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41I42XDmNfL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_ There are some topics which I have some interest in, such as prehistory illuminated by genetics, in which there is constant change and new discoveries every few months. If a new paper doesn’t drop in a six month interval, I think something is wrong.

There are other topics where I don’t perceive much change, and have stopped paying much attention. Psychometrics for example is one area where I basically just stopped paying much attention after reading The g factor. I understand that it’s a live field, but at this point to me the details are academic, as the broad sketch seems well established (this will change in some ways over the next decade due to genomics, but since I think genomics will confirm what we already know it won’t be very revelatory for me).

The scientific study of religion is another topic where I once had a lot of interest, but where I concluded that the basic insights have stabilized. Since I stopped reading much in this area I stopped writing much about it too. To get a sense of where I’m coming from, Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion is probably the best place to start. It’s about 15 years old, but I don’t see that much has changed since then in the basics of the field.

9780195178036 And what are those basics? At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions. All religion operates on top of this basic kernel of our mental OS. Religion may have functional utility as a social system of control, or channeling collective energies, as argued by David Sloan Wilson in Darwin’s Cathedral. Or, one might be able to fruitfully model “religious marketplaces” as argued in Marketplace of the Gods. But these are all basically simply applications installed into on top of the operating system.

Why does this matter? For me this is a personal issue, because I’m one of those people who has never really had a strong religious impulse. Since I didn’t have a religious impulse, my model of religion was as that of an outsider, which led to some confusions. For example, there was a point perhaps around the age of 18 where I thought perhaps if someone just read a book like Atheism: A Philosophical Justification they’d be convinced. Just as if I’d been a Roman Catholic I would have thought a reading of Summa Theologica would have convinced. This was all wrongheaded.

Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole. People do not believe in Catholicism as often as they are born Catholics, and the Catholic religion is rather well fitted to a range of predispositions to the typical human.

One thing that the typical human does not have is intensive need for rationalization of our daily life, and the totality of their beliefs. There are a non-trivial subset of Catholics who have heard of the Five Ways, or might be conversant in the Ontological Argument. But this is a very small minority of Catholics, and for even these this philosophical element is a sidelight to most of their spiritual practice and orientation.

The reason I am posting this is in response to something Rod Dreher wrote, Mystery Of The Ages:

Here’s something I have never figured out. In theory, Catholics ought to be a lot more theologically conservative on such matters. They have a clear teaching proclaimed by a clear church authority, with a deep Biblical theology behind it. And yet, on the whole, it doesn’t seem to matter to lay Catholics. Evangelicals, on the other hand, have the Bible, but no binding interpretive authority to keep them from diverging. Yet, on these issues, they are more morally conservative than Catholics — even by Catholic standards.

Why is this? I’m asking in a serious way. Any of you have a theory? I’m not going to publish gratuitous Catholic bashing or Evangelical bashing in the comments.

The best book to fully address this paradox would be D. Jason Slone’s Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t. But that’s the generality. If you want specifics, see Jay P. Dolan’s In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension. Though American Catholics retain identity and affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church, it has operationally become Protestantized when it comes to how people view their relationship to the religion (in a similar way, American Reform Jews also transformed their religion to conform with American confessional Protestantism).

There are a subset of believers who are not well captured by the generalizations in books such as Slone’s, or in ethnographic descriptions which trace the assimilation of Catholicism into the American scene. They are usually highly intellectual and analytical in their orientation. Often, they seem to be converts. Rod Dreher was a convert to Catholicism from Methodism, before he became Orthodox. Leah Libresco and Eve Tushnet also seem to fall into this category. Highly intellectual. And, converts to Catholicism.

Because they are analytical and articulate, these sorts of religious people are highly prominent on the public stage, and, they also write the histories that come down to us through the centuries. These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think. As a metaphor, imagine mountainous islands scattering amidst a featureless ocean. The islands are salient. But it is the vast ocean which will ultimately be determinative. Similarly, the vast number of believers who move along a nexus of inscrutable social forces, and driven by powerful universal psychologies, may be hidden from our view.

51jUZQV3r1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ And yet even for the “analytics” reason does not dictate. Both Dreher and Tushnet have made references to mystical and emotional occurrences and impulses which are beyond my ken. I have no need, no wish, no impulse, and no intuition as to what they are talking about in that dimension (Libresco seems a somewhat different case, but I haven’t read much of what she’s written; I suspect I’ve been in the same room with her since she worked for an organization which I have many personal connections with, but I’m not sure).

It isn’t a surprise that I think Hume was onto something when he asserted that “reason is a slave to the passions.” In many instances I suspect theological analysis is simply the analytic engine being applied to a domain whose ultimate rationale is driven by a passion.

Addendum: Leah Libresco seems to have been associated with the broad umbrella group of Bay Area rationalists. I’ve been associated in some fashion with these people as friends and acquaintances for nearly 10 years. I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.

 
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  1. Have you read The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt? Haidt believes that morality in general (not just religion) exists as a means for group selection to take place; that morality in humans plays the role that reproduction though a single queen plays in bees. He also thinks that there has been a lot of recent gene-culture coevolution for morality. From an evolutionary point of view he’s clearly not very sophisticated, and I don’t think Haidt says anything that will be a big surprise to readers of this blog, but I do think he adds a lot of psychological insight (he is a psychologist, after all).

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i have the book. a lot of it makes sense. we'll see if it is true...
    , @RaceRealist88
    I'm currently reading that book. It's outstanding. The way he says that if we're using morality to look for truth we'll be disappointed because we all have differing morals makes a ton of sense. He then says that looking at morality as a way for group cohesiveness to evolve makes much more sense.

    It was an eye opener for me. Haidt's dog tail wagging analogy and the rider and elephant are great examples for morality and intuition.
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  2. Twinkie says:

    And yet even for the “analytics” reason does not dictate. Both Dreher and Tushnet have made references to mystical and emotional occurrences and impulses which are beyond my ken.

    I would suggest that the above phrase “reason does not dictate” should be “reason ALONE does not dictate.”

    I could offer a lengthy Catholic apologia based on reason, but at the core, one of the reasons why I believe is because of “mystical occurences” – I experienced a miracle.

    In many instances I suspect theological analysis is simply the analytic engine being applied to a domain whose ultimate rationale is driven by a passion.

    That may be indeed, but religious passion is of a different quality than passion for the mundane (perhaps something material) for lack of a better word. Even the most committed atheist can experience something that is so profound and sublime that he is overwhelmed and awed by the transcendence.

    Put another way, one can apply “analytic engine” to explain in rational terms witnessing something beautiful, but “the ultimate rationale” for such an experience is one of passion rather than reason. Whether one believes our genetics or God provided the spark, we humans seem to have a yearning for that passion.

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  3. bob sykes says:

    I was raised Catholic (now agnostic many years), and many of my relatives are practicing Catholics. Theirs is a nonintellectual religion. It is a religion of family and companionship. They are only minimally aware of the Church’s intellectual history and of its official doctrine, and they feel free to ignore inconvenient teachings, like the ban on contraception. I have a sister who is truly devout, as is her whole family, and she is simply unaware of some of the most basic Church doctrines.

    This is not a new thing. Pre Vatican II, in the 50′s, my mother, raised in the strictest French Canadian Catholic tradition, was a cafeteria Catholic. The fact is that the laity and priesthood practice different faiths.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    The fact is that the laity and priesthood practice different faiths.

    this would be taken for granted in a fashion for pre-moderns.
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  4. Thursday says:

    I have to point out that your post doesn’t actually answer Dreher’s question of why Evangelicals are more conservative on moral issues than Catholics. After all they are themselves Protestants, so Protestantization can’t be the answer.

    I suspect a couple things. First, Protestantism has different churches for liberals and conservatives. So, if you lumped the Mainline and Evangelical churches into one category, you might get numbers that are more similar to the Catholic. Second, I do think ecclesiology matters here. Most Evangelicals are members of churches with a congregational form of church government. That means that if a congregation goes in for liberal theology, it starts to see the problems with that more immediately than in larger, more hierarchical, organizations like the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Catholic. So, Evangelicalism has been subject to more Darwinian weeding out. Liberal Baptists (they did exist) went extinct a long time ago.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Liberal Baptists (they did exist) went extinct a long time ago.

    american baptists are still around. and in any case, there is a liberal minority in the southern baptist convention (or was until they started leaving a few years back like carter).

    don't try to bullshit me. it annoys me.
    , @animalogic
    Evangelicals - per se - have been with us since at least the 1400's (or earlier). They are driven by a sense of both decadence (ie the orthodox) and renewal (us, the pious, the TRUE-believers). There may also be political/power - indeed, anarchic - elements encouraging unorthodoxy. Eventually, the unorthodox becomes the orthodox, the unacceptable the accepted...or they don't....ie, the Cathars....
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  5. At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions.

    Speaking of “cognitive mental intuitions,” have you read Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success (it’s not in the book list in the right margin)? His big idea is that the evolution of our cognitive mental intuitions has (at least since the genus homo) been driven mainly by the culture that people are born into. Culture is not some modern product built on pre-cultural intuitions. Rather there has been gene-culture co-evolution. He fits an amazing amount of stuff into his brief for that thesis.

    The Hume citation is a point of departure for another book not on the list, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind Haidt purports to have discovered six basic moral intuitions, one of which is the idea of holiness and its opposite, pollution. Haidt says that “liberals” don’t use that particular intuition much. I think he’s wrong about that. If they didn’t, and if they were rational/analytical, they would purge environmental writing of all it’s talk about sacred spaces, refreshing one’s soul etc. “National Parks are sacred spaces where we go to refresh our souls.” But they do and they aren’t.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Speaking of “cognitive mental intuitions,” have you read Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success

    i reviewed it.
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  6. Credo quia absurdum. Or, in Martin Luther’s formulation, “All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false.”

    The fideism of the Lutherans (from Kierkegaard, Harmann, and Wittgenstein to your average Midwestern grandma) is refreshingly honest.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    The fideism of the Lutherans (from Kierkegaard, Harmann, and Wittgenstein to your average Midwestern grandma) is refreshingly honest.



    i think one of these things is not like the other. (the last)
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  7. Thursday says:

    Here are some interesting questions in the study of religion which have not yet been answered satisfactorily . Unfortunately, there isn’t much work out there that really attempts to answer them.

    1. Why is religion associated with concerns over sexual purity, and why, in particular, does it tend to see homosexuality as immoral?

    Probably answer: because religion basically is agency detection, religious ethics tend to be purpose based or teleological ethics. (It is worth noting that the words for sin in both Hebrew and Greek mean “missing the mark.”) It isn’t hard to see why a sort of intuitive natural law ethic becomes the default for religious people. So, religious people look at men and women and intuit that the purpose of sex is to form families and reproduce, thus tending to frown heavily on things like like premarital sex or homosexuality. “Purity” means going outside of the intended purpose for your body. Since this tends to go along with religious intuitions, it is unlikely that highly religious people will ever “lighten up” on these topics.

    (Incidentally, I don’t think this has much to do with scriptural prohibitions. Many traditions have no canon or only a very loose canon, and they’re as purity obsessed as anything. Also, this doesn’t explain why so many scriptures have these prohibitions.)

    This also shows why liberal churches tend to be in such trouble demographically. Liberal churches are filled with people who have much lower agency detection than among conservative believers. This explains both their tendency to abandon supernaturalism and sexual purity standards at the same time. But, of course, if you’re not that supernaturally oriented, why go to church?

    2. Why have so many people in the West largely abandoned religion? This is a big and important change, and we know some things that seem to be generally associated with secularization, like wealth, relative economic equality, urbanization etc., but the precise psychological mechanism has not much been elucidated.

    Possible answer: agency detection is not much activated in a safe, predictable, prosperous and largely human built environment. We develop certain habits of mind in such an environment that make the gods less plausible, or at least more remote from our daily concerns.

    3. Why is community building associated with supernatural belief?

    Partial answer: community has to be about something other than just community. So, yes, there are hangers on to any religious community who are more interested in the social benefits than in the actual religion. However, I like to make the analogy of a softball league. Sure, some people are in it for the picnics and cameraderie, but without the core of people actually interested in softball to keep the thing going, all the associated social aspects would disappear.

    The other thing is that teleological thinking goes along pretty well with in-out boundary setting and respect for authority.

    4. What is the association between the arts and religion? Is the existence of all that great religious art because of some deep connection between religion and art, or is it because of some historical contingency? Could you, in theory, make just as great of art from the materials of science and secular modernity?

    Possible answer: There is a deep connection and it is related to the extremely powerful figure of personification. The great artist makes things “come alive.” Whether this is poets using the personification as a figure of speech or painters making their subjects jump off the canvas, the impression of life and consciousness seem to be what makes for good art. Symbolism is also involved here, because it is, at bottom, teleological. Things point to other things and ultimately to the gods.

    Incidentally, I recently counted up all the best living or recently deceased poets, and with only one exception, every last one of them was raised in an intensely conservative religious home. No irreligious or lukewarm mainline upbringings, which is surprising in a secularizing West. Caveat: it was upbringing, not personal belief that was important. Many of them were no longer all that religious.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey Thursday,

    Wow - what a great set of questions and answers! Thanks for putting those thoughts together.

    Peace.
    , @survey-of-disinfo

    Here are some interesting questions in the study of religion which have not yet been answered satisfactorily . Unfortunately, there isn’t much work out there that really attempts to answer them.
     
    You jest.

    Sexuality:

    - https://www.amazon.com/Mysterium-Coniunctionis-Collected-Works-Vol-14/dp/0691018162
    - https://www.amazon.com/Time-Falling-Bodies-Take-Light/dp/0312160623

    , @Anon
    Incidentally, I recently counted up all the best living or recently deceased poets, and with only one exception, every last one of them was raised in an intensely conservative religious home. No irreligious or lukewarm mainline upbringings, which is surprising in a secularizing West.

    Yes, like Aleister Crowley.
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  8. iffen says:

    The islands are salient. But it is the vast ocean which will ultimately be determinative.

    But I lost everything I brought her
    When she said babe, you’re just a wave, you’re not the water

    Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Just A Wave, Not The Water

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  9. Talha says:
    @Thursday
    Here are some interesting questions in the study of religion which have not yet been answered satisfactorily . Unfortunately, there isn't much work out there that really attempts to answer them.

    1. Why is religion associated with concerns over sexual purity, and why, in particular, does it tend to see homosexuality as immoral?

    Probably answer: because religion basically is agency detection, religious ethics tend to be purpose based or teleological ethics. (It is worth noting that the words for sin in both Hebrew and Greek mean "missing the mark.") It isn't hard to see why a sort of intuitive natural law ethic becomes the default for religious people. So, religious people look at men and women and intuit that the purpose of sex is to form families and reproduce, thus tending to frown heavily on things like like premarital sex or homosexuality. "Purity" means going outside of the intended purpose for your body. Since this tends to go along with religious intuitions, it is unlikely that highly religious people will ever "lighten up" on these topics.

    (Incidentally, I don't think this has much to do with scriptural prohibitions. Many traditions have no canon or only a very loose canon, and they're as purity obsessed as anything. Also, this doesn't explain why so many scriptures have these prohibitions.)

    This also shows why liberal churches tend to be in such trouble demographically. Liberal churches are filled with people who have much lower agency detection than among conservative believers. This explains both their tendency to abandon supernaturalism and sexual purity standards at the same time. But, of course, if you're not that supernaturally oriented, why go to church?

    2. Why have so many people in the West largely abandoned religion? This is a big and important change, and we know some things that seem to be generally associated with secularization, like wealth, relative economic equality, urbanization etc., but the precise psychological mechanism has not much been elucidated.

    Possible answer: agency detection is not much activated in a safe, predictable, prosperous and largely human built environment. We develop certain habits of mind in such an environment that make the gods less plausible, or at least more remote from our daily concerns.

    3. Why is community building associated with supernatural belief?

    Partial answer: community has to be about something other than just community. So, yes, there are hangers on to any religious community who are more interested in the social benefits than in the actual religion. However, I like to make the analogy of a softball league. Sure, some people are in it for the picnics and cameraderie, but without the core of people actually interested in softball to keep the thing going, all the associated social aspects would disappear.

    The other thing is that teleological thinking goes along pretty well with in-out boundary setting and respect for authority.

    4. What is the association between the arts and religion? Is the existence of all that great religious art because of some deep connection between religion and art, or is it because of some historical contingency? Could you, in theory, make just as great of art from the materials of science and secular modernity?

    Possible answer: There is a deep connection and it is related to the extremely powerful figure of personification. The great artist makes things "come alive." Whether this is poets using the personification as a figure of speech or painters making their subjects jump off the canvas, the impression of life and consciousness seem to be what makes for good art. Symbolism is also involved here, because it is, at bottom, teleological. Things point to other things and ultimately to the gods.

    Incidentally, I recently counted up all the best living or recently deceased poets, and with only one exception, every last one of them was raised in an intensely conservative religious home. No irreligious or lukewarm mainline upbringings, which is surprising in a secularizing West. Caveat: it was upbringing, not personal belief that was important. Many of them were no longer all that religious.

    Hey Thursday,

    Wow – what a great set of questions and answers! Thanks for putting those thoughts together.

    Peace.

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  10. Talha says:

    Excellent article Razib! A few thoughts…

    Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole.

    I’d say this is the case with practically any religion that is going to survive. Human beings are fickle shoppers – if you don’t serve something useful and at the right price, they will shop elsewhere.

    Salafis/Wahhabis, on the other hand, have the Quran, but no binding interpretive authority to keep them from diverging. Yet, on these issues, they are more morally conservative than Orthodox Sunnis — even by Orthodox Sunni standards.

    Interesting parallels, if not exactly the same. I would submit that it may due to the cumulative experience and intellectual heritage of centuries that result in a more ‘middle path’ from the authorities (aka normative voice) of all religious traditions.

    These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think.

    Excellent point!

    “reason is a slave to the passions.”

    Lewinsky scandal and millions of men having paid millions of dollars to divorce lawyers as a result of a few moments of “hubba hubba”…so yeah.

    I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting.

    Can’t agree with you more – another great point! In a recent brilliant article I read about resurgence of Islam among young Muslims in the West, it made this excellent point:
    “We must understand that religion arises from the irreducible desire to be transcendent, to be more than a mere thing. Religion is not violence, even if it can be used to justify violence. Nor is it peace, even if religion can promote peace. Religion is the desire for meaning.”

    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2016/10/10/hypermodern-religiosity-islam/

    Imam Juwayni (ra), one of our foremost theologians – ever – and the principal teacher of Imam Ghazali (ra) stated:
    “I read fifty thousand times fifty thousand [folios]. Then I left behind the people of Islam and their Islam of outward sciences in those books. I took to the vast sea and probed what Muslims deem prohibited to probe. I did all this in the pursuit of truth. I used to flee, in bygone times, from imitation. Now I have returned from all this to the word of truth: ‘Cling to the faith of old women!’”

    Peace.

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    • Replies: @Twinkie


    Rather, they are Roman Catholic... because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole.
     
    I’d say this is the case with practically any religion that is going to survive. Human beings are fickle shoppers – if you don’t serve something useful and at the right price, they will shop elsewhere.
     
    I think what Mr. Khan is alluding to here is a particularly pronounced quality of the Catholic Church that allows for those who neither believe Church Dogma nor live the life in accord with the Church's moral teachings to continue to think of, and represent, themselves as Catholics - to belong to, and claim memership in, the Catholic community. A related phenomenon is being a "cradle Catholic," especially when used in context of those who do not subscribe to the Church's teachings but continue to adhere to Catholic rituals for family or ethno-cultural traditions and community. There is no corresponding expression for Protestants. Generally, Protestants who were reared in their particular faith who disagree with it either convert or lose their faith. They move on.

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community. At least a part of the reason is that the Catholic Church - unlike those who believe in predestination - believes that every single human being can be, theoretically, saved and that none is destined to be damned.

    Another related aspect of this is that for Catholics worship of God is a *public* and *communitarian* act - it is not merely about a direct relationship between an individual and His Savior (the oft-mocked Protestant question: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?"). For Catholics, missing Mass is a mortal (as opposed to venial) sin. Missing Mass on other holy days of obligation is a mortal sin. Such an action is an affront to both God's gift of Grace *and* the community of fellow parishoners. Catholics cannot exist with God on faith alone - we must partake in Sacraments, which are public acts. Even the Rite of Reconciliation - commonly known as confession - is not private. Though the confessor (the priest hearing confession and giving absolution) is there in persona Christi and guards the inviolability of the confessed sins on the pain of excommunication, he - another individual - is there in the confessional with you. There are also lines of other people waiting to confess outside the confessional. And then when you emerge from it to do penance, the other parishoners are also there next to you on the pews.

    Seen in that light, Catholicism is not just a religion or a denomination - it is both a community and a culture.
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  11. @David Boxenhorn
    Have you read The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt? Haidt believes that morality in general (not just religion) exists as a means for group selection to take place; that morality in humans plays the role that reproduction though a single queen plays in bees. He also thinks that there has been a lot of recent gene-culture coevolution for morality. From an evolutionary point of view he's clearly not very sophisticated, and I don't think Haidt says anything that will be a big surprise to readers of this blog, but I do think he adds a lot of psychological insight (he is a psychologist, after all).

    i have the book. a lot of it makes sense. we’ll see if it is true…

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    • Replies: @David Boxenhorn
    I'm not sure that I agree with Haidt's central thesis that the difference between Left, Right, and Libertarian is captured by the degree to which various moral foundations are activated. Rather, it seems to me that these foundations are used in different ways by different moral systems. In the context of this post, I bring up the book only to, perhaps, put religion in its place as only one type of morality, and morality in its place as the substrate of groupishness.
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  12. @bob sykes
    I was raised Catholic (now agnostic many years), and many of my relatives are practicing Catholics. Theirs is a nonintellectual religion. It is a religion of family and companionship. They are only minimally aware of the Church's intellectual history and of its official doctrine, and they feel free to ignore inconvenient teachings, like the ban on contraception. I have a sister who is truly devout, as is her whole family, and she is simply unaware of some of the most basic Church doctrines.

    This is not a new thing. Pre Vatican II, in the 50's, my mother, raised in the strictest French Canadian Catholic tradition, was a cafeteria Catholic. The fact is that the laity and priesthood practice different faiths.

    The fact is that the laity and priesthood practice different faiths.

    this would be taken for granted in a fashion for pre-moderns.

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  13. @Thursday
    I have to point out that your post doesn't actually answer Dreher's question of why Evangelicals are more conservative on moral issues than Catholics. After all they are themselves Protestants, so Protestantization can't be the answer.

    I suspect a couple things. First, Protestantism has different churches for liberals and conservatives. So, if you lumped the Mainline and Evangelical churches into one category, you might get numbers that are more similar to the Catholic. Second, I do think ecclesiology matters here. Most Evangelicals are members of churches with a congregational form of church government. That means that if a congregation goes in for liberal theology, it starts to see the problems with that more immediately than in larger, more hierarchical, organizations like the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Catholic. So, Evangelicalism has been subject to more Darwinian weeding out. Liberal Baptists (they did exist) went extinct a long time ago.

    Liberal Baptists (they did exist) went extinct a long time ago.

    american baptists are still around. and in any case, there is a liberal minority in the southern baptist convention (or was until they started leaving a few years back like carter).

    don’t try to bullshit me. it annoys me.

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    • Replies: @Thursday
    american baptists are still around.

    I was deliberately using (very) mild hyperbole, which should be obvious. I am perfectly aware that in a country of 300 million people there are still a few liberal Baptist congregations around. But they're very thin on the ground, not only compared to Evangelicals, but to the more hierarchical Mainline.

    For example, the American Baptists are a denomination of 1 million in a country of 300 million, which makes them about 0.3% of the population. Not only that, the official stance of the overall denomination is still that homosexuality is morally wrong, which indicates the majority of those are still conservatives, though, unlike the SBC, they allow congregations that dissent.

    The battle in the SBC was not between liberals and conservatives, rather between moderate conservatives and really hard core fundamentalists. It's analogous to a fight between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict.
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  14. @Roger Sweeny

    At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions.
     
    Speaking of "cognitive mental intuitions," have you read Joseph Henrich's The Secret of Our Success (it's not in the book list in the right margin)? His big idea is that the evolution of our cognitive mental intuitions has (at least since the genus homo) been driven mainly by the culture that people are born into. Culture is not some modern product built on pre-cultural intuitions. Rather there has been gene-culture co-evolution. He fits an amazing amount of stuff into his brief for that thesis.

    The Hume citation is a point of departure for another book not on the list, Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind Haidt purports to have discovered six basic moral intuitions, one of which is the idea of holiness and its opposite, pollution. Haidt says that "liberals" don't use that particular intuition much. I think he's wrong about that. If they didn't, and if they were rational/analytical, they would purge environmental writing of all it's talk about sacred spaces, refreshing one's soul etc. "National Parks are sacred spaces where we go to refresh our souls." But they do and they aren't.

    Speaking of “cognitive mental intuitions,” have you read Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success

    i reviewed it.

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    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    Thanks. I chased down the review and several things you wrote about it. I hadn't realized there was a search box in the upper right that searches your archives for words (so "secret success" got me what I wanted but "secret of our success" got me hundreds of useless posts with "of" in them).

    Is there a system for what books go in the list on the right?
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  15. @Seth Largo
    Credo quia absurdum. Or, in Martin Luther's formulation, "All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false."

    The fideism of the Lutherans (from Kierkegaard, Harmann, and Wittgenstein to your average Midwestern grandma) is refreshingly honest.

    The fideism of the Lutherans (from Kierkegaard, Harmann, and Wittgenstein to your average Midwestern grandma) is refreshingly honest.

    i think one of these things is not like the other. (the last)

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    • Replies: @Seth Largo
    Sure, someone like Martin or Søren will be more sophisticated and scholarly in their understanding of the fideist position, but in my experience among Lutheran laity, they're not nearly as interested in "apologetics" as other Evangelical groups.

    In fact, I'm curious to hear what you think about the popularity of Christian apologetics as a counter-point to your argument (the priest and the laity practice different religions). I largely agree with your view, but then, I'm not sure how to explain the millions of books sold by authors like C.S. Lewis or his Catholic counterpart, G.K. Chesterton. It's almost as if they provided a watered down form of "priestly religion" for a laity uninterested in the finer points of theology but too literate and educated to just take the wafer and call it a day.
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  16. one thing for commenters, religion are different sorts of things. ‘animism’ is basal and constitutive. that’s the cognitive element. ‘higher religion’ incorporates a lot of things that aren’t basal and constitutive (e.g., ethics, philosophy institutional organization).

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  17. Thursday says:
    @Razib Khan
    Liberal Baptists (they did exist) went extinct a long time ago.

    american baptists are still around. and in any case, there is a liberal minority in the southern baptist convention (or was until they started leaving a few years back like carter).

    don't try to bullshit me. it annoys me.

    american baptists are still around.

    I was deliberately using (very) mild hyperbole, which should be obvious. I am perfectly aware that in a country of 300 million people there are still a few liberal Baptist congregations around. But they’re very thin on the ground, not only compared to Evangelicals, but to the more hierarchical Mainline.

    For example, the American Baptists are a denomination of 1 million in a country of 300 million, which makes them about 0.3% of the population. Not only that, the official stance of the overall denomination is still that homosexuality is morally wrong, which indicates the majority of those are still conservatives, though, unlike the SBC, they allow congregations that dissent.

    The battle in the SBC was not between liberals and conservatives, rather between moderate conservatives and really hard core fundamentalists. It’s analogous to a fight between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict.

    Read More
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  18. @Razib Khan
    The fideism of the Lutherans (from Kierkegaard, Harmann, and Wittgenstein to your average Midwestern grandma) is refreshingly honest.



    i think one of these things is not like the other. (the last)

    Sure, someone like Martin or Søren will be more sophisticated and scholarly in their understanding of the fideist position, but in my experience among Lutheran laity, they’re not nearly as interested in “apologetics” as other Evangelical groups.

    In fact, I’m curious to hear what you think about the popularity of Christian apologetics as a counter-point to your argument (the priest and the laity practice different religions). I largely agree with your view, but then, I’m not sure how to explain the millions of books sold by authors like C.S. Lewis or his Catholic counterpart, G.K. Chesterton. It’s almost as if they provided a watered down form of “priestly religion” for a laity uninterested in the finer points of theology but too literate and educated to just take the wafer and call it a day.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    re: apologetics. a lot of people who bought the *god delusion* didn't read it. i had some evangelical friends who were "into" josh mcdowell, but it was pretty garbled and weak tea. but people are good about trying to rationalize their beliefs. that's why john oliver is so great at 'eviscerating' people.

    also, there's a reason that lewis and mcdowell are much more popular than swinburne or malcolm.
    , @Talha
    If I may...

    James White is an Evangelical Apologist that I respect deeply for his civil and honest approach to debating with others (whether Muslims or other Christian denominations). This is what he had to say about the divide between what the intellectuals/theologians believe in the Church versus the laity regarding the Trinity:
    "If we gave a test to the majority of Evangelicals coming out of church this coming Sunday morning, on the Doctrine of the Trinity, less than half would pass. In fact, I would say we'd have a 75% failure rate...the majority would test modalistic."
    https://youtu.be/r-FpZdnIAJ8?t=7m20s

    Now, to be fair, he is specifically talking about the creed - for which one has walk a fine line to get it right:
    https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/Trinitarian%20Heresies.html

    If you were just concerned about 'practice' then perhaps this is irrelevant and sorry for wasting your time.

    And as far as the popularity of C.S. Lewis (I have "The Screwtape Letters" - excellent work) and others. A successful religion must appeal to and engage everyone at their level of education and intellectual ability - else it flirts with triviality. And, likely, incoherence if it declares a God that is just and cares while making His accessibility the monopoly of the intelligent.

    Peace.
    , @Rapparee

    "In fact, I’m curious to hear what you think about the popularity of Christian apologetics as a counter-point to your argument (the priest and the laity practice different religions)."
     
    "Priest" and "laity" are useful but inexact shorthand terms. Plenty of priests don't take doctrine and philosophy very seriously either, and a handful of laymen do. The psychological makeup of a pious layman who cares about doctrinal consistency often bears more resemblance to what you'd expect from a clergyman. (Lay Catholic apologist John Zmirak tells a funny story illustrating the contrast: as a Catholic high school student, he repeatedly denounced his seminary-trained religion teacher for heresy, eventually culminating with an angry letter to the Papal Nuncio in Washington, D.C.) You can often find laymen with that sort of intellectualized piety doing quasi-clerical volunteer work, like teaching Sunday school or managing the collections- a sort of "priesthood lite". They're a big part of the apologetics market.

    Also, it helps that Chesterton and Lewis were fiction-writers and magnificent prose stylists, who wrote on many other subjects besides religion. Even when Chesterton is pushing his most exasperatingly wrong-headed ideas, he's still a delightfully skilled rhetorician.
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  19. @Seth Largo
    Sure, someone like Martin or Søren will be more sophisticated and scholarly in their understanding of the fideist position, but in my experience among Lutheran laity, they're not nearly as interested in "apologetics" as other Evangelical groups.

    In fact, I'm curious to hear what you think about the popularity of Christian apologetics as a counter-point to your argument (the priest and the laity practice different religions). I largely agree with your view, but then, I'm not sure how to explain the millions of books sold by authors like C.S. Lewis or his Catholic counterpart, G.K. Chesterton. It's almost as if they provided a watered down form of "priestly religion" for a laity uninterested in the finer points of theology but too literate and educated to just take the wafer and call it a day.

    re: apologetics. a lot of people who bought the *god delusion* didn’t read it. i had some evangelical friends who were “into” josh mcdowell, but it was pretty garbled and weak tea. but people are good about trying to rationalize their beliefs. that’s why john oliver is so great at ‘eviscerating’ people.

    also, there’s a reason that lewis and mcdowell are much more popular than swinburne or malcolm.

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  20. Slon says:

    The one and only Old Testament law clearly and positively affirmed by Jesus in the Gospels, in the Sermon on the Mount no less, is the prohibition against divorce (“… let no man put asunder.”) Given that, a naive observer might suppose that this prohibition would play a vital role in contemporary Christian morality. Of course the reality is the opposite, in doctrine, belief, and practice. For me this radical disconnect is the touchstone of thinking about these subjects. Another valuable aspect of this example is that it’s relatively accessible, since the outline of its history is a part of pop culture. Everybody knows about Henry VIII etc.

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    • Replies: @Joe Q.

    The one and only Old Testament law clearly and positively affirmed by Jesus in the Gospels, in the Sermon on the Mount no less, is the prohibition against divorce (“… let no man put asunder.”)
     
    I find this statement confusing. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) clearly presupposes the existence of divorce -- is there a prohibition against it in the Jewish scriptures? If so, where?
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  21. Talha says:
    @Seth Largo
    Sure, someone like Martin or Søren will be more sophisticated and scholarly in their understanding of the fideist position, but in my experience among Lutheran laity, they're not nearly as interested in "apologetics" as other Evangelical groups.

    In fact, I'm curious to hear what you think about the popularity of Christian apologetics as a counter-point to your argument (the priest and the laity practice different religions). I largely agree with your view, but then, I'm not sure how to explain the millions of books sold by authors like C.S. Lewis or his Catholic counterpart, G.K. Chesterton. It's almost as if they provided a watered down form of "priestly religion" for a laity uninterested in the finer points of theology but too literate and educated to just take the wafer and call it a day.

    If I may…

    James White is an Evangelical Apologist that I respect deeply for his civil and honest approach to debating with others (whether Muslims or other Christian denominations). This is what he had to say about the divide between what the intellectuals/theologians believe in the Church versus the laity regarding the Trinity:
    “If we gave a test to the majority of Evangelicals coming out of church this coming Sunday morning, on the Doctrine of the Trinity, less than half would pass. In fact, I would say we’d have a 75% failure rate…the majority would test modalistic.”

    Now, to be fair, he is specifically talking about the creed – for which one has walk a fine line to get it right:

    https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/Trinitarian%20Heresies.html

    If you were just concerned about ‘practice’ then perhaps this is irrelevant and sorry for wasting your time.

    And as far as the popularity of C.S. Lewis (I have “The Screwtape Letters” – excellent work) and others. A successful religion must appeal to and engage everyone at their level of education and intellectual ability – else it flirts with triviality. And, likely, incoherence if it declares a God that is just and cares while making His accessibility the monopoly of the intelligent.

    Peace.

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  22. @Razib Khan
    i have the book. a lot of it makes sense. we'll see if it is true...

    I’m not sure that I agree with Haidt’s central thesis that the difference between Left, Right, and Libertarian is captured by the degree to which various moral foundations are activated. Rather, it seems to me that these foundations are used in different ways by different moral systems. In the context of this post, I bring up the book only to, perhaps, put religion in its place as only one type of morality, and morality in its place as the substrate of groupishness.

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    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    I think it's both. I've already mentioned how non-theistic liberals who Haidt thinks don't much use the holiness/pollution axis will nod in agreement at statements like, "National Parks are sacred places where we go to renew our souls. We must keep them inviolate."

    It occurs to me that many biologists have the same attitude toward the natural world. The world "before humans had much effect on it" becomes sacralized. Though it is just one point in a several billion year saga, it becomes something that must be kept from changing any more, and any change becomes "deterioration." One speaks of an ecosystem "becoming unhealthy" or "losing its integrity." There is moral feeling here.
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  23. Psychometrics for example is one area where I basically just stopped paying much attention after reading The g factor. I understand that it’s a live field, but at this point to me the details are academic, as the broad sketch seems well established (this will change in some ways over the next decade due to genomics, but since I think genomics will confirm what we already know it won’t be very revelatory for me).

    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

    this comment went through because sometimes i need to speak to dumb animal readers. readers is what you should remain, because you're a dumb animal. in the 5 million words i've written, there is plenty for me to get watsoned dumb animal. in fact, it didn't work out with the new york times in part because i balked at making any disavowels.

    you, dumb animal, remain anonymous, in your dumb animality. you, dumb animal watch me engage with the whole fucking internet for years because too many scientists are cowards to speak their mind. while you remain a dumb anonymous animal, spouting your dumb animality.

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn't attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.

    it's not that i hate you. i just wish for your nonexistence, because your craven stupidity makes me think less of our species, dumb animal.

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  24. Razib, on religion: have you read The Fair Instinct by Nicholas Wade? He posits that religion evolved to have us be more cohesive as a group among other things.

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  25. @David Boxenhorn
    Have you read The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt? Haidt believes that morality in general (not just religion) exists as a means for group selection to take place; that morality in humans plays the role that reproduction though a single queen plays in bees. He also thinks that there has been a lot of recent gene-culture coevolution for morality. From an evolutionary point of view he's clearly not very sophisticated, and I don't think Haidt says anything that will be a big surprise to readers of this blog, but I do think he adds a lot of psychological insight (he is a psychologist, after all).

    I’m currently reading that book. It’s outstanding. The way he says that if we’re using morality to look for truth we’ll be disappointed because we all have differing morals makes a ton of sense. He then says that looking at morality as a way for group cohesiveness to evolve makes much more sense.

    It was an eye opener for me. Haidt’s dog tail wagging analogy and the rider and elephant are great examples for morality and intuition.

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  26. @Lord Jeff Sessions

    Psychometrics for example is one area where I basically just stopped paying much attention after reading The g factor. I understand that it’s a live field, but at this point to me the details are academic, as the broad sketch seems well established (this will change in some ways over the next decade due to genomics, but since I think genomics will confirm what we already know it won’t be very revelatory for me).
     
    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

    this comment went through because sometimes i need to speak to dumb animal readers. readers is what you should remain, because you’re a dumb animal. in the 5 million words i’ve written, there is plenty for me to get watsoned dumb animal. in fact, it didn’t work out with the new york times in part because i balked at making any disavowels.

    you, dumb animal, remain anonymous, in your dumb animality. you, dumb animal watch me engage with the whole fucking internet for years because too many scientists are cowards to speak their mind. while you remain a dumb anonymous animal, spouting your dumb animality.

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn’t attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.

    it’s not that i hate you. i just wish for your nonexistence, because your craven stupidity makes me think less of our species, dumb animal.

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    • Agree: RaceRealist88
    • Replies: @Lord Jeff Sessions
    :(
    , @Twinkie

    a dumb animal
     
    By your comparison you unjustly insult, my good Sir, innocent animals. :)

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn’t attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.
     
    Since you invoked my handle, I will respond.*

    What he did - insulting you - is in a way something worse than what animals do. Animals are generally very earnest. There is no guile (and I am not talking about hunting guile here) or self-deception with animals. They have a clear, honest bargain with nature, with the circle of life, if you will.

    It is precisely because we humans have souls that can be noble or disfigured that we do things that are far better or worse than what animals do. There is a reason why sometimes for long stretches of time I prefer the company of dogs and horses than that of people. I have seen with my own eyes too much evil that human beings have perpetrated, evil that is frequently a consequence of banality, to borrow Hannah Arendt's expression. Human beings seldom fail to disappoint me, and living in civilization is a constant assault on my sense of what is right and just.

    Yet, just when I despair, I run into people who are utterly ordinary, yet so very good - people who restore my shaken and damaged faith in the hope for nobility of soul, of God's Grace, and of Salvation. These two kinds of people are not in balance. I have seen far, far more evil people than the saintly. Yet the profoundly uplifting effect the few saintly have had on my soul, or psyche if you will, is much more powerful than the trauma I suffered in witnessing evil.

    God and Satan are not equal and opposing forces. One is inconceivably grander and majestic than the other.

    We ought to be kind to others, even those who insult us, not because they deserve it, but because it is good... and good for us.

    *Okay, okay, I admit - I didn't need my handle mentioned to pipe up here.
    , @Talha
    "The trolls...feed them not." - Yoda

    My take on it is that don't let these kinds of comments through - especially if they have absolutely zero benefit to anyone. I actually like your threads because not every random person's useless comments get through - I appreciate the filtering.

    Censorship of 'Internet noise' can be useful, especially when anonymity gives people less incentive to self-censor.

    In other words...if it was my sandbox, I'd want to keep people from pooping in it too.

    Peace.
    , @Wizard of Oz
    Is there history? I would prima facie give him the benefit of the doubt and, assuming he was just, somewhat thoughlessly, trying to jazz up so as not to bore a simple respectful request for your accumulated wisdom in a bottle.

    I see you Razib starring in a 1930s style B&W film as a 1900 Classics Professor in a wing collar who conceals his opinion of 90 per cent of the students in his Greek class behind sharp but impenetrable witticisms in dead languages but then gets into the staff room and breaks down, tossing his mortar board at the portrait of the founder, and screaming about dumb animals.

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  27. @Razib Khan
    Speaking of “cognitive mental intuitions,” have you read Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success

    i reviewed it.

    Thanks. I chased down the review and several things you wrote about it. I hadn’t realized there was a search box in the upper right that searches your archives for words (so “secret success” got me what I wanted but “secret of our success” got me hundreds of useless posts with “of” in them).

    Is there a system for what books go in the list on the right?

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    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    Wow. If I put "Secret of Our Success" in parenthesis, the search box also looks for that four word string and lists first those posts that have the full string. Which are the ones I was actually looking for.
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  28. @David Boxenhorn
    I'm not sure that I agree with Haidt's central thesis that the difference between Left, Right, and Libertarian is captured by the degree to which various moral foundations are activated. Rather, it seems to me that these foundations are used in different ways by different moral systems. In the context of this post, I bring up the book only to, perhaps, put religion in its place as only one type of morality, and morality in its place as the substrate of groupishness.

    I think it’s both. I’ve already mentioned how non-theistic liberals who Haidt thinks don’t much use the holiness/pollution axis will nod in agreement at statements like, “National Parks are sacred places where we go to renew our souls. We must keep them inviolate.”

    It occurs to me that many biologists have the same attitude toward the natural world. The world “before humans had much effect on it” becomes sacralized. Though it is just one point in a several billion year saga, it becomes something that must be kept from changing any more, and any change becomes “deterioration.” One speaks of an ecosystem “becoming unhealthy” or “losing its integrity.” There is moral feeling here.

    Read More
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  29. @Razib Khan
    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

    this comment went through because sometimes i need to speak to dumb animal readers. readers is what you should remain, because you're a dumb animal. in the 5 million words i've written, there is plenty for me to get watsoned dumb animal. in fact, it didn't work out with the new york times in part because i balked at making any disavowels.

    you, dumb animal, remain anonymous, in your dumb animality. you, dumb animal watch me engage with the whole fucking internet for years because too many scientists are cowards to speak their mind. while you remain a dumb anonymous animal, spouting your dumb animality.

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn't attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.

    it's not that i hate you. i just wish for your nonexistence, because your craven stupidity makes me think less of our species, dumb animal.

    :(

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    http://www.unz.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_sad.gif
     
    Are you really sad that Mr. Khan became agitated in response to what you wrote?

    You wrote: "So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?"

    You packed a lot of insults in that one sentence. You first presume a sense of unearned familiarity, accompanied by an order of sorts. Then there is the accusation of witholding his true feelings, of lack of integrity. It ends with the implication of cowardice, of careerism. And of course the structure of the sentence is such that you offer him a false choice of either dignifying your insults with a response or being a cowardly careerist.

    If you were genuinely interested in a dialogue with him, there is a myriad of other ways you could have engaged him. To paraphrase comedians, "I wouldn't have opened with that." Instead you chose to insult him ever so obliquely, but transparently, which is too clever by half. Frankly, it was impolite and weaselly.

    Instead of feigning sadness at eliciting a deservedly heated response, my sincere recommendation is that you should apologize and perhaps rephrase what you wanted to ask - that is if your intentions were earnest in the first place.
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  30. Twinkie says:
    @Talha
    Excellent article Razib! A few thoughts...

    Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole.
     
    I'd say this is the case with practically any religion that is going to survive. Human beings are fickle shoppers - if you don't serve something useful and at the right price, they will shop elsewhere.

    Salafis/Wahhabis, on the other hand, have the Quran, but no binding interpretive authority to keep them from diverging. Yet, on these issues, they are more morally conservative than Orthodox Sunnis — even by Orthodox Sunni standards.
     
    Interesting parallels, if not exactly the same. I would submit that it may due to the cumulative experience and intellectual heritage of centuries that result in a more 'middle path' from the authorities (aka normative voice) of all religious traditions.

    These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think.
     
    Excellent point!

    “reason is a slave to the passions.”
     
    Lewinsky scandal and millions of men having paid millions of dollars to divorce lawyers as a result of a few moments of "hubba hubba"...so yeah.

    I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting.
     
    Can't agree with you more - another great point! In a recent brilliant article I read about resurgence of Islam among young Muslims in the West, it made this excellent point:
    "We must understand that religion arises from the irreducible desire to be transcendent, to be more than a mere thing. Religion is not violence, even if it can be used to justify violence. Nor is it peace, even if religion can promote peace. Religion is the desire for meaning."
    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2016/10/10/hypermodern-religiosity-islam/

    Imam Juwayni (ra), one of our foremost theologians - ever - and the principal teacher of Imam Ghazali (ra) stated:
    "I read fifty thousand times fifty thousand [folios]. Then I left behind the people of Islam and their Islam of outward sciences in those books. I took to the vast sea and probed what Muslims deem prohibited to probe. I did all this in the pursuit of truth. I used to flee, in bygone times, from imitation. Now I have returned from all this to the word of truth: 'Cling to the faith of old women!'"

    Peace.

    Rather, they are Roman Catholic… because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole.

    I’d say this is the case with practically any religion that is going to survive. Human beings are fickle shoppers – if you don’t serve something useful and at the right price, they will shop elsewhere.

    I think what Mr. Khan is alluding to here is a particularly pronounced quality of the Catholic Church that allows for those who neither believe Church Dogma nor live the life in accord with the Church’s moral teachings to continue to think of, and represent, themselves as Catholics – to belong to, and claim memership in, the Catholic community. A related phenomenon is being a “cradle Catholic,” especially when used in context of those who do not subscribe to the Church’s teachings but continue to adhere to Catholic rituals for family or ethno-cultural traditions and community. There is no corresponding expression for Protestants. Generally, Protestants who were reared in their particular faith who disagree with it either convert or lose their faith. They move on.

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community. At least a part of the reason is that the Catholic Church – unlike those who believe in predestination – believes that every single human being can be, theoretically, saved and that none is destined to be damned.

    Another related aspect of this is that for Catholics worship of God is a *public* and *communitarian* act – it is not merely about a direct relationship between an individual and His Savior (the oft-mocked Protestant question: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”). For Catholics, missing Mass is a mortal (as opposed to venial) sin. Missing Mass on other holy days of obligation is a mortal sin. Such an action is an affront to both God’s gift of Grace *and* the community of fellow parishoners. Catholics cannot exist with God on faith alone – we must partake in Sacraments, which are public acts. Even the Rite of Reconciliation – commonly known as confession – is not private. Though the confessor (the priest hearing confession and giving absolution) is there in persona Christi and guards the inviolability of the confessed sins on the pain of excommunication, he – another individual – is there in the confessional with you. There are also lines of other people waiting to confess outside the confessional. And then when you emerge from it to do penance, the other parishoners are also there next to you on the pews.

    Seen in that light, Catholicism is not just a religion or a denomination – it is both a community and a culture.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey Twinkie,

    Thanks for the details - they make sense (especially in an age where a crisis of faith is fairly common) and which give a clue as to why it has had such longevity as an institution.

    You also make a good point about the "small core of families" that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.

    Peace.

    , @AP

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community.
     
    During a sermon, my Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest told us a story. A man was asked by his village priest to go to the spring with a basket and to bring back water with that basket. The basket of course failed to hold any water, and was empty by the time the man returned to the priest. After a week of this, the man asked the priest what the point was, because there was never any water. "But what is the basket like now?" asked the priest - it had become very clean. In this way people who doubt, or don't believe, also benefit from participation in the Liturgy.
    , @iffen
    no corresponding expression for Protestants. Generally, Protestants who were reared in their particular faith who disagree with it either convert or lose their faith

    Christmas and Easter only Christians.
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  31. Twinkie says:

    Highly intellectual. And, converts to Catholicism.

    Because they are analytical and articulate, these sorts of religious people are highly prominent on the public stage, and, they also write the histories that come down to us through the centuries. These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think.

    Mr. Khan, I think you overrstate your case here. It is quite true that the great mass of those who claim to be Catholics are ignorant of Church Dogma and teachings (there is an issue of definition too, of course, of what it means to be or how to define a Catholic). And, yes, it is wrong to think of the Church solely or even mostly as a religious institution of intellectuals and analytical thinkers based on the examples of these visible highbrow converts.

    But within many, perhaps most, parishes, there is invariably a small core of families that are highly literate in the doctrines and moral teachings of the Church, attempt to live them, and support maintenance of the parish, all at the same time. I have seen it time and time again – though a parish might claims thousands of people as parishioners, there would be, say, only 50 families that provide the main financial support for the parish. These are almost always the same families that come to the daily Mass. The parents of these families are frequently teachers and Catechists in religious education, and are generally quite well-versed in doctrine and morality. They are also the same adults with whom you can engage in deep and analytical conversations about philosophy, science, and history of faith at social gatherings. Some may be publicly prominent, but others are not, yet provide vital leadership of the parish community, both as exemplars of faith well-lived and as intellectuals of the Church. The influence of such people in shaping the Church is hardly overstated.

    Read More
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  32. Twinkie says:
    @Lord Jeff Sessions
    :(

    http://www.unz.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_sad.gif

    Are you really sad that Mr. Khan became agitated in response to what you wrote?

    You wrote: “So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?”

    You packed a lot of insults in that one sentence. You first presume a sense of unearned familiarity, accompanied by an order of sorts. Then there is the accusation of witholding his true feelings, of lack of integrity. It ends with the implication of cowardice, of careerism. And of course the structure of the sentence is such that you offer him a false choice of either dignifying your insults with a response or being a cowardly careerist.

    If you were genuinely interested in a dialogue with him, there is a myriad of other ways you could have engaged him. To paraphrase comedians, “I wouldn’t have opened with that.” Instead you chose to insult him ever so obliquely, but transparently, which is too clever by half. Frankly, it was impolite and weaselly.

    Instead of feigning sadness at eliciting a deservedly heated response, my sincere recommendation is that you should apologize and perhaps rephrase what you wanted to ask – that is if your intentions were earnest in the first place.

    Read More
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  33. Twinkie says:
    @Razib Khan
    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

    this comment went through because sometimes i need to speak to dumb animal readers. readers is what you should remain, because you're a dumb animal. in the 5 million words i've written, there is plenty for me to get watsoned dumb animal. in fact, it didn't work out with the new york times in part because i balked at making any disavowels.

    you, dumb animal, remain anonymous, in your dumb animality. you, dumb animal watch me engage with the whole fucking internet for years because too many scientists are cowards to speak their mind. while you remain a dumb anonymous animal, spouting your dumb animality.

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn't attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.

    it's not that i hate you. i just wish for your nonexistence, because your craven stupidity makes me think less of our species, dumb animal.

    a dumb animal

    By your comparison you unjustly insult, my good Sir, innocent animals. :)

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn’t attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.

    Since you invoked my handle, I will respond.*

    What he did – insulting you – is in a way something worse than what animals do. Animals are generally very earnest. There is no guile (and I am not talking about hunting guile here) or self-deception with animals. They have a clear, honest bargain with nature, with the circle of life, if you will.

    It is precisely because we humans have souls that can be noble or disfigured that we do things that are far better or worse than what animals do. There is a reason why sometimes for long stretches of time I prefer the company of dogs and horses than that of people. I have seen with my own eyes too much evil that human beings have perpetrated, evil that is frequently a consequence of banality, to borrow Hannah Arendt’s expression. Human beings seldom fail to disappoint me, and living in civilization is a constant assault on my sense of what is right and just.

    Yet, just when I despair, I run into people who are utterly ordinary, yet so very good – people who restore my shaken and damaged faith in the hope for nobility of soul, of God’s Grace, and of Salvation. These two kinds of people are not in balance. I have seen far, far more evil people than the saintly. Yet the profoundly uplifting effect the few saintly have had on my soul, or psyche if you will, is much more powerful than the trauma I suffered in witnessing evil.

    God and Satan are not equal and opposing forces. One is inconceivably grander and majestic than the other.

    We ought to be kind to others, even those who insult us, not because they deserve it, but because it is good… and good for us.

    *Okay, okay, I admit – I didn’t need my handle mentioned to pipe up here.

    Read More
    • Replies: @woodNfish

    We ought to be kind to others, even those who insult us, not because they deserve it, but because it is good… and good for us.
     
    This is why I read the comments - something good gained by reading them. Thank you.
    , @Razib Khan
    good point re: animals.
    , @Anonymous
    I think what people usually consider evil is self-interest and whether it crosses (or potentially might cross) our path. People used to depict wolves as evil, then when they no longer were a real threat that view got replaced with them as a noble animal. A CEO who filches money from his employees' pension plan behind their back is evil, but a prolific bank robber may be romanticized as an adventurous and daring roguish man of the people.
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  34. Talha says:
    @Twinkie


    Rather, they are Roman Catholic... because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole.
     
    I’d say this is the case with practically any religion that is going to survive. Human beings are fickle shoppers – if you don’t serve something useful and at the right price, they will shop elsewhere.
     
    I think what Mr. Khan is alluding to here is a particularly pronounced quality of the Catholic Church that allows for those who neither believe Church Dogma nor live the life in accord with the Church's moral teachings to continue to think of, and represent, themselves as Catholics - to belong to, and claim memership in, the Catholic community. A related phenomenon is being a "cradle Catholic," especially when used in context of those who do not subscribe to the Church's teachings but continue to adhere to Catholic rituals for family or ethno-cultural traditions and community. There is no corresponding expression for Protestants. Generally, Protestants who were reared in their particular faith who disagree with it either convert or lose their faith. They move on.

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community. At least a part of the reason is that the Catholic Church - unlike those who believe in predestination - believes that every single human being can be, theoretically, saved and that none is destined to be damned.

    Another related aspect of this is that for Catholics worship of God is a *public* and *communitarian* act - it is not merely about a direct relationship between an individual and His Savior (the oft-mocked Protestant question: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?"). For Catholics, missing Mass is a mortal (as opposed to venial) sin. Missing Mass on other holy days of obligation is a mortal sin. Such an action is an affront to both God's gift of Grace *and* the community of fellow parishoners. Catholics cannot exist with God on faith alone - we must partake in Sacraments, which are public acts. Even the Rite of Reconciliation - commonly known as confession - is not private. Though the confessor (the priest hearing confession and giving absolution) is there in persona Christi and guards the inviolability of the confessed sins on the pain of excommunication, he - another individual - is there in the confessional with you. There are also lines of other people waiting to confess outside the confessional. And then when you emerge from it to do penance, the other parishoners are also there next to you on the pews.

    Seen in that light, Catholicism is not just a religion or a denomination - it is both a community and a culture.

    Hey Twinkie,

    Thanks for the details – they make sense (especially in an age where a crisis of faith is fairly common) and which give a clue as to why it has had such longevity as an institution.

    You also make a good point about the “small core of families” that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.

    Peace.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    why it has had such longevity as an institution.
     
    Because God willed it. As St. Matthew quoted Jesus (16:18) thusly: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

    You also make a good point about the “small core of families” that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.
     
    There are many people who do not understand the inner workings of Catholic parishes who think that the Church is dying because the number of self-described Catholics has fallen (in absence of Hispanic immigrants).

    But even if the number of officially registered parishioners fell by 90%, parishes with these core families will endure and even thrive. A while back I mentioned half-heartedly that we faithful and obedient Catholics would return to the catacombs if we had to, but that really was not a joke. Unlike, say, mainline Protestant denominations that really are dying, the Catholic Church always has had a core "cadre" that is willing to spend generations in the wilderness to preserve the authentic teachings of the Church in the face of a hostile society at large. As a friend of mine put it once, "We survived the Fall of Rome and the barbarian invasions. We will survive the fall of traditional America, and we'll help rebuild the civilization anew as we did before."
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  35. Talha says:
    @Razib Khan
    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

    this comment went through because sometimes i need to speak to dumb animal readers. readers is what you should remain, because you're a dumb animal. in the 5 million words i've written, there is plenty for me to get watsoned dumb animal. in fact, it didn't work out with the new york times in part because i balked at making any disavowels.

    you, dumb animal, remain anonymous, in your dumb animality. you, dumb animal watch me engage with the whole fucking internet for years because too many scientists are cowards to speak their mind. while you remain a dumb anonymous animal, spouting your dumb animality.

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn't attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.

    it's not that i hate you. i just wish for your nonexistence, because your craven stupidity makes me think less of our species, dumb animal.

    “The trolls…feed them not.” – Yoda

    My take on it is that don’t let these kinds of comments through – especially if they have absolutely zero benefit to anyone. I actually like your threads because not every random person’s useless comments get through – I appreciate the filtering.

    Censorship of ‘Internet noise’ can be useful, especially when anonymity gives people less incentive to self-censor.

    In other words…if it was my sandbox, I’d want to keep people from pooping in it too.

    Peace.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i don't normally post stuff like that. but those comments are getting more frequent. twinkie zeroed in on why got so irritated.
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  36. josh says:

    “Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. ”

    I am one of the few. Though, to be fair, it was Edward Feser’s, explication of the five ways in his book “Aquinas: a Beginner’s Guide”.

    Read More
    • Replies: @RaceRealist88
    Do you believe that God exists because of an argument? I definitely understand where it's coming from, especially with the reducto ad absurdum, but I still can't wrap my head around it because it's an argument and there is no empirical data for it.
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  37. @Roger Sweeny
    Thanks. I chased down the review and several things you wrote about it. I hadn't realized there was a search box in the upper right that searches your archives for words (so "secret success" got me what I wanted but "secret of our success" got me hundreds of useless posts with "of" in them).

    Is there a system for what books go in the list on the right?

    Wow. If I put “Secret of Our Success” in parenthesis, the search box also looks for that four word string and lists first those posts that have the full string. Which are the ones I was actually looking for.

    Read More
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  38. woodNfish says:
    @Twinkie

    a dumb animal
     
    By your comparison you unjustly insult, my good Sir, innocent animals. :)

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn’t attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.
     
    Since you invoked my handle, I will respond.*

    What he did - insulting you - is in a way something worse than what animals do. Animals are generally very earnest. There is no guile (and I am not talking about hunting guile here) or self-deception with animals. They have a clear, honest bargain with nature, with the circle of life, if you will.

    It is precisely because we humans have souls that can be noble or disfigured that we do things that are far better or worse than what animals do. There is a reason why sometimes for long stretches of time I prefer the company of dogs and horses than that of people. I have seen with my own eyes too much evil that human beings have perpetrated, evil that is frequently a consequence of banality, to borrow Hannah Arendt's expression. Human beings seldom fail to disappoint me, and living in civilization is a constant assault on my sense of what is right and just.

    Yet, just when I despair, I run into people who are utterly ordinary, yet so very good - people who restore my shaken and damaged faith in the hope for nobility of soul, of God's Grace, and of Salvation. These two kinds of people are not in balance. I have seen far, far more evil people than the saintly. Yet the profoundly uplifting effect the few saintly have had on my soul, or psyche if you will, is much more powerful than the trauma I suffered in witnessing evil.

    God and Satan are not equal and opposing forces. One is inconceivably grander and majestic than the other.

    We ought to be kind to others, even those who insult us, not because they deserve it, but because it is good... and good for us.

    *Okay, okay, I admit - I didn't need my handle mentioned to pipe up here.

    We ought to be kind to others, even those who insult us, not because they deserve it, but because it is good… and good for us.

    This is why I read the comments – something good gained by reading them. Thank you.

    Read More
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  39. AP says:
    @Twinkie


    Rather, they are Roman Catholic... because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole.
     
    I’d say this is the case with practically any religion that is going to survive. Human beings are fickle shoppers – if you don’t serve something useful and at the right price, they will shop elsewhere.
     
    I think what Mr. Khan is alluding to here is a particularly pronounced quality of the Catholic Church that allows for those who neither believe Church Dogma nor live the life in accord with the Church's moral teachings to continue to think of, and represent, themselves as Catholics - to belong to, and claim memership in, the Catholic community. A related phenomenon is being a "cradle Catholic," especially when used in context of those who do not subscribe to the Church's teachings but continue to adhere to Catholic rituals for family or ethno-cultural traditions and community. There is no corresponding expression for Protestants. Generally, Protestants who were reared in their particular faith who disagree with it either convert or lose their faith. They move on.

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community. At least a part of the reason is that the Catholic Church - unlike those who believe in predestination - believes that every single human being can be, theoretically, saved and that none is destined to be damned.

    Another related aspect of this is that for Catholics worship of God is a *public* and *communitarian* act - it is not merely about a direct relationship between an individual and His Savior (the oft-mocked Protestant question: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?"). For Catholics, missing Mass is a mortal (as opposed to venial) sin. Missing Mass on other holy days of obligation is a mortal sin. Such an action is an affront to both God's gift of Grace *and* the community of fellow parishoners. Catholics cannot exist with God on faith alone - we must partake in Sacraments, which are public acts. Even the Rite of Reconciliation - commonly known as confession - is not private. Though the confessor (the priest hearing confession and giving absolution) is there in persona Christi and guards the inviolability of the confessed sins on the pain of excommunication, he - another individual - is there in the confessional with you. There are also lines of other people waiting to confess outside the confessional. And then when you emerge from it to do penance, the other parishoners are also there next to you on the pews.

    Seen in that light, Catholicism is not just a religion or a denomination - it is both a community and a culture.

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community.

    During a sermon, my Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest told us a story. A man was asked by his village priest to go to the spring with a basket and to bring back water with that basket. The basket of course failed to hold any water, and was empty by the time the man returned to the priest. After a week of this, the man asked the priest what the point was, because there was never any water. “But what is the basket like now?” asked the priest – it had become very clean. In this way people who doubt, or don’t believe, also benefit from participation in the Liturgy.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie
    That story could also be an allegory about the Church itself - the basket being the Church and the water being people who come and go.
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  40. @josh
    "Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. "

    I am one of the few. Though, to be fair, it was Edward Feser's, explication of the five ways in his book "Aquinas: a Beginner's Guide".

    Do you believe that God exists because of an argument? I definitely understand where it’s coming from, especially with the reducto ad absurdum, but I still can’t wrap my head around it because it’s an argument and there is no empirical data for it.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Talha
    HeyRR88,

    there is no empirical data for it
     
    If there was empirical data, no one except the insane would not believe. Religion always begs the question; "do you believe" - not "don't you observe". Otherwise belief in such things would be as reflexive as 'belief' that the Maldives is situated in the Indian Ocean.

    Peace.
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  41. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    (this will change in some ways over the next decade due to genomics, but since I think genomics will confirm what we already know it won’t be very revelatory for me).

    A certain body of truths will require intenser censorship effort on the part of state education and the media in order to keep the masses ignorant about them. Will they ever have to give in?

    Have you read Reptiles with a Conscience? It draws a parallel between Judaism and Christianity on the one side, Hinduism and Buddhism on the other, to conclude they developed as responses to the same challenges, but it diverges from your view in a way I, well, wouldn’t know how to put (but you may find it interesting).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Karl Zimmerman
    Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the idea that there is an active "anti-HBD" conspiracy is ridiculous. The hostility towards HBD thinking in the modern west is not due to active and coordinated censorship, but self-internalized social norms. I honestly think even if shorn from racial implications it would be considered impolite to discuss in the general public, because it's generally considered to be gauche for anyone to not that one person is smarter than another - particularly if they are including themselves in the comparison.

    Regardless, even active suppression wouldn't make a difference, because non-western countries (particularly Asia) are going to be looking into the relationships between genetic background, ancestry, and cognitive ability. I personally think that even if differences in cognition are found, it may result in only minor shifts to the modern American worldview regarding diversity. Look to how the U.S. cultural left has embraced people with various disabilities, physical and mental, in order to see why. Essentially the accepted norm will shift from everyone has the same basic aptitudes, to aptitudes vary along a continuum, one shouldn't generalize about an individual based upon groups, no one should be unfairly penalized due to accident of birth, and those aptitudes really aren't very important in any case.
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  42. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    One more thing: I wish some of you scientist would brave it to say that science is nothing else than old religions’ Western offspring, stems from the same “OS” and “cognitive mental intuitions” and, in my words, drives and needs (you see much more complex beliefs where science eventually developed than elsewhere).

    Science is the high-IQ man’s new religion, and, like its antecedents, is not seen as a religion (something relative) in its time, while it has no access to any absolute truth beyond the representation of “reality” the human brain makes.

    Bigger, more evolved brains, living in a more technology-centred era, and you get the religion of science.

    Also: like all religions while they are really believed, science, and its clergymen, know no humility.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    One more thing: I wish some of you scientist would brave it to say that science is nothing else than old religions’ Western offspring, stems from the same “OS” and “cognitive mental intuitions” and, in my words, drives and needs (you see much more complex beliefs where science eventually developed than elsewhere).

    this is false IMO. some people believe that science relies on common intuitions. i don't. i think it's highly unnatural. religion, like art and music, i highly natural IMO.

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  43. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    [sorry for the third comment in a row.]

    I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.

    The Fate of Empiresby Hubbard treats Instinct (whereof emotions are a subset) and Reason and their interactions over the last 2 millennia in a very interesting manner.

    He reflects on the best assets, usefulness, as well as the limitations and drawbacks of all the powers that have developed in the human mind till now (Reflex Action, Instinct, Reason), and gives special attention to the fate awaiting man when Instinct becomes the slave of Reason (we live in such a time).

    Read More
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  44. @Anonymous
    One more thing: I wish some of you scientist would brave it to say that science is nothing else than old religions' Western offspring, stems from the same "OS" and "cognitive mental intuitions" and, in my words, drives and needs (you see much more complex beliefs where science eventually developed than elsewhere).

    Science is the high-IQ man's new religion, and, like its antecedents, is not seen as a religion (something relative) in its time, while it has no access to any absolute truth beyond the representation of "reality" the human brain makes.

    Bigger, more evolved brains, living in a more technology-centred era, and you get the religion of science.

    Also: like all religions while they are really believed, science, and its clergymen, know no humility.

    One more thing: I wish some of you scientist would brave it to say that science is nothing else than old religions’ Western offspring, stems from the same “OS” and “cognitive mental intuitions” and, in my words, drives and needs (you see much more complex beliefs where science eventually developed than elsewhere).

    this is false IMO. some people believe that science relies on common intuitions. i don’t. i think it’s highly unnatural. religion, like art and music, i highly natural IMO.

    Read More
    • Replies: @jtgw
    Do you think that perhaps this makes science more like the systematic theologizing of a religion's clerical elite? I imagine science appeals to the same sort of rationalizing and analytic personality that systematic theology did in an earlier age.
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  45. @Talha
    "The trolls...feed them not." - Yoda

    My take on it is that don't let these kinds of comments through - especially if they have absolutely zero benefit to anyone. I actually like your threads because not every random person's useless comments get through - I appreciate the filtering.

    Censorship of 'Internet noise' can be useful, especially when anonymity gives people less incentive to self-censor.

    In other words...if it was my sandbox, I'd want to keep people from pooping in it too.

    Peace.

    i don’t normally post stuff like that. but those comments are getting more frequent. twinkie zeroed in on why got so irritated.

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  46. @Twinkie

    a dumb animal
     
    By your comparison you unjustly insult, my good Sir, innocent animals. :)

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn’t attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.
     
    Since you invoked my handle, I will respond.*

    What he did - insulting you - is in a way something worse than what animals do. Animals are generally very earnest. There is no guile (and I am not talking about hunting guile here) or self-deception with animals. They have a clear, honest bargain with nature, with the circle of life, if you will.

    It is precisely because we humans have souls that can be noble or disfigured that we do things that are far better or worse than what animals do. There is a reason why sometimes for long stretches of time I prefer the company of dogs and horses than that of people. I have seen with my own eyes too much evil that human beings have perpetrated, evil that is frequently a consequence of banality, to borrow Hannah Arendt's expression. Human beings seldom fail to disappoint me, and living in civilization is a constant assault on my sense of what is right and just.

    Yet, just when I despair, I run into people who are utterly ordinary, yet so very good - people who restore my shaken and damaged faith in the hope for nobility of soul, of God's Grace, and of Salvation. These two kinds of people are not in balance. I have seen far, far more evil people than the saintly. Yet the profoundly uplifting effect the few saintly have had on my soul, or psyche if you will, is much more powerful than the trauma I suffered in witnessing evil.

    God and Satan are not equal and opposing forces. One is inconceivably grander and majestic than the other.

    We ought to be kind to others, even those who insult us, not because they deserve it, but because it is good... and good for us.

    *Okay, okay, I admit - I didn't need my handle mentioned to pipe up here.

    good point re: animals.

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  47. Talha says:
    @RaceRealist88
    Do you believe that God exists because of an argument? I definitely understand where it's coming from, especially with the reducto ad absurdum, but I still can't wrap my head around it because it's an argument and there is no empirical data for it.

    HeyRR88,

    there is no empirical data for it

    If there was empirical data, no one except the insane would not believe. Religion always begs the question; “do you believe” – not “don’t you observe”. Otherwise belief in such things would be as reflexive as ‘belief’ that the Maldives is situated in the Indian Ocean.

    Peace.

    Read More
    • Replies: @iffen
    If there was empirical data, no one except the insane would not believe.

    People ignore empirical data faster that it can be compiled and disseminated.
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  48. @Anonymous
    (this will change in some ways over the next decade due to genomics, but since I think genomics will confirm what we already know it won’t be very revelatory for me).

    A certain body of truths will require intenser censorship effort on the part of state education and the media in order to keep the masses ignorant about them. Will they ever have to give in?

    Have you read Reptiles with a Conscience? It draws a parallel between Judaism and Christianity on the one side, Hinduism and Buddhism on the other, to conclude they developed as responses to the same challenges, but it diverges from your view in a way I, well, wouldn't know how to put (but you may find it interesting).

    Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the idea that there is an active “anti-HBD” conspiracy is ridiculous. The hostility towards HBD thinking in the modern west is not due to active and coordinated censorship, but self-internalized social norms. I honestly think even if shorn from racial implications it would be considered impolite to discuss in the general public, because it’s generally considered to be gauche for anyone to not that one person is smarter than another – particularly if they are including themselves in the comparison.

    Regardless, even active suppression wouldn’t make a difference, because non-western countries (particularly Asia) are going to be looking into the relationships between genetic background, ancestry, and cognitive ability. I personally think that even if differences in cognition are found, it may result in only minor shifts to the modern American worldview regarding diversity. Look to how the U.S. cultural left has embraced people with various disabilities, physical and mental, in order to see why. Essentially the accepted norm will shift from everyone has the same basic aptitudes, to aptitudes vary along a continuum, one shouldn’t generalize about an individual based upon groups, no one should be unfairly penalized due to accident of birth, and those aptitudes really aren’t very important in any case.

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    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    College graduates will continue to believe that they should make more money and have more pleasant jobs than people who are not.

    This makes it difficult to honestly believe "aptitudes really aren't very important."
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  49. Joe Q. says:
    @Slon
    The one and only Old Testament law clearly and positively affirmed by Jesus in the Gospels, in the Sermon on the Mount no less, is the prohibition against divorce ("... let no man put asunder.") Given that, a naive observer might suppose that this prohibition would play a vital role in contemporary Christian morality. Of course the reality is the opposite, in doctrine, belief, and practice. For me this radical disconnect is the touchstone of thinking about these subjects. Another valuable aspect of this example is that it's relatively accessible, since the outline of its history is a part of pop culture. Everybody knows about Henry VIII etc.

    The one and only Old Testament law clearly and positively affirmed by Jesus in the Gospels, in the Sermon on the Mount no less, is the prohibition against divorce (“… let no man put asunder.”)

    I find this statement confusing. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) clearly presupposes the existence of divorce — is there a prohibition against it in the Jewish scriptures? If so, where?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Slon
    Right, the prohibition is not absolute. The passage on divorce in the Torah (Deut. 24) is interpreted by JC in Matthew as prohibiting divorce except in the case of sexual indecency (porneia). JC doesn't specify by whom indecency is committed, but in the Torah it is clear that it is by the wife. The other two Gospels that contain this passage omit this qualification.

    I didn't get into these details because they don't change my point, which was simply to offer a glaringly clear illustration of Dreher's "paradox" in support of Razib: that pretty much all mainstream Christian denominations have accepted contemporary freewheeling civil divorce laws, which are in direct conflict with JC's own words, while going apoplectic over, for example, the scary gayz who are mentioned only in passing in the New Testament, and not at all in the Gospels.

    Another item I saw today:

    An elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.

    Evangelicals in 2011: 30% Agree
    Evangelicals in 2016: 72% Agree


    Hmmm, what might have changed between 2o11 and 2016??
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  50. @Karl Zimmerman
    Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the idea that there is an active "anti-HBD" conspiracy is ridiculous. The hostility towards HBD thinking in the modern west is not due to active and coordinated censorship, but self-internalized social norms. I honestly think even if shorn from racial implications it would be considered impolite to discuss in the general public, because it's generally considered to be gauche for anyone to not that one person is smarter than another - particularly if they are including themselves in the comparison.

    Regardless, even active suppression wouldn't make a difference, because non-western countries (particularly Asia) are going to be looking into the relationships between genetic background, ancestry, and cognitive ability. I personally think that even if differences in cognition are found, it may result in only minor shifts to the modern American worldview regarding diversity. Look to how the U.S. cultural left has embraced people with various disabilities, physical and mental, in order to see why. Essentially the accepted norm will shift from everyone has the same basic aptitudes, to aptitudes vary along a continuum, one shouldn't generalize about an individual based upon groups, no one should be unfairly penalized due to accident of birth, and those aptitudes really aren't very important in any case.

    College graduates will continue to believe that they should make more money and have more pleasant jobs than people who are not.

    This makes it difficult to honestly believe “aptitudes really aren’t very important.”

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  51. ohwilleke says: • Website

    Nic Kalman’s book, “How to Pass As Human” (2015), written from the perspective of a robot directed to try to understand and fit into human society, makes an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.
     
    That is often the case, but not necessarily so.

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death. The natural instinct in deadly combat is to flee and attempt to preserve oneself. Yet we witness acts of great courage in battle. And courage is not an absence of fear, but overcoming it.

    We don't have to be slaves to our passions, and neither does reason.
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  52. Rapparee says:
    @Seth Largo
    Sure, someone like Martin or Søren will be more sophisticated and scholarly in their understanding of the fideist position, but in my experience among Lutheran laity, they're not nearly as interested in "apologetics" as other Evangelical groups.

    In fact, I'm curious to hear what you think about the popularity of Christian apologetics as a counter-point to your argument (the priest and the laity practice different religions). I largely agree with your view, but then, I'm not sure how to explain the millions of books sold by authors like C.S. Lewis or his Catholic counterpart, G.K. Chesterton. It's almost as if they provided a watered down form of "priestly religion" for a laity uninterested in the finer points of theology but too literate and educated to just take the wafer and call it a day.

    “In fact, I’m curious to hear what you think about the popularity of Christian apologetics as a counter-point to your argument (the priest and the laity practice different religions).”

    “Priest” and “laity” are useful but inexact shorthand terms. Plenty of priests don’t take doctrine and philosophy very seriously either, and a handful of laymen do. The psychological makeup of a pious layman who cares about doctrinal consistency often bears more resemblance to what you’d expect from a clergyman. (Lay Catholic apologist John Zmirak tells a funny story illustrating the contrast: as a Catholic high school student, he repeatedly denounced his seminary-trained religion teacher for heresy, eventually culminating with an angry letter to the Papal Nuncio in Washington, D.C.) You can often find laymen with that sort of intellectualized piety doing quasi-clerical volunteer work, like teaching Sunday school or managing the collections- a sort of “priesthood lite”. They’re a big part of the apologetics market.

    Also, it helps that Chesterton and Lewis were fiction-writers and magnificent prose stylists, who wrote on many other subjects besides religion. Even when Chesterton is pushing his most exasperatingly wrong-headed ideas, he’s still a delightfully skilled rhetorician.

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  53. Slon says:
    @Joe Q.

    The one and only Old Testament law clearly and positively affirmed by Jesus in the Gospels, in the Sermon on the Mount no less, is the prohibition against divorce (“… let no man put asunder.”)
     
    I find this statement confusing. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) clearly presupposes the existence of divorce -- is there a prohibition against it in the Jewish scriptures? If so, where?

    Right, the prohibition is not absolute. The passage on divorce in the Torah (Deut. 24) is interpreted by JC in Matthew as prohibiting divorce except in the case of sexual indecency (porneia). JC doesn’t specify by whom indecency is committed, but in the Torah it is clear that it is by the wife. The other two Gospels that contain this passage omit this qualification.

    I didn’t get into these details because they don’t change my point, which was simply to offer a glaringly clear illustration of Dreher’s “paradox” in support of Razib: that pretty much all mainstream Christian denominations have accepted contemporary freewheeling civil divorce laws, which are in direct conflict with JC’s own words, while going apoplectic over, for example, the scary gayz who are mentioned only in passing in the New Testament, and not at all in the Gospels.

    Another item I saw today:

    An elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.

    Evangelicals in 2011: 30% Agree
    Evangelicals in 2016: 72% Agree

    Hmmm, what might have changed between 2o11 and 2016??

    Read More
    • LOL: Talha
    • Replies: @Joe Q.

    Right, the prohibition is not absolute.
     
    The only prohibition is against a man re-marrying his ex-wife if she has been married to someone else in the interim. Otherwise, divorce is perfectly acceptable (though later Jewish law had a lot to say about it).

    I do see your point about Evangelical acceptance of divorce. Every community has its own focus.
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  54. Twinkie says:
    @Talha
    Hey Twinkie,

    Thanks for the details - they make sense (especially in an age where a crisis of faith is fairly common) and which give a clue as to why it has had such longevity as an institution.

    You also make a good point about the "small core of families" that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.

    Peace.

    why it has had such longevity as an institution.

    Because God willed it. As St. Matthew quoted Jesus (16:18) thusly: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

    You also make a good point about the “small core of families” that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.

    There are many people who do not understand the inner workings of Catholic parishes who think that the Church is dying because the number of self-described Catholics has fallen (in absence of Hispanic immigrants).

    But even if the number of officially registered parishioners fell by 90%, parishes with these core families will endure and even thrive. A while back I mentioned half-heartedly that we faithful and obedient Catholics would return to the catacombs if we had to, but that really was not a joke. Unlike, say, mainline Protestant denominations that really are dying, the Catholic Church always has had a core “cadre” that is willing to spend generations in the wilderness to preserve the authentic teachings of the Church in the face of a hostile society at large. As a friend of mine put it once, “We survived the Fall of Rome and the barbarian invasions. We will survive the fall of traditional America, and we’ll help rebuild the civilization anew as we did before.”

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    • Replies: @John Massey
    In some parts of the world (namely mine - Hong Kong), the Catholic schools do a particularly good job on education. Because of intense competition, it is hard to get your kid into a good school here, and you basically have the choice of the Catholic schools (which are free of charge, so the only costs are books and uniforms), or the English Schools Foundation Schools or International Schools, both of which cost an arm and a leg in fees and debentures. The Catholic schools accept students solely on merit and, because they are free to attend, they accept a lot of brighter kids from poorer families who would otherwise be condemned to attend one of the worse schools (Government schools or Buddhist schools, which are the worst because the Buddhists have no money, unlike the Catholics who are fabulously rich and have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of cash). And they also impose much more strict discipline on the students than the other schools, which a lot of the more bright, serious kids actually appreciate, because it eliminates a lot of distraction from the kids who want to act up all the time.

    Having to tolerate religious instruction classes is a trivial price to pay for kids who are actually non-believers. They just go through the motions to stay sweet with the system - it's no big deal.

    This is another reason why I think the Catholic Church will persevere through a lot of breakdown of other institutions.
    , @Pat Casey

    Because God willed it. As St. Matthew quoted Jesus (16:18) thusly: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
     
    And, for everyone else, what no one ever seems to say about that all-important passage is why Peter was the rock:

    He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. --Matthew 16: 16-18 (KJV)
     
    Peter was the one that knew who Jesus was, he said what no one had known before, and that is why Jesus made him the disciple who would matter most. If you are willing to entertain the story it at least makes perfect sense, a very sturdy theological argument. And then there is a nice literary device to be found in Matthew chapter 7, when Jesus speaks of the house built upon a rock compared to the house built upon the sand.
    , @Talha
    Hey Twinkie,

    See, now I might not agree with all the theology, but that there is an optimistic, confident faith. That's the kind of stuff that has staying power. Even if people might not agree, they should at least give credit for fighting spirit when they see it.

    Peace.
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  55. Twinkie says:
    @AP

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community.
     
    During a sermon, my Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest told us a story. A man was asked by his village priest to go to the spring with a basket and to bring back water with that basket. The basket of course failed to hold any water, and was empty by the time the man returned to the priest. After a week of this, the man asked the priest what the point was, because there was never any water. "But what is the basket like now?" asked the priest - it had become very clean. In this way people who doubt, or don't believe, also benefit from participation in the Liturgy.

    That story could also be an allegory about the Church itself – the basket being the Church and the water being people who come and go.

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  56. Twinkie says:
    @ohwilleke
    Nic Kalman's book, "How to Pass As Human" (2015), written from the perspective of a robot directed to try to understand and fit into human society, makes an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.

    an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.

    That is often the case, but not necessarily so.

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death. The natural instinct in deadly combat is to flee and attempt to preserve oneself. Yet we witness acts of great courage in battle. And courage is not an absence of fear, but overcoming it.

    We don’t have to be slaves to our passions, and neither does reason.

    Read More
    • Replies: @John Massey
    I don't fear death, and I'm not mad. But I've been very close to dying and I saw that it was not something to be afraid of.
    , @Randal

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death.
     
    Might be nitpicking, but I disagree. I don't fear death, though I do fear the likely attendant pain and discomfort, and I don't believe I am mad.

    Nor do I fear judgement after death, should it transpire that there is any higher justice. Not because I view myself as saintly, but because I don't see that there is much I can do about it anyway, given the absence of reliable information. In that situation, I default to fatalistic acceptance rather than restless fear (and indeed I have found this to be the case in moments of actual danger as well).

    I do accept that fearing death (as opposed to the aforementioned attendant discomforts) is a commonplace irrationality of human beings. It seems to me that fearing being dead is inherently irrational, unless you genuinely believe in a significant risk of something positively nasty afterwards (a harsh judgement and punishment of some kind). Fearing nonexistence itself is as literally and definitively irrational as anything can possibly be. So Christians can rationally fear death, but not atheists or the generally irreligious, imo, and the latter seem to be in the large majority these days, at least in the European societies that I am familiar with. This does, admittedly, raise for me the semantic question of whether if the majority are irrational, the rational one is in fact "mad".

    I recognise, of course, that this does not affect the basic thrust of your point, since fear of death and fear of the pain and discomfort attendant upon injury and the approach to death are effectively indistinguishable for the purpose of recognising courage in eg battle.

    , @Roger Sweeny
    Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind) uses the metaphor of an elephant and its rider. Without guidance from the rider, the elephant will go where it wants to go. But, depending on what is being asked, some combination of rider skill and elephant training may result in the elephant following the rider's instructions.
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  57. Why is this? I’m asking in a serious way. Any of you have a theory? I’m not going to publish gratuitous Catholic bashing or Evangelical bashing in the comments.

    It should be obvious.

    The lay Catholic has no need to be concerned with theological matters as there is an entire ecclesiastic institution that mediates between him or her and God. It is a flock, in the true sense of the word. As long as they are not excommunicated, they are spiritually safe.

    The Evangelicals, on the other hand, cohere around scripture, and lack the spiritual buffer of a dispensational system. As such, the sanctity of the text places greater demands on fidelity to the (unchanging) text. Is it a surprise then that they must be more conservative?

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  58. @Thursday
    Here are some interesting questions in the study of religion which have not yet been answered satisfactorily . Unfortunately, there isn't much work out there that really attempts to answer them.

    1. Why is religion associated with concerns over sexual purity, and why, in particular, does it tend to see homosexuality as immoral?

    Probably answer: because religion basically is agency detection, religious ethics tend to be purpose based or teleological ethics. (It is worth noting that the words for sin in both Hebrew and Greek mean "missing the mark.") It isn't hard to see why a sort of intuitive natural law ethic becomes the default for religious people. So, religious people look at men and women and intuit that the purpose of sex is to form families and reproduce, thus tending to frown heavily on things like like premarital sex or homosexuality. "Purity" means going outside of the intended purpose for your body. Since this tends to go along with religious intuitions, it is unlikely that highly religious people will ever "lighten up" on these topics.

    (Incidentally, I don't think this has much to do with scriptural prohibitions. Many traditions have no canon or only a very loose canon, and they're as purity obsessed as anything. Also, this doesn't explain why so many scriptures have these prohibitions.)

    This also shows why liberal churches tend to be in such trouble demographically. Liberal churches are filled with people who have much lower agency detection than among conservative believers. This explains both their tendency to abandon supernaturalism and sexual purity standards at the same time. But, of course, if you're not that supernaturally oriented, why go to church?

    2. Why have so many people in the West largely abandoned religion? This is a big and important change, and we know some things that seem to be generally associated with secularization, like wealth, relative economic equality, urbanization etc., but the precise psychological mechanism has not much been elucidated.

    Possible answer: agency detection is not much activated in a safe, predictable, prosperous and largely human built environment. We develop certain habits of mind in such an environment that make the gods less plausible, or at least more remote from our daily concerns.

    3. Why is community building associated with supernatural belief?

    Partial answer: community has to be about something other than just community. So, yes, there are hangers on to any religious community who are more interested in the social benefits than in the actual religion. However, I like to make the analogy of a softball league. Sure, some people are in it for the picnics and cameraderie, but without the core of people actually interested in softball to keep the thing going, all the associated social aspects would disappear.

    The other thing is that teleological thinking goes along pretty well with in-out boundary setting and respect for authority.

    4. What is the association between the arts and religion? Is the existence of all that great religious art because of some deep connection between religion and art, or is it because of some historical contingency? Could you, in theory, make just as great of art from the materials of science and secular modernity?

    Possible answer: There is a deep connection and it is related to the extremely powerful figure of personification. The great artist makes things "come alive." Whether this is poets using the personification as a figure of speech or painters making their subjects jump off the canvas, the impression of life and consciousness seem to be what makes for good art. Symbolism is also involved here, because it is, at bottom, teleological. Things point to other things and ultimately to the gods.

    Incidentally, I recently counted up all the best living or recently deceased poets, and with only one exception, every last one of them was raised in an intensely conservative religious home. No irreligious or lukewarm mainline upbringings, which is surprising in a secularizing West. Caveat: it was upbringing, not personal belief that was important. Many of them were no longer all that religious.

    Here are some interesting questions in the study of religion which have not yet been answered satisfactorily . Unfortunately, there isn’t much work out there that really attempts to answer them.

    You jest.

    Sexuality:

    - https://www.amazon.com/Mysterium-Coniunctionis-Collected-Works-Vol-14/dp/0691018162
    - https://www.amazon.com/Time-Falling-Bodies-Take-Light/dp/0312160623

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  59. @Twinkie

    why it has had such longevity as an institution.
     
    Because God willed it. As St. Matthew quoted Jesus (16:18) thusly: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

    You also make a good point about the “small core of families” that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.
     
    There are many people who do not understand the inner workings of Catholic parishes who think that the Church is dying because the number of self-described Catholics has fallen (in absence of Hispanic immigrants).

    But even if the number of officially registered parishioners fell by 90%, parishes with these core families will endure and even thrive. A while back I mentioned half-heartedly that we faithful and obedient Catholics would return to the catacombs if we had to, but that really was not a joke. Unlike, say, mainline Protestant denominations that really are dying, the Catholic Church always has had a core "cadre" that is willing to spend generations in the wilderness to preserve the authentic teachings of the Church in the face of a hostile society at large. As a friend of mine put it once, "We survived the Fall of Rome and the barbarian invasions. We will survive the fall of traditional America, and we'll help rebuild the civilization anew as we did before."

    In some parts of the world (namely mine – Hong Kong), the Catholic schools do a particularly good job on education. Because of intense competition, it is hard to get your kid into a good school here, and you basically have the choice of the Catholic schools (which are free of charge, so the only costs are books and uniforms), or the English Schools Foundation Schools or International Schools, both of which cost an arm and a leg in fees and debentures. The Catholic schools accept students solely on merit and, because they are free to attend, they accept a lot of brighter kids from poorer families who would otherwise be condemned to attend one of the worse schools (Government schools or Buddhist schools, which are the worst because the Buddhists have no money, unlike the Catholics who are fabulously rich and have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of cash). And they also impose much more strict discipline on the students than the other schools, which a lot of the more bright, serious kids actually appreciate, because it eliminates a lot of distraction from the kids who want to act up all the time.

    Having to tolerate religious instruction classes is a trivial price to pay for kids who are actually non-believers. They just go through the motions to stay sweet with the system – it’s no big deal.

    This is another reason why I think the Catholic Church will persevere through a lot of breakdown of other institutions.

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  60. @Twinkie

    an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.
     
    That is often the case, but not necessarily so.

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death. The natural instinct in deadly combat is to flee and attempt to preserve oneself. Yet we witness acts of great courage in battle. And courage is not an absence of fear, but overcoming it.

    We don't have to be slaves to our passions, and neither does reason.

    I don’t fear death, and I’m not mad. But I’ve been very close to dying and I saw that it was not something to be afraid of.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Randal

    But I’ve been very close to dying and I saw that it was not something to be afraid of.
     
    Mather, Cotton (1663-1728):

    "Is this dying? Is this all? Is this what I feared when I prayed against a hard death? Oh, I can bear this! I can bear this!"
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  61. Randal says:
    @Twinkie

    an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.
     
    That is often the case, but not necessarily so.

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death. The natural instinct in deadly combat is to flee and attempt to preserve oneself. Yet we witness acts of great courage in battle. And courage is not an absence of fear, but overcoming it.

    We don't have to be slaves to our passions, and neither does reason.

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death.

    Might be nitpicking, but I disagree. I don’t fear death, though I do fear the likely attendant pain and discomfort, and I don’t believe I am mad.

    Nor do I fear judgement after death, should it transpire that there is any higher justice. Not because I view myself as saintly, but because I don’t see that there is much I can do about it anyway, given the absence of reliable information. In that situation, I default to fatalistic acceptance rather than restless fear (and indeed I have found this to be the case in moments of actual danger as well).

    I do accept that fearing death (as opposed to the aforementioned attendant discomforts) is a commonplace irrationality of human beings. It seems to me that fearing being dead is inherently irrational, unless you genuinely believe in a significant risk of something positively nasty afterwards (a harsh judgement and punishment of some kind). Fearing nonexistence itself is as literally and definitively irrational as anything can possibly be. So Christians can rationally fear death, but not atheists or the generally irreligious, imo, and the latter seem to be in the large majority these days, at least in the European societies that I am familiar with. This does, admittedly, raise for me the semantic question of whether if the majority are irrational, the rational one is in fact “mad”.

    I recognise, of course, that this does not affect the basic thrust of your point, since fear of death and fear of the pain and discomfort attendant upon injury and the approach to death are effectively indistinguishable for the purpose of recognising courage in eg battle.

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  62. Pat Casey says:
    @Twinkie

    why it has had such longevity as an institution.
     
    Because God willed it. As St. Matthew quoted Jesus (16:18) thusly: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

    You also make a good point about the “small core of families” that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.
     
    There are many people who do not understand the inner workings of Catholic parishes who think that the Church is dying because the number of self-described Catholics has fallen (in absence of Hispanic immigrants).

    But even if the number of officially registered parishioners fell by 90%, parishes with these core families will endure and even thrive. A while back I mentioned half-heartedly that we faithful and obedient Catholics would return to the catacombs if we had to, but that really was not a joke. Unlike, say, mainline Protestant denominations that really are dying, the Catholic Church always has had a core "cadre" that is willing to spend generations in the wilderness to preserve the authentic teachings of the Church in the face of a hostile society at large. As a friend of mine put it once, "We survived the Fall of Rome and the barbarian invasions. We will survive the fall of traditional America, and we'll help rebuild the civilization anew as we did before."

    Because God willed it. As St. Matthew quoted Jesus (16:18) thusly: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

    And, for everyone else, what no one ever seems to say about that all-important passage is why Peter was the rock:

    He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. –Matthew 16: 16-18 (KJV)

    Peter was the one that knew who Jesus was, he said what no one had known before, and that is why Jesus made him the disciple who would matter most. If you are willing to entertain the story it at least makes perfect sense, a very sturdy theological argument. And then there is a nice literary device to be found in Matthew chapter 7, when Jesus speaks of the house built upon a rock compared to the house built upon the sand.

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  63. Randal says:
    @John Massey
    I don't fear death, and I'm not mad. But I've been very close to dying and I saw that it was not something to be afraid of.

    But I’ve been very close to dying and I saw that it was not something to be afraid of.

    Mather, Cotton (1663-1728):

    “Is this dying? Is this all? Is this what I feared when I prayed against a hard death? Oh, I can bear this! I can bear this!”

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  64. jtgw says:
    @Razib Khan
    One more thing: I wish some of you scientist would brave it to say that science is nothing else than old religions’ Western offspring, stems from the same “OS” and “cognitive mental intuitions” and, in my words, drives and needs (you see much more complex beliefs where science eventually developed than elsewhere).

    this is false IMO. some people believe that science relies on common intuitions. i don't. i think it's highly unnatural. religion, like art and music, i highly natural IMO.

    Do you think that perhaps this makes science more like the systematic theologizing of a religion’s clerical elite? I imagine science appeals to the same sort of rationalizing and analytic personality that systematic theology did in an earlier age.

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  65. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @Thursday
    Here are some interesting questions in the study of religion which have not yet been answered satisfactorily . Unfortunately, there isn't much work out there that really attempts to answer them.

    1. Why is religion associated with concerns over sexual purity, and why, in particular, does it tend to see homosexuality as immoral?

    Probably answer: because religion basically is agency detection, religious ethics tend to be purpose based or teleological ethics. (It is worth noting that the words for sin in both Hebrew and Greek mean "missing the mark.") It isn't hard to see why a sort of intuitive natural law ethic becomes the default for religious people. So, religious people look at men and women and intuit that the purpose of sex is to form families and reproduce, thus tending to frown heavily on things like like premarital sex or homosexuality. "Purity" means going outside of the intended purpose for your body. Since this tends to go along with religious intuitions, it is unlikely that highly religious people will ever "lighten up" on these topics.

    (Incidentally, I don't think this has much to do with scriptural prohibitions. Many traditions have no canon or only a very loose canon, and they're as purity obsessed as anything. Also, this doesn't explain why so many scriptures have these prohibitions.)

    This also shows why liberal churches tend to be in such trouble demographically. Liberal churches are filled with people who have much lower agency detection than among conservative believers. This explains both their tendency to abandon supernaturalism and sexual purity standards at the same time. But, of course, if you're not that supernaturally oriented, why go to church?

    2. Why have so many people in the West largely abandoned religion? This is a big and important change, and we know some things that seem to be generally associated with secularization, like wealth, relative economic equality, urbanization etc., but the precise psychological mechanism has not much been elucidated.

    Possible answer: agency detection is not much activated in a safe, predictable, prosperous and largely human built environment. We develop certain habits of mind in such an environment that make the gods less plausible, or at least more remote from our daily concerns.

    3. Why is community building associated with supernatural belief?

    Partial answer: community has to be about something other than just community. So, yes, there are hangers on to any religious community who are more interested in the social benefits than in the actual religion. However, I like to make the analogy of a softball league. Sure, some people are in it for the picnics and cameraderie, but without the core of people actually interested in softball to keep the thing going, all the associated social aspects would disappear.

    The other thing is that teleological thinking goes along pretty well with in-out boundary setting and respect for authority.

    4. What is the association between the arts and religion? Is the existence of all that great religious art because of some deep connection between religion and art, or is it because of some historical contingency? Could you, in theory, make just as great of art from the materials of science and secular modernity?

    Possible answer: There is a deep connection and it is related to the extremely powerful figure of personification. The great artist makes things "come alive." Whether this is poets using the personification as a figure of speech or painters making their subjects jump off the canvas, the impression of life and consciousness seem to be what makes for good art. Symbolism is also involved here, because it is, at bottom, teleological. Things point to other things and ultimately to the gods.

    Incidentally, I recently counted up all the best living or recently deceased poets, and with only one exception, every last one of them was raised in an intensely conservative religious home. No irreligious or lukewarm mainline upbringings, which is surprising in a secularizing West. Caveat: it was upbringing, not personal belief that was important. Many of them were no longer all that religious.

    Incidentally, I recently counted up all the best living or recently deceased poets, and with only one exception, every last one of them was raised in an intensely conservative religious home. No irreligious or lukewarm mainline upbringings, which is surprising in a secularizing West.

    Yes, like Aleister Crowley.

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  66. @Twinkie

    an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.
     
    That is often the case, but not necessarily so.

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death. The natural instinct in deadly combat is to flee and attempt to preserve oneself. Yet we witness acts of great courage in battle. And courage is not an absence of fear, but overcoming it.

    We don't have to be slaves to our passions, and neither does reason.

    Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind) uses the metaphor of an elephant and its rider. Without guidance from the rider, the elephant will go where it wants to go. But, depending on what is being asked, some combination of rider skill and elephant training may result in the elephant following the rider’s instructions.

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    • Replies: @RaceRealist88
    That's my favorite allegory. It makes so much sense. How he says:

    "If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas – to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to – then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives (Haidt, 2012, pg XX to XXI)."

    Is so damn true. Why, when asked certain moral questions, do people not have a rational answer and only use their 'gut feelings'? Haidt's intuitionist model makes so much sense. He's an outstanding writer as well. I love that book.
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  67. Tulip says:

    In a world of facts, you have what you can call “attention” (which is connected to “mind”), and what gets “attention” has what we call “importance”. What a group of people determines to have “importance” thereby develops a “meaning” which goes beyond its empirical quotidian existence. For example, to a people who subsist on corn, the First Rain develops a meaning, stemming from its importance, to these people. Add on rituals, myths, etc., and you have a tradition and a crude ideology that supports this cognitive filter.

    If we think of the process of creating meaning (and thereby, creating hierarchies of importance) as a necessary part of cognition, intended to simplify the world, then these frameworks of meaning are both necessary to cognition, as well as incommensurable. Since the importance cannot be divested from the telos of the group (rain for the farmer who needs a good crop to survive), there is very little way to justify or legitimate these various systems of meanings scientifically in some value-neutral context. [Obviously, if you take group selection and teleology seriously, you could look at these systems through the lens of fitness, but this is as controversial as God himself.]

    This process is obviously bound up in forms of life, and comparison is a comparison of forms. If your sole concern is matter, and what goes by the term “natural law” in natural science, it is very difficult to either comprehend these forms or assess them, other than (simplistically) to regard them as irrational.

    Whereas gravity is determinant, in the sense that an object in a gravitational field has a predictable physics, meaning is indeterminant, in the sense that the meanings of words can warp and weave (proceeding by analogy) in unpredictable directions. [Hence, the absolute divide between natural science and social science.] Just a physics is an application of mathematics, law is an application of theology.

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  68. Talha says:
    @Twinkie

    why it has had such longevity as an institution.
     
    Because God willed it. As St. Matthew quoted Jesus (16:18) thusly: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

    You also make a good point about the “small core of families” that keep the institution alive and working on the local level.
     
    There are many people who do not understand the inner workings of Catholic parishes who think that the Church is dying because the number of self-described Catholics has fallen (in absence of Hispanic immigrants).

    But even if the number of officially registered parishioners fell by 90%, parishes with these core families will endure and even thrive. A while back I mentioned half-heartedly that we faithful and obedient Catholics would return to the catacombs if we had to, but that really was not a joke. Unlike, say, mainline Protestant denominations that really are dying, the Catholic Church always has had a core "cadre" that is willing to spend generations in the wilderness to preserve the authentic teachings of the Church in the face of a hostile society at large. As a friend of mine put it once, "We survived the Fall of Rome and the barbarian invasions. We will survive the fall of traditional America, and we'll help rebuild the civilization anew as we did before."

    Hey Twinkie,

    See, now I might not agree with all the theology, but that there is an optimistic, confident faith. That’s the kind of stuff that has staying power. Even if people might not agree, they should at least give credit for fighting spirit when they see it.

    Peace.

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  69. iffen says:
    @Twinkie


    Rather, they are Roman Catholic... because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole.
     
    I’d say this is the case with practically any religion that is going to survive. Human beings are fickle shoppers – if you don’t serve something useful and at the right price, they will shop elsewhere.
     
    I think what Mr. Khan is alluding to here is a particularly pronounced quality of the Catholic Church that allows for those who neither believe Church Dogma nor live the life in accord with the Church's moral teachings to continue to think of, and represent, themselves as Catholics - to belong to, and claim memership in, the Catholic community. A related phenomenon is being a "cradle Catholic," especially when used in context of those who do not subscribe to the Church's teachings but continue to adhere to Catholic rituals for family or ethno-cultural traditions and community. There is no corresponding expression for Protestants. Generally, Protestants who were reared in their particular faith who disagree with it either convert or lose their faith. They move on.

    In my view, this is intentional on the part of the Church. The Catholic Church officially encourages those who are unwilling or unable to partake in the Sacraments to continue to attend Mass and participate in the communal life of the parishes. In other words, instead of excommunicating or shunning apostates, dissenters, and nonbelievers, it welcomes them into, not the religious communion, but parish community. At least a part of the reason is that the Catholic Church - unlike those who believe in predestination - believes that every single human being can be, theoretically, saved and that none is destined to be damned.

    Another related aspect of this is that for Catholics worship of God is a *public* and *communitarian* act - it is not merely about a direct relationship between an individual and His Savior (the oft-mocked Protestant question: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?"). For Catholics, missing Mass is a mortal (as opposed to venial) sin. Missing Mass on other holy days of obligation is a mortal sin. Such an action is an affront to both God's gift of Grace *and* the community of fellow parishoners. Catholics cannot exist with God on faith alone - we must partake in Sacraments, which are public acts. Even the Rite of Reconciliation - commonly known as confession - is not private. Though the confessor (the priest hearing confession and giving absolution) is there in persona Christi and guards the inviolability of the confessed sins on the pain of excommunication, he - another individual - is there in the confessional with you. There are also lines of other people waiting to confess outside the confessional. And then when you emerge from it to do penance, the other parishoners are also there next to you on the pews.

    Seen in that light, Catholicism is not just a religion or a denomination - it is both a community and a culture.

    no corresponding expression for Protestants. Generally, Protestants who were reared in their particular faith who disagree with it either convert or lose their faith

    Christmas and Easter only Christians.

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  70. iffen says:
    @Talha
    HeyRR88,

    there is no empirical data for it
     
    If there was empirical data, no one except the insane would not believe. Religion always begs the question; "do you believe" - not "don't you observe". Otherwise belief in such things would be as reflexive as 'belief' that the Maldives is situated in the Indian Ocean.

    Peace.

    If there was empirical data, no one except the insane would not believe.

    People ignore empirical data faster that it can be compiled and disseminated.

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    iffen
    here is an "insane" idea that i use

    1.first put yourself into an intense emotional state.tears can come.believe in that which makes you emotional.must be of universal importance not trivial
    2.after you enter this state begin to pray.the top part of your skull,the top of your head will start to tingle.like a mild electrical current.
    3.this will connect you to G-d.that is the magnetic field that that surrounds us. sometimes i like to say....G-d is gravity
    4.i discovered the above 3 years ago while walking in a park and practise regularly to help guide me.it works.
    5.do not assume that i am irrational or insane.there are those who know me who will understand

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  71. j mct says:

    Per Roman Catholicism, and faith and reason in it, I think that mentioning what one might call ‘revealed truth’ and reason, might be a more exact way of putting it, and its necessary relation, and they are related, can be illustrated nicely with the ontological proof, as was mentioned. This also segues into Razib’s earlier posts about pomos in the university.

    In English the simplest way to put the ontological proof is that per absolute truth, i.e. God, is that if there were no absolute truth, then the absolute truth would be that there is no absolute truth, which is nonsense. Or if the negation of absolute truth or A~, is logically impossible, then A. One might look at all this and call it silly meaningless wordplay but mathematics works just like this, it’s more elaborate wordplay, if you think that math is more than wordplay you’re wrong, but what makes a proof a proof in math is that the negation of what is proved is logically impossible, as in the proof of the Pythagorean theorem is a proof that a Euclidean right triangle where the sum of the squares of the legs is not equal to the square of the hypotenuse is logically impossible, so all right triangles must have legs whose with sides whose lengths are such that the sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs equals the square of the hypotenuse, and the proof is useful since this isn’t obvious. The ontological proof is a simple, but perfect, demonstration of how math works.

    Per the ontological proof, can it be attacked? It can, but not the way it generally is. I remember some would be new atheist a while back who was a mathematician attacking it because it had no premises. Kant attacks it by saying it has no synthetic premises, only analytic ones, in that there is no disbelievable premise in the argument. They are both really really wrong, in that the ontological proof sits on top of a whopper of a disbelievable premise. Per Kant’s criticism the notion that all analytic premises are necessarily so needs a premise, he doesn’t think so and he’s wrong about that.

    The hinge is ‘logically impossible’. From logos, logically impossible is impossible thought, or not something on doesn’t think but something one cannot think. Another, better way of putting it, is something no man can imagine. The hinge on which math and the ontological proof works, as in it proves something about reality rather than just what men can think, is that one has to get from ‘a man cannot imagine’ to ‘cannot be’, which might be hard since even though a man cannot imagine a triangle that violates the Pythagorean theorem, a man also cannot flap his arms and fly or breathe underwater either, like birds and fishes do.

    Lots of westerners breezily associate ‘logically impossible’ with ‘cannot be so’. I read once somewhere that some Hindus think that all the monotheisms are right. Westerners would say that cannot be right since it’s logically impossible. Or saying ‘the universe might not only be queerer that we do imagine, it might be queerer that we can imagine’ and then stroke their chins profoundly. Westerners thinking that this is a thought that is weird, as in not the default setting on the dial are the weird ones, thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial. How westerners got that way is pretty clear, historically.

    There was an incident in western thought back around the year 1000 when the proposition came up about whether God can change the past. The past changing is logically impossible, if it could occur then sometime in the future the past can change, which is why movies where that’s the plot never work, logically. Per the Christian story, Moslems and Jews said, God can do that, and thinking he couldn’t was wrong. I’m not sure if the Christian story about this is right in every particular, but they’re right about Moslems and Jews saying God could change the past in this particular. Some Christians agreed with them, the noteworthy one was Peter Damian, but they were not the dominant strain of Christian thought. The dominant strain was no, God cannot change the past, since doing so was logically impossible.

    It’s generally put that what made the Christians different from Moslems and Jews was that they believed in a rational God while the others did not. That is not right, I don’t think that Moslems and Jews thought that God could not reason, as in do geometry. The also did not differ on whether God could do everything and everything, Christians thought that too. What Christians differed was the thought was that the human mind could understand anything and everything, and since that was so, God couldn’t do anything that was logically impossible, or something that a man cannot imagine, and if a man cannot imagine it, neither could God, and there is nothing that God cannot imagine, obviously.

    What do you have to believe to think that? God made man in his image, and God does not have an appendix, the spark of the Divine in man is his mind. That’s the theme of Signor Buonarotti’s painting on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, and though that wasn’t universally thought, a good example of someone who thought otherwise would be Montaigne, it was the dominant strain. I do not think many people get Montaigne when they read him, westerners reflexively assume that logically impossible is actually impossible, while Montaigne thought that was hogwash, and while reading him one has to remember that to get him.

    Since philosophy, which until recently was just a fancy word that meant ‘thinking’ needs to assume that logically impossible is actually impossible if it’s to be more than something solipistic, Roman Catholic philosophy does indeed sit on top of revealed truth, or something taken on faith. So though Roman Catholics do do philosophy, it’s not the bottom of it.

    So the as far as the Enlightenment types versus the pomos in universities, at least within the parameters of their shared assumptions, the pomos should win, they’re right.

    I guess I should stop, this has gotten very long, not quite as long as a chapter from Brave New World, but long enough.

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    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
    What is your "whopper of a disbelievable premise"? I need to lnow to help me define what I probably disbelieve.
    , @Roger Sweeny
    thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial.

    I don't think that is true. If anything, the opposite.
    , @Kosher Bacon
    If there is no absolute truth, than the abslute truth is that there is no absolute truth, and is non-sens...

    It's non-sens to a human brain operating through aristotelian logic, but thourhg a quantum lens its totally possible. Im sorry to inform you that your premice is quite weak
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  72. @Razib Khan
    So do you wanna tell us what you think, or are you afraid of getting Watsoned?

    this comment went through because sometimes i need to speak to dumb animal readers. readers is what you should remain, because you're a dumb animal. in the 5 million words i've written, there is plenty for me to get watsoned dumb animal. in fact, it didn't work out with the new york times in part because i balked at making any disavowels.

    you, dumb animal, remain anonymous, in your dumb animality. you, dumb animal watch me engage with the whole fucking internet for years because too many scientists are cowards to speak their mind. while you remain a dumb anonymous animal, spouting your dumb animality.

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn't attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.

    it's not that i hate you. i just wish for your nonexistence, because your craven stupidity makes me think less of our species, dumb animal.

    Is there history? I would prima facie give him the benefit of the doubt and, assuming he was just, somewhat thoughlessly, trying to jazz up so as not to bore a simple respectful request for your accumulated wisdom in a bottle.

    I see you Razib starring in a 1930s style B&W film as a 1900 Classics Professor in a wing collar who conceals his opinion of 90 per cent of the students in his Greek class behind sharp but impenetrable witticisms in dead languages but then gets into the staff room and breaks down, tossing his mortar board at the portrait of the founder, and screaming about dumb animals.

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  73. @j mct
    Per Roman Catholicism, and faith and reason in it, I think that mentioning what one might call ‘revealed truth’ and reason, might be a more exact way of putting it, and its necessary relation, and they are related, can be illustrated nicely with the ontological proof, as was mentioned. This also segues into Razib’s earlier posts about pomos in the university.

    In English the simplest way to put the ontological proof is that per absolute truth, i.e. God, is that if there were no absolute truth, then the absolute truth would be that there is no absolute truth, which is nonsense. Or if the negation of absolute truth or A~, is logically impossible, then A. One might look at all this and call it silly meaningless wordplay but mathematics works just like this, it’s more elaborate wordplay, if you think that math is more than wordplay you’re wrong, but what makes a proof a proof in math is that the negation of what is proved is logically impossible, as in the proof of the Pythagorean theorem is a proof that a Euclidean right triangle where the sum of the squares of the legs is not equal to the square of the hypotenuse is logically impossible, so all right triangles must have legs whose with sides whose lengths are such that the sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs equals the square of the hypotenuse, and the proof is useful since this isn’t obvious. The ontological proof is a simple, but perfect, demonstration of how math works.

    Per the ontological proof, can it be attacked? It can, but not the way it generally is. I remember some would be new atheist a while back who was a mathematician attacking it because it had no premises. Kant attacks it by saying it has no synthetic premises, only analytic ones, in that there is no disbelievable premise in the argument. They are both really really wrong, in that the ontological proof sits on top of a whopper of a disbelievable premise. Per Kant’s criticism the notion that all analytic premises are necessarily so needs a premise, he doesn’t think so and he’s wrong about that.

    The hinge is ‘logically impossible’. From logos, logically impossible is impossible thought, or not something on doesn’t think but something one cannot think. Another, better way of putting it, is something no man can imagine. The hinge on which math and the ontological proof works, as in it proves something about reality rather than just what men can think, is that one has to get from ‘a man cannot imagine’ to ‘cannot be’, which might be hard since even though a man cannot imagine a triangle that violates the Pythagorean theorem, a man also cannot flap his arms and fly or breathe underwater either, like birds and fishes do.

    Lots of westerners breezily associate ‘logically impossible’ with ‘cannot be so’. I read once somewhere that some Hindus think that all the monotheisms are right. Westerners would say that cannot be right since it’s logically impossible. Or saying ‘the universe might not only be queerer that we do imagine, it might be queerer that we can imagine’ and then stroke their chins profoundly. Westerners thinking that this is a thought that is weird, as in not the default setting on the dial are the weird ones, thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial. How westerners got that way is pretty clear, historically.

    There was an incident in western thought back around the year 1000 when the proposition came up about whether God can change the past. The past changing is logically impossible, if it could occur then sometime in the future the past can change, which is why movies where that’s the plot never work, logically. Per the Christian story, Moslems and Jews said, God can do that, and thinking he couldn’t was wrong. I’m not sure if the Christian story about this is right in every particular, but they’re right about Moslems and Jews saying God could change the past in this particular. Some Christians agreed with them, the noteworthy one was Peter Damian, but they were not the dominant strain of Christian thought. The dominant strain was no, God cannot change the past, since doing so was logically impossible.

    It’s generally put that what made the Christians different from Moslems and Jews was that they believed in a rational God while the others did not. That is not right, I don’t think that Moslems and Jews thought that God could not reason, as in do geometry. The also did not differ on whether God could do everything and everything, Christians thought that too. What Christians differed was the thought was that the human mind could understand anything and everything, and since that was so, God couldn’t do anything that was logically impossible, or something that a man cannot imagine, and if a man cannot imagine it, neither could God, and there is nothing that God cannot imagine, obviously.

    What do you have to believe to think that? God made man in his image, and God does not have an appendix, the spark of the Divine in man is his mind. That’s the theme of Signor Buonarotti’s painting on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, and though that wasn’t universally thought, a good example of someone who thought otherwise would be Montaigne, it was the dominant strain. I do not think many people get Montaigne when they read him, westerners reflexively assume that logically impossible is actually impossible, while Montaigne thought that was hogwash, and while reading him one has to remember that to get him.

    Since philosophy, which until recently was just a fancy word that meant ‘thinking’ needs to assume that logically impossible is actually impossible if it’s to be more than something solipistic, Roman Catholic philosophy does indeed sit on top of revealed truth, or something taken on faith. So though Roman Catholics do do philosophy, it’s not the bottom of it.

    So the as far as the Enlightenment types versus the pomos in universities, at least within the parameters of their shared assumptions, the pomos should win, they’re right.

    I guess I should stop, this has gotten very long, not quite as long as a chapter from Brave New World, but long enough.

    What is your “whopper of a disbelievable premise”? I need to lnow to help me define what I probably disbelieve.

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  74. Tulip says:

    If we have cognitive filters that grade the world based on importance, then there is a hierarchy of value perceived in the world. In this view, then that which comes to have ultimate importance becomes Divine.

    And if we really skeptics, we realize there is no real inside–as where could this “inside” be, there is just a complex and variegated tube half full of shit with behavioral dispositions–so there can be no meaningful outside either. This indicates that the location of the Divine (“in my Cartesian theater” or “outside my Cartesian theater”) becomes a non-problem, the Divine simply is.

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  75. Joe Q. says:
    @Slon
    Right, the prohibition is not absolute. The passage on divorce in the Torah (Deut. 24) is interpreted by JC in Matthew as prohibiting divorce except in the case of sexual indecency (porneia). JC doesn't specify by whom indecency is committed, but in the Torah it is clear that it is by the wife. The other two Gospels that contain this passage omit this qualification.

    I didn't get into these details because they don't change my point, which was simply to offer a glaringly clear illustration of Dreher's "paradox" in support of Razib: that pretty much all mainstream Christian denominations have accepted contemporary freewheeling civil divorce laws, which are in direct conflict with JC's own words, while going apoplectic over, for example, the scary gayz who are mentioned only in passing in the New Testament, and not at all in the Gospels.

    Another item I saw today:

    An elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.

    Evangelicals in 2011: 30% Agree
    Evangelicals in 2016: 72% Agree


    Hmmm, what might have changed between 2o11 and 2016??

    Right, the prohibition is not absolute.

    The only prohibition is against a man re-marrying his ex-wife if she has been married to someone else in the interim. Otherwise, divorce is perfectly acceptable (though later Jewish law had a lot to say about it).

    I do see your point about Evangelical acceptance of divorce. Every community has its own focus.

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    • Replies: @Slon

    The only prohibition is against a man re-marrying his ex-wife if she has been married to someone else in the interim. Otherwise, divorce is perfectly acceptable
     
    That's your liberal interpretation, which is fine. It has nothing to do with what I was talking about, namely that Jesus explicitly affirmed in the Gospels the strict Shammaite interpretation of divorce laws. Evangelicals don't care what you think about divorce; they should in principle care what Jesus thinks. That was my point, not pedantic discussions of Torah interpretation.
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  76. @Roger Sweeny
    Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind) uses the metaphor of an elephant and its rider. Without guidance from the rider, the elephant will go where it wants to go. But, depending on what is being asked, some combination of rider skill and elephant training may result in the elephant following the rider's instructions.

    That’s my favorite allegory. It makes so much sense. How he says:

    “If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas – to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to – then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives (Haidt, 2012, pg XX to XXI).”

    Is so damn true. Why, when asked certain moral questions, do people not have a rational answer and only use their ‘gut feelings’? Haidt’s intuitionist model makes so much sense. He’s an outstanding writer as well. I love that book.

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  77. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Francis Collins went from atheism to believing in a Creator after watching a sunset. Some of the notable Catholic converts of the 20th century were among leading analytic philosophers and logicians. G.E.M. Anscombe of Oxford and Cambridge Univ. (Wittgenstein’s student, close friend and his literary executor), Michael Dummett (Wykeham Professor of Logic, Oxford Univ.), Peter Geach, renowned mathematical logician (Oxford, Leeds,…). And, funny enough, all of them were uncompromisingly conservative Catholics (pro-life, etc.). Which seems consistent. If you’re gonna believe in a religion, then you should swallow it feathers and all.

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    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    Robert Heinlein used to say that there were respectable religions and crazy cults. Most people were born into a religion and stayed in it because it was comfortable, they knew the people, etc. They more or less accepted the theology because it was what they knew.

    But some people joined a different religion voluntarily. They actually thought about the dogma and accepted it. Since Heinlein thought all religious dogma was crazy, they were by definition joining a crazy cult.
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  78. Fred Reed says:

    While I am not religious, I understand the motives of those who are. The many rationalistic explanations of faith make me think of electrical engineers expounding on poetry, or the congenitally deaf on symphonies. The religious make up their answers, but they have the questions. The all-encompassing, infinitely self-confident mechanistic materialism of today answers the questions by denying their validity.

    We die. What happens then? Do we wake up somewhere else, or are we simply gone? The answer is that we don’t know. Religions make up heavens and hells. The scientific look disdainful and change the subject. In any cocktail party of the sophisticated, the questions are thought in bad taste, if not actually obscene. Yet the sophisticated also die.

    These, and all the other matters fundamental to religion—right and wrong, Good and Evil, the soul if any, where we are, why—have no scientific meaning, which modernly is the only meaning. Social control? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. But these are secondary. Believers suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth. The rest? We have it all figured out. Points of view with no overlap.

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    • Replies: @Talha

    The all-encompassing, infinitely self-confident mechanistic materialism of today answers the questions by denying their validity.
     
    Brilliantly stated!

    Peace.
    , @Wizard of Oz
    Fred

    You give up too easily. Where you say "We die. Where do we go? .......... We don't know" you omit the key preliminary question as to what constitutes "we".

    If we know anything we surely know that everything that makes us us disappears when the brain is destroyed whether or not the rest of the body is also destroyed. So the answer is that we cease to exist at death unless you somehow find yourself comfortable with saying that there is an I or we or self that is totally without the meaning or definition which might be given to it by use in mundane conversation.
    , @Roger Sweeny
    "Good and bad, I define these terms
    Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
    Ah, but I was so much older then;
    I’m younger than that now."

    From the newest Nobel laureate in literature
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  79. mcohen says:
    @iffen
    If there was empirical data, no one except the insane would not believe.

    People ignore empirical data faster that it can be compiled and disseminated.

    iffen
    here is an “insane” idea that i use

    1.first put yourself into an intense emotional state.tears can come.believe in that which makes you emotional.must be of universal importance not trivial
    2.after you enter this state begin to pray.the top part of your skull,the top of your head will start to tingle.like a mild electrical current.
    3.this will connect you to G-d.that is the magnetic field that that surrounds us. sometimes i like to say….G-d is gravity
    4.i discovered the above 3 years ago while walking in a park and practise regularly to help guide me.it works.
    5.do not assume that i am irrational or insane.there are those who know me who will understand

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    • Replies: @Anon
    Your experience and practice are the 1st keys to wisdom which might not touch us in our entire lifetimes, save the few.

    From Be'resheet:

    [בְּרֵאשִׁית, רַבִּי יוּדָאי אֲמַר, מַאי בְּרֵאשִׁי"ת, בְּחָכְמָ"ה, דָּא חָכְמָ"ה דְּעָלְמָא קָיְימָא עֲלָהּ לְעָאלָא גוֹ רָזִי סְתִימִין עִלָּאִין. וְהָכָא אִגְלִיפוּ שִׁית סִטְרִין רַבְרְבִין עִלָּאִין, דְּמִנְהוֹן נָפֵיק כֹּלָא, דְּמִנְהוֹן אִתְעֲבִידוּ שִׁית מְקוֹרִין וְנַחֲלִין לְעָאלָא גוֹ יַמָּא רַבָּא. וְהַיְינוּ בָּרָא שִׁי"ת, מֵהָכָא אִתְבְּרִיאוּ. מַאן בָּרָא לוֹן הַהוּא דְּלָא אִדְכַּר, הַהוּא סָתִים דְּלָא יְדִיעַ. ]

    [What is Beresheet? It means 'with wisdom'. And this is the wisdom upon which the world, WHICH IS THE SECRET OF ZEIR ANPIN, is established and allowed to enter the deep and secretive mysteries, NAMELY THE LIGHTS OF BINAH. Here the six supernal directions are engraved, WHICH ARE THE SIX EXTREMITIES OF BINAH, from which everything emerges. From them were formed the six sources and rivers, WHICH ARE THE SIX EXTREMITIES OF ZEIR ANPIN that flow into the great sea, WHICH IS MALCHUT. THEREFORE, Bara Sheet (Eng. 'He created six') SUGGESTS THE SIX LETTERS OF BERESHEET, FOR THE SIX EXTREMITIES were created from here. And who created them? He who is not mentioned; He who is concealed and unknown, WHO IS CALLED ARICH ANPIN.]

    We might experience the machine and derive wisdom and happiness from it, but create the machine we cannot.
    , @iffen
    I know the exact state of being that you describe. I always get it between the 2nd and 3rd glass.
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  80. Why are Catholics, many of them (most ?), basically “Pagans” ? Here in Croatia we are mostly Catholics; but, as far as I can see, my relatives, who are ritualistically pious, in their everyday life are irreligious. Perhaps because Catholicism is so big, containing many different subcultures as Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Spain, many parts of the Netherlands, Philippines, Mexico, Brazil… one should not judge this religion/denomination & its adherents along ideological lines. Catholicism is, generally, richer than other Christian denominations: you got formidable intellectual tradition, vast sea of supreme artistic achievements- and also a mixture of folk superstition & lazy indifference presented as cultural Catholicism.

    I don’t know many Evangelicals, but they seem to be serious about their religion; many cradle Catholics are just followers of a great Western historical civilization. Converts are, of course, another story …

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  81. Talha says:
    @Fred Reed
    While I am not religious, I understand the motives of those who are. The many rationalistic explanations of faith make me think of electrical engineers expounding on poetry, or the congenitally deaf on symphonies. The religious make up their answers, but they have the questions. The all-encompassing, infinitely self-confident mechanistic materialism of today answers the questions by denying their validity.

    We die. What happens then? Do we wake up somewhere else, or are we simply gone? The answer is that we don't know. Religions make up heavens and hells. The scientific look disdainful and change the subject. In any cocktail party of the sophisticated, the questions are thought in bad taste, if not actually obscene. Yet the sophisticated also die.

    These, and all the other matters fundamental to religion—right and wrong, Good and Evil, the soul if any, where we are, why—have no scientific meaning, which modernly is the only meaning. Social control? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. But these are secondary. Believers suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth. The rest? We have it all figured out. Points of view with no overlap.

    The all-encompassing, infinitely self-confident mechanistic materialism of today answers the questions by denying their validity.

    Brilliantly stated!

    Peace.

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  82. Tulip says:

    One distinction between a form of theism and naturalism is that, in general, “naturalists” give primacy to the model of reality, and the theist gives primacy to the experience of reality. For the theist, colors exist. For the naturalist, many question if qualia exist.

    The theist has to view the model as a tool for predicting/controlling experience, whereas the naturalist takes the model as the real. Any common experience, say a relative meeting the spirit of a dead ancestor, that doesn’t fit into the model must be discounted. In contrast, the theist is going to take this as just another experience revealing the richness of human existence. Likewise, experiences and intuitions of beauty are not going to be discounted, nor even psychologized, as it is appreciated that human psychology is what it is because it resembles the mind of the Creator, and we are seeing the intention of the Artist.

    What drives me to assert faith in a personal God is the fact that the most primitive form of language acquisition is between a mother and a child, I-Thou, and our earliest conceptions are built out of the structure of the family. This is the most fundamental grammar, and the most universal. Our ability to talk in the third person comes later, so the “ultimacy” of a third person description of “reality” is flawed.

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  83. Slon says:
    @Joe Q.

    Right, the prohibition is not absolute.
     
    The only prohibition is against a man re-marrying his ex-wife if she has been married to someone else in the interim. Otherwise, divorce is perfectly acceptable (though later Jewish law had a lot to say about it).

    I do see your point about Evangelical acceptance of divorce. Every community has its own focus.

    The only prohibition is against a man re-marrying his ex-wife if she has been married to someone else in the interim. Otherwise, divorce is perfectly acceptable

    That’s your liberal interpretation, which is fine. It has nothing to do with what I was talking about, namely that Jesus explicitly affirmed in the Gospels the strict Shammaite interpretation of divorce laws. Evangelicals don’t care what you think about divorce; they should in principle care what Jesus thinks. That was my point, not pedantic discussions of Torah interpretation.

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    • Replies: @Joe Q.

    Evangelicals don’t care what you think about divorce; they should in principle care what Jesus thinks. That was my point, not pedantic discussions of Torah interpretation.
     
    It's hardly a pedantic discussion of Torah interpretation -- it's a straight reading of the Biblical text. You claimed that there is an Old Testament prohibition on divorce. There isn't, though Hillel and Shammai disagreed on what were acceptable grounds for divorce.

    I agree with you that that particular Christian teaching is often ignored by Protestants. We can leave it at that.
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  84. iffen says:

    People don’t need God-based religion anymore. Haven’t the most successful religions also been the most successful at eliminating the competition. Will the Dead Heads go on Crusade? The Ditto Heads say they will, but I don’t think they will walk the walk. People wear kilts or Civil War uniforms on the week-end; will they wear the real uniforms all week long? They will beat you to death in the parking lot for showing the wrong colors, but can they sustain a Nika revolt?

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  85. @Fred Reed
    While I am not religious, I understand the motives of those who are. The many rationalistic explanations of faith make me think of electrical engineers expounding on poetry, or the congenitally deaf on symphonies. The religious make up their answers, but they have the questions. The all-encompassing, infinitely self-confident mechanistic materialism of today answers the questions by denying their validity.

    We die. What happens then? Do we wake up somewhere else, or are we simply gone? The answer is that we don't know. Religions make up heavens and hells. The scientific look disdainful and change the subject. In any cocktail party of the sophisticated, the questions are thought in bad taste, if not actually obscene. Yet the sophisticated also die.

    These, and all the other matters fundamental to religion—right and wrong, Good and Evil, the soul if any, where we are, why—have no scientific meaning, which modernly is the only meaning. Social control? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. But these are secondary. Believers suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth. The rest? We have it all figured out. Points of view with no overlap.

    Fred

    You give up too easily. Where you say “We die. Where do we go? ………. We don’t know” you omit the key preliminary question as to what constitutes “we”.

    If we know anything we surely know that everything that makes us us disappears when the brain is destroyed whether or not the rest of the body is also destroyed. So the answer is that we cease to exist at death unless you somehow find yourself comfortable with saying that there is an I or we or self that is totally without the meaning or definition which might be given to it by use in mundane conversation.

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  86. @j mct
    Per Roman Catholicism, and faith and reason in it, I think that mentioning what one might call ‘revealed truth’ and reason, might be a more exact way of putting it, and its necessary relation, and they are related, can be illustrated nicely with the ontological proof, as was mentioned. This also segues into Razib’s earlier posts about pomos in the university.

    In English the simplest way to put the ontological proof is that per absolute truth, i.e. God, is that if there were no absolute truth, then the absolute truth would be that there is no absolute truth, which is nonsense. Or if the negation of absolute truth or A~, is logically impossible, then A. One might look at all this and call it silly meaningless wordplay but mathematics works just like this, it’s more elaborate wordplay, if you think that math is more than wordplay you’re wrong, but what makes a proof a proof in math is that the negation of what is proved is logically impossible, as in the proof of the Pythagorean theorem is a proof that a Euclidean right triangle where the sum of the squares of the legs is not equal to the square of the hypotenuse is logically impossible, so all right triangles must have legs whose with sides whose lengths are such that the sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs equals the square of the hypotenuse, and the proof is useful since this isn’t obvious. The ontological proof is a simple, but perfect, demonstration of how math works.

    Per the ontological proof, can it be attacked? It can, but not the way it generally is. I remember some would be new atheist a while back who was a mathematician attacking it because it had no premises. Kant attacks it by saying it has no synthetic premises, only analytic ones, in that there is no disbelievable premise in the argument. They are both really really wrong, in that the ontological proof sits on top of a whopper of a disbelievable premise. Per Kant’s criticism the notion that all analytic premises are necessarily so needs a premise, he doesn’t think so and he’s wrong about that.

    The hinge is ‘logically impossible’. From logos, logically impossible is impossible thought, or not something on doesn’t think but something one cannot think. Another, better way of putting it, is something no man can imagine. The hinge on which math and the ontological proof works, as in it proves something about reality rather than just what men can think, is that one has to get from ‘a man cannot imagine’ to ‘cannot be’, which might be hard since even though a man cannot imagine a triangle that violates the Pythagorean theorem, a man also cannot flap his arms and fly or breathe underwater either, like birds and fishes do.

    Lots of westerners breezily associate ‘logically impossible’ with ‘cannot be so’. I read once somewhere that some Hindus think that all the monotheisms are right. Westerners would say that cannot be right since it’s logically impossible. Or saying ‘the universe might not only be queerer that we do imagine, it might be queerer that we can imagine’ and then stroke their chins profoundly. Westerners thinking that this is a thought that is weird, as in not the default setting on the dial are the weird ones, thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial. How westerners got that way is pretty clear, historically.

    There was an incident in western thought back around the year 1000 when the proposition came up about whether God can change the past. The past changing is logically impossible, if it could occur then sometime in the future the past can change, which is why movies where that’s the plot never work, logically. Per the Christian story, Moslems and Jews said, God can do that, and thinking he couldn’t was wrong. I’m not sure if the Christian story about this is right in every particular, but they’re right about Moslems and Jews saying God could change the past in this particular. Some Christians agreed with them, the noteworthy one was Peter Damian, but they were not the dominant strain of Christian thought. The dominant strain was no, God cannot change the past, since doing so was logically impossible.

    It’s generally put that what made the Christians different from Moslems and Jews was that they believed in a rational God while the others did not. That is not right, I don’t think that Moslems and Jews thought that God could not reason, as in do geometry. The also did not differ on whether God could do everything and everything, Christians thought that too. What Christians differed was the thought was that the human mind could understand anything and everything, and since that was so, God couldn’t do anything that was logically impossible, or something that a man cannot imagine, and if a man cannot imagine it, neither could God, and there is nothing that God cannot imagine, obviously.

    What do you have to believe to think that? God made man in his image, and God does not have an appendix, the spark of the Divine in man is his mind. That’s the theme of Signor Buonarotti’s painting on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, and though that wasn’t universally thought, a good example of someone who thought otherwise would be Montaigne, it was the dominant strain. I do not think many people get Montaigne when they read him, westerners reflexively assume that logically impossible is actually impossible, while Montaigne thought that was hogwash, and while reading him one has to remember that to get him.

    Since philosophy, which until recently was just a fancy word that meant ‘thinking’ needs to assume that logically impossible is actually impossible if it’s to be more than something solipistic, Roman Catholic philosophy does indeed sit on top of revealed truth, or something taken on faith. So though Roman Catholics do do philosophy, it’s not the bottom of it.

    So the as far as the Enlightenment types versus the pomos in universities, at least within the parameters of their shared assumptions, the pomos should win, they’re right.

    I guess I should stop, this has gotten very long, not quite as long as a chapter from Brave New World, but long enough.

    thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial.

    I don’t think that is true. If anything, the opposite.

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  87. Apologies for apparent lateness returning to the party- I’ve been meaning to come back for 2 days.

    This was quite interesting to me on several, admittedly basic levels.

    One is that I have to check out that Bay Area Rationalists link at some point. I had always thought rationality as an ends, rather than a means, would be impossible. In part because we are humans and governed very much by that comment Hume made about reason being slave to the passions, and in part because I had assumed it must be so. Even where someone can be outwardly convincing in their dispassion, they must have ideas that are axioms, or at least goals and behaviours that are instinctive, rather than being themselves rational. Personal survival for one. Sacrifice of personal survival for that of another. Even sacrifice of personal survival for that of the species. For that matter, willingness to sacrifice species survival for that of the wider ecosystem, which I would call romantic, rather than rational, even if I would be willing to entertain its validity.

    I’m entirely willing to consider the question simpleminded, but what would be a purely rational end?

    I see that others have taken up the questions of meaning and death. I like to think of myself as atheist, in that I don’t believe in a divinity, personal or other, but I find I hold it thinly when I contemplate eternity and mortality. I am genuinely surprised by how easily others who hold a variety of atheist/secular/materialist worldviews seem to have overcome these issues. Or do not consider them important. Or indeed seem unfrightened by them. I am not so brave.

    Lastly, your overall comments about the role of the most basic intuitions underlying belief brings to mind a notion I first heard in grade school. One of my teachers offered [I cannot remember the context] the suggestion that looking at this life as preparation for an afterlife deprives the former of much of its meaning. I don’t think that’s how the religious see it at all- quite the opposite in fact.

    I was left thinking of that as one of the most basic, elemental intuitive gulfs among humans. Does the sequel diminish or enhance the worth of the earlier tale, to put it in literary terms?

    Is the Hobbit diminished by being followed by the Lord of the Rings, or enhanced, or neither? Or is the putative afterlife a trifling, repetitive, redundant eternal replay of Ghostbusters 2? [Sorry- for some reason the first example of a failed sequel that comes to mind].

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    • Replies: @Tulip
    I think you miss the point of belief in the after life, which has nothing to do with belief in an after life.

    If you give a worker a blue print, they can work toward construction of the building. Further, if you tell them when the building is built, it is going to be fantastic, and everyone will enjoy it, perhaps they will be inspired to work harder. Their co-workers, who believe in the coming promise of the building, and busting their hump, will likely punish slackers. Note, it doesn't actually matter if the building ever gets built, or whether the purported communal benefits come to pass.

    Belief in the after life provides "orientation" to a collective group. Cultures are religious, because you need a collective orientation to accomplish anything great. [This is the relationship between theology and law, law becomes the working out of a shared orientation based on a collectively experienced good.] Civilizations are skeptical and materialistic, because social cohesion is evaporating and it becomes every man for himself, and people fall into ennui, bad habits and hedonism, and the family goes to shit.

    Belief in an after life lead to the Sistine Chapel. Lack of belief in an after life led to brutalist architecture, totalitarianism and Miley Cyrus.

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  88. @Anonymous
    Francis Collins went from atheism to believing in a Creator after watching a sunset. Some of the notable Catholic converts of the 20th century were among leading analytic philosophers and logicians. G.E.M. Anscombe of Oxford and Cambridge Univ. (Wittgenstein's student, close friend and his literary executor), Michael Dummett (Wykeham Professor of Logic, Oxford Univ.), Peter Geach, renowned mathematical logician (Oxford, Leeds,...). And, funny enough, all of them were uncompromisingly conservative Catholics (pro-life, etc.). Which seems consistent. If you're gonna believe in a religion, then you should swallow it feathers and all.

    Robert Heinlein used to say that there were respectable religions and crazy cults. Most people were born into a religion and stayed in it because it was comfortable, they knew the people, etc. They more or less accepted the theology because it was what they knew.

    But some people joined a different religion voluntarily. They actually thought about the dogma and accepted it. Since Heinlein thought all religious dogma was crazy, they were by definition joining a crazy cult.

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  89. @Fred Reed
    While I am not religious, I understand the motives of those who are. The many rationalistic explanations of faith make me think of electrical engineers expounding on poetry, or the congenitally deaf on symphonies. The religious make up their answers, but they have the questions. The all-encompassing, infinitely self-confident mechanistic materialism of today answers the questions by denying their validity.

    We die. What happens then? Do we wake up somewhere else, or are we simply gone? The answer is that we don't know. Religions make up heavens and hells. The scientific look disdainful and change the subject. In any cocktail party of the sophisticated, the questions are thought in bad taste, if not actually obscene. Yet the sophisticated also die.

    These, and all the other matters fundamental to religion—right and wrong, Good and Evil, the soul if any, where we are, why—have no scientific meaning, which modernly is the only meaning. Social control? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. But these are secondary. Believers suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth. The rest? We have it all figured out. Points of view with no overlap.

    “Good and bad, I define these terms
    Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
    Ah, but I was so much older then;
    I’m younger than that now.”

    From the newest Nobel laureate in literature

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  90. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @mcohen
    iffen
    here is an "insane" idea that i use

    1.first put yourself into an intense emotional state.tears can come.believe in that which makes you emotional.must be of universal importance not trivial
    2.after you enter this state begin to pray.the top part of your skull,the top of your head will start to tingle.like a mild electrical current.
    3.this will connect you to G-d.that is the magnetic field that that surrounds us. sometimes i like to say....G-d is gravity
    4.i discovered the above 3 years ago while walking in a park and practise regularly to help guide me.it works.
    5.do not assume that i am irrational or insane.there are those who know me who will understand

    Your experience and practice are the 1st keys to wisdom which might not touch us in our entire lifetimes, save the few.

    From Be’resheet:

    [בְּרֵאשִׁית, רַבִּי יוּדָאי אֲמַר, מַאי בְּרֵאשִׁי"ת, בְּחָכְמָ"ה, דָּא חָכְמָ"ה דְּעָלְמָא קָיְימָא עֲלָהּ לְעָאלָא גוֹ רָזִי סְתִימִין עִלָּאִין. וְהָכָא אִגְלִיפוּ שִׁית סִטְרִין רַבְרְבִין עִלָּאִין, דְּמִנְהוֹן נָפֵיק כֹּלָא, דְּמִנְהוֹן אִתְעֲבִידוּ שִׁית מְקוֹרִין וְנַחֲלִין לְעָאלָא גוֹ יַמָּא רַבָּא. וְהַיְינוּ בָּרָא שִׁי"ת, מֵהָכָא אִתְבְּרִיאוּ. מַאן בָּרָא לוֹן הַהוּא דְּלָא אִדְכַּר, הַהוּא סָתִים דְּלָא יְדִיעַ. ]

    [What is Beresheet? It means 'with wisdom'. And this is the wisdom upon which the world, WHICH IS THE SECRET OF ZEIR ANPIN, is established and allowed to enter the deep and secretive mysteries, NAMELY THE LIGHTS OF BINAH. Here the six supernal directions are engraved, WHICH ARE THE SIX EXTREMITIES OF BINAH, from which everything emerges. From them were formed the six sources and rivers, WHICH ARE THE SIX EXTREMITIES OF ZEIR ANPIN that flow into the great sea, WHICH IS MALCHUT. THEREFORE, Bara Sheet (Eng. 'He created six') SUGGESTS THE SIX LETTERS OF BERESHEET, FOR THE SIX EXTREMITIES were created from here. And who created them? He who is not mentioned; He who is concealed and unknown, WHO IS CALLED ARICH ANPIN.]

    We might experience the machine and derive wisdom and happiness from it, but create the machine we cannot.

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  91. robt says:

    Theologically or Morally conservative?

    Because the Catholic belief is that no matter what one’s material or moral sins are they can be forgiven in order to save the soul. The whole brilliant marketing concept of Catholocism from the time of Paul is that Christ died on the cross to ‘save’ everyone; all anyone has to do is accept Christ as God and it’s done for you. Easy.

    The concept of Protestanism in general is that living a wholesome life, not in material or moral sin, purifies the soul. Difficult.

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    • Replies: @anon
    No.

    Have you read Martin Luther? Or Calvin, or Knox, or any other Protestants of note?

    You have things pretty much backwards.
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  92. iffen says:
    @mcohen
    iffen
    here is an "insane" idea that i use

    1.first put yourself into an intense emotional state.tears can come.believe in that which makes you emotional.must be of universal importance not trivial
    2.after you enter this state begin to pray.the top part of your skull,the top of your head will start to tingle.like a mild electrical current.
    3.this will connect you to G-d.that is the magnetic field that that surrounds us. sometimes i like to say....G-d is gravity
    4.i discovered the above 3 years ago while walking in a park and practise regularly to help guide me.it works.
    5.do not assume that i am irrational or insane.there are those who know me who will understand

    I know the exact state of being that you describe. I always get it between the 2nd and 3rd glass.

    Read More
    • Replies: @mcohen
    hey... whatever fuels your drive as long as the wheels keep turning.
    evolution is the revolution
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  93. Tulip says:
    @random observer
    Apologies for apparent lateness returning to the party- I've been meaning to come back for 2 days.

    This was quite interesting to me on several, admittedly basic levels.

    One is that I have to check out that Bay Area Rationalists link at some point. I had always thought rationality as an ends, rather than a means, would be impossible. In part because we are humans and governed very much by that comment Hume made about reason being slave to the passions, and in part because I had assumed it must be so. Even where someone can be outwardly convincing in their dispassion, they must have ideas that are axioms, or at least goals and behaviours that are instinctive, rather than being themselves rational. Personal survival for one. Sacrifice of personal survival for that of another. Even sacrifice of personal survival for that of the species. For that matter, willingness to sacrifice species survival for that of the wider ecosystem, which I would call romantic, rather than rational, even if I would be willing to entertain its validity.

    I'm entirely willing to consider the question simpleminded, but what would be a purely rational end?

    I see that others have taken up the questions of meaning and death. I like to think of myself as atheist, in that I don't believe in a divinity, personal or other, but I find I hold it thinly when I contemplate eternity and mortality. I am genuinely surprised by how easily others who hold a variety of atheist/secular/materialist worldviews seem to have overcome these issues. Or do not consider them important. Or indeed seem unfrightened by them. I am not so brave.

    Lastly, your overall comments about the role of the most basic intuitions underlying belief brings to mind a notion I first heard in grade school. One of my teachers offered [I cannot remember the context] the suggestion that looking at this life as preparation for an afterlife deprives the former of much of its meaning. I don't think that's how the religious see it at all- quite the opposite in fact.

    I was left thinking of that as one of the most basic, elemental intuitive gulfs among humans. Does the sequel diminish or enhance the worth of the earlier tale, to put it in literary terms?

    Is the Hobbit diminished by being followed by the Lord of the Rings, or enhanced, or neither? Or is the putative afterlife a trifling, repetitive, redundant eternal replay of Ghostbusters 2? [Sorry- for some reason the first example of a failed sequel that comes to mind].

    I think you miss the point of belief in the after life, which has nothing to do with belief in an after life.

    If you give a worker a blue print, they can work toward construction of the building. Further, if you tell them when the building is built, it is going to be fantastic, and everyone will enjoy it, perhaps they will be inspired to work harder. Their co-workers, who believe in the coming promise of the building, and busting their hump, will likely punish slackers. Note, it doesn’t actually matter if the building ever gets built, or whether the purported communal benefits come to pass.

    Belief in the after life provides “orientation” to a collective group. Cultures are religious, because you need a collective orientation to accomplish anything great. [This is the relationship between theology and law, law becomes the working out of a shared orientation based on a collectively experienced good.] Civilizations are skeptical and materialistic, because social cohesion is evaporating and it becomes every man for himself, and people fall into ennui, bad habits and hedonism, and the family goes to shit.

    Belief in an after life lead to the Sistine Chapel. Lack of belief in an after life led to brutalist architecture, totalitarianism and Miley Cyrus.

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    • Replies: @animalogic
    Yes, that's a real neat distinction: sistern chapel verses totalitarianism & myly Cyrus.
    I hate to ask, but the glories of Greece, Rome, such as they are, how do they fit into your nifty Christian world-view?
    , @random observer
    Well, OK. I don't necessarily find anything in that to argue with, but it misses the possibility that many of those people, including the clerics, actually did believe in their afterlife as described, even as they benefited from its earthly motivational powers. And would have argued not only that their belief was true, but that its chief 'goal' was salvation, not social order.

    We can look at it in social scientific terms, but we are at our peril if we actually expect that the belief systems of past societies were being consciously run even by those at the top as a deliberate motivational scam. Maybe by Landru.

    Apart from that, I concede my original literary model is itself a step outside the realm of genuine belief or acceptance thereof, as was the teacher's long ago question that prompted it. We all of us were missing the point of what it is to actually believe in an afterlife, conceiving of it as a question to be posed from outside, whether a question of utility or of 'meaning'.

    Yet it still, at nearly 40 years' distance, leaves me puzzled. I can almost grasp the idea that a sequel can be thought to diminish the original, if it is terrible, dull or merely recapitulates events in poor imitations. The afterlife of Greco-Roman polytheism, perhaps. But that much more firmly held, seemingly beyond argument conviction that story or experience a is automatically diminished by story or experience b even now seems to me an odd conviction in any realm.

    That and, if put into the same literary terms, a materialist reality seems to render one's life story even less meaningful, by shutting the book, having it sit and gather dust a while, and then be recycled, forgotten.

    Admittedly, all that only matters if one is already persuaded that it is necessary for one's life to be thought of as a story and to have some sort of durable meaning. We aren't all. But my teacher assumed the existence of meaning, no less than I did. I just can't fathom his approach to it.
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  94. Joe Q. says:
    @Slon

    The only prohibition is against a man re-marrying his ex-wife if she has been married to someone else in the interim. Otherwise, divorce is perfectly acceptable
     
    That's your liberal interpretation, which is fine. It has nothing to do with what I was talking about, namely that Jesus explicitly affirmed in the Gospels the strict Shammaite interpretation of divorce laws. Evangelicals don't care what you think about divorce; they should in principle care what Jesus thinks. That was my point, not pedantic discussions of Torah interpretation.

    Evangelicals don’t care what you think about divorce; they should in principle care what Jesus thinks. That was my point, not pedantic discussions of Torah interpretation.

    It’s hardly a pedantic discussion of Torah interpretation — it’s a straight reading of the Biblical text. You claimed that there is an Old Testament prohibition on divorce. There isn’t, though Hillel and Shammai disagreed on what were acceptable grounds for divorce.

    I agree with you that that particular Christian teaching is often ignored by Protestants. We can leave it at that.

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  95. mcohen says:
    @iffen
    I know the exact state of being that you describe. I always get it between the 2nd and 3rd glass.

    hey… whatever fuels your drive as long as the wheels keep turning.
    evolution is the revolution

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  96. @Thursday
    I have to point out that your post doesn't actually answer Dreher's question of why Evangelicals are more conservative on moral issues than Catholics. After all they are themselves Protestants, so Protestantization can't be the answer.

    I suspect a couple things. First, Protestantism has different churches for liberals and conservatives. So, if you lumped the Mainline and Evangelical churches into one category, you might get numbers that are more similar to the Catholic. Second, I do think ecclesiology matters here. Most Evangelicals are members of churches with a congregational form of church government. That means that if a congregation goes in for liberal theology, it starts to see the problems with that more immediately than in larger, more hierarchical, organizations like the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Catholic. So, Evangelicalism has been subject to more Darwinian weeding out. Liberal Baptists (they did exist) went extinct a long time ago.

    Evangelicals – per se – have been with us since at least the 1400′s (or earlier). They are driven by a sense of both decadence (ie the orthodox) and renewal (us, the pious, the TRUE-believers). There may also be political/power – indeed, anarchic – elements encouraging unorthodoxy. Eventually, the unorthodox becomes the orthodox, the unacceptable the accepted…or they don’t….ie, the Cathars….

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  97. @Tulip
    I think you miss the point of belief in the after life, which has nothing to do with belief in an after life.

    If you give a worker a blue print, they can work toward construction of the building. Further, if you tell them when the building is built, it is going to be fantastic, and everyone will enjoy it, perhaps they will be inspired to work harder. Their co-workers, who believe in the coming promise of the building, and busting their hump, will likely punish slackers. Note, it doesn't actually matter if the building ever gets built, or whether the purported communal benefits come to pass.

    Belief in the after life provides "orientation" to a collective group. Cultures are religious, because you need a collective orientation to accomplish anything great. [This is the relationship between theology and law, law becomes the working out of a shared orientation based on a collectively experienced good.] Civilizations are skeptical and materialistic, because social cohesion is evaporating and it becomes every man for himself, and people fall into ennui, bad habits and hedonism, and the family goes to shit.

    Belief in an after life lead to the Sistine Chapel. Lack of belief in an after life led to brutalist architecture, totalitarianism and Miley Cyrus.

    Yes, that’s a real neat distinction: sistern chapel verses totalitarianism & myly Cyrus.
    I hate to ask, but the glories of Greece, Rome, such as they are, how do they fit into your nifty Christian world-view?

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    • Replies: @Tulip
    Who says I have anything against the Greeks or the Romans? The real problem of the ancient pagans was i.) lower fertility than Christians, and ii.) lack of a hierarchical centralized organization. Oh, and Julian the Apostate died young in that big battle (coincidence?). But it does take a universal religion, like Christianity or Islam, to really ground an Imperium, as Constantine surely recognized.
    , @Talha
    Hey AL,

    I thought they did believe in an afterlife - what was all that talk about Hades and the river Styx? Even the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit had some extremely impressive temples but neither simply believed in nothing after death - I think that was his point...I could be wrong.

    Peace.
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  98. Sean says:

    Religious (or atheistic) thinking is not alone. Hume said morality lacked an independent rational basis. He concluded that custom is the great guide to life.

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  99. anon says: • Disclaimer
    @robt
    Theologically or Morally conservative?

    Because the Catholic belief is that no matter what one's material or moral sins are they can be forgiven in order to save the soul. The whole brilliant marketing concept of Catholocism from the time of Paul is that Christ died on the cross to 'save' everyone; all anyone has to do is accept Christ as God and it's done for you. Easy.

    The concept of Protestanism in general is that living a wholesome life, not in material or moral sin, purifies the soul. Difficult.

    No.

    Have you read Martin Luther? Or Calvin, or Knox, or any other Protestants of note?

    You have things pretty much backwards.

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  100. Sean says:

    In Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Harari says there will be a new religion holding that “the universe consists of data flows, and the value of any phenomenon or entity is determined by its contribution to data processing”.

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  101. Tulip says:
    @animalogic
    Yes, that's a real neat distinction: sistern chapel verses totalitarianism & myly Cyrus.
    I hate to ask, but the glories of Greece, Rome, such as they are, how do they fit into your nifty Christian world-view?

    Who says I have anything against the Greeks or the Romans? The real problem of the ancient pagans was i.) lower fertility than Christians, and ii.) lack of a hierarchical centralized organization. Oh, and Julian the Apostate died young in that big battle (coincidence?). But it does take a universal religion, like Christianity or Islam, to really ground an Imperium, as Constantine surely recognized.

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    • Replies: @animalogic
    I didn't suggest you had anything against the Greeks etc. But your own dichotomy between believers & non-believers in an after life hardly emphasises Roman/ Greek accomplishments: to the extent that they did believe in an after life, it was not one of the more animating aspects of their religious belief -- yet the Roman's created an empire of considerable fame.... without your "orientating" belief in an after-life.
    I suspect that a nation's shared religious beliefs give a culture strength because they are shared beliefs, as much as religious beliefs.
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  102. Talha says:
    @animalogic
    Yes, that's a real neat distinction: sistern chapel verses totalitarianism & myly Cyrus.
    I hate to ask, but the glories of Greece, Rome, such as they are, how do they fit into your nifty Christian world-view?

    Hey AL,

    I thought they did believe in an afterlife – what was all that talk about Hades and the river Styx? Even the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit had some extremely impressive temples but neither simply believed in nothing after death – I think that was his point…I could be wrong.

    Peace.

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  103. @Tulip
    Who says I have anything against the Greeks or the Romans? The real problem of the ancient pagans was i.) lower fertility than Christians, and ii.) lack of a hierarchical centralized organization. Oh, and Julian the Apostate died young in that big battle (coincidence?). But it does take a universal religion, like Christianity or Islam, to really ground an Imperium, as Constantine surely recognized.

    I didn’t suggest you had anything against the Greeks etc. But your own dichotomy between believers & non-believers in an after life hardly emphasises Roman/ Greek accomplishments: to the extent that they did believe in an after life, it was not one of the more animating aspects of their religious belief — yet the Roman’s created an empire of considerable fame…. without your “orientating” belief in an after-life.
    I suspect that a nation’s shared religious beliefs give a culture strength because they are shared beliefs, as much as religious beliefs.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    Several thoughts:

    1. There is a distinction between pagans and apostates. Apostates have consciously rejected the good (or whatever you want to call it- how about the transcendental), while pagans have not. Thus one would expect the cultural legacy of a post-religious society (a whole society which has abandoned the transcendental) to be more blank than that of a merely pagan society.

    2. As has been pointed out, the Greeks and so on actually did believe in the soul and in rewards and punishments in the afterlife. I don't know how "animating" this belief was, and I'm not sure it matters; the point is that lack of belief in the transcendental produces disappointing cultural results, while presence of such belief, to some extent, produces stronger and more beautiful results. How much more beautiful? A Christian would almost certainly see more beauty in the Sistine Chapel (not the cistern chapel, which sounds uncomfortable- sorry, that was a low blow) than in, say, the Parthenon; he would say there is an undefinable but entirely noticeable quality lacking to the latter. Is this the effect of greater "animation"? Certainly Christians of antiquity saw pagan thought as converging towards Christianity; especially Greek philosophy, which embodies quite a bit of the Christian creed. In the same way the Jesuits in China constructed the same analogy using Chinese philosophy and habits of thought. I'm using Christianity as my example here because it's easy, but anything of the same stature will really do. The point is that there has been no historical culture which has entirely embraced materialism, except for the totalitarianisms of the last century, and we all know how those turned out, culturally and otherwise.

    3. I'm not sure where Empires come in. All sorts of nasty peoples have had empires, and have made things a lot worse for their subjects. The U.S. has one, more or less, now, and not for our terrific morals. I think what Tulip is trying to say is that a stable empire, one which will outlast invasions and coups and guide a whole civilization, needs some sort of worthwhile spiritualism. The Chinese had Buddhism-Confucianism, the later Rome had Christianity. The Assyrians and Carthaginians and Mongols were just blips on the map in comparison. I'm not sure how viable this thesis is; I think it is arguable either way. I do think a society built on pure materialism is likely to be fundamentally unstable, but I'm not going to argue from the few data points we have.

    4. There was once a debating society in Victorian England, one of whose members was a venerable old man who happened to be a complete crank. At least once during every discussion he would get up ponderously, say "A thought" and deliver some inane theory. One day, one of the other members, exasperated beyond measure after a more silly interruption than usual, said to him "Good heavens, man, you don't call that a thought, do you?" Please feel free to respond the same way.

    Wow, that was more than I meant to write.

    , @random observer
    Your point is well taken. At the risk of mocking Olympus, there is something to the comparison between Greco-Roman thinking and something like the modern dystopians. I do not intend the comparison to be between the former and the crueler aspirations or actions of fascists or communists, but only this:

    1. both considered their belief systems to be at once political and spiritual, with the worldly elements somewhat in the drivers seat
    2. both took the preservation of their political community into the future to be the primary goal of both political activity and the realm of ideas [The fascists and the earlier Greeks were probably more tribal/ethnic in this, the Romans [at least later on] and the Communists more pluralist as long as the central ideological dogmas were upheld]
    3. both conceived of the goals of state religion therefore in broadly earthly terms, rather than otherworldly or Salvationist terms. [Interesting that this last word was just autocapitalized for me]. Yes, the ancients were more about living in an age fallen from a golden age and the moderns more about building a selective technologically enabled utopia, but that's just the kind of forward vision industrial modernity with give you.

    Or to put this in much cleaner terms- the opening narration of Troy seemed to catch something of the pre-Christian Greco-Roman sensibility, bronze age or classical: "Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?"

    The Greeks and Romans built their monuments and did their deeds for that. TO the extent they conceived of the afterlife, it was mostly pretty dull when not grim. Good parts, like Elysium, are variously conceived but entry limited to the kind of men who also did stuff that would be remembered in the world.

    I don't know who wrote that little speech for Sean Bean. Rare for script writing to set a scene so appropriately.
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  104. Anon says: • Disclaimer
    @animalogic
    I didn't suggest you had anything against the Greeks etc. But your own dichotomy between believers & non-believers in an after life hardly emphasises Roman/ Greek accomplishments: to the extent that they did believe in an after life, it was not one of the more animating aspects of their religious belief -- yet the Roman's created an empire of considerable fame.... without your "orientating" belief in an after-life.
    I suspect that a nation's shared religious beliefs give a culture strength because they are shared beliefs, as much as religious beliefs.

    Several thoughts:

    1. There is a distinction between pagans and apostates. Apostates have consciously rejected the good (or whatever you want to call it- how about the transcendental), while pagans have not. Thus one would expect the cultural legacy of a post-religious society (a whole society which has abandoned the transcendental) to be more blank than that of a merely pagan society.

    2. As has been pointed out, the Greeks and so on actually did believe in the soul and in rewards and punishments in the afterlife. I don’t know how “animating” this belief was, and I’m not sure it matters; the point is that lack of belief in the transcendental produces disappointing cultural results, while presence of such belief, to some extent, produces stronger and more beautiful results. How much more beautiful? A Christian would almost certainly see more beauty in the Sistine Chapel (not the cistern chapel, which sounds uncomfortable- sorry, that was a low blow) than in, say, the Parthenon; he would say there is an undefinable but entirely noticeable quality lacking to the latter. Is this the effect of greater “animation”? Certainly Christians of antiquity saw pagan thought as converging towards Christianity; especially Greek philosophy, which embodies quite a bit of the Christian creed. In the same way the Jesuits in China constructed the same analogy using Chinese philosophy and habits of thought. I’m using Christianity as my example here because it’s easy, but anything of the same stature will really do. The point is that there has been no historical culture which has entirely embraced materialism, except for the totalitarianisms of the last century, and we all know how those turned out, culturally and otherwise.

    3. I’m not sure where Empires come in. All sorts of nasty peoples have had empires, and have made things a lot worse for their subjects. The U.S. has one, more or less, now, and not for our terrific morals. I think what Tulip is trying to say is that a stable empire, one which will outlast invasions and coups and guide a whole civilization, needs some sort of worthwhile spiritualism. The Chinese had Buddhism-Confucianism, the later Rome had Christianity. The Assyrians and Carthaginians and Mongols were just blips on the map in comparison. I’m not sure how viable this thesis is; I think it is arguable either way. I do think a society built on pure materialism is likely to be fundamentally unstable, but I’m not going to argue from the few data points we have.

    4. There was once a debating society in Victorian England, one of whose members was a venerable old man who happened to be a complete crank. At least once during every discussion he would get up ponderously, say “A thought” and deliver some inane theory. One day, one of the other members, exasperated beyond measure after a more silly interruption than usual, said to him “Good heavens, man, you don’t call that a thought, do you?” Please feel free to respond the same way.

    Wow, that was more than I meant to write.

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  105. RW says:

    I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.

    Razib, I thought you once described yourself as a “hyper-rationalist”. That seems right to me. Skepticism can be subsumed under rationalism.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Razib, I thought you once described yourself as a “hyper-rationalist”. That seems right to me. Skepticism can be subsumed under rationalism.



    google it. i didn't find it. i doubt i said that. if you subsume skepticism under rationalism, that's fine. when it comes to empiricism vs. rationalism i'm more on the former team.
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  106. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Twinkie

    a dumb animal
     
    By your comparison you unjustly insult, my good Sir, innocent animals. :)

    this is where twinkie will accuse me of being ungenerous. but if i did believe in souls, i wouldn’t attribute that sort of elevated nobility to dumb animals like so many of my readers who pipe up in their anonymous courage.
     
    Since you invoked my handle, I will respond.*

    What he did - insulting you - is in a way something worse than what animals do. Animals are generally very earnest. There is no guile (and I am not talking about hunting guile here) or self-deception with animals. They have a clear, honest bargain with nature, with the circle of life, if you will.

    It is precisely because we humans have souls that can be noble or disfigured that we do things that are far better or worse than what animals do. There is a reason why sometimes for long stretches of time I prefer the company of dogs and horses than that of people. I have seen with my own eyes too much evil that human beings have perpetrated, evil that is frequently a consequence of banality, to borrow Hannah Arendt's expression. Human beings seldom fail to disappoint me, and living in civilization is a constant assault on my sense of what is right and just.

    Yet, just when I despair, I run into people who are utterly ordinary, yet so very good - people who restore my shaken and damaged faith in the hope for nobility of soul, of God's Grace, and of Salvation. These two kinds of people are not in balance. I have seen far, far more evil people than the saintly. Yet the profoundly uplifting effect the few saintly have had on my soul, or psyche if you will, is much more powerful than the trauma I suffered in witnessing evil.

    God and Satan are not equal and opposing forces. One is inconceivably grander and majestic than the other.

    We ought to be kind to others, even those who insult us, not because they deserve it, but because it is good... and good for us.

    *Okay, okay, I admit - I didn't need my handle mentioned to pipe up here.

    I think what people usually consider evil is self-interest and whether it crosses (or potentially might cross) our path. People used to depict wolves as evil, then when they no longer were a real threat that view got replaced with them as a noble animal. A CEO who filches money from his employees’ pension plan behind their back is evil, but a prolific bank robber may be romanticized as an adventurous and daring roguish man of the people.

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  107. @j mct
    Per Roman Catholicism, and faith and reason in it, I think that mentioning what one might call ‘revealed truth’ and reason, might be a more exact way of putting it, and its necessary relation, and they are related, can be illustrated nicely with the ontological proof, as was mentioned. This also segues into Razib’s earlier posts about pomos in the university.

    In English the simplest way to put the ontological proof is that per absolute truth, i.e. God, is that if there were no absolute truth, then the absolute truth would be that there is no absolute truth, which is nonsense. Or if the negation of absolute truth or A~, is logically impossible, then A. One might look at all this and call it silly meaningless wordplay but mathematics works just like this, it’s more elaborate wordplay, if you think that math is more than wordplay you’re wrong, but what makes a proof a proof in math is that the negation of what is proved is logically impossible, as in the proof of the Pythagorean theorem is a proof that a Euclidean right triangle where the sum of the squares of the legs is not equal to the square of the hypotenuse is logically impossible, so all right triangles must have legs whose with sides whose lengths are such that the sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs equals the square of the hypotenuse, and the proof is useful since this isn’t obvious. The ontological proof is a simple, but perfect, demonstration of how math works.

    Per the ontological proof, can it be attacked? It can, but not the way it generally is. I remember some would be new atheist a while back who was a mathematician attacking it because it had no premises. Kant attacks it by saying it has no synthetic premises, only analytic ones, in that there is no disbelievable premise in the argument. They are both really really wrong, in that the ontological proof sits on top of a whopper of a disbelievable premise. Per Kant’s criticism the notion that all analytic premises are necessarily so needs a premise, he doesn’t think so and he’s wrong about that.

    The hinge is ‘logically impossible’. From logos, logically impossible is impossible thought, or not something on doesn’t think but something one cannot think. Another, better way of putting it, is something no man can imagine. The hinge on which math and the ontological proof works, as in it proves something about reality rather than just what men can think, is that one has to get from ‘a man cannot imagine’ to ‘cannot be’, which might be hard since even though a man cannot imagine a triangle that violates the Pythagorean theorem, a man also cannot flap his arms and fly or breathe underwater either, like birds and fishes do.

    Lots of westerners breezily associate ‘logically impossible’ with ‘cannot be so’. I read once somewhere that some Hindus think that all the monotheisms are right. Westerners would say that cannot be right since it’s logically impossible. Or saying ‘the universe might not only be queerer that we do imagine, it might be queerer that we can imagine’ and then stroke their chins profoundly. Westerners thinking that this is a thought that is weird, as in not the default setting on the dial are the weird ones, thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial. How westerners got that way is pretty clear, historically.

    There was an incident in western thought back around the year 1000 when the proposition came up about whether God can change the past. The past changing is logically impossible, if it could occur then sometime in the future the past can change, which is why movies where that’s the plot never work, logically. Per the Christian story, Moslems and Jews said, God can do that, and thinking he couldn’t was wrong. I’m not sure if the Christian story about this is right in every particular, but they’re right about Moslems and Jews saying God could change the past in this particular. Some Christians agreed with them, the noteworthy one was Peter Damian, but they were not the dominant strain of Christian thought. The dominant strain was no, God cannot change the past, since doing so was logically impossible.

    It’s generally put that what made the Christians different from Moslems and Jews was that they believed in a rational God while the others did not. That is not right, I don’t think that Moslems and Jews thought that God could not reason, as in do geometry. The also did not differ on whether God could do everything and everything, Christians thought that too. What Christians differed was the thought was that the human mind could understand anything and everything, and since that was so, God couldn’t do anything that was logically impossible, or something that a man cannot imagine, and if a man cannot imagine it, neither could God, and there is nothing that God cannot imagine, obviously.

    What do you have to believe to think that? God made man in his image, and God does not have an appendix, the spark of the Divine in man is his mind. That’s the theme of Signor Buonarotti’s painting on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, and though that wasn’t universally thought, a good example of someone who thought otherwise would be Montaigne, it was the dominant strain. I do not think many people get Montaigne when they read him, westerners reflexively assume that logically impossible is actually impossible, while Montaigne thought that was hogwash, and while reading him one has to remember that to get him.

    Since philosophy, which until recently was just a fancy word that meant ‘thinking’ needs to assume that logically impossible is actually impossible if it’s to be more than something solipistic, Roman Catholic philosophy does indeed sit on top of revealed truth, or something taken on faith. So though Roman Catholics do do philosophy, it’s not the bottom of it.

    So the as far as the Enlightenment types versus the pomos in universities, at least within the parameters of their shared assumptions, the pomos should win, they’re right.

    I guess I should stop, this has gotten very long, not quite as long as a chapter from Brave New World, but long enough.

    If there is no absolute truth, than the abslute truth is that there is no absolute truth, and is non-sens…

    It’s non-sens to a human brain operating through aristotelian logic, but thourhg a quantum lens its totally possible. Im sorry to inform you that your premice is quite weak

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  108. @RW

    I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.
     
    Razib, I thought you once described yourself as a "hyper-rationalist". That seems right to me. Skepticism can be subsumed under rationalism.

    Razib, I thought you once described yourself as a “hyper-rationalist”. That seems right to me. Skepticism can be subsumed under rationalism.

    google it. i didn’t find it. i doubt i said that. if you subsume skepticism under rationalism, that’s fine. when it comes to empiricism vs. rationalism i’m more on the former team.

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    You're right. I must have been thinning of this blog entry of yours where G Cochran commented "H-bd seems to attract two personalities — hyperrationalists and Stormfront type criminals/animals. Both of them are sort of low on the social empathy scale. But they’re obviously very different :) "

    http://www.gnxp.com/new/2008/07/14/steve-sailer-on-grand-new-party/
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  109. RW says:
    @Razib Khan
    Razib, I thought you once described yourself as a “hyper-rationalist”. That seems right to me. Skepticism can be subsumed under rationalism.



    google it. i didn't find it. i doubt i said that. if you subsume skepticism under rationalism, that's fine. when it comes to empiricism vs. rationalism i'm more on the former team.

    You’re right. I must have been thinning of this blog entry of yours where G Cochran commented “H-bd seems to attract two personalities — hyperrationalists and Stormfront type criminals/animals. Both of them are sort of low on the social empathy scale. But they’re obviously very different :)

    http://www.gnxp.com/new/2008/07/14/steve-sailer-on-grand-new-party/

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    that isn't g cochran. it's the other gc.... :-)
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  110. @RW
    You're right. I must have been thinning of this blog entry of yours where G Cochran commented "H-bd seems to attract two personalities — hyperrationalists and Stormfront type criminals/animals. Both of them are sort of low on the social empathy scale. But they’re obviously very different :) "

    http://www.gnxp.com/new/2008/07/14/steve-sailer-on-grand-new-party/

    that isn’t g cochran. it’s the other gc…. :-)

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  111. @Tulip
    I think you miss the point of belief in the after life, which has nothing to do with belief in an after life.

    If you give a worker a blue print, they can work toward construction of the building. Further, if you tell them when the building is built, it is going to be fantastic, and everyone will enjoy it, perhaps they will be inspired to work harder. Their co-workers, who believe in the coming promise of the building, and busting their hump, will likely punish slackers. Note, it doesn't actually matter if the building ever gets built, or whether the purported communal benefits come to pass.

    Belief in the after life provides "orientation" to a collective group. Cultures are religious, because you need a collective orientation to accomplish anything great. [This is the relationship between theology and law, law becomes the working out of a shared orientation based on a collectively experienced good.] Civilizations are skeptical and materialistic, because social cohesion is evaporating and it becomes every man for himself, and people fall into ennui, bad habits and hedonism, and the family goes to shit.

    Belief in an after life lead to the Sistine Chapel. Lack of belief in an after life led to brutalist architecture, totalitarianism and Miley Cyrus.

    Well, OK. I don’t necessarily find anything in that to argue with, but it misses the possibility that many of those people, including the clerics, actually did believe in their afterlife as described, even as they benefited from its earthly motivational powers. And would have argued not only that their belief was true, but that its chief ‘goal’ was salvation, not social order.

    We can look at it in social scientific terms, but we are at our peril if we actually expect that the belief systems of past societies were being consciously run even by those at the top as a deliberate motivational scam. Maybe by Landru.

    Apart from that, I concede my original literary model is itself a step outside the realm of genuine belief or acceptance thereof, as was the teacher’s long ago question that prompted it. We all of us were missing the point of what it is to actually believe in an afterlife, conceiving of it as a question to be posed from outside, whether a question of utility or of ‘meaning’.

    Yet it still, at nearly 40 years’ distance, leaves me puzzled. I can almost grasp the idea that a sequel can be thought to diminish the original, if it is terrible, dull or merely recapitulates events in poor imitations. The afterlife of Greco-Roman polytheism, perhaps. But that much more firmly held, seemingly beyond argument conviction that story or experience a is automatically diminished by story or experience b even now seems to me an odd conviction in any realm.

    That and, if put into the same literary terms, a materialist reality seems to render one’s life story even less meaningful, by shutting the book, having it sit and gather dust a while, and then be recycled, forgotten.

    Admittedly, all that only matters if one is already persuaded that it is necessary for one’s life to be thought of as a story and to have some sort of durable meaning. We aren’t all. But my teacher assumed the existence of meaning, no less than I did. I just can’t fathom his approach to it.

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  112. @animalogic
    I didn't suggest you had anything against the Greeks etc. But your own dichotomy between believers & non-believers in an after life hardly emphasises Roman/ Greek accomplishments: to the extent that they did believe in an after life, it was not one of the more animating aspects of their religious belief -- yet the Roman's created an empire of considerable fame.... without your "orientating" belief in an after-life.
    I suspect that a nation's shared religious beliefs give a culture strength because they are shared beliefs, as much as religious beliefs.

    Your point is well taken. At the risk of mocking Olympus, there is something to the comparison between Greco-Roman thinking and something like the modern dystopians. I do not intend the comparison to be between the former and the crueler aspirations or actions of fascists or communists, but only this:

    1. both considered their belief systems to be at once political and spiritual, with the worldly elements somewhat in the drivers seat
    2. both took the preservation of their political community into the future to be the primary goal of both political activity and the realm of ideas [The fascists and the earlier Greeks were probably more tribal/ethnic in this, the Romans [at least later on] and the Communists more pluralist as long as the central ideological dogmas were upheld]
    3. both conceived of the goals of state religion therefore in broadly earthly terms, rather than otherworldly or Salvationist terms. [Interesting that this last word was just autocapitalized for me]. Yes, the ancients were more about living in an age fallen from a golden age and the moderns more about building a selective technologically enabled utopia, but that’s just the kind of forward vision industrial modernity with give you.

    Or to put this in much cleaner terms- the opening narration of Troy seemed to catch something of the pre-Christian Greco-Roman sensibility, bronze age or classical: “Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?”

    The Greeks and Romans built their monuments and did their deeds for that. TO the extent they conceived of the afterlife, it was mostly pretty dull when not grim. Good parts, like Elysium, are variously conceived but entry limited to the kind of men who also did stuff that would be remembered in the world.

    I don’t know who wrote that little speech for Sean Bean. Rare for script writing to set a scene so appropriately.

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  113. […] Justified by More Than Logos Alone (Razib […]

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