9-06-13 1:10Good Drugs

MaryAnn: How can people say that pot is not addictive or has "medicinal values"? Don't they even realize all drug users say that about their drug of choice?

Seriously? Have you actually heard a meth addict who claims there is evidence to suggest that meth is not addictive, or that it has medicinal value? I sure never have.

Sorry, not all "drugs" are equal. Meth, heroin, cocaine, and even alcohol are far more toxic, addictive and dangerous than MJ.

MaryAnn: Why should I listen when you say mj is okay, but I should not listen to the other drug users?

Because it is a different substance. It has different active chemicals, it acts on different receptors in the brain, it has different effects on the body. Etc. Just because they are all called "drugs" does not make them all identical.

MaryAnn: Maybe that really is the problem. Maybe my entire life I have had a stereotypical image in my mind of a stoner or pothead, and since drugs are bad and that is what I have believed my whole life that is why I cannot accept it.

Well, you should not feel any pressure to personally "accept" it if you do not wish to. However one of the biggest problems with the "War on Drugs" is that is is practically impossible for people to get the true facts about the huge variety of effects and consequences of anything referred to as a "drug."

Some drugs really are as bad as their reputations, like meth and coke. Some are far worse than their reputations, like beer. Some drugs have gotten a pretty bad rap, like mj and entheogens, when they can in fact be used relatively safely by the careful and informed.

But even when drugs really are as bad as people think they are, sending people to jail is not the solution. People's lives are more seriously damaged by arrests and jail time than by most drug use. The social costs are extremely high. The "cure" is far more dangerous than the disease.

MaryAnn: I think you are a very wise person.

That's very nice of you to say. I'm glad I could shed some light on the subject.

9-06-13 1:10Getting By Without God

Jolene: I think Christians today are losing their way when they abandon the Bible by declaring it non-authoritative. By declaring this, they threw out all authority that commanded individuals to love and help all other individuals, that commanded equal justice for ALL.

Are you saying that in some previous time, before "they threw out all authority," people followed the Bible, loved and helped all, provided equal justice for ALL, etc? When, and who?

Jolene: Everyone, always. The more people try to follow the Bible, the better, kinder, more loving people they become and the better their world, in general, becomes.

This is just talk. There is no evidence that it actually works this way. There is no evidence that Bible followers are better, kinder or more loving than any other people.

In fact, in some cases, quite the opposite. For example, Christian Americans are far more likely to support the use of torture.

Pew found that 49 percent of the nation believes torture is at least sometimes justifiable. Slice that number by religious affiliation, though, and things get interesting. It turns out the religiously unaffiliated are the "least" likely (40 percent) to support torture, but that the more you attend church, the more likely you are to condone it. Among racial/religious groups, white evangelical Protestants were far and away the most likely (62 percent) to support inflicting pain as a tool of interrogation.

Most likely to support torture?  Religious Christians

Jolene: It is true that interpretations of God's word may vary. But not nearly as much as personal opinions. With the Bible, at least we have a solid basis to use to arrive at a, hopefully, true and good conclusion.

If the conclusion is "torture" it is neither good nor true.

Jolene: How do you deal with the inevitable injustices in life without some belief in an ultimate justice that we may not see in this world?

I deal with it just fine.

Jolene: How do you motivate yourself to keep "good" in situations where "good" is punished and "bad" or even "evil" is rewarded?

I don't have any problem keeping good. Why do you?

Jolene: When someone you love dies, what comforts you for your loss without the hope of any kind of afterlife?

I am comforted by remembering their goodness and the good times we had. I am comforted by the act of making a careful and beautiful memorial in their honor. I am comforted by the love of others, who share my loss and put their arms around me as we grieve together. I am comforted by the laughter of my children and the lesson that life goes on. I am comforted by the knowledge that this happens to everyone and is the natural course of every single life.

And, there are those moments when there is no comfort. But this is no less true of Christians.

In those moments, facing it, and feeling it, instead of fleeing it and making up an imaginary story to cover it, seems like an appropriate course.

Jolene: You seem to simply reject comfort and insist on forcing yourself through suffering...

Completely wrong. See above. "God" and "Heaven" are not the only form of comfort.

Jolene: ...but why make this choice when there is available a belief which not only does no harm but actually spares you the extremes of grief and brings welcome comfort?

Because I am not afraid to feel my feelings and grasping for imaginary comfort. Feelings are a part of life. Real comfort is available.

Rhetta: Since you call bullshit on "faith", what would you suggest? Or do?

Don't bother with faith.

Rhetta: Then how do you get through those tough times? Does thinking "shit happens" help ground you and give you a sense of peace and calm?

I have often been presented with this dichotomy, wherein every scenario has only two possible options. It's either blessed comfort in The Lord, or severe hand-wringing, cynical despair, and utter lack of any means to recovery.

The truth is that there are a million ways to recover from life's tragedies and "turning to the Lord" is just one of them.

As a mature person, and a practicer of Buddhism, I have learned strategies for dealing with life. I get through tough times by looking them straight in the eye and not making excuses. I find peace and calm through the deliberate effort of attempting to act peacefully and calmly. When tragedy brings pain, I feel the pain when it arrives and endure until it recedes. Later, I am able to use effort of attention to fully consider other matters and put the pain aside. When it recurs, I endure, and wait, and refocus on current matters when I am again able. With time, the pain begins to heal.

However, even as a younger person, with no maturity and no strategies to speak of, I managed to get through tough times. In those days, it was mainly by panicking, over-reacting and causing unnecessary drama. But that worked too, though not as well. The point is that I got through it without supernatural beliefs.

The religious are not consistently better at weathering the storms than the non-religious. Most people flail around when they are young and then learn to manage as they mature. Faith is not necessary, or easier.

Rhetta: Some rely on faith, others might honestly get some closure or handle with thinking "shit happens".

Those are not the only two options.

Rhetta: So - does it happen for a reason, or is it totally random?

Those are not the only two options.

Dwelling on why bad stuff inexplicably happens to you, even if only to conclude that it's because God wants it that way, is beside the point and a waste of time.

Rhetta: Everything we see and experience here - total fluke, or perhaps engineered somehow?

Those are not the only two options.

Things that happen are the confluence of many forces, some seemingly random, some obviously deliberate, some systematic, and some completely inexplicable. It may be possible to discern some of "why" everything we see and experience here happens. But how is thinking "This happened because God arranged it" useful? It reveals nothing.

Rhetta: It's not a matter of who's better at weathering the storms, really, but the different methods of weathering.

The point of comparing the different methods is to show that, since belief in a bunch of stuff that does not appear to be true is not a better method, then there is no particular reason to do it that way. The belief in the bunches of not true stuff creates its own problems. That is why, when asked about a recommendation, I said, "Don't bother."

Rhetta: But do you ever wonder why bad stuff happens at all?

It appears to occur as a result of a confluence of forces. What other answer is there?

Rhetta: It's useful to think God arranged it, because it illustrates how magnificent creation really is, and that I'm part of that creation.

Do you think that I find creation less magnificent than you do? Do you think I feel any less a part of creation than you?

Why does it have to be arranged by God to be magnificent? Why does God have to be involved for me to be a part of it?

Rhetta: That there's something bigger than myself, and I'm inextricably woven into that tapestry.

This seems quite obvious. But what is the God part?

Rhetta: Not being able to explain the inexplicable doesn't negate it, does it?

Of course not. But what does God have to do with that?

Jolene: You say "random" and "purposeful" are not the only options. What can possibly be a third option?

A third option is when things are purposeful, but not caused by God. For example, lots of things happen because people act with purpose.

A fourth option is, things that happen are systematic, like the weather. It is not random or purposeful, it happens like that because that's how it works.

Jolene: It is not the intentional actions of men that we mean when we talk about seeing purpose. It is the "acts of God," - the catastrophes and illnesses and seemingly random "accidents" - that can devastate us unless we choose to believe....

You better believe that people can be devastated by the intentional actions of other people. That is often the case. But either way, making up stories to avoid your emotions is silly. Buck up a bit.

Jolene: You choose to believe that your loss is eternal.

You have no clue what I "believe." Stop making things up.

Jolene: Can we depend that the sun will always rise in the East or might we, any moment, discover that it is rising in the North, or that two suns are shining in the South, or that there is no sun at all?

That seems fairly reliable. If it changes, I'm sure we'll be the first to know.

Jolene:You are claiming that those who approach life with a positive mental attitude, who look for the good in all situations, no matter how bleak, will be as weak and despairing as those who believe that there is no good to be found so why even try?

You seem to be generalizing "those who approach life with a positive mental attitude" as Christians, and "the weak and despairing who believe there is no good to found so why even try" as everybody else. This is just ridiculous.

There is no evidence that Positive Mental Attitude means Christian or that Non-Believer equals Weak, Despairing, and Unwilling to Try. There is no correlation.

Unless you have some evidence showing that Christianity creates a positive attitude or that lack of Christianity creates despair it is just talk.

Rhetta: You said that bad shit "appears to occur as a result of a confluence of forces. What other answer is there?"

Well, maybe that there's a greater purpose for it all? A "grand schematic" or "master plan", for lack of a better phrase?

There doesn't appear to be. But, what if there is? We have no access to it. There may as well not be.

Rhetta: That's just as feasible as a 'confluence of forces'.

I don't think it is as feasible and I'll explain why.

Rhetta: "Forces"? What forces? Can you define and articulate those forces?.

Some of them, yes. The forces I am discussing are the natural, apparent forces that cause things to happen. Most occurrences in human life arise as a result of a culmination of human actions, like choices we make and things we do, and systematic occurrences, like how the weather is, and what else is happening. You can examine an occurrence and see the "reason" it happened by seeing what caused it to happen. These "forces" are not conjecture, they are obvious.

Of course, there are often times when the reason things happen are not obvious or discernible. In those cases, the only honest thing is to admit that it is unknown "why" something occurred.

I think that relying on what is manifestly apparent, and admitting that some is unknown, is far more feasible than making up a story about why it happened. Unless there is some reason to think the story is true, it has no special merit. Why bother?

Rhetta: Not to mention - "it appears" is just as vague as the unseen Master Plan, so essentially, we're both working under a faith principle - it's what our faith is in that is different.

I would have to respectfully and completely disagree.

I very deliberately chose language like "it appears" because I do not KNOW that my assessment is correct. I am describing what appears to be the case upon examination. I do not have any faith at all that it is correct. It might not be. In fact, if you show me that it is not, then I will thank you, and adjust my assessment accordingly to conform more closely to what is real. I can only assert what I can discern and I would not overstate the matter.

That is very unlike faith.

Rhetta: I don't think you see things "less magnificently." I was just explaining my own perception, and why thinking this way is useful to me, personally. It helps me, personally, to think of God in this way. This statement was not intended to malign your perception of creation in any way.

I did not take it personally. We were discussing whether it is useful to think God arranged it. I am showing you that it is not necessary to "believe things" to see the majesty of creation. You would see the magnificence anyway. It is obvious. Believing in things is extra.

Rhetta: For me, the God part would be the One who came up with it all.

Why is that important?

Rhetta: I still can't wrap my head around the concept that all of this is just one giant cosmic accident.

Some parts of it seem to be accidental, some are obviously the result of forces, much is unknown at present. That's different from one giant cosmic accident. In fact, "One giant cosmic accident" does not describe what anyone thinks, as far as I know.

Rhetta: For me, God is the explanation for the inexplicable.

What does it explain? It tells nothing about how it works. "God did it" is just an extra sentence that adds no knowledge.

Rhetta: What does Buddhism teach?

As far as I can tell, Buddhism teaches that you can learn from what happens by examining how it happened. For example, you can learn right action from examining what you did that worked out. Conversely, you can learn to alter your own behavior to work at preventing happenings that occur through your own mis-actions.

But, you can also learn that many forces are beyond your personal control, like the actions of others, and the weather, and the inexplicable. You can learn that agonizing over any of this - feeling guilt for misteps, or pining to discover the "hidden truth", or making rationalizations - doesn't really change anything. Therefore, it's not necessary.

Rhetta: What do you mean, don't have "access" to God's plan? We have to have access to something, or otherwise it doesn't exist?

No...I mean, unless we have access to something it may as well not exist. It is nothing that we can use or learn from because it is not available for discernment. There's no use making decisions based on "something" we have no knowledge at all about. It might not be real, it doesn't have the power to affect anything.

Rhetta: But I don't see how believing that God has a purpose for suffering is making up a story.

Where did you hear it?

Rhetta: Obviously at church.

That is a story people tell at church. There is no evidence that it is true. You may not have personally made up the story, but it looks like some person did.

Rhetta: The only difference would be that you rely on your own perceptions and reality, while I rely on the faith that there's more than I understand. Would that be a fair description?

It seems obvious that there is more than I understand. But what does God have to do with it?

Rhetta: We both have our perceptions and discernment of our realities - it's our conclusions that are different. But we each have a conclusion that we draw. And that conclusion would be faith-like in nature, would it not?

I don't think so. My assessments can be supported with evidence. As far as I know, faith assessments, like "God exists" or "God has a plan" are not supported by evidence. I think that is where the faith comes in.

Rhetta: That many things, like you say, are beyond our control, and we need to accept them as they are.

Asserting knowledge about the unknown is, in my opinion, not really accepting things as they are.

Rhetta: God is understanding. All, total, complete understanding.

How do you figure?

Rhetta: How does Christianity deny accepting things as they are by believing in God?.

The reality is that God is conjecture. There is no evidence, other than people talking about God. So, believing in God is not accepting that God is conjecture.

The reality is that there does not appear to be any part of the personality that survives death, and that the afterlife seems to be a story invented by religious traditions, and most would agree that, at the very least, it is completely and utterly unknown. Therefore, making claims to having access to some truth about it - that there is a Heaven, for example - is not accepting that it is unknown. It is making up a story to flee the reality.

Rhetta: How is knowledge and understanding addressed in Buddhism? Is there no "source" of knowledge, so to speak?

Yes, the source of knowledge is the observable. It really, really works.

9-06-13 1:10Believe In

Shawna: Faith is important! I believe we all need something to believe in.

Actually, no. I don't "believe" in anything in particular. I have a life of wonder, beauty and joy, but I am content to simply experience it, without forming "beliefs" about it. I am content to make assessments about what seems to be the case, and change my assessments as new information becomes available. And I am not at all bothered by "I don't know."

Shawna: It doesn't matter what you have faith in...whether you believe in Allah or the trees, you have respect for something that is awe-inspiring and mysterious in the world, I think that is wonderful.

That is the point. It is not necessary to "believe" in trees. They are manifest. It is not necessary to believe in anything to have respect for something awe-inspiring and mysterious. I do it every day. But somehow some people don't seem to find that as wonderful. :-)

Belle: Who is Danie to tell me that I'm raising my kids to think they are bad? I said I pray for forgiveness because I know I have sinned somewhere through out the day. When I say because I have sinned, I mean by flipping off the asshole who cut me off in traffic, losing my patience with a fellow human being over stupid crap, or losing my temper when I read stupid shit like what Danie posted.

Flying off the handle all the time, and then "asking God to forgive you," is a cheap out. If you are really having this kind of problem with your temper, I would say the onus is on you to learn to control yourself better.

Belle: I've noticed you are a pro at twisting ppl's words around until they just about want to choke someone.

You ought to get a handle on that.

Belle: Why does that offend you so much?

What makes you think I'm offended?

9-06-13 1:10Jubilee

PrincessLeah: Have you heard about the coming economic collapse? People are worried about the national debt. What's the deal with debt, anyway? Is it important?

The problem with debt is that it almost always accumulates. Owsies get bigger as they are passed back and forth. Eventually the debts are so large that no one can realistically manage them anymore.

In ancient Hebrew societies, every 75 years there would be a Jubilee - a financial amnesty when all debts were forgiven and the economy was allowed to reset. It was the only way to keep the accumulated debt from outvaluing everything that was real.

Much of the debt in governments today was accumulated by people who are long gone. Our unimaginably high totals of national debt are massively inflated by the greedy financial machinations of the very richest, and they aren't really anything tangible owed to anyone - they are just numbers on screens. How can we be on the hook for all these imaginary owsies, to the point of neglecting the needs of almost everyone living now? It makes no moral sense.

We need some kind of Jubilee.

The good news is that, ultimately, debt is imaginary. It can be negotiated and revalued. If we want to avoid a global financial collapse, the countries of the world could come together and, if not cancel the debt, then at least a re-negotiate everybody's owsies so that some of it cancels out. We can look at what we are actually good for instead of what someone promised.

America is still a great nation, and we would still be a great investment if people could invest in our future instead of our past.

9-06-13 1:10No Phones

Envy: I heard you and your husband don't have cell phones. Why? How do you manage without them?

We made the decision a long time ago to stick to ordinary wall phone use, and at the time it was purely economical. Our resources were limited and we wanted to spend money on other things, like food.

That is still the case to a large degree. There's no doubt that we are able to afford other things because of the money we don't spend on cell phones.

But there has come to be another reason, and that is they way cell phones are used today. Everyone seems to have developed a cell phone twitch - obsessively checking their phone at very short intervals, and constantly jumping for the phone to check email, facebook, or google everything up. And - as we've noticed for years, only more so - phonies are dismissing the person in their personal company to conduct conversations with invisible others. This seems inconsiderate, and I don't want to seem that way.

Plus, when people make small talk, the main thing they discuss is their phones...how well they've been working - or not, how much cheaper (or more expensive) their minutes are now than they used to be, difficulties with their terms of service, etc. Phones take up an enormous amount of head space. We wanted to make other use of our time and attention as well as our money.

I think it is inevitable that when the kids get older we will want them to have phones and the games will begin. But for now, we have struggle enough just to manage them on the bigger screens, like TV and computers, and are putting the phone wars off.

9-06-13 1:10Catholic Speculation vs. Buddhism

Dr. Dee: I'm Catholic, and I think religions ought to favor reality over of speculation, but speculation has its place.

Why bother?

Dr. Dee: Some people enjoy speculating about things.

I'm not talking about speculating on things for personal enjoyment. That is very different from speculating about the unknown and then claiming that your speculations are true and then worshipping them.

Why inject idle speculation into religion?

Dr. Dee: I think it is fine for religion to speculate when reality is unknown - as long as they are honest about the speculation.

Honest how? Can you give me an example?

Dr. Dee: Well, like the Catholic Catechism.

So is the Catholic doctrine "We *speculate* that the only Salvation is through Christ, but we could be wrong"? If they are honestly acknowledging that it is just speculation, no better than any other speculation, then why are they asking people to believe it is true? Why require faith?

Dr. Dee:The philosophical pursuits in asking "why are we here?" and "is there a God?" , etc. have been with our species for a very long time.

That doesn't mean religion is justified offering their idle speculation as answers. If the truth is, "We don't know," they should just admit it.

Dr. Dee: Personally, I feel that God does communicate with us, but that we have little ability to understand - each of us gets something a little bit different.

All the more reason not to require faith in one huge rigid story.

Dr. Dee: It doesn't surprise me that a group of people who have come to their own understanding of the meaning of philosophical questions, they organized and began to control other people's understanding and actions to follow their own. That might create problems, and I don't think it is the most positive aspect of religion, but that is the result of humanity. As long as religions are made through humans, I don't see a way around it.

Easy. You can have a religion that is not based on unsubstantiated claims of knowledge about the unknown.

Take Buddhism for example. The Buddha did not bother with posits about gods, souls, or the afterlife. In fact he said those were distractions. The entire basics of Buddhism are simple instructions on how to transcend suffering, and no faith is required for any of it.

My question was, why should reality be disdained in favor of speculation in religion? It doesn't have to be that way. It is not that way in Buddhism.

The history Buddhism is far from perfect, but in 2,500 years there have not been any wars or persecutions in the name of Buddhism. It is known for being a deeply spiritual tradition which yeilds a measurable return in peace and happiness. Clearly their approach is working, and all without requiring faith in speculation presented as facts.

If they can do it, anyone can.

Dr. Dee: The Catholic Church does feel they have the facts - or at least the best guess - they actually believe they are right.

The belief is unwarranted. They should get over themselves. The reality is that they do not know any more about it than other people know about it and everyone would be better off if people would stop claiming otherwise.

Dr. Dee: But no one is required to be a Catholic - you can be or not.

As far as I know, the central tenet of Christianity is that you MUST have faith in Salvation through Christ or you will not spend eternity in the good afterlife. That seems as close to "requiring" it as they can manage without actually using force.

Dr. Dee: "Force"? Please. That is ancient history. There are no more Inquisitions.

What changed?


Dr. Dee, I want to thank you again for this exchange. It is giving me the opportunity to explain a lot about my position all at once and that is very cool. I don't want you to feel this is directed at you personally.

Dr. Dee: Since science is restricted by rules, it is not able to determine reality for many things that interest humans. On those subjects, science simply has nothing to say.

Sounds like a good place to throw down some honest "I don't know."

Dr. Dee: Without the speculation, what you are left with is knowledge and that's not religion.

I don't see how that is a problem. But even so, Buddhism seems to provide a means for profound spiritual experience without having to make unverifiable claims about it. And Buddhism is not the only non-faith method. Pure connection with the Divine is directly attainable, whether it is called "religion" or not. So why bother with the conflicting, unverifiable claims? To what end?

Dr. Dee: You would rather religions not speculate about matters for which we cannot have answers - I hear that. However, your desire or lack of understanding of why it would be important to other people, doesn't make it wrong for them to do so.

I'm not saying it's evil. But the disconnect between what people claim is true and what can be observed to actually be true is creating a lot of error. This world could use a lot less of that kind of error.

Dr. Dee: I still don't understand why you think faith is a requirement.

Christianity claims that faith is a requirement. If it's not, maybe they should stop claiming it is.

Dr. Dee: One can acknowledge that proof is not available while still believing that their idea is correct.

Why bother?

Dr. Dee: Why should they just get over themselves? So what if their claims are unwarranted?

Because it is dishonest. If the truth is, "No human knows what happens after death," claiming, "We know what happens to humans after death" is a lie.

That lie is compounded by the more stuff they pile around it - for example, claiming that because of this thing a long time ago, all humans are born to be damned after death..but guess who has the fix?

The more completely unverified speculation is piled on, the further the deviation from the truth - we don't know.

Dr. Dee: The Church is claiming a well educated guess and have all of the documentation available for others to either accept or reject it.

How is their guess more "educated" than yours or mine? They have "documentation" of stuff people said. People can say anything.

Dr. Dee: We (all humanity) have the free will to either accept that tenet or not.

We (all humanity) also have the free will to either accept or reject a tenet like "God hates fags." Just because we are free to reject it doesn't mean it's a good idea to walk around claiming it. It's a claim of knowledge where none exists. It's cruel and exclusionary. It's unwarranted.

The central claim of Christianity - only Christian believers get to Heaven - is a claim of knowledge where none exists. It's cruel and exclusionary. It's unwarranted.

Dr. Dee: And what difference does it make anyway?

It makes the difference between the history of Buddhism and the history of Christianity.

It makes a difference in school board meetings when people have to act like unsubstantiated claims of human origin deserve equal time with science. It makes a difference in AIDS-ravaged Africa where the church preaches against condoms. It makes a difference in California, when same-sex couples are legally relegated to second-class citizenship because of the silly notion that God thinks gay sex is abomination. It makes a difference in the recent rise in teen pregnancies and STDs, thanks to "abstinence-only" education - favored by the religious voting block because God doesn't like sex outside marriage.

It makes a difference in how people value the truth, and use their critical thinking skills to reject unwarranted claims.

There is a huge disconnect between what is known to be real and what people "have faith" is real. This disconnect is causing big problems. That makes a difference.

Dr. Dee: I guess what you asked is why the Inquisitions stopped: they stopped because the evil people who were in charge of making the Inquisition were unseated.

Well, the next time evil people like that get "seated," I hope everyone else will have enough critical thinking skills and enough ability to reject unwarranted claims to prevent them from having an inquisition, or a crusade, or a witch trial, or a persecution.


Hi Dee, thanks for coming back to this, I've really been enjoying the conversation.

Dr. Dee: My thought is that the idea that one can believe something - really, truly believe it - even in absence of fact is something that non-believers have difficulty understanding.

I don't know what "non-believers" you are talking about, but I don't have any trouble understanding that people really, truly believe something. I know they really, truly believe it.

So what? I should leave them alone about it? No way.

Dr. Dee: It would be disingenuous of them to ignore their belief.

It would be disingenuous of me to ignore their belief too.

Dr. Dee: It may feel cruel and exclusionary to someone who does not share the faith, but asking them to stop believing it so that others don't feel excluded is unrealistic.

Asking people to consider what they think and why is perfectly reasonable. Asking people to realize when they are being cruel and exclusionary is important. This is how great strides against social injustice are always made.

Expecting it to work may be unrealistic. But, perhaps I can find some strategies that will have an effect. Some people have come to agree with me about some things in the course of conversation. I've learned a few things myself too.

Other great advances in social justice began with conversations about ideology vs. reality. It seems a worthwhile pursuit.

And, it passes the time. :-)

Dr. Dee: I think people can know the truth, even without any proof.

Like at the emergency room when my son Kevin was howling and claiming that he had pain in his arm. The x-rays didn't show damage, but his eyes just lit up when he heard about the cast. He knew just what color he wanted. I had a suspicion that he was faking, and it was confirmed the next day when he admitted he was lying and begged to have the cast off.

So, just like I "knew" Kevin's arm wasn't really hurt, they "know" that Salvation is attained through that one path.

I disagree with this whole analogy. You didn't "know" the truth before your son admitted it. You just thought it, and it wasn't exactly out of left field. You had a very good reason to think it - strong empirical evidence, a medical x-ray showing that your son's arm was not badly injured. You also know your son and how he might act in such a situation. Thinking something is true because there is a lot of evidence of it seems reasonable. Plus, arm injuries are actual things that happen and all the various outcomes were well within what is known to be possible.

"Salvation," however, is just an idea, and an awful one at that. Telling people they are despicable in the sight of God, because of some long-ago fruit incident, when there is nothing in our observable realilty from which this conclusion can be derived, is cruel.

Particularly when they are claiming to "know" this "fracture" exists, in the utter absence of x-rays, injury or any pathology, just so that they can sell you the cast. Whether it is out of ignorance or deceit, either way it is still bad medicine.

Dr. Dee: Well they are not being dishonest. They may be incorrect, but they are not lying.

There is a whole crazy spectrum of failing to value truth there, from outright dishonesty and swindling to ignoring the facts to simple error, but whatever.

Placing a very high value on verification is a great way to overcome dishonesty and error.

Dr. Dee: I think that the source of the problem isn't the belief structure, but the base, cruel nature of human beings...

I disagree. The belief structure itself is exclusionary. It is a savage, tribal in-group / out-group demarcation.

I know it's hard to imagine how people can take an idea like "Everyone who thinks differently deserves eternal torment" and twist it into something negative, but actually ideas like that are extremely easy to corrupt. What's worse, valuing what they think in their heads over the observable reality makes some people extremly easy to swindle. Once you have their "faith," you can tell them anything. They don't check.

On the other hand, somehow, the "base, cruel nature of human beings" has not manged to twist Buddhism into inquisitions, persecutions and crusades. Why is that?

I think it may be that Buddhism is harder to corrupt, because 1) it is not asking people to believe unsubstantiated and/or supernatural posits, 2) it does not have cruel or exclusionary tenets, and 3) because it places a very high value on rejecting unwarranted claims.

If Christianity was more like this perhaps they would have less trouble.

Dr. Dee: Taking away the beliefs isn't going to stop that cruelty from happening: e.g. Chairman Mao.

Some beliefs lend themselves to cruelty, others very much less so. I don't think there is anything wrong with figuring out the difference and working to support the philosophies that produce better results.

Thanks again Dee!

Sayess: Can anyone give me either a religion that exists or a hypothetical one that would be based on knowledge?

Wouldn't that be cool? Buddhism is pretty close. It is not based on unsubstantiated claims.

Sayess: Buddhism makes a lot of assumptions. The whole idea that desire causes suffering is one thing. Is there proof of that? or is it a belief just like theirs?

This seems to be saying that Buddhism is making claims no different from those found in the AF's. I disagree that the claims are similar and here's why:

1) The assessment that suffering arises from attachment is not an "assumption," it is derived from an observation of cause and effect.

2) "Suffering" and "attachment" are actual things that humans do and have. The arising and subsiding of these, and the associated causes, are something that can be assessed. They are not words for supernatural ideas about which nothing can ever be observed.

3) This is an observation which you are invited to make for yourself. You don't have to take the Buddha's word for it - observe human nature yourself, your own included, and simply see if that proves to be the case.

4) No one is asked to "believe" in this idea. It's not an article of faith. If you make your observations and they come up different, who cares? Buddhism may still work for you anyway; if not, there are other methods that work. There is no threat that you HAVE to believe this, OR ELSE.

This stands in direct contrast to the unsubstantiated claims of, say, Christianity, like "Humans require salvation through Christ to get the good afterlife."

1) This is not a possible observation of cause and effect; it's pure speculation.

2) "Salvation" and "afterlife" are not actual things that humans can be observed to have or do. For all we know there is no such thing as either.

3) There is nothing about this claim that one can observe for themselves. This claim cannot be verified in any way. People are expected to simply take the word of other people that this is true.

4) The central tenet of Christianity is that you MUST believe this, or else. Buddhism has nothing similar.

Sayess: Faith can only be based on belief, not knowledge. That's the point of it. Believing w/out proof.

I don't see what is supposed to be good about that.

Sayess: There can never be religion based on knowledge. Because then it's just knowledge.

I don't see how that is a problem. In fact many Buddhists feel that Buddhism is not really a religion at all, that it is more accurately described as a philosophy.

But that seems cool. A world where people utilize philosophies based on observations of how things work in reality instead of religions based on unconfirmable supernatural speculation sounds pretty neat.

Sayess: I don't disagree with the idea that desire causes suffering, I'm just saying that it is a belief, not a fact.

I don't think it's a belief or a fact. It's a description of what a person observed.

However I guess that it could be a belief now, but only if you happen to believe it. And that doesn't seem necessary. I don't "believe" that it is true, but my assessment is that it is a fairly accurate observation.

Sayess: However transcending attachment and desire seems like a biological impossiblity to me.

It's not all or nothing. People can learn to transcend a lot of attachment and reduce a lot of suffering. It doesn't have to be perfect to be a big improvement.

Sayess: To me, buddhism is asking us to go against our biology, in order to achieve enlightenment.

And yet, it works. Buddhists are actually happier than people in other faith categories. And Buddhism has an amazingly peaceful history. Something there is working.

Sayess: And also, it is a threat, really, just like other religions. Heaven/ enlightenment....same diff.

This is the only thing I really disagree with. "Heaven" is - supposedly - after death. Enlightenment is something you can have now, and in fact you probably already have a lot of. They are not equivalent.

Sayess: An end to suffering.

That may seem too good to be true, but even if it is, a great lessening of suffering seems good enough.

Sayess: If one wants to get there, one needs to follow a specific path.

Well, even Buddhists don't think Buddhism is the only path.

And, I don't find a description of one specific path to the gas station to be threatening. I don't even find "If you don't make it in time, you'll be stranded" to be a threat - it's just a description of the actual, physical consequence of running out of gas. It's only when someone adds, "Then, the car will explode and you will be trapped there and burn forever" that I start to see a bit of a threat.

Sayess: I prefer to live a life closer to a Taoist philosophy, it's the closest thing I have to guide me to being the person I want to be, without threats of any kind. There's nobody to worship, there's nothing to attain, there's just me, living this one life and hopefully not causing pain to others.

That seems pretty enlightened to me.

Contrairess: I don't think the tenets of Catholicism vs. Buddhism fully account for the difference in how they played out. I think centralisation, hierarchy, and the concept of divinely selected religious authorities, has something to do with it.

I agree this is likely a major factor. Power corrupts everywhere, even in Buddhism.

But I don't want to downplay the importance of looking within Christianity itself. I find that people will use any excuse to avoid seeing the slightest culpability in the tenets of Christianity for its own sordid history, and I think that is very unfortunate. There is certainly some good wisdom in Christianity and I think if people cared to separate the wheat from the chaff, the teachings of Jesus could be an outstanding spiritual path. I know people who practice it in this manner.

As long as people chalk the problems of Christianity squarely up to "human nature" or "hierarchy," there will be no examination of the value of the individual tenets themselves, and no opportunity to distinguish the gems of human wisdom from the unsubstantiated claims.

9-05-13 10:10What's Your Deal?

XTY: What's your deal? Why do you have such hostility towards people who believe in God?

Actually, I am not particularly concerned with "belief in God." I am not an atheist. And, if you consider me hostile, you should have a lot of fun when you encounter someone who is actually hostile.

However if you are asking why I am doing this - challenging unsubstantiated claims - it is because I feel I have a duty to the truth.

XTY: It's their constitutional right to believe!

That doesn't make it a good idea.

XTY: Well you can just stop with your dumb questions. If you don't grasp the concept yet, after all the answers we have given you, then I just don't think you are ever gonna get it.

You are assuming that my purpose is to have you, in your understanding, explain something to me, in my ignorance, that I can't "get."

That is not the case.

The purpose of my questions is to have you consider the matter. Is it better for people to believe what they believe because that was the first thing they heard? Or do you think it might be helpful to choose particular beliefs for a reason?

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