Along with atheism and agnosticism, there are some other dualities at play. Possibility vs probability. Intellect vs imagination. Hierarchy vs relativism. And any other number of distinctions in the seemingly opposing perspectives.
To declare my bias, I favor Jonny Bardo’s view at least in this matter to the extent that I understand him. I strongly identify with agnosticism and I’ve had similar interactions with atheist-leaning folk. I’m an extremely intellectual guy who can get as worked up as any atheist when trying to have a rational discussion with a hardcore theist, but I have as many doubts and questions about rational thought as I have about non-rational belief.
I feel that rationality is very useful for certain specific areas, but outside of that its counterproductive. I’m pretty sure that there is much more to existence that rationality can’t probe than what it can. When rationality steps out of its bounds, it stops being rational. I’ve met many atheists who declare their beliefs as strongly as any theist.
I realize and accept that not all perspectives are equal. I’m not a relativist. Clearly stating what one doesn’t know and maybe can’t know isn’t relativistic. For most things in life, its pointless making judgments one way or another. The things most people argue about simply aren’t important. There is no advantage to it… or rather the only advantage is that some people must banish any uncertainty from their sense of reality(not that I’m specifically accusing Julian and Jim of this).
Depression has had many negative effects on my life, but it has had some very positive effects also. Depression, along with meditation, has taught me the importance of doubting anything and everything. I’ve learned to value questions more than answers, and I’ve learned to have a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance.
I don’t know if my perspective is better(in all or most ways) than atheism or theism, but it does have its advantages. It keeps me humble and compassionate. Even so, my view of life certainly isn’t without disadvantages… which needs no mentioning for right now.
I like this comment by Jonny Bardo:
First off, the burden of proof with regards to reincarnation is not a problem for me because I’m not trying to prove that reincarnation does or does not occur. Nor am I saying that “all proposed possibilities are equally valid” (you seem to rely on that strawman a bit too much, J). I am saying that we simply don’t need to make a conclusion either way, that to do so is not only unnecessary but also a false conclusion, if we do not have strong evidence or experience to come to such a conclusion.
Now certainly the burden of prooving something like the idea that Barack Obama is the Antichrist lies on those that think so. But let me turn one of your statements around: Yes, all proposed possibilities are not equally valid; we could then say that all “mythic beliefs” are not equally invalid. Reincarnation, in one form or another, is embedded within perhaps every major religion. That is, there is a difference between the ideas of Obama-as-Antichrist and reincarnation-to say otherwise smacks of the extreme relativism that you yourself decry. Yet what I see you doing is throwing the vast smorgasbord of “New Age beliefs” into one basket and lighting a funeral pyre. Isn’t this a kind of reverse relativism?
And I like this comment by Balder:
I’ve seen the problems you list (naive relativism, pre/trans fallacy, etc) in a number of places in Integral discussions, but it isn’t universal. “Integral embrace” points beyond pluralism, but it includes pluralistic insights in a way that I honestly haven’t seem much evidence of in your own writings and criticisms. Integral embrace, while it points to an order beyond flatland relativism, nevertheless shouldnot lead to a monolithic inclusivism that subjects (and subjugates) all other worldviews to a single value system or view. But this is what you appear to be doing in a number of your writings.
I’ll probably blog more about this later, but I just wanted to throw some of my half-baked thoughts out there.
I just came across a short article from UPI.com: Gallup poll: Religion, intolerance related. It doesn’t go into much detail but points to some correlations.
The polls found that religion is less likely to be important to residents of rich countries, who are also more likely to be tolerant. But Gallup said the greater intolerance reported in religious countries cannot be explained just by differences in income.
Gallup analysts also said there are large differences among the world’s religions. Hindus are the least likely to perceive their countries as bad places for members of ethnic or religious minorities, while Jews are the most likely.
Christians also appear to be generally tolerant of minorities, while Muslims, Buddhists and Jews are not. Both Muslims and Jews in Israel appear far less tolerant than co-religionists living elsewhere.
This is the kind of information that is needed. It’s politically incorrect to point out that not all religions are equal in all ways. This is where a theoretical context is necessary. Ken Wilber developed his Integral theory in order to make intelligent distinctions and understand the relationship between diverse factors. Wilber says that not all religions are equal, but he also says that no one is stupid enough to be wrong all of the time. It’s important to separate what is true from what is false, what is good from what is not so good.
Wilber favors Eastern meditation traditions, but this Gallup poll shows that there are distinctions. Buddhism is popular in the US and yet Buddhism apparently is less tolerant of minorities than Hinduism. This makes sense in that Hinduism seems very embracing of diversity.
To understand this poll data, further research would be necessary. The type of research that I’m thinking of is something like Spiral Dynamics which is used by Wilber. Spiral Dynamics is a model that clarifies the social development of values and how the different phases of development relate. Another kind of research that would be helpful would be personality traits such as the Big 5. Certain traits such as Openness would probably have direct correlation to tolerance. Also, a different trait theory is boundary types. Thin boundary types are more accepting of new experience. Cultures encourage and discourage particular traits. Both Spiral Dynamics and traits theories have been applied to various cultures, and it would be interesting to correlate the research of these with this Gallup poll.
On a related note, here is an article about Islamic Anti-Americanism. The author discusses an earlier Gallup poll. I only skimmed it, but it looks interesting.