06-18-16 11:16Books About Enlightenment

Helen: I found that the Abrahamic religions all provide enlightenment AND afterlife, and it's up to the person to seek one in order to achieve the other.

A lot of religions claim to "provide" an afterlife, but nothing is known of how effective this is.

Helen: I know of a few books that demystify the Noble Eightfold Path and apply it to modern Western scenarios.

A few I can think of are Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen, along with Rick Field's Chop Wood, Carry Water. I might also include Byron Katie's Loving What Is, even though she had barely heard of Buddhism and came up with her enlightenment entirely independently.

Helen: So it's not like you are covering new ground here.

There are a lot of good presentations of this information already, it's true, but clearly there could be more. Awareness in the West of enlightenment as fun, easy and worthwhile is not widespread.

Lifting the methods of enlightenment from their traditional trappings and bringing them together with a grand cosmology seems like a fun and worthwhile way to raise awareness, and provide the fusion of facts and values which Dr. Rue discussed in his analysis of the function of religion.

Helen: One other book that I find helpful in understanding modern global tendencies towards enlightenment is "The Seat of the Soul' by Gari Zukav.

I found Zukav's history of quantum physics in The Dancing Wu Li Masters to be very illustrative, and his analysis of non-attachment in SotS seems a decent instruction on the subject. However his final claim that "the seat of the soul is the hourglass point between energy and matter" does not seem more informed than anyone else's speculation about "the soul."

Helen: In genenral, I am convinced that one cannot attain an honorable place in the afterlife without gaining a certain level of enlightenment in this life.

Nothing is known of what, if anything, affects "place in the afterlife." No claims about it can be verified.

Helen: All scriptures command to study the truth, and by the truth they refer to the word of God.

By truth I am referring to statements about reality which can be shown to be accurate descriptions of reality, to the best of our ability to make the determination. Scriptures do not qualify any more than any other statements which cannot be verified.

06-17-16 10:17The Limits of Freedom

Kvetcher: I believe in Freedom! Let the gays get married. Let the rednecks have their guns. Let the atheists be atheists and the Christisns be Christians. America is about freedom! Freedom to live your life how you please. So smoke a bowl, eat a greasy burger, shoot your guns, praise Jesus and wish those two fellas next door a happy honeymoon!

Let the rednecks have their rocket launchers and heat seeking guided missiles. Freedom!

Kvetcher: I don't know where you are from but I have never heard of any rednecks asking to own rocket launchers or heat seeking missiles.

As for my OP: you don't agree with the to each his own philosophy? You are part of the problem.

"Asking?" Why should they ask? You don't agree with the each to his own philosophy? You are part of the problem.

VeeDeeBee: Isn't it a little early to be drinking?

You don't agree with the each to his own philosophy? You are part of the problem.

So let's get to the point. The "each to his own philosophy" has its limits and everyone knows it. Obviously gay marriage and eating greasy burgers are not beyond the limit. Obviously, rocket launchers and guided missiles are.

The question is, is having millions of extremely dangerous weapons in general circulation beyond the limit, or not? Everyone knows some freedom works and some doesn't. Which level of freedom would work in this case? THAT is what needs to be determined.

VeeDeeBee: I'm part of the problem? What the fuck are you talking about?

You will figure it out.

Kvetcher: Mind your own fucking business is what has worked in the past.

Well then you should mind your own business when those two fellas next door come back from their honeymoon with rocket launchers and guided missiles. Remember, missiles don't kill people - the mentally ill do.

06-14-16 2:17Enlightenment, Mysticism and Neoism

Gently: In your religion, is enlightenment something glimpsed over and over again through the course of life, or a one-shot deal, where once you attain it, you pretty much stay in that state of enlightenment?

I would describe enlightenment as something you do. When you act as enlightened, you are enlightened, or close enough. I wouldn't expect normal people to always act as enlightened - nobody's perfect - but if you find that you aren't acting in an enlightened manner in this moment, you can always endeavor to act more enlightened in the next.

It becomes easier to act more enlightened more of the time with practice.

Gently: Ah. So, we have a different definition of enlightenment, I think. :) For me, enlightenment includes a sprinkiling of mysticism...

Well, I'd be interested in including any kind of enlightenment, as long as it is true and really works. What kind of 'enlightenment' are you referring to?

Gently: Basically, to me, enlightenment is the clarity you are speaking of, but revved up. It is not only awareness, but awareness of awareness and the awareness of that awareness. It's like looking through new eyes.

This is exactly what I am talking about. You can look with new eyes today, and look through new eyes again tomorrow as your awareness ever deepens with practice.

Gently: Here's a bit about mysticism as described by William James...[...] ..."ineffable"..."noetic"..."transient states of consciousness..."

Well, my new religion will have plenty of this! I tend to refer to ineffable, noetic, transient states as "spritual experiences" rather than as "enlightenment," but that is just terminology. Whatever you call it I consider it an essential aspect of my new spiritual philosophy.

Secular and non-theistic systems offer very little in the way of appreciating spiritual experience and even less in teaching how to create and access it. This is part of what I am attempting to address. My new system will have plenty of both.

Gently: Fantastic! I am for it already!!!

If you respect the truth, and can address the causes of suffering and act with compassion, you are probably already practicing it. :-)

Enlightenment is certainly nothing new, but it is not seen in our society as something to endeavor towards or even as attainable by ordinary people. It is seen as something mystical, foreign, and attainable only by lamas or prophets. One thing I would like to do is present the tools of enlightenment in a straightforward way and emphasize that any person can use them to alleviate suffering and gain understanding.

Together with a true cosmology, and some useful tools for critical thinking, moral technology, spiritual experience and "magic," I think this would make a great system/philosophy which anyone could utilize for a fun and richly meaningful life.

But, why a "religion"?

Well, religion serves important roles in society for bringing together facts and values in a narrative tradition which people use to create personal wholeness and social cohesion. (You can check out Dr. Loyal Rue, "Religion is Not About God," for more on how this works.)

But, traditional religions are burdened with a lot of myths, superstitions, unsubstantiated claims and outdated notions with no discernable referrent in reality. The difference between what the religions say and what can actually be discerned is creating a lot of error.

I think a "religion" based on the truth, to the best of our ability to understand it, with working tools for navigating it, could serve as a framework for personal wholeness and social cohension, and by working directly with reality it will provide natural error correction.

06-14-16 8:59Work for What Matters

Gadsen: I have never taken one penny of assistance from the government and I have no respect for those who do! People need to make it on their own!!

For 99% of human existence on this planet, no one made it "on their own." People also did not work for others and allow most of their effort to enrich someone else. People were connected directly to their sustenance by their work output and everyone did what it took for everyone in their group to get by.

The modern invention of "jobs" and "nuclear families" have cut people off from their natural support systems and the natural returns of their labor. So, modern inventions like "assistance" are necessary. When you create a competitive economy you have to make some provision for the losers as well as the winners, or else their children starve to death.

What we should be doing is providing really, really good education for every person, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. The more educated people are, the better they plan their families and their societies.

Human technology has created such a surplus that no one should have to work more than a few hours a week. Everyone could be spending time raising families, enjoying the arts, enriching themselves with creative endeavors and making the world a better place instead of giving most of their lives to enrich another. Why did we even bother inventing electricity and computers...so that most humans still have to work like slaves?

If we really worked together for what matters none of us would have to work hard at crap that doesn't matter at all.

06-13-16 6:45Gotcha Christian

Ashy: Christians are so funny. The majority of them in the USA don't even know what their own religion teaches, yet so many insist on strict literalism.

Bandicoot: Anti-Christians do nothing but generalize about Christians! Not ALL Christians hold literalist, dogmatic interpretations, and some of us think those more literal, dogmatic interpretations aren't original or accurate. Not every Christian even believes in a literal God.

Ashy: What...?

Bandicoot is a "Gotcha" Christian. She waits for someone to make a general statement about Christianity, and then castigates them for their assumption, claiming that a) not ALL Christians are like that, and b) the Christians who are like that are wrong. ("... those more literal, dogmatic interpretations aren't original or accurate.")

Ashy: The thought of an atheist christian makes me laugh. someone who doesn't believe in god, but follows the moral teachings of jesus...

It's not that hard to imagine if you compare it to Buddhism. Buddhism doesn't even have a god - it has a human moral teacher who millions follow, not for supernatural reasons, but because of his great wisdom and enlightenment. I do know some atheist Christians who feel that Jesus was a moral teacher of the same caliber, and who use Christianity as a source of moral guidance and inner peace without believing in a deity.

However these are all former theistic Christians, who came to see that the supernatural part of Christianity does not match reality, but were unwilling to let go of their Christian identities for a variety of reasons.

I have also seen this process further down the line, when people eventually abandon Christianity altogether. It is sometimes said that you only need Buddhism until you figure out how to do the right thing, and then it is no longer necessary. Perhaps some go through this process with Christianity.

Ashy: ...which could be contained in a thimble. "Be nice."

On this I agree with you. The teachings of Jesus are not significant and are available throughout the culture. There is really nothing there that most people nowadays don't figure out by kindergarten. It is hardly necessary to have one's personal identity wrapped up in this huge system in order to make use of a few simple moral platitudes.

I also notice that human society is closer than ever to systematically making peace and caring for the less fortunate as a matter of public policy, and this collective social responsibility has emerged along with a gradual move away from religiosity and toward reason.

In other words, there is no real reason to idolize any ancient persona to figure out what is moral. We know more about it now than they did, from collective trial and error, and observation of cause and effect.

06-12-16 7:12Waste of Time

Houseplant: Can you bring the sun out in the morning? Can you bring the stars out at night?

What a dazzling bit of reasoning! Since you cannot "bring the sun out" yourself, Somebody Else must be doing it. Therefore = Gods!!

Except, you know this is wrong. You know perfectly well that the planet we are on is rotating and this faces our location toward the sun part of the time and away from the sun the rest of the time. We are rotating because the nebular material which collapsed to form the planet was rotating and there is no force to impede our angular momentum. So, NOT therefore gods.

Houseplant: Your powers are so limited.

At least I have the power to understand the reality of what makes the sun and the stars come out. You have this power too, but you are throwing it away so you can make specious arguments about pretend phantoms. What a waste.

Houseplant: Don't you have any darkness, fear in your life?

Nope, none to speak of. Our life is a joyous adventure, a laugh-a-minute thrill ride, fun for the entire family. In those rare, brief moments of fear or darkness, we turn to each other and within for strength and comfort and soon the sun comes out again. It works great.

Houseplant: Why do we need God in our lives?

Because you are pantscrappingly afraid of the truth.

Houseplant: Oh sure, so you just think everything happens by itself.

That is what it looks like.

Houseplant: I don't see belief in God is waste my time anyways.

It is the way you do it.

Houseplant: There is no time elements in heaven. Just eternity

You have no clue what "heaven" is like. Humans have zero knowledge about any kind of afterlife and you are not an exception to this.

Houseplant: God wants us looking out for others...God is...God never...God had...

You have no clue what God wants, what God is, or what God had. See above.

Houseplant: God will win. We would Win too! God winning is for all us. Nobody likes to lose at all too.

"Winning" and "losing" are not important. You really waste your time with this win/lose mentality.

Houseplant: Salvation only comes through Jesus blood.

This is the biggest waste of time of all and I can't believe how much precious human time, thought and energy are being poured into this fetid sinkhole. What a waste to be churning internally about gods, sin, heaven, hell, winning and losing, salvation and magic blood all the time. Those things are not important.

06-09-16 2:04Who is College For

Wulfenbach: College is not for everyone. It's only a sound investment for the top 25% of any graduating class, who are the only ones assured of recouping their initial costs. College does not give a good return on investment to lesser students and it is a waste for them. Many can't even pay back their loans! Bad risk.

So the only possible value of an education is how much money you get from it?

I'm sorry that education cannot be appreciated for making people know more, helping them to be more critical thinkers, better citizens, and more informed voters. If some people are just not worth teaching history to, they are the ones who are bound to repeat it.

Wulfenbach: When you have people going tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt for college it's a genuine concern.

Of course it is, but that is just a symptom of the total fucked-upedness of our priorities as a society. It's certainly not what we should be shooting for. Public higher education should be available to every person, lifelong, simply by enrolling, just like it is today for primary and high school students. This is how they do it in other countries, like Finland, and the Finns are among the best educated - and one of the happiest and healthiest - societies on the planet.

Wulfenbach: Knowledge is available from a wide variety of sources.

Of course it is, but formal education should still be available to every person who wants it. If education is only available to those with money, you end up with a permanently uneducated and disenfranchised underclass. The people who cannot afford education are the ones who need it most.

People who want to be in school should be there.

Wulfenbach: Sorry, but I reject the idea that the only way to obtain knowledge or critical thinking skills is through paying a university.

Sorry, you will have to take that up with someone who is saying that it is the only way. I am saying it is a known very good way and it should be available to every person who wants it. For society, public education has an extremely high rate of return on investment, by deliberately cultivating knowledge, intellect and critical thinking as widely as possible.

An example in American history is the original GI Bill after WWII. For the first time, huge numbers of working class men had a chance for a college degree. As a result, the middle class expanded dramatically and the U.S. workforce surged in innovation and production for decades following. Great public education pays off everywhere it is tried.

Wulfenbach: But what about those that are so overwhelmed (or immature) that they never graduate?

That's the beauty of public education. They can try again when they are more mature.

Wulfenbach: But what about those that never get anything out of it?

Passing a single class is getting something. Actually learning is getting something too. If people could simply go to class and learn things they would be getting so much out of it!

Among other things, they would be getting lots of practice at what it takes to graduate. If they somehow picked up some knowledge or critical thinking along the way it would be all that much better for them and for everyone.

06-07-16 3:30Religion of the Future

Malibu: The idea of God provides a lot of comfort, and a lot of security. It's a psychological coping mechanism that makes it easier for a lot of us to cope with a lot of the harshness in life.But as people become more and more affluent, they also become sheltered from all that harshness. Affluent people don't "need" those comforting beliefs as much -- the psychological coping mechanism is no longer useful.

I agree that comfort is one of the main functions of religion, but it's not the only one. Religion is the story a culture uses to explain two important things - what all this is, and what matters. The story ties "what this is" to "what matters" by making them both from the same "source." For example in the Abrahamic faiths, these are tied together because God is the creator of the natural world, and of the moral order.

Regardless of the story itself, religions all use the same kind of mechanisms to propagate themselves. Religions have proponents, like clergy; structures, like temples; forms of artistic expression, like stained glass and hymns; rituals for reliving the story, like lighting candles, etc.

All of these factors keep the religions alive in the minds and practices of the faithful, and they serve to provide social cohesion as well as personal wholeness.

Malibu: Christianity is dying out because it is false. False beliefs have a funny way of dying out over time -- mythological stories tend to fade away from popular belief as the years go by.

Agreed. There was a time when false explanations were better than nothing, but that time is long past.

However we still need social cohesion and personal wholeness as much as ever. Beautiful buildings and symbolic rituals are just as fun as ever. And now we have something even better than false explanations, which is accurate explanations.

So, why not celebrate the true story of what this is, to the best of our ability to discern? Why not value the truth about what matters, as determined by observation, and a reasoned evaluation of what works for well-being?

I think the religions of the future will have to be true. What else could possibly work?

Thanks again Malibu!

06-06-16 7:20Ask a Jew

CollectiveGal: A lot of people may not be in a position to ask Jewish people about our religion, or they may find our customs strange and awkward.

So, I would like to clear up misconceptions with an "Ask Me Anything" post. I'm Jewish, one of the Chosen People - AMA!

MyMy: Why are you claiming to be Chosen by God?

CollectiveGal: That's a common misconception, so, I'm glad you brought that up. "Chosen" simply refers to people who have CHOSEN to accept the 613 commandments. Anyone who converts "chooses" to accept them as well.

MyMy: I thought the Jews were claiming that God chose them.

CollectiveGal: Well...it was a mutual agreement. G_d chose us, but we also choose Him.

This whole topic of whether it was God alone choosing or whether it was mutual obscures the glaring fact that there is no evidence, exactly zero, that God ever "chose" the Jews or anyone else. The entire thing appears to have been invented by humans to control humans. The idea that this has anything to do with "God" at all is massively absurd.

CollectiveGal: No one asked you to believe it was true.

Who said anything about me? I didn't say I don't believe it. I said there was no, exactly zero evidence. It does not appear to be true. Yet, people are claiming it is. That has nothing to do with me.

Your irrational beliefs are a problem for society even if you never ask anyone else to believe them.

CollectiveGal: If you don't believe anyone is chosen that's fine with me: I can't force you to believe in something you don't, nor do I care to convince you in that respect.

What does that have to do with it? I'm talking about entire cultures drowned in unreason, the majority of the human race walking around with a serious misunderstanding of what constitutes reality and actual cause and effect. I'm talking about driving our species off a cliff because of a lack of understanding of what really happens and what really works.

What does it matter what "I" believe? I'm saying the fact that you take something irrational that somebody said a long time ago and treat it as true, and the fact that millions of other people take something completely different but just as irrational and treat that as true, is a serious problem and it would be a problem even if "I" did not exist.

You can try to make this about "me," but it isn't. It is about unreason.

CollectiveGal: If my beliefs are a "problem for society," then yours are as well.

What beliefs do I have? In what way are they problematic? Please be specific.

CollectiveGal: Regardless of your belief - belief is a problem. That's what you said.

I agree, that is why I totally avoid it.

CollectiveGal: I said, regardless of what your beliefs are - they are problematic.

Well then avoiding beliefs entirely seems like the wise choice.

CollectiveGal: "Problematic in what way? Be specific?" I could put the exact same questions to you about my beliefs.

Thanks for asking, I would be happy to.

For example, the belief you described, that God has 613 things he wants some people to agree with, is problematic because it does not seem to be true. Some people said it, but people can say anythying. There is no evidence, none at all, exactly zero, that we live in a universe where gods reach agreements with people.

This is problematic for society for several reasons. One, because believing what others say without evidence makes people extremely easy to manipulate. Two, because it gives people the idea that we live in a world which works very differently than the actual world we actually live in. Three, because it elevates dictates of conduct from thousands of years ago to equal or greater status with the ability of modern people to figure out how to be, acknowledging no learning or growth at all in the time since. Four, because claims of "knowing" what gods want create unresolvable conflict with other groups who also "know" what gods want, but theirs is different. Five, because it devalues reason and evidence as a whole, and leads millions of people to think that reason is not important or doesn't really work. Six, it provides cover and enabling to people with really destructive and hateful beliefs. Seven, where there is no reality check, there is no possible chance of self-correction. Etc.

Ultimately, irrational beliefs - no matter what they are - are going to cause problems because of the disconnect with reality. The discrepancy between what is believed and what is actually the case produces a lot of error.

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