The following video points out how moral absolutism can only exist in an advanced civilization. That makes sense to me. It reminds me of Karen Armstrong’s view that fundamentalism is a direct response to modernism.
This video is an atheist explaining how he lost his faith. It’s long, but I found it worth watching. The guy is very respectful of Christianity and he is far from being dismissive of his past faith.
His example reminds me of Robert M. Price who also began studying with the hope of strengthening his faith. The risk of apologetics is that it uses the methods of the enemy (logic, argument, questions, doubts, intellect, etc). There is a real danger to opening yourself up to any and all doubts and following questions to whatever answers they may lead. This is true for any person, whether religious or not. Intellectual inquiry isn’t for the contented. Questions aren’t for those who wish to remain in comforting certainties.
Source of Bible Covenant with God discovered?
By D.M. Murdock
Archaeologists working in Turkey have unearthed an Assyrian tablet dating to around 670 BCE that “could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.” [...]
Canadian archeologists in Turkey have unearthed an ancient treaty that could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.
The tablet, dating to about 670 BC, is a treaty between the powerful Assyrian king and his weaker vassal states, written in a highly formulaic language very similar in form and style to the story of Abraham’s covenant with God in the Hebrew Bible, says University of Toronto archeologist Timothy Harrison.
Although biblical scholarship differs, it is widely accepted that the Hebrew Bible was being assembled around the same time as this treaty, the seventh century BC.
“Those documents…seem to reflect very closely the formulaic structure of these treaty documents,” he told about 50 guests at the Ottawa residence of the Turkish ambassador, Rafet Akgunay.
He was not necessarily saying the Hebrews copied the Assyrian text, substituting their own story about how God liberated them from slavery in Egypt on the condition that they worship only Him and follow His commandments.
But it will be interesting for scholars to have this parallel document.
“The language in the [Assyrian] texts is [very similar] and now we have a treaty document just a few miles up the road from Jerusalem.”…
[...] Although the article states that the archaeologist Timothy Harrison “was not necessarily saying the Hebrews copied the Assyrian text, substituting their own story about how God liberated them from slavery in Egypt,” it is nonetheless raising that very issue in a manner which breaks with the centuries-old tradition of bending all finds in the “Holy Land” and other places of biblical interest to fit the Bible, in attempts to prove the “Good Book” as “history.” It is obvious that this sort of bibliolatry appeasement from the more scientific segment of society is losing ground precisely because of such discoveries – and the implication of this one is a doozy.
In a recent forum debate, a poster suggested I wouldn’t look at science that didn’t agree with my position – that I displayed confirmation bias. I have a standard response to this, which is that I’ll look at anything that isn’t junk science. If it’s credible science, why would I not study it?
The poster who challenged me did so on the basis of how he sees things. To him, this is a debate to win, and because he thinks that’s what I’m here to do, that I have an agenda, it seems obvious to him I’m going to select only that science which supports it (and I have to add that in all likelihood, that’s what he’s doing). This assumption is made because the denialists do have an agenda, and it is largely political. They attack the science, because for them, climate change science is a proxy for socialism, or a token of some movement towards a ‘world government’ that is essentially socialist in nature.
They oppose this, and because the basis for climate change is scientific, they end up attacking the science because they take it as a tool of ideologues. In making this unfortunate conflation, they also project the same motives and concerns on people like me, because if their agenda is to oppose the left, in their eyes I must be another lefty ideologue opposing the right, supporting climate change as a means to my own ideological ends.
As Galileo might have said, “Still the planet warms.”
A committee of England’s Parliament released its report on Hadley Climate Research Unit’s (CRU) stolen e-mails earlier today. The reports you heard that the scientific case showing global warming with human causation had died, were exaggerated, significantly in error, and hoaxes themselves.
The report comes from the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee. Press release with links and previous releases from the Committee, below:
The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia
[...] The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.
On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.
Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.
The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. [...]
As I’ve been digging deeper into the data I’ve gathered on 210 million public Facebook profiles, I’ve been fascinated by some of the patterns that have emerged. My latest visualization shows the information by location, with connections drawn between places that share friends. For example, a lot of people in LA have friends in San Francisco, so there’s a line between them.
Looking at the network of US cities, it’s been remarkable to see how groups of them form clusters, with strong connections locally but few contacts outside the cluster.
I recently read a fantastic but dense essay by David Foster Wallace drawing connections between fictional literature and television, emphasizing the commonalities between the genres’ narrative structures. The essay was written in the early 90s but is oddly premonitory, particularly with reference to reality shows and on-demand programming. He frequently cites the increasingly self-referential nature of television programs (and fiction), and it piqued my interest in postmodernist television narratives. So I wanted to think and write a bit about how postmodernist comedy writing on several contemporary TV shows shares many elements with the Millennial Generation’s defining traits. This isn’t really a new revelation, but it’s one worth exploring in more depth – it may help us supply Millennial qualities with some context.
So, first, a few key factors of literary postmodernism that I will consider, as described in Literary Theory:
- a tendency toward reflexivity, or self-consciousness, about the production of the work of art, so that each piece calls attention to its own status as a production, as something constructed and consumed in particular ways.
- an emphasis on fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives, and random-seeming collages of different materials, and, contrary to modernism, celebrates the ensuing incoherence and nonsense.
They have not generally gotten involved with candidates or issues because “Millennials perceive politics as a polarized debate with no options for compromise or nuance,” in the words of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. They don’t want to be limited by political party affiliation. They care about issues important to their “community” and will work with anyone who can get something done.
But they are impatient. That is why so many seemed to drift away from President Barack Obama as the healthcare debate dragged on and partisanship in Washington got out of hand. For nearly a year and a half their parents’ and grandparents’ generations argued over what — to many — seemed like petty details. They tuned out not because they didn’t care but because they were bored.
Now that there actually is a healthcare bill, it will be fascinating to see if they are willing to re-engage. The Obama campaign showed how to communicate with and motivate this generation in 2008. Re-engaging them will be crucial to the president’s reelection and, arguably, to Democrats’ congressional future. There are 44 million Millennials eligible to vote, which is about 20 percent of the electorate. Most of them are independents — at least in their voting patterns. Recent polls show independents drifting away from the Republican Party as a result of the angry debate in Washington.
[...] The core finding of Pew’s “Religion Among the Millennials” report is that young Americans are “less religiously affiliated” than their elders. In fact, one in four of Americans ages 18 to 29 do not affiliate with any particular religious group. This is not entirely unexpected, since it is a sociological truism that young people cultivate some distance from the religious institutions of their parents, only to return to those institutions as they marry, raise children and slouch toward retirement. According to Pew, however, “Millennials are significantly more unaffiliated than members of Generation X were at a comparable point in their life cycle … and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults.”
This is an important finding because it provides strong evidence for the loosening of religion’s grip on American life. Or does it?
[...] This liberal turn will not necessarily convert young people into Democrats, however, because “Democrat,” too, is a brand most Millennials are unwilling to call their own. Even so, the new data do lay bare the so-called new conservatism of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party not as the next new thing but as the last paroxysm of a spent revolution.
Both the Tea Party activists and their beloved Palin are as white as Alaskan snow, but the American population is increasingly brown; 19% of Millennials are Hispanic and 14% are black. No religious or political movement propelled by white rage (or for that matter by the fury of retirees) will have legs in the America this new generation is making.
One of the big stories of the past few decades in American religion has been the decline of the mainline denominations at the expense of evangelical megachurches. One of the big stories of the next few decades in American politics could be the decline of the major political parties at the expense of grassroots (and “cyberroots”) initiatives. As Boomers yield power to Millennials, the political movements that succeed will look less like the Southern Baptist Convention and more like your local non-denominational church. They will be browner, more comfortable with rapid change, higher tech, more upbeat and unworried by tattoos.
The term “culture wars” dates back to a 1991 book by academic James Davison Hunter who argued that cultural issues touching on family and religious values, feminism, gay rights, race, guns, and abortion had redefined American politics. Going forward, bitter conflicts around these issues would be the fulcrum of politics in a polarized nation, he theorized.
It did look like he might have a point for a while. Conservatives especially seemed happy to take a culture wars approach, reasoning that political debate around these issues would both mobilize their base and make it more difficult for progressives to benefit from their edge on domestic policy issues such as the economy and health care. This approach played an important role in conservative gains during the early part of the Clinton administration and in the impeachment drama of the late 1990s, which undercut progressive legislative strategies. And the culture wars certainly contributed to conservative George W. Bush’s presidential victories in 2000 and 2004.
Yet these issues have lately been conspicuous by their absence. Looking back on Barack Obama’s historic victory in 2008, culture wars issues not only had a very low profile in the campaign, but where conservatives did attempt to raise them, these issues did them little good. Indeed, conservatives were probably more hurt than helped by such attempts— witness the effect of the Sarah Palin nomination.
Attempts to revive the culture wars have been similarly unsuccessful since the election. Sarah Palin’s bizarre trajectory, culminating in her surprise resignation from the Alaska governorship, has only made culture war politics appear even more out of touch. And culture warriors’ shrill attacks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor have conspicuously failed to turn public opinion against her.
Filed under: Christianity, Interesting Stuff on the Web, religion, science, Sociopolitical | Tagged: climate change, climategate, culture wars, demographics, Entertainment, generations, global warming, media, Millennials, news, politics, religion | Leave a comment »
Filed under: Fiction and Vignettes, Philosophy, religion, Spirituality | Tagged: archetypes, Eric G. Wilson, George P. Hansen, imaginal, mythology, Patrick Harpur, religion, story, Victoria Nelson | Leave a comment »
A Biblical scholar I enjoy is Robert M. Price. He is very well respected as a Biblical scholar, but he is also an expert on Lovecraft and writes horror himself. Not surprisingly, he is very knowledgeable about Gnosticism.
Some other examples I’ve heard of: Russell Kirk wrote ghost stories, but he was more famous for his influential political theories. Charles Williams is best known for his horror novels (or supernatural thrillers as T.S. Eliot described them), but he also wrote widely on many nonfiction subjects.
Thomas Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp have both been highly influenced by religion and spirituality. They’ve both studied diverse topics, but I do know that they were highly attracted to Buddhism. As far as I understand, both had done spiritual practices such as meditation and so their interests aren’t merely in the abstract.
Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)
I’m wary of labels… especially when placing them on myself. The moment someone identifies with a label, I’m pretty sure they’re no longer in beginner’s mind. I don’t mind labels to any great extent because I use them tentatively. At its best, a label is just a way of looking at things.
I was criticizing a certain type of Christian in my previous blog post, and this is related. A label is a way of looking at things. And when one identifies with that label, it limits the way one can look at things. Comparative mythology and integral theory is more interesting to me because they both allow one to switch perspectives.
I’m attracted to Christianity and to that extent I’m Christian. But, to me, Christianity is a very loose network of ideas, myths, and cultural paradigms. There is no one true Christianity. Christianity is a confluence of trends that come from diverse cultures much of which predates or was concurrent with Christianity.
I’m also wary of hegemony whether of the Christian, perennial, or integral varieties. I do believe there is a universal truth of some sort, but within that infinite specific differences. Yes, all gods point to the mystery beyond but so do all humans. Monotheism doesn’t negate polytheism. The powers that be(archetypal or whatever) are as distinct from eachother as one human is to another. When you consider all of the saints and angels and demons, its easy to see that Christianity isn’t essentially different in kind from Hinduism for instance. Its more apparent in Hinduism how Monotheism and Polytheism relate. To be technical, most modern world religions are henotheistic… which means they have a favored deity but still aknowledge the reality of other lesser deities(powers, spirits, angels, demons, etc).
For certain, all the monistic and monotheistic religions arose from and were largely based upon polytheism. Whenever looking at different views, I’m often mildly annoyed and amused at how ignorant most people are of this fact.
Similarly, is the phenomena of conversion. How do people know what they’re converting to? There is a whole lot of biased interpretation in the conversion process.
As an example, I was reading of an agnostic lady who while on vacation visited a Christian shrine. She had a vision and became a Christian. I find this amusing because many shrines were built on pagan holy ground. She saw a spiritual vision, but how does she know that this spirit wasn’t the ancient spirit of that holy place? Just because Christians built a shrine there(possibly incorporating some of the pagan shrine) it doesn’t mean that this particular spirit converted to Christianity. The spirit of that place may not give a hoot about Christianity. Maybe that spirit likes anybody with sufficient devotion no matter what there religious affiliation. Maybe the spirit was simply saying hi. Furthermore, the shrine this lady visited had a statue of Jesus. I’ve read before that the image of Jesus was based on previous pagan savior god-men. So, which god-man came to save her? Maybe it was Mithras and he was disappointed after she left because she didn’t sacrifice a bull for him.
She took an ineffable experience and effed it up with Christian theology. =) Now she is a Christian who filters the world through a theological lense. She has gained something, but I suspect she lost even more.
But nobody ever said religion is rational… sort of like love. Essentially, conversions is just a form of falling in love… and that goes a far way in explaining the insane things that some religious people do. Its not accidental that a monotheistic religion like Christianity promotes monogamy. God is jealous and so are his followers. There is a difference between falling in love with a god and falling in love with a person. Many people when they fall in love with a god become devoted in a way that is rare when they fall in love with another person. Falling in love with another peson usually doesn’t lead one to deny the existence of all other people or else deem everyone else as evil. Could you imagine if people treated their romances the way that many treat religion? What if when people fell in romantically fell in love, they felt they had to deny their love for their parents and family?
I want to bring together the evolutionary causes at work behind myth and religion. I mentioned these earlier: Campbell’s view on the transition from hunter to planter societies, Philippe’s ideas about the paganism incorporated into Christianity, Spiral Dynamics, and the Axial Age.
To this I want to add Paul Shepard’s theory about Pleistocene man. Shepard believes that the transition between hunters and planters was the most important shift in social development… or disruption rather. This shift was world-wide and is comparable to the Axial Age.
Add this all up, and it gives us 2 major shifts connecting 3 major eras. Its Spiral Dynamics that allows us to map this out. (It goes without saying that this is all tentative.)
First Era: Prior to the post-Pleistocene shift, we have the vmemes of beige and purple. It seems that Campbell and Shepard are treating these two inseparably. As we know very little about the myths of beige, we don’t need to worry about it. Still, its beige that Shepard is somewhat romanticizing. In addition, I think the individualistic focus of red vmeme gets mixed in because the myths were written down during the development of the blue vmeme, and red came to represent all of the past. There is the theory that the vmemes switch between a focus on the individual and a focus on the collective, and it makes sense to me. So, beige and red would be individualistic which isn’t to say the individual has yet fully developed.
Anyways, to simplify, this first era is the Age of the Shaman… Campbell’s Shamanistic Titan seeking personal power through personal sacrifice. But the Shaman isn’t a monk… the Shaman is also the Warrior and the Hunter. Visions have power.
Also, this was the time when the divine man-animal was worshipped, the prototype of all later dying/ressurection gods. Here is a quote from a review of a book by Paul Shepard(along with Barry Sanders) titled The Sacred Paw:
They give a really good argument for the shifting of the emphasis of the myths from the Bear Mother to the adventures of her sons, who eventually become purely human heroes. The Underworld and Rebirth themes of the Bear Mother are slowly stripped form her until she is nothing but a memory.
Post-Pleistocene(or rather post-hunter/gatherer) shift: The cause of this is explained variously. Did the Ice Age traumatize the collective psyche of the human species? Or, according to Shepard, did the shift occur from within… for some unknown reason man falling out of alignment with his environment? Or was it some kind of Telos(God?) that propelled social evolution? And was this shift a good thing(an evolugionary advantage) or a bad thing(Shepard’s collective madness)? For our purposes, answering these questions isn’t necessary. All we need to know is that a major shift happened.
As for Spiral Dynamics, my guess is that this shift was red vmeme and also red shifting into blue. This shift probably occurred over a very long period of time.
Second Era: This is the beginnings of civilization proper: agriculture and city-states, and the great Matriarchies… this is very early blue vmeme which isn’t blue as we know it now. This era was blue in a more pure form, not adulterated by orange and green as found in the Third Era.
At this time, society became hierarchical and the caste system came about… and with it the division of labor. Life was extremely organized including religion… the visions of the shaman became the oracles that served the priesthood, and the myths became complex rituals. Life revolved around the seasons and the seasonal celebrations. This was where we got our celebrations of the Equinxes and Solstices as Solar symbolism was the focus.
(A shift within the Second Era) In the later part of this era, the Matriarchies lost power and written history began. But the Patriarchies were also blue and they retained the hierarchical structure even if a different gender was on top. The primary difference was that orange was beginning to develop with a reemergence of individualism, meaning the hierarchy was not quite as strict as previously. The shift between Matriarchy and Patriarchy is significant, but it isn’t my focus for the moment. The development of Patriarchy was a disatisfaction with the old ways. One explanation(that Jeremy Taylor brings up) is that the precession of the equinoxes altered the timing by which the Matriarchies had planted and harvested. This led to priesthood no longer being able to predict the seasons and so social unrest followed. This disatisfaction with the prior Goddess worship can be felt in the myth of Gilgamesh.
Axial Age: (Karl Jaspers first wrote about this, and Karen Armstrong wrote a whole book about it.) This is when first arose all of the world religions that we know today. Or, in the case of Hinduism and Judaism, when previous religions were revisioned. The Old Testament was written down for the first time during this time. Christianity and Islam were later manifestations of this Age.
Blue is still in power, but orange has developed enough to allow some incisive questioning of tradition. Also, green is first showing itself to any significant degree. So we have the development of rationality and self-inquiry along with a sense of social equality and justice. Liberation was the spiritual response and democracy was the political response.
Mythologically, we have the development of the savior stories as we know them today. Jesus doesn’t change the world by conquering nations. He changes the world by confronting himself, challenging the human condition. The prophets of this age tended to turn inward.
The agricultural city-states were being forced to develop new modes of politics. The Greeks developed democracy and philosophy. The great myths were being written down and questioned which meant man was no longer controlled by the gods, but could choose their own destiny. The heroes of this time often challenged the gods. Man could save himself, man was coming of age.
Third Era: The age of empires… symbolized in the West by the Romans and the later Catholic Church. Blue is still very much the dominating paradigm, but orange has become established. However, the green that showed itself in the Axial Age is squelched back out of existence not to be seen again until the Rennaisance.
Religion becomes more ritualized and homogenized than it had ever before. Using the Roman Empire as its structure, the Catholic Church destroys and/or incorporates every religion it comes into contact with. And this is why we have such a strange mix of mythologies in Christianity today. But also this paved the way for us moderns to see the universal truths behind all myths. (Buddhism did something similar for the East.)
During this time, Jesus the prophet and savior becomes the Ruler of the World.
To be continued…
Filed under: history, Humanity, Philosophy, Psychology, religion, Sociopolitical | Tagged: agriculture, Axial Age, development, hunters, Joseph Campbell, Paul Shepard, planters, Pleistocene, religion, Spiral Dynamics, Walter Philippe | Leave a comment »
Let me start with this video.
The reason I posted that video is because it relates to an interview I heard last night on Diane Rehm (Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie: “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” - http://wamu.org/programs/dr/10/01/20.php#29308; sorry but WordPress won’t allow hyperlinking at the moment). That interview was about hormone-disrupting chemicals in our food supply. The major source of this is from plastic in packaging and containers. I was already aware of this problem from an interview with Dr. Leonard Sax I heard Coast to Coast AM which I wrote about in a forum thread at Open Source Integral (Boys Adrift – http://opensourceintegral.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=1615967%3ATopic%3A13481). Here is the opening post that I wrote (I would indent or do something to the following but WordPress won’t allow me):
I heard an interview with Dr. Leonard Sax on the radio show Coast to Coast AM. He was discussing his book Boys Adrift. The book focuses on the development of boys, but does so in terms of considering both genders. His basic premise is that for various reasons normal development has been altered in the past generation or so.
The website about this book:
Here is an excerpt from his book Why Gender Matters and an interview with him on the Today show:
The primary problem he sees is the estrogen-like chemicals that leach out of clear plastic bottles. This causes boys to develop slower and not to develop normally, and it causes girls to develop faster. Young men now have majorly decreased levels of testosterone and sperm count than previous generations.
Another major problem is that the school system has tried to treat boys and girls equally in recent decades. Teachers don’t take into account that boys and girls develop differently, and the natural behavior of boys has become unacceptable in schools. To try to calm boys down more like girls, drugs such as ritalin have increasingly been given to boys. This is a twofold problem. Boys are stunted psychologically which is bad enough, but the drugs have long-term consequences on brain development. It causes a part of the brain that relates to motivation to not to fully develop.
So, this means that young men are becoming evermore effeminate and apathetic. Young women are more likely to go to college, get degrees, and get professional careers. Also, with the sexual dynamic messed up, sexual attraction has decreased and along with it so has marriage.
- – -
This is a rather sadly ironic situation. The chemical soup we live in and ingest on a daily basis is creating a generation of youth with various physiological/psychological problems (asthma, obesity, autism, ADHD, and on and on). What is our collective answer to these problems that society has caused? To give the kids even more chemicals in the form of drugs that further alters their behavior and biological development.
Anyways, this is no grand insight in and of itself. Any reasonably informed person already knows about this kind of thing (the question then being how many reasonably informed people exist in the general population). I do feel critical about the lack of discussion and a lack of action about this kind of thing. In the Diane Rehm interview, the author spoke about how closely the Bush administration worked with the chemical companies. Basically, the role of government has been to first protect capitalistic interests and only secondly to protect the average person.
My further complaint is about political ideology. Why does this kind of thing bother liberals more than conservatives? A typical response by many conservatives is to defend the ideal of a free market based on an assumption that drug and chemical companies always have the general population’s best interest in mind… or they defend the doctors that prescribe the drugs to children based on the assumption that drug company bribes and propaganda doesn’t influence the behavior of doctors. Another typical response of many conservatives is to attack parents for all of the problems their children experience or else attack the children for having problems. What conservatives are reluctant to do is to objectively look at the science… which might be explained by the fact that only 6% of scientists are Republicans.
I still don’t understand. I understand in theory why conservatives uphold ideology above all else, but I don’t understand it in a deeper way. These problems are equally experienced by conservative children as liberal children. Isn’t it common sense that conservatives should be equally worried about how pollution, additives, and drugs are causing their own children problems?
For another example, why would only a liberal write a book like The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen? The facts he shares aren’t liberal. Facts don’t have ideology, but why are liberals more interested in facts in the first place? Why is the desire to stop pollution and oppression a liberal agenda? Why do conservatives tend to blame individuals and the liberal elite while rationalizing away all problems involving corporations? Why do conservatives value religion more than they do science?
I’m truly perplexed.
Filed under: Humanity, Psychology, religion, science, Sociopolitical | Tagged: Boys Adrift, Bruce Lourie, conservatism, conservative, Dr. Leonard Sax, facts, ideology, liberal, liberalism, religion, Rick Smith, Sarah Dopp, science, Slow Death by Rubber Duck, War on Kids | 1 Comment »