’ work…“from the care free attitude to the strict parental dogmatic influences we have received”

So where do i stand with religion? right now?
Religion is comforting, its a sense of security.
However, Id rather belive in something than nothing. Why not have faith in a God? wouldnt you rather have a chance rather than none? Say you die tommorow, wouldnt you have rather confessed your belief in some god? than nothing at all. Even if we are insignificat creatures and we all just DIE, wouldnt you rather have faith in something…w

The odds would only be greater…“a calculated risk” (stealing words from my old Vocations teacher)
The world is always spinning, and we never know when were gonna fall off.

If your doubting Life in itself…, i am at times, I say ‘finish what you started’ Its only right. We were put here for some reason…

Thats how i see it

Atheists belive in the “no-god” :slight_smile:

I don’t think that its all that easy to just “choose” a religion. You know what you really believe right? I’m not sure though cause I’m only 14 and like Youngman said, it may still take a while for me to establish TRUE personal beliefs.

I think that believes take time to build, but we must understand that we can’t always explain those feelings or believes. I’ve studied eastern religions for about 2 years or so, and I found that there is much there that I still don’t know. Like a zen master once said you can understand it in 3 secs or 30 years. So, TheHairyGuy you may be 30 and still not understand or you may understand perfectly.

hmmm… good point. im quite intrigued by the eastern religions but i know nothing about them

Why do you assume that atheists have no faith? That they don’t believe in anything?

True, we reject the notion of a God, but asside from that we still have normal, perhaps heightened beliefs. I choose to place my faith in the moment, in the universe that gave birth to me and in myself as an inextricable part of these two things. I do not believe in God, I do not believe there is a grand purpose, and I do not believe that there is an afterlife. These realisations - as scary as they were, perhaps, when I came to them - now bring me a great deal of meaning, and a great deal of comfort.

That there is no God gives me freedom. I am no longer God’s unwanted child - a poor, slipshod image of something eternal and predefined - I am now one of 6 billion entities, each free to define his/or herself. Some may choose to believe that they are the children of a higher being, and they are free to do so - this is freedom in an atheistic universe. If we have been created in the image of a deity, our essense has been predefined for us. We have nowhere to go, as each path leads to the same conclusion, the same realisation. We cannot transcend that which we are, as it is God - omnipotent as he is - who decides. He alone decides whether we have been naughty or nice, whether our lives are meaningful or meaningless. How can we possibly transcend the purpose we have been ordained by God?

That there should be no afterlife, though, is perhaps the most important realisation of all. It is the realisation that, one day in the relatively near future, I shall cease existing, I shall cease experiencing, I shall cease being. Only in death does one ever “become” - it marks the pinicle of ones life, where one stops becoming and one’s life - one’s purpose - reaches completion. It is at this point where one’s duty has been done, has been fulfilled. Without death, life has no meaning. If there is always a tomorrow, what reason is there to acheive anything today? How can one possibly value life at all when one can take it so for granted? An infinite life is completely meaningless, and I will stand by that. Should I - God forbid (no pun intended) - happen to find myself at the pearly gates, I may be happy to receive an extension to my life - so that I may have a chance of acheiving in the afterlife what I failed to achieve in the terrestrial life - but I would flatly refuse the opportunity of immortality. After all, how long before one gets bored in heaven? What then?

Knowing the someday I’ll be dead is motivation enough to keep on living, to continue becoming. It makes every second important, far to important to waste on finding a being that no human has found - beyond any standard of reasonable doubt - in 12,000 years of civilisation. Pascal’s Wager makes just as much sense reversed.

I’ll refer to Thomas Newman:

“Why do people have to die?”
“To make life worth living.”

I am not just against the existence of God from a logical standpoint, I oppose the concept morally.

I do not wish, here, to put-down the theistic views I know that many of you have, I’m just saying that I could never live with such a view.

God has always been the metaphysical glue holding the rest of our knowledge together. The more we learn about our place in the universe, the smaller God becomes. God was once the reason behind everything, from why human beings exist to why it rained. Yet, as we learn to answer our questions from non-theological perspectives, we slowly begin to define God out of existence. Where he was once an anthropic being who sat atop the clouds, interfering in every terrestrial event, he is now an undefinable vapour, that permeates everything, yet amounts to very little. The role of God has always been as a quick-stop solution to fill the gaps in our knowledge, so as these gaps become smaller and less frequent, so to God will become more and more irrelevent.

God may not be dead, but he is dying slowly.

Jp- great post and insight into your mind.

Would someone get bored in the everlasting kingdom of God? Would you get bored in eternal paradise? Who is to say.

I wouldnt know. Then again who knows if their even is a heaven. Signs point in both directions. You be the judge.

As of now, Im assuming your young and in good health. Your more able Your mind is healthy. But will things change when your 70-80 years old?

JP sez,

Continue “becoming” what? Becoming a carcass. Correct me If I’m wrong.

The knowledge that there is(probably?) light at the end of the tunnel gives me motivation to “become”.
The knowledge that I become dead and everlasting decay scares me.
Comments welcomed

That was a very well reasoned and written post.

Hello Insanity,

What decision in your life have you based upon certainty? My decisions and expectations are entirely based on probablilities. Certainty is an abstract creation of our mind.

If a crate of apples represents an absolute belief in God and a crate of oranges represents an absolute disbelief in God; I’m about one orange slice shy of a full orange crate.

Youngman wrote:

If it turns out apples instead of oranges then I’ll reason with the God. If he designed me in his image then I may fully expect him to be a paragon of reason. I’ll explain that he designed my mind such that it weighs the evidence before it makes a decision. And even when this evidence is overwhelming, my mind has been designed such that it allows a bit of wiggle room, just in case the evidence has deceived me. I’ll argue that if he only wanted a mindless robot to endlessly prostrate itself and worship his name, then he should have designed a robot programmed to prostrate itself and worship his name. Why, even I could program a computer to output an endless loop of text praising my name. It’s not my fault if he buggered up the program. If he doesn’t accept this argument then it’s obvious that he’s rigged the game against me; he’s cheating. And if he’s cheating, then he isn’t a benevolent God. If he isn’t a benevolent God then he could as well be the Devil. The proper response when dealing with the Devil is invariably to tell him to go to Hell.

So you see Youngman, you don’t have to waste your life kowtowing to a mythical entity. Simply weigh the evidence and make your decision based upon a rational probability to the best of your natural ability. You’re covered either way.


I think it’s inevitable. Infinity is, afterall, a long time. :slight_smile:

Still, think I made my point in a different thread. Perfection - in the form of Utopia/heaven/paradise - is a concept as impossible as a round square. I’m sure that Dr Pangloss may have something to say about this should he stumble upon this topic, but I don’t think that heaven - so far as heaven constitutes a perfect existence - is possible. From my perspective, for instance, people generally account for my greatest happiness and my greatest despair. If there are no people in heaven (or no interaction between people in heaven) then I could never be as happy as I am now, but, if there are people for me to interact with in heaven, then the same sort of conflicts I encounter day to day on Earth are inevitable. Hell may be other people, but hell, for me, would certainly be absolute solitude as well.

Anyway, I don’t see much point in concerning myself with it right now. Heaven is something to ponder in my next life (should I be so lucky/unlucky) not this one. :smiley:

Whatever you decide to be, that’s the beauty of it. True, you may end up as a carcass, but it’s what you do before then - in that period of time we call “life” - that really matters. Carpe Diem anyone?

Yes, I’d be lying if I said that this finality wasn’t disconcerting (in the words of Camus, the problem is that there is “no way out of the mechanism”) but at the same time, it’s motivation enough to acheive my goals before then.

Think of life like a football game (or soccer game to you Americans). A football match lasts for 90 minutes. After that, it ceases to be. The two teams have 90 minutes to acheive what they need to, and after that it’s all over. If you are still one-nil down, too bad.

Now, if the match lasted forever, then it would be pointless. No conclusion, no incentive for either of the teams to acheive anything. You could let the other team score 6,000,000 goals and it wouldn’t matter in the slightest, because you have all of eternity to make it up. Thus, it is precisely because the match is doomed to end that makes it meaningful. It’s a race against time. This certainty - that the match is going to end - is motivation enough for these two teams to extend themselves for all of 90 minutes, after which it is all done. They can then content themselves on how they felt they performed for this period or otherwise.

However, say that a football match started and no-one quite knew how long it was going to last for. The two teams were to kick off and keep on playing until the ref blows his whistle. Now how long is it going to last for? 5 minutes? 90 minutes? 100 years? Forever? The players don’t know, so what advice would you give them? In fact, say you gave each team a different answer. You tell the first team that the match will only last for 90 minutes. This team then knows, that they have a certain, definate amount of time to acheive what they want to acheive. Then tell the second team that the match is going to last forever, that they have as much time as they like to outplay the other team. Now, all other things being equal, who do you think is going to win (assuming that there is a definate conclusion to the match afterall)? Who is going to extend themselves the hardest during the period that the match lasts for?

May not be the best analogy, but hopefully you can see where I’m coming from. :wink:

Capre Diem is a romantic vison. I could not HELP but recall the movie Dead Poets Society when reading you post JP.

Here are some snipets of the inspirational movie

and to the point…

I couldnt agree more.

JP, To sum things up… I want to live and “become” all that I can before i die… However, I would not want to miss out on any kind of eternal paradise/bliss. Would you?

Polemarcus said

Who is to say you will have time to reason? On judgement day… Isnt hell “the truth seen to late?”

Ignoring your reasoning(no offense), I really think the question of faith is ‘yes’ or ‘no’
For instance, the Bible records similar verses like this

So in all honesty, in all its essense, Wouldnt you be rejecting the above statement?Wouldnt you be rejecting the ‘God’?How could you reason your way out of that?

I believe…Its either you accept it or you dont? Black or white, no grey.

"waste"and “kowtowing”. Do people who actually belive in God do this? Belief in an Unseen God gives their life meaning.
Im speaking from evidence ive witnessed, And from that, I can conclude that people who belive in God do not dwindle their days praising him. (xcept monks/nuns Perhaps lol)

Yes yes yes…still workin on it

well said i completely agree Polemarchus.

dont you think that it would only be fair for such a “loving” and “caring” god to let you explain your disbelief?


Won’t have time? Too late? Wouldn’t you have an eternity to argue your case?

No offense taken Youngman. I ignored your Bible quote as well (no offense). It’s too bad we’re just talking past each other.

I spent 12 years in Catholic schools and a good deal of time either on my knees or genuflecting. The thousands of hours I spent at Mass begging for God’s forgiveness, groveling at his feet, and praising his name were absolutely wasted.

Even if there were a God, how could you know what his meaning was for us? And even if you could know his meaning for us, how could his meaning give you meaning?

Men typically think that God placed animals on this earth for men to eat. What if God placed men on Earth as a food source for a superior being from another galaxy, to be used when they wish to travel in this direction? God’s plan might be that we are fast food for these favored extra-terrestrials. We expect that this is enough meaning for animals, but would this be enough for you? How do you know that God doesn’t think of us compared to these extra-terrestrials, as we imagine he thinks of animals compared to us humans? If God exists, then the insects and animals certainly got a raw deal from him. What makes us think that we are at the top of his food chain or his love chain?

Do we simply flatter ourselves in thinking that he loves us best of all his creations? As we look around the Earth we see a hierarchy of ever more complex creatures. From our vantage point man appears to be the most complex and developed of all the creatures. But man’s vantage point is nearly nothing compared to the Cosmos! Do we imagine that a God could have done no better than to create men? Why, he didn’t even properly design our Prostrate! If there is a God, it looks like he has quite an interest in designing things. Why would he have stopped after he designed men?

Most religious people don’t believe God gave immortal souls to bacteria; but couldn’t a man be as primitive compared to his more advanced designs, as a bacterium is to a man? In other words, God gave life to bacteria, but denied them a soul. Why do we think that the fact that he gave us life means he also gave us a soul? Perhaps only his most advanced design were given souls? You might object that God never told us about his advanced designs? God never told the cows about us. He never told the cows that men are going to put a bullet in their brain and eat them. It looks like God might have a bad habit of not mentioning such things to his creations.

If God gives your life meaning, then who gives God his meaning? Does the fact that he is vast and immortal automatically confer meaning to him? A galaxy is vast but do you think it has a meaning? The subatomic particles in a stone have existed since at least the Big Bang, some 15 Billions of years ago. But does the fact that these particles existed so long give them meaning?

It would be fun if there were a God. I have so many questions I’d like to ask him. I’d like to ask why he gave us a gift of reason when he appears to act so unreasonably, or is he just making a really bad and heartless practical joke at our expense? If he didn’t want me to ask, then he should have made me a sheep instead of a man. This perpetual enigmatic routine of his is getting old in a hurry.

Seriously, I don’t expect answers from either a god or the physical universe. It makes perfect sense to me that since I ask the questions, so I have to answer them. I’m still a slice shy of a crate of oranges.

Primitive men told each other myths about gods; they didn’t tell each other stories about quantum physics. Religion was an attempt to explain the world before we had the ability to rationally explain the world. The wind was a spirit. The sun was a chariot that rode daily across the sky. If myths have a transcendent validity, why did no ancient myth or religion state that the sun is a gravitationally bound nuclear fusion reactor? Odin, Ra, Jehovah,…, these were creations made by humans to help them understand their world. But they didn’t just get things a little bit wrong, they got things incredibly wrong. They got things so wrong that one might suspect that they were just making these myths up. Well…this is exactly what they were doing and what they continue to do to this day, though few people persist today in thinking that the sun is a chariot. Our myths have grown more sophisticated as we’ve became more sophisticated. You might object that Science is only the latest and most sophisticated of the myths. Well, I suppose I could live with that characterization. Then let’s adopt the most sophisticated myth of all; that of Science.

It all seems to be about believing what you want to believe. I’d like to think the world could be explained rationally. Youngman would like to think the world could be explained mystically. So I look for rational explanations while Youngman looks for mystical explanations. Is it any wonder that I find rational explanations while Youngman finds mystical explanations? We find what we look for.

An outsider might suggest a compromise of sorts. The suggestion might be that I make an allowance for the mystical while Youngman makes an allowance for the rational. The problem with this solution has been pointed out numerous times. If you say A while I say B, the truth of the matter does not have to lie somewhere between A and B. Regardless of what we think, the truth of the matter could be A, it could be B, it could lie between the two, or it might be none of the above.

A critic might suggest that my reliance on reason is every bit as much an act of faith as is Youngman’s reliance on mysticism. I accept this criticism to a degree. However, I’d point out that my reason compels me to believe some things that I rather were not true. I would rather that I was immortal, but I accept that I am not. I would rather there were a source of divine justice, but I accept that there is none. I would like to think that man is a “big deal” in this universe, but it appears that we are rather insignificant.

Youngman’s mysticism tells him that what man most fervently wants to be true is in fact true. I don’t think that I have the universe figured out. But of all the possible explanations, doesn’t the explanation that everything just so happens to be as we most want it to be, sound contrived? When presented with these Fairyland scenerios, why don’t warning bells go off in the minds of the religious followers? Or have religious followers simply silenced their internal alarms?

Well, I’m sure that’s enough for tonight.


Excellent description! It appears that your views on God are very similar to mine, with only a few disagreements on some of your points that seem weary but could be taken to mean my own view, so I’m left uncertain which way to take them, but I have to say you covered almost all the angles.

Your bacteria idea was quite correct, but I would have taken it a step further to include the fact that there is no mention of bacteria nor anything else that wasn’t known at the time of christ by the scholars. It’s quite obvious that had a true Messiah come to visit us we would have heard of visions from the future, the ten commandments would include crimes against animals (in the 21st century), nature, and wouldn’t the Messiah have warned us of the troubles of a capitalistic system being the super power of the world at a time of such great freedom of the internet - so that capitalists do not take away our freedom? What about industrialization? (I meant this with my animal and nature statement in reference to the ten commandments). What of over-population? I think problems such as over-population of the planet are more important than setting a morality that can’t be expected to be followed by 6 billion people.

Furthermore, I would have also included into the argument that God appears not to care whether we understand something or not. God sends this Messiah down to basically order us around, we are given the ten commandments and no one explains why, no one goes into intricate details outlining when it is okay to bypass these commandments. People don’t believe in this Messiah so he goes around doing miracles and finally raises himself from the dead; and now we are all suppose to be christians or else we are destined for hell. The greatest follower/leader comes not from one who believes he/she is doing the right thing, but one who believes and understands what they are doing to be right. The two are different. When I was young my father told me to do my math homework, which I did because I was told to by my father (because I believed if I didn’t all hell would break loose). Now I understand what I like about math, what it’s good for, the advantagous and disadvantagous sides, and so forth. So now I do math because I believe it’s good to learn math as well as I understand why I am learning math. This is true will and power. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice, and I’ll say it again “Religion is the highest form of brainwashing”.

For anyone interested in a literary read with facts, research, statistics, while also being a brief and concise explanation of most of the religions in the world, I highly advise anyone to read…Messiah, by John Hogue.

What’s your take?

Polemarcus stated

Magius made the observation that rationalism is an improvement upon mysticism.

It must be if it tells us things that messiahs could not.

Magius also said that “religion is the highest form of brainwashing.”

So here’s my understanding given these views: Mysticism/religion is an act of faith. Reason is an act of faith. Reason is an improvement upon msyticism as it offers a more accurate representation of reality. = reason, not religion is the highest form of brainwashing.

Magius question: Do you think that had these messiahs mentioned anything about capitalism or the internet that they would have translated well to a crowd that was living in tents or confined to use of language that obviously would not have allowed for any translation of such concepts?


Reggie stated:

I made no such observations. Do not put words in my mouth, your conclusions are far reaching ones.You have taken my concept out of context in which it lay in my previous post.

Reggie stated:

Your understanding of those views is proliferated with error, in no way does my logic lead to reason being an act of faith, nor do I believe it to be. But it doesn’t appear to be pertinent to you what I believe but what my words can be brought to believe that is outside of what I believe. Your statement that reason is an improvement upon mysticism is incorrect, as it assumes that according to my logic we all begin with mysticism and we have improved it with reason, this is not so and I can’t see how you would think that what I said would lead to it. In no way does it appear that reason, and not religion is the highest form of brainwashing. But reason too can be harmful, since reason can also be flawed, though it is societally accepted as the most correct form of rationalizing, hence when a conclusion is found through reason; people are more likely to stick to it as a absolute truth. It is not reason that is brainwashing, but the act of confining one’s thoughts and ideas to what they believe is an unshakable foundation. Religion is the highest form of brainwashing because it asks (some even demand) that one believe despite any evidence, reason, logic, etc. I don’t have a problem with people who choose to believe in something that they have no reason to believe, but I don’t like it when someone, a group of people, or an organization force one to believe in something without any merit.

Reggie stated:

A valid point, but it still doesn’t explain why the messiah didn’t just explain, using the confinements of the language in that place and at that time, to help people understand instead of believing blindly to one who goes around doing tricks.

Perhaps an example…
From Harry Houdini’s Miracle Mongers.
The deception of breathing out flames, which at present excites, in a particular manner, the astonishment of the ignorant, is very ancient. When the slaves in Sicily, about a century and a half before our era, made a formidable insurrection, and avenged themselves in a cruel manner, for the severities which they had suffered, there amongst them a Syrian named Eunus - a man of great craft and courage; who having passed through many scenes of life, had become acquainted with a variety of arts. He pretended to have immediate communication with the gods; was the oracle and leader of his fellow-slaves; and, as is usual on such occasions confirmed his divine mission by miracles. When heated by enthusiasm and desirous of inspiring his followers with courage, he breathed flames or sparks among them from his mouth while he was addressing them…by this art the Rabbi Bar-Cocheba, made the creduluous Jews believe that he was the hoped-for Messiah; and two centuries after, the Emperor Constantius was thrown into great terror when Valentinian informed him that he had seen one of the body-guards breathing out fire and flames in the evening.

What’s your take?

Hello Reggie,

In my earlier post I said that I accept this view to a degree. Perhaps I should explain what I meant, and what I believe G.K. Chesterton had in mind when he wrote:

“Reason itself is a matter of faith.”

Humans evolved as rational beings in a world that has always looked much the same as it does today. Reason emerged as a grand generalization of our “common sense” experiences in this environment. We evolved as beings of this world, and as such, our minds have come to mirror this world.

If we had evolved in the micro-world, for example, then quantum effects would appear to be entirely reasonable. In that case it would be aspects of the macro-world that puzzle us. Of course, we evolved in the macro-world, so it’s no surprise that the macro-world “makes sense” to us. It’s actually quantum events that don’t match with our “common sense.”

Frank Wilczek (Prof. of Physics at MIT) said as much in the recent book, It Must Be Beautiful; Great Equations Of Modern Science:

“…we have no warrant to expect naive intuitions about what is weird or unlikely provide any reliable guidance for constructing models of fundamental structure in the microworld, because these intuitions derive from an entirely different realm of phenomena.”

The mechanics of reason are by now as much hard-wired into our brains as, for example, are our mechanics of vision. The brain automatically re-inverts the inverted image that reaches our retina. Men don’t have a choice of whether their brain should invert or not-invert this image. The brain is hard-wired to prefer the right side up view of this world much the same as it’s hard-wired to view this world causally. We likewise don’t have the choice of configuring our brains to view this world non-casually, or in six dimensions. We awoke to this life possessing an a priori causal consciousness and three-dimensional outlook.

I’m confident that both the right side up and the causal view of my everyday world are the correct views for my everyday world. I’m less confident however, that the world of quantum phenomena is either right side up or causal. How could I expect that reason, which evolved in the human brain as a tool for survival in this macro-world, would be equally useful in explaining this until recently unknown micro-world?

I’ve read that the quantum world is “scary.” The author was commenting on the fact that we are naturally afraid of what we don’t understand. The quantum world is scary for the same reason that death is often said to be scary. Our brain no more evolved in the quantum world than it evolved in the “death world.” Our complex brain evolved because it aided our survival in the living world in which we find ourselves. There is no reason why our brain would have developed the tools necessary to survive in a quantum world, a death world, or any kind of world other than the world in which it evolved.

To believe that my reason remains applicable in other worlds is therefore an act of faith. I’ve no certitude that human reason represents the non plus ultra of tools for understanding the universe. Human reason might not be a universal tool, but it remains by far, my best tool.

While the quantum world might not jive with our common-sense notions, we’re still able to manipulate it to our advantage. The quantum world might be scary for scientists and philosophers, still, despite its quantum underpinnings, the clerk has no palpable fear of the light from the laser diode when she scans the price code on my box of “Crispy Critters.”

My admission that reason itself ultimately is a matter of faith in no way lends credence to faith-based religious worldviews. There is very little in this world of which I might be certain. I often say that my life is based not upon certitudes but upon probabilities. Bertrand Russell similarly commented:

“When one admits that nothing is certain, one must, I think, also add that some things are much more nearly certain than others.”

Well said, Bertie!


“Prescientific people… could never guess the nature of physical reality beyond the tiny sphere attainable by unaided common sense. Nothing else ever worked, no exercise from myth, revelation, art, trance, or any other conceivable means; and notwithstanding the emotional satisfaction it gives, mysticism, the strongest prescientific probe in the unknown, has yielded zero.”
Edward O. Wilson, Consilience

Polemarchus, I appreciate your response. Particularly your use of the word evolution as I believe it key to what you are discussing. The rational mind has evolved out of the magical or mythical mind. In making this leap, the rational mind has afforded us many gifts, primarily, a more accurate depiction of ourselves and our surrounding world. How can I make this statement?

I think it always pays to incorporate a bit of developmental psych. Imagine two brother standing on top of the Empire State Building. The both look over the edge and gaze down at the people walking along the street. The younger brother states “Those people are ants.” The older brother states “Those people look like ants.”

What we are dealing with are two people at various stages in their development. To one the people as the appear small “are ants” and to the other they “look like ants.” To make the statement that the people “look like ants” is actually a remarkable developmental leap. It entails taking multiple perspectives into account and deriving a thesis regarding what is perceived from these perspectives. Psychological development seems to follow a basic movement away from narcissism, or the belief that we are somehow the center of the universe. Another way to look at this is that as an individual evolves, he or she is capable adopting a more comprehensive understanding of themselves and surrounding environment as they are able to efffectively perceive and integrate more perspectives.

This in mind, it does not seem that we can skip “stages”(I am not a big fan of that word). To evolve to to a rational mind we must have had to travel throught the reaches of the magical and mythical mind. These stages are absolutely necessary although they are not the end all and be all of human potential. They are also intrinsically valuable as the rational would not exist without them. I would say, however, that the rational is more valuable, only it that it’s capacities bring us closer to truth or a more accurate depiction of all that is know.

Evolution is a static process. It does not stop. The rational mind will ultimately give way to another “stage” of development, another more evolved world view. While it is the best tool now, prior to its coming to be the best tools were of the mythical nature. To accelerate our evolution the greatest tool we have is an open mind. We must always ask the questions “Is there another perspective I could take on this? or What are the inherent limits to my present mode of comprehension?” Victor Frankl’s emphasis on the importance of meaning in human existence may be a valid motivator to stay in the game. Why is it that we ask these question? What are we really looking for? We must focus not only on taking things apart theoretically, which is the first part of evolution to a subsequent developmental stage, but also remember the next part of the equation which is the integration or putting back together into something new.

I enjoyed your post. Got me thinking… Thanks, Mac


Great post. Your example of the two brothers reminds me of a story I read some years ago (the Internet is great, Google found the story again in an eyeblink):

[i]"The anthropologist Colin Turnbull described what happened in the former Congo in the 1950s when a Bambuti pygmy, used in living in the dense Ituri forest (which had only small clearings), went with him by jeep to the plains for the first time:

And then he saw the buffalo, still grazing lazily several miles away, far down below. He turned to me and asked, ‘What insects are those?’

At first I hardly understood, then I realized that in the forest vision is so limited that there is no great need to make an automatic allowance for distance when judging size. Out here in the plains, Kenge was looking for the first time over apparently unending miles of unfamiliar grasslands, with not a tree worth the name to give him any basis for comparison…

When I told Kenge that the insects were buffalo, he roared with laughter and told me not to tell such stupid lies."[/i]

Isn’t this the way of it? When I approach the quantum world I feel much as the pygmy Kenge, who’d evolved in a dense jungle but is suddenly standing on an open plain. We try to put this new experience into the context of our past experiences, but we find it simply doesn’t fit.

Philosophy alone couldn’t have revealed the existence of buffalos to the pygmy; evidence is required to establish facts. Philosophy however, gives us the chance to enlarge our perspective even as we dwell within the jungle; and should we happen upon a radically new idea; we’ll neither reject it outright as a “stupid lie,” nor will we accept it outright without a critical examination.

Have you read Antonio Damasio’s book, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain? He makes a good case that too much or too little emotion has a negative impact on our ability to reason. One special interest of mine is the role played by emotion and reason. I occasionally toy around the idea that emotion is merely reason in a hurry, and reason is simply emotion at leisure.

Yes I agree, the very fact that we ask philosophical questions speaks volumes about the nature of mankind. Robert Nozick writes wonderfully on this topic as well. I’m thinking especially of the chapter in his Philosophical Explanations titled; “Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing.” In his “Introduction” he makes it clear that for him philosophy is about explanations rather than proofs. I liked that.

Thanks for the mental grist, Reggie,

Talking of evolution, I’d like to bypass it just before now, posted this disjointed comment, 2727 posts, double 27’s. In numerology that represent’s Christ, and it’s very odd, because the numerology of it coincides my current theme of miracles. In fact, evolution is a misnomer, at least physically speaking, spiritual evolution, on the other hand is not sequential, it may quantumize development by appearances a odd and out of place, as this comment on a very open ended forum titled above: as some views on religion.

I am with william james, and the varieties of religious experience, it has no form, or rhyme or reason, it developmentally becomes open ended.

There is a tremendous energy there, khrishnamurti pointed out that once it is realized, it is simply a sign of astounding over-abundance.

I have just read the OP and absolutely agree with that.

Insanity, do not underestimate yourself. You explained beautifully and well enough (if you are there and listening even after 11years).

with love,