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IEET > Rights > FreeThought > Life > Enablement > Innovation > Health > Vision > Technoprogressivism > Staff > Hank Pellissier

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“God” is Cruel - we must conquer his “Nature”


Hank Pellissier
Hank Pellissier
Ethical Technology

Posted: May 1, 2012

Traditional-Religious Transhumanists like “Pastor” Alex McGilvery and Lincoln Cannon have articulated their views extensively at IEET in recent months, in essays followed by contentious debates. McGilvery and Cannon believe there’s easy compatibility between their creeds and H+. I welcome them, happily, because I want H+ to be a “Big Tent” with acceptance for everybody. That said, I fervently disagree with their theistic opinions. Wildly, totally, absolutely, passionately, face-squinched-up-in-an-angry-scowl Disagree.

What are McGilvery-and-Cannon thinking? I wonder. God/Religion is Lunacy!

Why does their theism make me crazy? Because, IMO, it is illogical, scientifically obtuse, and primitively deluded about Hope. Below I present my own Atheist-Transhumanist perspective:
 
“A good ‘God’ can’t exist,” scoffs by twelve-year-old daughter. “There’s too much murder, sickness and death in the world; an all-powerful ‘God’ would have to be mean, bad, extremely cruel, to create a world like this.”
 

Her point-of-view isn’t unusually nihilistic; it was my POV when I was her age. Additionally, I teach a Debate class at her middle school - every ‘tween and teen atheist in attendance asserts the same remarks. (About 50% are anti-religionist, especially the children of scientists employed at nearby UC San Francisco.) The World Was Created With Horrific Flaws, the children contend.

For example, almost all living beings murder and eat other living beings. That’s just totally, violently gross!  Plus, there’s Pain, Sadness, Sickness and Death. An All-Powerful God who invented that “Natural Order” would just be… Evil!
 
My daughter is currently writing a term paper for her social studies class. Her topic - inspired equally by affection for Atheism and The Hunger Games - is titled, “Child Sacrifice in the Bible.” What she uncovered is quite illuminating.

The Old Testament God (Yahweh, Jehovah) was literally a bloodthirsty deity, with an appetite similar to other regional gods. Yahweh enjoyed blood sacrifices, reasoned the early Israelites. How did they arrive at this savage conclusion? Because, they surmised, why else would He create a world where human life was short, brutal, painful, tragic, abbreviated rudely in pestilences, famines, and massacres?

Answer: God likes to watch people die!
 
Human sacrifice was a prevalent, well-established tradition in the ancient world, for precisely this reason. BC and early AD priests believed that the blood-lust of God could be appeased through human sacrifice.  Giving Him what He wanted up-front in horrendous rituals, they believed, was far better than pissing Him off with disrespect or neglect, and getting punished for it via battle defeat/genocide or a plague.
 
To honor and satiate the Creators:
* Phoenicians and Carthaginians roll their babies down the bronze arms of Moloch and Baal statuary, into pits of fire. (Jeremiah 19.5, etc.)
* Jephthah sacrifices his daughter Iphis to Yahweh in thanks for a wartime victory. (Judges 11:1-40)
* Abraham is willing to slice his blade across Isaac’s throat, before an angel halts him. (Genesis 22:2-12)
* Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphegenia to the goddess Artemis, so winds will guide his ships to Troy.
* Patriarchs in the Levant murder their eldest sons at newly-built fortification walls, to ingratiate their gods.
* Mesh, King of the Moabites, sacrificially burns his son to death, for the god Chemosh (II Kings 3:27)
* Joshua, directed by Yahweh, eliminates Jericho’s population - all men, women, children. (Joshua 6:25)
* Israelites, advised by Yahweh, annihilate Midiamites, Amalekites, Ethiopians, people of Laish and Ai, etc.   
* Yahweh slays all the first-born sons of Egypt (Exodus 11:29-30)
* Mayans and Aztecs cut living hearts out of thousands of victims on their pyramids, to honor celestial deities.
* Romans strangle enemy generals in front of a statue of Mars.
* In Celtic rituals, victims for the god Esus are hanged, but Taranus wants his offerings burned alive, and Teutales likes his drowned.
* etc., etc., etc.
 
Was this artery-spurting tradition reversed in the New Testament? Absolutely not.

Christianity itself is based on blatant Filicide, i.e., Jesus was sent to Earth by his Father (God) as a human sacrifice, to redeem humanity. The Deity’s willingness to transport “only begotten son” to Earth as a victim - thorn-crowning, scourging, and crucifixion torture - is regarded by the era (and still is?!) as a normal, sophisticated gesture of religious sincerity. The barbarism of this event is reflected with hemoglobin-smeared realism in “The Passion” film by Mel Gibson, and the validity of it’s function is lauded in the Epistles: “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrew 9:22). Primitivity is continued in the Eucharist sacrament; a cannibalism ritual where devotees drink the blood and eat the flesh of Jesus.
 

One of my points-of-view here is that the Old Testament God - with His wrath, revenge, and vampiric lust for human annihilation - is actually a more honest, clear-eyed, and accurate portrayal of Nature’s Creator, than his parable-spouting, heaven-promising, poverty-is-blessed Jesus-the-Son successor. The Old Testament God kills us and causes suffering, even if we obey his numerous petty and aggressive demands. This is, of course, What Life Really Gives Us. Even if we do everything correctly, morally and physically, we’re still going to get tormented by Biological Nature with deterioration, decay, and death. Life also offers laughs, love and mental and emotional ecstasies, but our joys can conclude miserably any minute. Pain and Demise are Inevitable.
 
Heaven, of course, is an ambiguous, farcical hope. In actuality, there’s no escape offered by Nature / The Deity.  Why would we trust Him anyway? He’s subjected homo sapiens to sadistic cruelties ever since we emerged as a species. We’ve all been compelled to exist within the boundaries of Nature’s Cruelty; ie. the incipient suffering in sentient life.
 
Theism, in my opinion, is a long weak attempt to understand the maliciousness of “God” and reach acceptance with the amoral laws of Nature. Religion is the pablum for our collective Thanatophobia.

Every compromising, cringing creed attempts to justify the Deity’s violent game called Life-and-Death with reasons like, “our reward for obedience is Heaven,” or “suffering brings us closer to Jesus because He suffered for us,” and “we can’t possibly comprehend Him because he’s so much Wiser than us, so let’s just have Faith.”  The majority of religionists - when questioned about the despicable malevolence of “God’s Plan” - flaccidly recommend prayer, penance, and acceptance. Instead of viewing Death as the wretched ruination of our lives, traditional religion accepts the notion that we are all “sacrificed” for a higher cause. Death is thus accommodated, even glorified.
 
What are our choices?  Are we doomed to either:

1) Deluding ourselves with sophomoric, self-belittling religions, bleating piteously like Jesus’s lambs.
2) Existing in anger at our circumstances, hating Life because we hate Death 
 
Both selections above are miserable. However, I believe TransHumanism offers humanity a Third Option.
 
Our eventual escape from Pain and Death, our release from atrocious degrading lethal diseases, has always been and will always be via Human Accomplishment. No Deity has ever, or will ever, assist us.  Technological achievements that reduce life’s squalor, brutality and pain, are invented by humans, not deities.
 
Eventually… soon… finally… Death will be destroyed! Human ingenuity and determination will Triumph!
 
To escape the carnivorous grip of of our enemy - Death - we must overcome the nefarious, corroding intentions of the “natural order” - we will control our own evolution - we will “Transcend the Biological.”
 
Opponents of this H+ vision are (quite often) religionists who are horrified that H+ rebels - arrogantly, in their opinion - against “God’s Plan” and “What is ‘Natural.’” Religionists are (quite often) an obstacle to progress - it would be better if they utilized their reverent passion in a “Crusade Against the Monstrosity of God’s Homicide of Humanity,” or a “Jihad Against Suffering.”
 
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Humanity needs to unite itself in the Common Task, to exterminate the causes of our extermination.
 
When radical-and-indefinite life extension arrives in 30-60 years, what will Traditional Religion look like, in retrospect?

My answer:

A Long, Mumbling Distraction. A Blind-Eyed, Pathetic Conciliation.  An Idiotic Conglomeration of Useless Irrational Rubbish.
 

——

Image #1: from threadbombing.com

Image #2 from common sense atheism


Hank Pellissier was IEET’s Managing Director on January-October in 2012, and an IEET Affiliate Scholar. He’s the author of two e-books, Invent Utopia Now and Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? He is currently at BrighterBrains.org
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COMMENTS


Great article, Hank!

This is the kind of discussion I like from atheists, because it asserts a position of your own instead of just attacking a false position created for the sake of knocking it down.

We’ll start with the cruelty of the world. Yup, the world is a nasty, nasty place. The Gnostics actually believed that the world was created by the Devil. The concept of the Fall and original sin was created to try to explain the brokenness of creation.

As for human sacrifice, yes there was a lot of it going around in the Old Testament times. Remember the scriptures are not the INERRANT HOLY WORD OF GOD, but rather a collection of all the evil, and some good, that people do to the world and each other. It is like a mirror that we hold up to ourselves and think, yup, we are still doing that. Still sacrificing children to the almighty profit motive. We don’t cut their throats, we just let them starve, or force them to work in unsafe factories so we can have cheap iPads.

You missed out on the genocide of the people of Caanan, by the way. A cautionary tale for any who think their god is telling them that they are better and should be able to just take what they want.

As for Jesus’ death as a sacrifice, yup. The thing to think about here, is that he volunteered. He had the chance to escape and refused. The concept of the trinity also suggests that it wasn’t some being apart from God, but God’s own self that died on that cross. I’m not big on playing heavy with atonement and blood. I’m more into the idea that the crucifixion was our judgement on God for not getting the world right and allowing all this suffering that you and your daughter talk about. God deserves to die for that, right?

Trouble is, I really doubt we will do better without God. We aren’t so far. While the world is gradually getting better, there is no spike of improvement as atheism spreads. People are still self-interested, greedy, bigoted and all the rest. Somebody needs to say we can do better. I know that you and many others in transhumanism are indeed saying this, but until the majority of people start listening, I will continue to add my voice and suggest that as God has grown from hate to love, so do we.





“Yup, the world is a nasty, nasty place.”


A half-truth; the world is a decent place, but the majority of people are Dopes, Fools, Rubes; and the majority of Christians are imbeciles, as Hank not inaccurately wrote a year or two ago.
A ‘bot is far preferable to the 95% of DFRs in the world. Alex, what you write above concerning the crucifixtion makes sense, just too bad Christians subconsciously want to crucify others- takes the joy out of it, IMO.
The following might be somewhat backasswards:
“[t]rouble is, I really doubt we will do better without God”;
in other words, say, we could do better without God however 95% are DFRs, so God is necessary to smooth things over. In a dopey, foolish, rube world, we need religion as anodyne.





@ thanks Alex—I agree with your first comment about atheists—
They need to assert an exciting vision, instead of just delivering ridicule.

IMO, transhumanism will provide a huge boost to atheism by promising precisely what religion promises - immortality and paradise.

Religion has always shrewdly offered what people desperately want - eternal life, redemption from suffering, a utopian existence.

Of course, it can’t deliver the goods. But Hope brings people into church anyway.

Tech & Science are persuading “customers” that the H+ path is a far surer way to attain immortality, etc.

Devotees of “God” will abandon the creeds when they realize that the new Source - Innovative Radical Life Extension, etc., - actually has the gift of eternity, that “God” has only fraudulently offered.

 





If God is Evil, then why is there Good? If God only wanted to watch us suffer, then He could have made the world a lot worse. We can imagine a Hell far worse than this, one without the release of Death. Since this World is still far from the worst Hell we can think of, I believe it is too simplistic to explain its flaws by dismissing God as Evil.

There is suffering whether you believe in God or not. The only difference is that without God our suffering is random and meaningless. For this reason, I find a Godless Universe existentially horrifying. I would rather believe that from an omnisicent, eternal, cosmic, God’s eye point of view, our suffering serves a purpose, even if I don’t know what that purpose is.

If God exists, then there is presumably an afterlife, which means our Universe is not real, per se, and neither is our suffering.

Finally Hank, if you view yourself as a rationalist, I think you should be a little more skeptical about transhumanism. Believing the Singularity will grant you eternal life and bliss is no more likely than an afterlife.





The Jesus myth is interesting in that it actually did a lot to end human sacrifice.

In my mind, Jesus was an adaptation of the dying god myth, Horus, Osiris, Tammuz…and all the rest.

The interesting twist on Jesus, was this idea that he was the last sacrifice. I giggle whenever Christians talk about repentance, and praying, and everything else, because as I see it, the Jesus myth was a way of convincing people to stop blood sacrifice.

Think about it.

Previously, people were making sacrifices. Now, if you just told them to stop, they wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t take you seriously.

So, instead, you have a story, about a person who’s blood is special, more potent, more important, than anyone else’s blood (the Son of God). His very birth marks him as metaphysically purer than anyone else.

Then, you sacrifice him and he delivers a message that his sacrifice is the last sacrifice man ever need make.

People stop blood sacrifices.

Never mind the wonky metaphysics, and the likelihood that the Jesus myth was most probably based upon around a dozen real life people, not a single person as presented in the bible.

They needed a story of ‘special’ blood being spilled, to convince them not to spill blood anymore.

Of course, this has spawned a whole host of other problems, namely people arguing over which denomination of Christianity is holier than thou, and extremely wonky metaphysics over Jesus being a Son of God.

And there’s this little logical problem with his “sacrifice” and being resurrected three days later - that is, if you’re a stickler for literalness, like I am, then it’s obvious that being given back what you gave up within three days isn’t actually much of a sacrifice in the first place is it? It’s more like someone borrowing something.

What really happened in this story, from a literal point of view, is that God “borrowed” Jesus life for three days, then returned it to him. No sacrifice involved.

In any case, I don’t believe in a literal Jesus, not even historically (forget about the squirrelly metaphysics - I don’t even think Jesus’ story is based upon a single human, but more likely is a composite of a dozen or more people).

In any case, I just wanted to point out, that setting aside the logical inconsistencies surrounding Jesus’ actual existence, the story, the parable itself, shows people distancing themselves from blood sacrifice - that is in fact, what the crucifixion was for - the “sins” that Jesus died for were sins that the people would under normal circumstances make sacrifices over.





Hank, here are my thoughts: http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2012/05/becoming-god-can-be-cruel-and.html





Lincoln - I looked at your essay that you posted the link to above, thanks for putting the time into writing it, and I hope other readers will check it out too.

I will limit my response to one of your concluding remarks:

“When radical life extension arrives, what will religion look like in retrospect? It will look like prophecy fulfilled, and evidence that the plan of God is progressing.”

My problem with your observation there is that IMO “the plan of God” as you put it, seems wildly unfair. Where is the justice, the fairness, the logic - in having aeons of people die, often young, and horribly, and then, eventually a lucky generation is granted immortality?

It seems like that theory of yours… is just the best theory one can come up with, if one is adamantly unwilling to consider that the whole notion is just a farce.

Wouldn’t you demand that your “God” be at least as logical and fair, as you are?

Almost all of the middle schoolers in my debate class can easily imagine - if they had the power - creating a natural world that is incredibly more moral, kind, equitable, and sensibly-rewarding than this one is.





Hank, if God exists, God isn’t primarily concerned with being fair. If God exists and is benevolent, God is primarily concerned with developing more Gods.

Instead of asking your middle schoolers to imagine a merely happy (in the trivial sense) world, ask them to imagine a world intended to develop Gods, and make sure they don’t mistake prosthetics of themselves (in their Godlike world-creation-capable state) as Gods. Gods are genuinely compassionate creators in themselves. What kind of world would they create to procreate more world creators?





Hank the weakest argument against God is “I could do better.”  We don’t do better. We make mistakes as human beings, as parents, as lovers/friends etc. While it is easy to imagine a world in which there is no suffering it is much harder to implement it without just turning everyone into puppets. As Lincoln says, we are expected to be more than that. Free will means free will, which means some people will abuse other people. It means that people will build cities in the paths of storms and on flood plains. If we are going to grow up we will need to stop blaming God for our short comings and start learning what we need to learn to graduate kindergarten.





@Hank

Your argument seems to be that the world sucks so if god exists she must be a douchebag, therefore god doesn’t exist.  The conclusion doesn’t follow at all!  God might exist, she is just a cunt.

I mean really even from the most naive “materialist” position it looks increasingly likely that their are entities in existence somewhere of godlike powers.  It is not unreasonable to wonder if some godlike entity played a role in creating our existence. 

It often seems like the most vocal of the atheists just take everything found in mainstream religion and throw it all away.  No heaven, no good god, no devil, no soul, no personally relevant objectively true transcendance.  All of these items are independent; before any one is thrown away it must be analyzed and fully refuted. 

@Armand

God might allow pleasure/desire because it heightens the suffering.  What is better than punching a kid in the face?  Taking away their ice cream then punching them in the face.  It is easy to become inured to suffering, you gotta mix it up a little.
Further, even if their isn’t a god it wouldn’t make all suffering pointless. 





Just read lincoln’s article.  It was a total failure at convincing me that there could be a good god.  There is no clear reason why alien godlike intelligences need be beneficent. 

Lincoln states “If posthumans probably increased faster in destructive than defensive capacity then posthumans probably are more benevolent than us.”.  Does this make any sense, or am I just reading it wrong?


“The strength of this argument persuaded me to change from skeptical to faithful.”


I will entertain the notion that evolved entities can become gods but for fucks sake use better logic.  All lincolns arguments can safely point to is the possibility of an amoral god.  There may be arguments that can salvage the notion a a personally relevant transcendent god but Lincoln doesn’t have them.





Karl, if you’d like more elaboration, please take a look at the New God Argument: http://www.new-god-argument.com





“Thus, as established in the Great Filter Argument, the great silence may imply a great filter. In the vastness of time and space, along evolutionary paths to posthumans, something may be filtering innumerable possibilities to mere improbabilities. If prehumans are improbable then the filter would be in our past. Otherwise, the filter is in our future, and we probably will go extinct before becoming posthumans.” 

This is almost a nonstatement.  Extinction doesn’t just mean wiping yourself out, it can also mean changing to become a new species and while the old species doesn’t reproduce or the species as a whole changes.  This statement can almost be boiled down to, “in the future we will go extinct”, either we speciate or we die some other way. 

The creation argument fails because there is no proof that computation=reality.  Some people think that a simulation of a thing is identical to the thing itself but this isn’t known for sure.  Even accepting that computation=reality the creation argument has so many assumptions that it is imprudent to use it to form any solid opinion on gods nonexistence; it is just too tenuous an argument for my tastes. 

“Present trends are consistent with the possibility that posthumans actually would create many worlds like those in their past.”

No, present trends indicate that we will model certain aspects of reality in some great detail while ignoring most other aspects of it.  There is no trend toward full simulation of past worlds.  The only cases I can think of where we simulate all of a physical system are for engineering shit (jet engines etc).  You can’t really use that as an example of a trend indicating that that posthumans will simulate their past because in your argument the simulation is the end goal, not a step toward creating something real.  When we model jet engines we do it because it is cheaper than building a bunch of shitty real world engines and to try to find faults in the jet engines design.  If our world is both a simulation and real then our suffering is real; what benefit would there be for the posthumans to simulate something like that?  There may be some reason but I can’t think of it.

The benevolence argument also fails.

“Benevolence explains our survival and continuing evolution, given the growing gap between destructive and defensive capacities.”

An alternate explanation is that there has been an increased monopolization of power.  Monopolization of power=/=benevolence, it might lead to less suffering in aggregate but it doesn’t mean good will. 

Last but not least nowhere did I see an argument that was trying to create a god that could be accepted by 99% of the religious.  The god you are portraying doesn’t have the fundamental aspect that religious people crave, personal relationship and contact.  The deeply theistic generally want their prayers heard and answered, your god doesn’t do that. 

On a side note; do you think that mormonism should qualify as a christian religion?  They aren’t monotheistic (they are actually less monotheistic than hinduism!) and the jesus they worship has significant differences from mainstream jesus.





It’s true, I don’t believe an evil God would create the universe.

But I don’t believe in any God - any anthropomorphized being -
who created the universe, good or evil or in-between or indifferent.

What puzzles me, which is why I wrote the article, is that many people believe in a “good God” - when the world is so clearly imperfect.

and this belief in a good God, who supposedly rewards us with heaven etc., is a hindrance to progress, partly because it stymies policies that are perceived to be “evil” - and partly because it makes people lazy and dependent on a deity for future paradise, when our only chance is via our own efforts.

I further assert that this God you believe in, isn’t even intelligent - he is immensely inept, because he can’t even convince about 1 billion of the beings he created that he even exists.  He has no persuasive powers, he never appears, he has no Facebook page, he is totally absent. If he was even as powerful as a teenage human, he’d have more Klout, maybe a webpage or a answering machine.





You have kids, Hank, how often do they do exactly what you want them to do? Even when both you and they know that you know better than they do what is good for them? Of course since you are a caring parent, you don’t lock them up or otherwise remove their own ability to make choices.

This inability to manage our kids effectively starts soon after they are born and continues until death. The only truly effective way to make sure our children never go wrong would be to erase their ability to make decisions and make all their decisions for them, namely by taking away the very thing that makes them human.

God isn’t interested in a collection of mindless puppets. People will decide for themselves, and since they need to decide for themselves it gets messy.

As usual you pick on the peripheral aspects of religion to complain that they are a hindrance to progress. True religion always moves people to be active in this world. It is a good testing ground as to whether a religion is true or not. Religion is not primarily about “heaven” but about compassion and love for others. People who abuse religion are a problem, but then so are people who abuse banking laws and research ethics.

The belief in a good God comes, for me, not primarily from the world, but from the fact that my belief in God makes me a better person. Not out of fear or the promise of consequences, but just because focusing on God creates a mindset that helps me make more compassionate decisions.





Karl, your comment on the semantics of the Great Filter Argument is interesting. It doesn’t refute the argument, but it does tease out an unstated assumption, and an opportunity to improve its articulation as a premise of the New God Argument. Thank you.

You appear not to have fully understood the creation argument. It’s not dependent on a computation mechanism. That’s just one possible mechanism that happens to seem feasible to many Transhumanists.

The narrative around the benevolence argument should be elaborated further to address your criticism explicitly. The links on the side of the website suggest the additional elaboration. Basically, I’ll contend that the communal complexity that enables our increasing destructive capacity is mutually exclusive with monopolies on power, barring scenarios that would qualify as extinction events—something like everyone becoming zombies, for example. Here again, however, your initial criticism on semantics is pertinent. Additional clarity is merited around the intended difference between changing to posthumanity and changing to extinction.

The argument isn’t intended to provide an explanation for the possibility of intimacy with God, but it’s perfectly compatible with such a God. Here are some thoughts on that: http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2008/03/universe-is-neohuman.aspx





Oh, you asked whether Mormonism should be considered Christian. My answer is that it should be considered Christian, but differences between Mormonism and other forms of Christianity should be acknowledged.





Hank, you say it’s puzzling that some believe in a good god when the universe is so clearly imperfect. Is a perfect universe logically and practically possible? If so, what is it?

You say belief in a God that will reward us with heaven is a hindrance to progress because it makes us lazy. That’s true only for persons who believe in a God of the Calvinist sort that will reward them regardless of their behavior. There are other kinds of theists. For example, I share with many Mormons a trust that the only heaven we’ll ever gain is the one we work to make and maintain ourselves, within the context of means and opportunity provided. Of course, we could be wrong: it may be that God does in fact arbitrarily reward persons with heavens, but I don’t like that idea any more than you do, for practical reasons.

You also say that God is not intelligent because an intelligent God would be more successful at persuading us of God’s existence. That depends on the priorities of God. If God exists with power and intelligence approximating that which most theists imagine, clearly God is not primarily concerned with persuading us of God’s existence.





@Pastor Alex—Joern warned me that you would talk about Free Will

I don’t believe in Free Will, seems as silly as the idea of a Soul

we have brains with neurological components that we’re learning more about quickly.  Perhaps Neurophilosophy will take the place of religion.  if one wants to say the Will is the resolute decision arrived at by regions of the neo-cortex, one can do that, but it is simplifying a complex biological process. You could also, for fun, say the Soul is the pineal gland, or some other little neuron cluster, but that - like the Will definition - is just being poetic and folkloric.

If God makes you a better person, that’s nice for you, but not particularly important. Seems like “God” makes other people not nice. I am usually nicer on a full stomach, or after a hot bath. Being good because I ate a good artichoke doesn’t mean I need to worship the artichoke, or ask others to eat them with me.

Excuse me if you think I am flippant, but I think there’s a big gulf in the way religious and irreligious people view the world. A gulf that can be very exasperating.





Hank, I don’t think you’ll actually stand behind a statement you’ve made to Alex when considered more personally. If Alex could demonstrate (a complex request) that the God he worships makes him a better person, I think you’d consider that important. I don’t think you’d therefore think that all God concepts are important, but I can only imagine you’d acknowledge a more nuanced approach to the issue. Tell me I’m wrong.

Moreover, when you eat something you like, I’m confident you invite others to share with you. Tell me I’m wrong.

I think you want the gulf to be wider than it is.





“The Jesus myth is interesting in that it actually did a lot to end human sacrifice.”

@ ipan, this is correct; and transhumanism can do a lot to end the subconscious urge of Christians to sacrifice others- to crucify others. You guys know how Christmas for instance isn’t only the pleasant gobbledygook such as candy canes and Burl Ives singing ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’—there is a dark side to it as well.. as in all faiths.
There’s praise the Lord and pass the ammunition: a Christmas tree was nourished with a bit of blood at its roots.

“Hank the weakest argument against God is ‘I could do better.’  We don’t do better.”

Correct. One reason among many that we don’t do better is religion; now if religious memes were all positive, then I would have no argument with you, Alex- there’d be no need to argue, as we’d have better things to, such as playing harps and flapping our wings. All I want you do, Alex, is admit there is as much negative to religion as positive. That is, you actually, deep down, mean to write we are stuck with religion because most people are DFRs and the ancient memes of religion are the lingua franca we use to communicate with the better angels of their hominid natures. If we can’t really get along with DFRs at least we can talk religious and political gobbledygook to them to smooth things over. There is more to it, but that’s basically it.
C’mon, let’s stop the garbage, it may be necessary fiction given the circumstances which piled up over the eons, yet it is heavy on the fiction, light on the necessary; so please do not make a virtue out of the necessity of it.





Hello, Hank. Enjoyed your article. I’m one of Lincoln Cannon’s Mormon-Transhumanists. I don’t know if Jesus was the son of God, but I think he was a man worthy of reverence and praise, with a message that can and has and will revolutionize the world. I believe God exists because I think it is probable that God exists. That is, it seems as though humans have the potential to become gods, so it stands to reason that some intelligent lifeform somewhere has already accomplished it (and is possibly helping us along). I’m a Mormon-Transhumanist primarily because I like the values that accompany it, such as the Mormon values of love, learning, self-discipline, community, etc (it is worth noting that Mormons reject Original Sin and hold a much more positive view of “The Fall”—Mormonism, I think, is much more humanistic).

Whether God is real or not, I do believe our concepts of him are largely, if not entirely, man-made. However, I think it is amazing that we would even conceive of such a being—the anthropomorthized, immortal, all-powerful deity. We too often view our ancient ancestors with contempt and derision. I think religion is a form of Transhumanism, and in many ways, the beginning of Transhumanism. When we conceived of God, we set the standard. We didn’t create him in our image; we created him to create us in his image, thereby setting ourselves up as the imitation, the imperfect reflection. It’s really quite genius. Religion and Transhumanism have always endeavoured for the same thing…an end to suffering, death, etc. I’m always baffled when people say religion and transhumanism have irreconcilable contradictions. The spirit of transhumanism is the spirit of religion.

As far as God being evil, I think Lincoln’s comment deserves more attention. If you put an organism in an environment that is perfectly conducive to it’s survival, that organism will not adapt or “grow” over generations—it will have no need to. We cannot argue that God is cruel or that he failed if we don’t understand his purposes. If he wanted to cultivate beings that would become like him, then this world of “bitter” and “sweet” makes a lot more sense.





Hank is referring to the Problem of Evil: a good and omnipotent God would not permit evil, so since evil exists, (a good and omnipotent) God cannot exist.

Two answers: One, we should resist the temptation to anthropomorphize evil. We find the sight of a wolf eating a rabbit disturbing, but eating rabbits is what wolves do. Any empty ecological niche is always filled by evolution, and wolves just happened to fill that particular niche of rabbit-eaters.

Two, “omnipotent” is a concept that needs to be defined and limited. No God can ever draw a triangle with four sides, because a triangle with four sides cannot exist by definition. I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I can believe in natural Gods, and I can believe that natural Gods created our reality. A natural God is only omnipotent in the sense that he is much more powerful than us, but still has necessary limitations.

It makes sense to assume that the universe is the fastest computer that can compute itself. In other words, a 100% complete and accurate prediction of tomorrow’s weather cannot be done in less than 24 hours, and the only way to predict the future with complete accuracy is waiting for the future to happen. This assumption makes sense because the existence of a faster-than-the-universe computer would lead to logical contradictions.

This “solves” the Problem of Evil, because God is unable to predict with complete accuracy that certain events would lead to, say, Auschwitz, and can only work with incomplete resources and information, like us.





“we should resist the temptation to anthropomorphize evil. We find the sight of a wolf eating a rabbit disturbing, but eating rabbits is what wolves do. Any empty ecological niche is always filled by evolution, and wolves just happened to fill that particular niche of rabbit-eaters… [T]his ‘solves’ the Problem of Evil, because God is unable to predict with complete accuracy that certain events would lead to, say, Auschwitz, and can only work with incomplete resources and information, like us.”

Right. This brings to mind Dawkins’ simple yet relevant question (not merely rhetorical, btw):

“who is to say Hitler was wrong?”

In the uncivilised world of animal passions, military industrial complexes, national interests, etc., who canprove Hitler absolutely wrong for 1933- ‘45?
Stalin 1929- 1953? Did Pol Pot have a purpose in the cosmic ‘scheme’ of things 1975- ‘79?





Giulio writes:

“Two, “omnipotent” is a concept that needs to be defined and limited. No God can ever draw a triangle with four sides, because a triangle with four sides cannot exist by definition. I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I can believe in natural Gods, and I can believe that natural Gods created our reality. A natural God is only omnipotent in the sense that he is much more powerful than us, but still has necessary limitations.”

I like the approach Cantor and Godel use to find God. Set theories.

In as much as any kind of boundary or definition can be drawn around Goddess, we can only say that there is a one to one mapping between Goddess and point like singularities.

They share all the same attributes and properties, such as being infinite, existing “outside” of (or beyond, or before/after, etc.) both time and space. They represent whatever lies beyond the very boundaries of existence. Etc.

In other words, if we really want a definition of God, we need look no further than the definitions we receive from cosmology, from physics, from mathematics, concerning infinite sets and point like singularities. The study of these disciplines IS the study of God, and like you say, I can believe in natural Gods,

and that God is The Set of All Possible Sets that Contains Itself.

A Perfect Circle is also an Oroboros. A Circle is an infinite set. The beginning and the end, the Correspondence Point, where all points become One point.

The infinite.

The Singular.

A point.

Without beginning or end. Eternal, unchanging, undifferentiated. Without time or space.

God sounds like a boring place, which is probably why she gave birth to this virtual universe, because She needed a good laugh - the universe is the ultimate absurdity - a Cosmic Giggle.





@Intomorrow
“Right. This brings to mind Dawkins’ simple yet relevant question (not merely rhetorical, btw):“who is to say Hitler was wrong?””

Exactly. And this is why I always stress that a religious dimension is essential when it comes to ethics. Once you consistently and carefully removed religious principles from your moral judgment, everything is possible - even the most abominable actions. And this is bad, very bad. Many thinkers make a huge mistake by asking reasons, justifications of ethical principles. Ethical principles have nothing to do with axioms of physical theories. You cannot refute someone’s morals. It would be just as idiotic as saying that modern physics is evil. Morals determine the kind of society you are going to live and raise your children in. Morals define our life form, in connection with other humans.

Simon Baron Cohen, in his book about evil and empathy, shows various examples of horrific, merciless human behavior. He reports, for example, the story of a mother who had to slam repeatedly her toddler against a wall, at gunpoint. A group of rebels, led by a young woman, apparently forced several civilians to kill their children like that. Now, if someone needs REASONS to understand why smashing the head of a screaming infant against a wall is something bad - probably me and that someone have very, very different Lebensformen. What kind of explanation would be persuasive enough, or even vaguely pertinent?

Our suspension of moral judgment implies nothing but our approval of cruel, primitive social organization, violent policies, and oppressive political structures. So, we should be very careful before saying - well, religious doctrines are inconsistent, absurd, unscientific, so we should just get rid of them.

@Hank

The existence of evil does not imply that the creator of everything is also evil. The only conclusion that a theologian can draw from the existence of evil is that God is either weak (i.e. God’s omnipotence has certain limits, and God has to deal with something external to himself), or dispassionate (i.e. human misery is something unimportant, and does not bother him much).

Also, Hank, have you ever considered the religious backgrounds of transhumanism? It occupies the same logical space of traditional religions. Traditional religions see it as a dangerous concurrent. Transhumanism is a religion. It might even work as a replacement of old religions.
For example, why do we think is a good think to extend lifespan indefinitely for all humans? Why not only certain individuals, the smartest, or the richest ones? - and, most importantly, why our own death is something to be avoided at all? We are talking about salvation (i.e. preservation) here, the salvation of one or more individual bodies. Who said such salvation is something worth pursuing? These are religious questions. Not scientific ones.





@ Lincoln - I’m sorry, but IMO, you are wrong, 3 times.

1. I don’t think think “belief in God making Alex a better person” is important. You’ve re-phrased the original statement to say “the God that Alex worships makes him a better person” - I cannot even begin to comment on that because I don’t believe the God that Alex worships exists.

I can say many things make me a better person, but those things, those fetishes, are specific to me and not useful to anyone else. Alex’s “God” and it’s power to improve him is no more important to me, or general humanity, than his kitty-cat, or his special diet, or his exercise plan. They might make Alex a better person, but they’re useless to me, since I have my own bag of things that make me a better person. For example, I believe Atheism makes me a better person, and I heartily recommend Atheism to Alex. Now we’re at a stalemate, aren’t we?

2. Ditto for the artichokes. I love artichokes, especially with mayonnaise, and I love their hearts best of all. But I do not expect all people to eat them happily, not even my children. I understand that my taste buds like artichokes, but not everyone else’s taste buds do.

3. I do not like the wide religious gulf between people. In fact, it is quite painful. I am from a family that is wildly different in religious viewpoints; its caused considerable estrangement, sorrow and alienation for me. Its a deep gulf between me and my very-religious parents, and several of my very-religious siblings. Its been depressing having parents and siblings pray for me for years because they regard me as headed for hell. Its been enraging and sad to watch family members cast out because they are gay or did other “non-religious” activities.  I get no joy at all from this wide gulf, i.e., deep unresolvable chasm, that I’ve observed all my life.

It is a chasm that I don’t connect across, and I generally see religious discussions as 100% fruitless. I wrote the essay above because I watched (allowed) Alex and you to post many many H+Religious essays, and I believed it was time an atheist viewpoint was expressed.





@Hank re ” I do not like the wide religious gulf between people. In fact, it is quite painful. I am from a family that is wildly different in religious viewpoints; its caused considerable estrangement, sorrow and alienation for me… I get no joy at all from this wide gulf, i.e., deep unresolvable chasm, that I’ve observed all my life.”

Then become a believer.

Sorry, but you have no right to demand that others become different from what they are to be less different from you.





Hank wrote: “What puzzles me, which is why I wrote the article, is that many people believe in a “good God” - when the world is so clearly imperfect.”

It’s not so difficult to understand, Hank. It’s called “wishful thinking”.

And it’s not entirely bad thing, either. As I’ve written previously, we need our beliefs to do more than just provide an accurate worldview: we also need them to motivate us, or as Lincoln would put it, “to invoke the strenuous mood”.

I don’t really have a problem believing in a good God. Where I see a problem is in believing in a good God that is also an all-powerful creator. This is where traditional Christianity fails. As Alex says, the concept of original sin was developed to deal with this “problem of evil”, but it succeeds mostly in providing us with a depressing and self-defeating guilt-trip.

Lincoln’s idea of “becoming God” does better in my view. My only problem - and this is a comment addressed mainly to Lincoln - is that while he understandably has approached this from the starting-point of his Mormon upbringing, it seems to me that he could do more to detach his progressive and possibly quite helpful version of theism from this Mormon starting-point. I think it would help make it more accessible for the rest of us?





To clarify my position further: the reason I do not share Hank’s strong commitment to atheism is that I have not yet given up on the word “God” taking on a meaning that is actually helpful. I agree (with Hank) that the fact that believing in God appears to make some people better than they otherwise would be is not a sufficient argument, but as an embodiment and personification of our hopes and dreams of the future, even one that we freely admit (as Karen Armstrong does, for example) is the work of our creative imagination, and not vice versa, it seems to me that a concept of God can play a useful role.

Perhaps this kind of thinking can help to narrow the gulf?





@Peter re “while [Lincoln] understandably has approached this from the starting-point of his Mormon upbringing, it seems to me that he could do more to detach his progressive and possibly quite helpful version of theism from this Mormon starting-point. I think it would help make it more accessible for the rest of us?”

There is a Christian Transhumanist Association on Facebook, but it has only 13 members. It would be very interesting to see whether the Mormon Transhumanist experience can be replicated in other Christian denomination, or other religions. Islamic Transhumanist Association anyone? (I am not joking)





IMO, it is a waste of time -
1. being religious
2. trying to talk people out of being religious
I suggest we do something more productive, for example, wander over to Joern Pallensen’s new article on Hate Speech / Free Speech
and debate that topic, where our opinions are perhaps not so rigid.





“What puzzles me, which is why I wrote the article, is that many people believe in a “good God” - when the world is so clearly imperfect.”

I just don’t understand why this age-old argument carries any weight whatsoever. If Lincoln is right, i.e., “If God exists and is benevolent, God is primarily concerned with developing more Gods”, then it completely dismantles this argument.

How else are you going to make an organism grow and adapt and evolve if you place him in an environment devoid of joy or suffering? Why does everyone assume its God’s job to make us comfortable and happy? If there is a God, I don’t think he’s interested in eliminating suffering on our behalf (and that doesn’t mean he’s a dispassionate God either); I think he’s interested in teaching us how to eliminate suffering using the best teacher of all: Experience.





Akewelder?—

what possible, self-invented definition of “benevolent” are you referring to?

be·nev·o·lent: Well meaning and kindly

“God” is by no stretch of my imagination “benevolent” - there are thousands of ways to suffer on Earth that a “kindly” deity would never choose to inflict.

I regard your sentence:
“If God exists and is benevolent, God is primarily concerned with developing more Gods”

as absolutely ludicrous.

OK, Hope to see you on another thread





“I suggest we do something more productive, for example, wander over to Joern Pallensen’s new article on Hate Speech / Free Speech”

Well.. I very rarely disagree with Hank.. wink

Apart from that, I think it is possible to find some middle-ground. In my article, “Did the Universe evolve…to become aware of itself”, I described myself as “an atheist with scruples”, meaning: I find the belief in “God”, “Allah”, etc. to be bordering on the idiotic, but on the other hand, I find the notion of a meaningless, accidental Universe.. well.. ABSURD. In other words: It is the very (existentialist) notion of absurdism itself I find the most absurd:
My personal reconciliation of these two statements is the hypothesis, that the Universe itself is inherently meaningfull and that life / consciousness was destined to “happen”. I beleive in evolution, and I “believe” in Transhumanism.

The problem of evil.. - sorry folks, can’t answer that in a few sentences.. (read: can’t answer it at all )





Lincoln ably addressed the issues of theism and transhumanism, but I wanted to specifically deal with some of the issues about violence in the Hebrew bible.

http://micahredding.com/blog/2012/05/02/cruel-god-hebrew-bible

Essentially, I point out that the text is cleverly and narratively showing us violence in order to get us to reject it. Like all great literature.





What is puzzling is how Alexander of Macedonia is considered exciting, though by today’s standards he was a monster and not ‘Great’. Charlemagne, Peter the ‘Great’, for instance, were brutal by today’s lights: are we to take it that retrospectively evil is permissible because in the distant past they weren’t as enlightened as we 21st century-types with our modern military forces and WMDs? or is it because the evil of Alexander, say, can be viewed from a safe distance of thousands of years whereas the evil of for example the 1930s- ‘40s is less tolerable being it is closer in time to us and thus challenges our notion of what ‘civilization’ is?
Do we secretly think the means justify the ends yet cannot say so publicly? is the genocide perpetrated against Native Americans justifiable to us Americans because they were primitives living in tipis, while our ancestors were capable of transforming North America into a modern region in a few hundred years? Do we secretly think might does make right in changing the world?





... how elastic are the value judgments called ‘good’ and ‘evil’? can we write we consider evil committed in the present to be wrong, however evil in the past—the more distant the past, the better—is justifiable because such evil was instigated by our ancestors, not us? do we think though the ends don’t justify the means in the present tense, the means justify the ends in the past- as the past is a done deal and we cannot return to the status quo ante, therefor the evil of the past is retroactively justifiable?
Is for instance the genocide against Native Americans justifiable by saying God was on our side in building a new, technologically promising ‘civilization’ in the Western Hemisphere during the relatively short period of a couple of centuries? that, say, the indigenous ‘savages’ weren’t doing much with North America, so we Americans have no need to harbor any guilt for what our progenitors did way back when in remote service for building towards today’s progress?

Or is it more justifiable to write in the Darwinist sense we had to make great mistakes, perhaps every mistake, and do what might be called evil (negative) in evolving to where, to what, to who we are now?





Peter, you mentioned: “[Lincoln] could do more to detach his progressive and possibly quite helpful version of theism from this Mormon starting-point. I think it would help make it more accessible for the rest of us?”

I’m irredeemably Mormon, but I do aspire to expressing these ideas in more universally accessible language. I’ll keep working on it. Thanks for the encouragement.





Whether “being religious” is a waste of time or not depends on what you mean by “being religious” (on which subject I still recommend the Wiktionary definition) and also on what you want. For myself I tend to regard it as worse than just a waste of time, but I don’t believe it is for everyone. For some it is probably very helplful.

Does that mean it is a waste of time to try to talk people out of being religious? Not necessarily. It depends on who, why, and how.

It depends on who: we shouldn’t try to talk people out of religion if it is helpi them and not obviously harming others.

It depends on why: if we do it we should do it out of concern for the common good, not in order to feel more comfortable with our own rejection of religion.

It depends on how: we must, obviously do so respectfully. Curiosity is key: if we can understand why people are religious, then we should be able to figure out how to talk them out of it.

What might be better, of course, is to try to talk them into being religious in a better way (where this seems necessary).





“For myself I tend to regard it as worse than just a waste of time, but I don’t believe it is for everyone. For some it is probably very helplful.”


In other words, there are a great number of foolish people in the world, and a great number of them need foolish religion.
Without foolishness, fools cannot continue on in their foolish ways smile





...but, houses of worship are better than the outside world,
because a yahoo is better off praying and singing than getting into trouble on the outside or say starting a thermonuclear war or something—you know, the fun stuff.





Biotechnology harnessed to the exponential growth in computer power means that later this century we’ll be able to micro-manage every cubic metre of the planet. With God-like power comes God-like complicity. Maybe we’ll be callous. We might decide to conserve starvation, predation, parasitism, asphyxiation, disemboweling, eating sentient beings alive, and all the other cruelties of traditional Darwinian life. After all, they are “natural”. Or maybe instead we’ll be benevolent gods and phase out the biology of suffering altogether. Ethically, I think the latter option is preferable.





Aye to the second option.
BTW,
I’d have nothing against religion, even the scriptural legacy of a cruel God; however that living Christians, for instance (not to single out Christianity) subconsciously want to crucify others is what makes it unacceptable.
Optimism is one thing, gullibility is another.





</b> Let’s see first if we can get rid of the boldface.





Can somebody please do something to eliminate the boldface.

@Intomorrow re “living Christians, for instance (not to single out Christianity) subconsciously want to crucify others”

Is this statement supported by some kind of evidence, or is it just hate speech?





No, once the boldface is posted, nothing can be done.. it’s similar to Hell- once you go there you can’t return home; it is a one-way ticket.
“Hell” alone is evidence pointing out the violence in religion is not hate speech. And you cannot get it that The crucifixion, taking the sins of humanity and placing its burden on Christ, is an integral part of Christianity and the legacy is a legacy of violence that boiled in the 17th century, and still simmers today. You think it is like Easter, all chocolate rabbits and Easter eggs?
Besides, you stop hating bureaucrats, okay? there are as many control-freak businessmen.





For those who believe we should be one in Christ, placing a burden on Christ is placing a burden on a compassionate community. Also, some of us consider hell to be a self-imposed probably-temporary state-of-being, whether experienced now or at any time in the future. Heaven and hell are conditions we make for ourselves and each other.





@Intomorrow, you don’t need to persuade me that Christianity has initiated violence (like _every other_ political entity in history), or that many businessmen are control freaks, because I am already persuaded of both things.

Hell is, in my opinion, a myth that religions could and should do without. Similarly, the actual, physical hell of the gulags where atheist regimes used (and still use) to send non-compliant believers, is a reality that our world should do without.





There’s a lot of talk here about good versus evil, benevolence versus suffering, which is understandable. My own focus, however, would be more on meaning, and since I feel, intuitively, that the Universe is intrinsically meaningfull, you could call me a “religious” atheist, if that makes sense to anyone..

I don’t have all that much “evidence” in support of this intuition, as it comes down to, basically, what I have called “the absurdity of absurdism itself”, but apart from that, I find it VERY encouraging that the great scientist Kristof Koch has the same intuition. Koch, together with DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick,  famously and emphatically declared: “You are nothing but a packe of neurons” !

So Koch is obviously one of these arrogant, hard-nosed physicalists /reductionists, - right ?  - Well, yes and no.. and this is what I find so interesting, and what gives me reason to think a reconciliation of religion and.. atheism / physicalism is possible. The keyword is MEANING, and a view of consciousness per se as more than just an (accidental), emergent property, and this brilliant, hardnosed neuroscientist actually “believes” in both: Apart from life being meaningfull, Koch says that consciousness,  like an electron’s charge, “is something inherent in the fabric of reality that gives shape, structure and meaning to the world”. It is “not an emergent feature of the universe, but a fundamental property.

“Religulous” ? - Perhaps, perhaps not, and keep in mind that it is one of this world’s leading neuroscientists who ponders these questions. I advice everyone, whether you are “religulous” or atheist /physicalist,  to get a copy of his new book: Confessions of a romantic reductionist :
http://www.amazon.com/Consciousness-Confessions-Reductionist-Christof-Koch/dp/0262017490





And for you - David Pearce:

I just read this interview with Cristof Koch :

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2012/04/02/christof-koch-on-free-will-the-singularity-and-the-quest-to-crack-consciousness/

- in which he says:  “I have stopped eating the flesh of mammals and birds, as they too share the wonders of experience with us”.

Koch, asked whether he too has become part of “the Singularity Cult”, - says: Certainly NOT… - Well, - perhaps he is just a little conservative after all… smile





“Hell is, in my opinion, a myth that religions could and should do without.”


Giulio, you’ve convinced me- if any convincing was needed. Now you would have to convince the billion or so (probably more) who do believe in Hell. Hank’s piece is on a ‘cruel God’, and Hell is a part of that legacy of cruelty, as well as crucifixion. What Lincoln writes,
“For those who believe we should be one in Christ, placing a burden on Christ is placing a burden on a compassionate community. Also, some of us consider hell to be a self-imposed probably-temporary state-of-being, whether experienced now or at any time in the future. Heaven and hell are conditions we make for ourselves and each other”, sounds attractive, but though Lincoln is sincere, I know for a fact the majority of houses of worship are not as sincere—and what evidence can I offer? what sort of questions could be framed in a survey?:
“Reverend Smith-Jones, are you using your faith in frightening your congregation to cough up funds?”
Such queries wont be answered forthrightly.. and without direct answers a survey cannot be completed. But I do know from five decades of observing houses of worship they are as everyone else: they only really care about their own families and getting other families to fork over money, zero sum gain-style. Religion is a many splendored thing, including funds transfer from one pocket to another. Similar in some way to how foreign aid is transfering funds from the poor/middle class in wealthy nations to rich kleptocrats in poor nations.
Don’t know what the situation is in Europe yet can tell you that in America there exist penniless Christians and there are Christians who live very high off the hog—they are sobbing about Jesus all the way to the bank and I am determined to no longer be intimidated by their fancy public relations apparati. People submerged in sewage up to their nostrils exclaiming, “don’t make a wave!”
Which seques into that which is for public consumption: to maintain optimism, we cannot present the facts too baldly.. we have to say things such as you will live forever on Mars. I know all about that jive because I was around in the ‘60s and witnessed the genesis of the futuro- hype:
“drink Tang like the astronauts and enter a contest by sending four Tang proof of purchase codes to PO box 123 in Hollywood California and you might win a trip to Mission Control in Houston, Texas!...”
Now today much hype concerns ‘nutritional supplements’ which are guaranteed to make one lose weight- from one’s wallet or pocketbook. This is relatable to hype in religion:
“if you deposit $25 in the Deacon’s Envelope we can send a cleric to the Holy Land to discuss his latest pro-life fund drive with another cleric in Jerusalem!...”
Hype hype hype.
Libertarianism is hype as well:
“we hate the state so much we want the state to give our well-heeled grandparents thousands a month—good thing we hate the state so much or the situation would be even worse!...”
Giulio, you are no fool, you know very well libertarianism is mostly for public consumption, don’t you? it is ironically based on Marx’s pop-clairvoyance of “the state will wither away”.. when the state has no intention of [i[ever withering away. Where has the state ever ‘withered away’? in Africa when governments dissolved and tribal warfare/genocide ensued? States in Europe do not wither away, do they? Today America has as large a state as any in Europe but Americans cling to three decade old Reagan mythology and his “government is the enemy”—the same government which send checks to their grandparents so they can purchase an extra car or another voyage on a first class ship. I’m not complaining, because it is all a game, a game of chicken- to see who can be tricked the most before giving up on trying to outmaneuver the opposition. It’s like that in business, so why shouldn’t it be so in politics? ‘Public relations’ means to con suckers who take the bait on the hooks; the general sentiment is if they allow themselves to be snookered more than once, shame on them. So I’ll play along with the game. Now, there’s no respect involved in such con games, but one cannot complain without being considered bolshie and ungrateful.
To return to the topic (you never thought it would happen), religion, naturally, is part of this, an integral part- and I accept religion’s role in the game as well because religion is more pleasant than politics and economics—
politics and economics being brawling and largely unappetizing if not ugly and disheartening.
Will write it over and again: optimism, Da; gullibility, Nyet. If someone needs to be conned into being gullible, let it be someone else, not me.





@Intomorrow, like you I was around in the 60s. I don’t remember everything (I was a child and in Europe), but I could get some of the 60 atmosphere. In particular, I remember the wild optimism of the 60s, which I believe we should recover as fast as we can.

Yes - “to maintain optimism, we cannot present the facts too baldly.. we have to say things such as you will live forever on Mars.” You say it very well. We also have to say that we will get to Mars _soon_, and that research on immortality is advancing fast.

Perhaps the space engineers know that we won’t get to Mars very soon because there are some problems to solve first, and the biological engineers know that we won’t be immortal very soon because there are some problems to solve first. But some over-confident white lies are needed to stimulate optimism and hope, and to motivate the younger engineers who _will solve_ the current problems.

Back to the topic, I think religion can play a role too. A good religion, that is.





Good religion? a hard one to figure; the more I examine things, the more multi-dimensional everything appears—“gnarly” in the vernacular.
Perhaps religion’s function isn’t so much about goodness—virtue—than it is something else.. something indefinable. Say, one of religion’s salient functions might be to get a man to stay with his wife and children and live a more orderly life- however orderly a life a man can lead and still be a man. By staying with his wife and children, a man can be tamed so he will get up early every weekday morning, work his 40 hours, take care of his family, and place money in the collection plate on Sunday morning smile
Religion’s main function may very well be to promote routines in and out of a house of worship: the secular routines I touched upon above plus the more pleasant routines inside a house of worship.. the hymns, prayers, sermons, etc. As the medium according to McLuhan’s dictum is the message, the routine inside a house of worship (and of course private worship at home) may be the overarching purpose. Could be the religion itself is secondary, while the routines are primary. As mentioned before, the more a man is enmeshed in the routines of religion, the more time he devotes to surrender; the less time he has to think about or commit jaywalking, hubcap stealing, removing the ‘Do Not Remove Under Penalty Of Law’ tags from mattresses, the impregnation of debutantes, and the commission of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.





One has to understand God through the same approach as Saint Cantor, Godel, and Spinoza

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Cantor#Philosophy.2C_religion_and_Cantor.27s_mathematics

Philosophy, religion and Cantor’s mathematics

The concept of the existence of an actual infinity was an important shared concern within the realms of mathematics, philosophy and religion. Preserving the orthodoxy of the relationship between God and mathematics, although not in the same form as held by his critics, was long a concern of Cantor’s.[52] He directly addressed this intersection between these disciplines in the introduction to his Grundlagen einer allgemeinen Mannigfaltigkeitslehre, where he stressed the connection between his view of the infinite and the philosophical one.[53] To Cantor, his mathematical views were intrinsically linked to their philosophical and theological implications—he identified the Absolute Infinite with God,[54] and he considered his work on transfinite numbers to have been directly communicated to him by God, who had chosen Cantor to reveal them to the world.





But it always comes back IMO to whose God? one can say “Praise Jesus”, or “Hail Satan”.. and it’s much the same (though I wouldn’t admit this to a committed religious person). More and more it appears as mix ‘n’ match religiosity; rather than truly ‘meaningful’—as one might perceive a work of what one considers art—mix ‘n’ match religiosity can sometimes, frequently, be the opposite of what it presents itself to be:
it can be random, arbitrary and capricious—any faith, anywhere can be such, at any time.





... alright, you want to stay on-topic:
  in ancient times God—and surely Hank has touched on this at one time or another—had to be violent as a reflection of the world. Today religion and Darwinism have been syncretised, though the rough edges have been dulled to some degree, depending on where, why shouldn’t God be violent in a third world locale - violence is only the norm at a primitive site.

Don’t want to damn religion with faint praise yet feel obliged to, as delusive memes have to be rigorously avoided.. esp. by susceptible persons. I appreciate religion/spirituality more than, say, pastor Alex might have gotten the impression, however it might not be a positive; Alex appears to be quite well balanced, whereas I ought to be less spiritual and more secular. There was more than enough spirituality 45 years ago. Alex grew up at a later date and wasn’t exposed to the spaciness of the era. The Third Eye, shakras, reincarnation, astral planes, Maharishi, the ‘Jesus Freak’ revival of the early ‘70s, etc; in some ways people are more realistic today albeit more cynical.
It’s being between skepticism/cynicism on one hand, and on the other going out to lunch on spirituality. Walking a tightrope. GIGO.

If one can live in an ashram all one’s life, or in a pleasant intentional community, spiritual life then is a reality- but in the outside world you’ve got to be on guard, otherwise one eventually is a tender bunny rabbit surrounded by hungry carnivores (often in sheep’s clothing). You show me someone who isn’t on guard and I’ll show you someone who ought to be declared a saint.
Recalling the old days (eyes misting over), Don Juan, the protagonist of Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” said prosaically “a man must be deliberate in all thing”, which includes spirituality/religion, naturally. None of you at IEET would allow yourselves to be taken in by any guru, priest, teacher (e.g. Castaneda with or without his Don Juan). You would want to be deliberate in all things, save for occasional, unavoidable lapses—we can’t be Spock the dispassionate Vulcan every minute.                                         





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