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Mike Adams

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Atheism as a Spiritual Path

I have been an atheist for a few years now, but I continue to feel the need for a spiritual path and to live with spiritual principles.

PLEASE READ:
http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2011/01/morality-spiritual-atheism.html

I do have a spiritual path, which has found expression in my atheism. It lies in the unimaginable creative evolution of this incredible universe, in the complexity of our ecosystem and the incredible far fetched chance that with all the twists and turns that evolution took along the way, humans evolved and luckily for me, I somehow was born. I experience gratitude that despite all odds to the contrary, I get to experience this crazy and beautiful, yet challenging life, that I get to be a parent and try to make a difference for my fellow humans.

I definitely have a spiritual path. It includes and is largely based on science, on quantum mechanics and theory of relativity. It allows me to sit in awe at the wonder of a developing human fetus, which goes through the stages of evolution in it's mother's uterus. That we are all spawn from matter created from super novas and transformation of energy into matter and back again millions or billions of times until today. We look around and see this mass of diverse matter and life, but it is all star-dust, created by exploding stars and the transformation of energy.

Evolution continues to unfold unbidden and undirected, but incredibly beautiful!

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    Jun 14 2012: In my humble experience, all humans are spiritual beings. Theism varies and a wide variety can be seen. Some people have a theism based in a higher power or powers external to themselves. Some people have a theism based on a higher power within themselves. Some have theism based on money, science, nature, etc etc. It's just a matter of finding the basis of each individuals spiritual self and having enough knowledge to speak the language from which their belief system is based.
  • Jun 13 2012: Mike Robinson,

    I move my comment up her Mike. I hope you'll find it here

    Yes indeed all creatures are "spiritual" creatures. Animals of all kinds.. and even the plants have aspects of their being that are spiritual. Not many people are familiar with the following ideas but I can run through the basics very quickly to give you the general idea.

    Even the stone has aspects of the spiritual. It simply depends on the way one sees the reality around us that is the key to understanding the spiritual in relation to the physical world.
    From "above to below" in terms of consciousness. What lies in the non -physical existence we won't get into here.
    First we take a look at man. He is put together of a physical body, a life body, a soul body and a spiritual body.
    The animals share the three lower aspects of our being on the earthly existence as we experience it.
    Thus, the animal consists of a physical body, life body and a soul body. While the "spiritual" element of its being is not "incarnated" on the physical plane.
    The plant reveals to us only the physical body and the life body. While its soul and spirit are not, generally speaking, incarnated.
    The purely physical, the stone consists of nothing other than the material substances that build it up. Here the other three aspects are not .... again... "incarnated"
    While the human being has it's individual spirit active within the physical world ( the spirit being the self-conscious ego part of our being the "I" or the "I am"
    The animals consciousness lives on the "soul plane". By this I mean the realm of "feelings" which is also shared by the human being. They do not have the same degree of self-consciousness that we as humans do.
    The plant is mainly on the 2 lower planes of existence, the physical and the "etheric" or life element that we and the animals share.
    While the material / physical is without any of the 3 higher elements "within it"

    You may recognize here the 4 elements of Fire, air, water and earth...
    • Jun 15 2012: I like your response Daniel! Assuming that we aren't precluding other animals from evolving upwards.... Evolution while normally incremental can also occur in leaps and bounds. Our uniqueness may only reflect that we are the first species to reach this level of sophistication, but others may be close (relatively) behind. Dolphins, whales, primates, octopus, ravens and parrots, are examples of other animals that may be close behind and about to reach the plane of sentience. We need to be willing to recognize and even assist them, if only by allowing them the space and security to blossom. Some theorists have suggested we are approaching the technological ability to "uplift" some animals to sentience. A few tweaks of the genetic code and we won't be so special anymore, though the very act of doing so would make us even more amazing in many ways!
      Would sentient animals have gods? What shape would those gods be imagined as? Would we be gods at that point? A whole new can of worms is opened....
      • Jun 15 2012: Hi Mike R,
        Yes! An incredibly interesting can of worms!
        To try to understand this little blue evolving planet through eons of time is no simple task !! Ask a traditional thinking Christian about the animals and heaven and hell and see what kind of answer they can come up with... ;-)
        I have to admit that this is not my own theory. I have been reading a good deal of esoteric literature that have pointed me in this direction. So I don't take any credit for it myself.

        I'll try to say a little more...

        The animals share what is called a "group consciousness" or group "I" .. each to its own species, they do not have their "individuality" or "ego" or "I" fully present on the physical plane as we humans do. They have however the soul aspect of their being present. (we can get back to this)

        The following may sound a little weird, I know, but I'll give it a shot anyway.

        To observe one expression of this phenomenon in the animal world we can look at several things.
        We could take a flock of birds for example ... or a school of fish...it is the degree of simultaneity they have that I am getting at here. They seem to be able to move in a flock as "one being" .. this we have all observed with great wonder. How can they do it..??
        Now without providing any "evidence" that the birds aren't sending a sound to each other or the fish aren't sending some or another signal to each other, what I am getting at is that the "flock" is in fact *"one" .. "being" .. * (Strange! .. your thinking..)

        Now, think of the following example.

        If I stuck my ten fingers through ten holes in a cardboard box or wall, where you couldn't see the back side. "I" would be fully in control of all ten fingers, moving them either individually or together. My "I" or consciousness if you will, is in control of all 10. Now, although the birds have no shared "visible" neural connectors / receptors, they are sharing what we might call an "astral connection" (google astral)

        Out of characters :-(
  • Jun 11 2012: Mike,

    I'm all for the scientific method. All for questions, questions and more question. And one certitude today must always be allowed to be challenged tomorrow. Curiosity and wonder are so much a part of my way of seeing the world that it has happened that my friends have actually made fun of me when I spend a few moments to look at a little spiral formed flower by the driveway.

    I'm sure there are many scientists who can see the whole cosmos reflected within the little flower.... But what is it that creates the border between the sciences and the spirit. Does there really need to be such a sharp line between the two..? I mean, the scientific method has to be the only way to go forward to gain real knowledge in the world. But, should it ever be proven that the spiritual world is quite real, then, it would make perfect sense if we (scientist as well as layman) must also apply the scientific method to the world of the invisible.
    You may say that this is not possible. But if the world of the spirit is real, then it must be within the grasp of the scientific methods and principles to do research and discover the nature of it.
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      Jun 11 2012: If there was some other plane of existence reasonably shown to exist I would have no issue using the scientific method to understand it better. Science has discovered much that is weird already. To think we are 99.9999% space, made of atoms that are mostly empty space. etc etc.

      I guess science at this stage is indicating most perceived spiritual experiences are products of the material mind. Pray or meditate and a part of your brain activates as seen in an MRI.

      Damage the brain and you damage the mind, consciousness etc.

      Current metaphysics is simply organising ideas about what is most likely an imaginary realm dreamed up by our ancestors.
      • Jun 12 2012: Obey,

        The physical brain is like an antenna. If you destroy the antenna, the signal to the TV will not get through. Its a simple analogy but it works. What you are saying is that the picture, the sound all come from within the TV itself. We know this is not true. The MRI shows the activity of the thinking feeling spirit within the brain.
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          Jun 12 2012: Thanks daniel. Do you have any evidence that shows the brain is a spiritual antenna and not just a brain/processor?

          I heard someone else say that pschadelic drugs gave them spiritual experiences. The loss of ego/self, feeling one with everyone. Apparently there is a part of the brain that is responsible for this sense of self. I guess some drugs impact this. I guess some non drug related experiences play around with our minds and consciousness.

          Trance is not that unusual for humans. We get into a mild trance when watching movies and lose awareness of the surrounds and our selves.

          I'm not saying you might not be right, but the material brain can probably explain most of the spiritual experience stuff. No need to add complexity unless you have some evidence.
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          Jun 15 2012: Hi Obey and Daniel:>)

          Obey, you say..."Science has discovered much that is weird already".

          With my experience of the NDE/OBE, I've discovered a lot that would have seemed weird to me prior to the incident too! After the fact, however, it seems very natural.

          Obey, I disagree with your statement..."Damage the brain and you damage the mind, consciousness etc."

          My brain was badly damaged (there IS proof of that fact - scans, MRIs, x-rays, craniotomy, etc.) and my mind/consciousness seems to be working at a higher level. When I say higher level, I mean more perceptive, aware, mindful, open minded, etc. Although I was not expected to live, then not expected to ever function "normally" again...here I am, enjoying a full life:>)

          I percieve the brain to be a carrier of energy, and the energy is a carrier of information. Science recognizes the energy flow in the body/brain. So, I agree with Daniel that the brain is like an antenna, and I don't percieve Daniel saying it is a "spiritual antenna"...simply an antenna, which may also be considered a carrier of energy....yes?

          It seems very simple and natural to me, although scientists (medical professionals) I was involved with years ago are not often in tune with this idea yet, so they give it the label of miracle. To me, it is simply a natural scientific happening, and when people do not understand the science, they sometimes put it in the spiritual/supernatural realm.
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          Jun 15 2012: Good point Colleen.

          I would suggest that some damage can be worked around and other damage can not. The plastic brain, natural healing, the extent of the damage etc.

          I'm glad you recovered. Others have been brain damaged from lack of oxygen or trauma or disease.

          A relative of mine had severe dementia, a disease of the brain. It did damage their consciousness etc. The personality faded as well before the end.

          A friend of mine got hit by a bus and damaged his brain. He is physically and intellectually handicapped. He's not quite the same person. Maybe some of it is trapped. I don't know.

          Another friend has used too many recreational drugs. He has mentioned he feels hollow. Like some of his memories and personality has been erased.

          Assuming the metaphysical spirit exists - I accept that if the spirit needs a working brain to project into the real world properly - this could fit the assumptions. I guess you would assume the spirit is not damaged by brain disease or trauma. Perhaps it is. We don't know. Which is central to my comments. We don't know if spirits exist. There is so much additional speculation about where they come from, how they work, where they go etc.

          A close relative of mine had an NDE. It was quite comforting for them. She was not a Christian or religious at all before. So even if there is an afterlife I'm assuming you don't need to be a Christian to go to a pleasant place. I didn't debate her, but it seemed just like something a mind might make happen as it drifted away.

          I don't know enough about how the brain copes with a life threatening situation to assess NDE. I have a few speculative ideas only. I could imagine ways these profound experiences might happen without requiring a spirit and spirit world. I would not be surprised if there were similarities and also some experience/cultural specific aspects - a mix of the material mind and the information in it.

          When the energy in the brain stops, when it decays, what then from your perspective?
        • Jun 15 2012: Paul Zak has run numerous studies on the relationship between oxytocin and trust. What he has come to understand is that trust is the product of oxytocin and without oxytocin you are less likely to trust. His work has been able to demonstrate that oxytocin is the CAUSE of trust. Yes the brain is plastic and oxytocin is created by the subjective experience of trust. However if you were to remove oxytocin from your brain and bloodstream then trust could not be realized.

          So upon further examination you have the brains chemistry allowing for subjective experience. To repeat myself, yes the brains chemistry can and is altered by subjective experience and interaction with environment.

          I have to say as humans we lend far too much credence to subjective experience. Im not trying to diminish subjectivity, but it can be misleading. People have hallucinations and other such experiences that are subjective and are not real. We now know that hallucinations are not real(or it wouldn't be a hallucination) but if we wind back the clock to midivil times hallucinations would take the form of a jungian archetype and most commonly were understood as a vision from the gods. However a hallucination is subjectively real. We also understand that hallucinations are a product of malfunctioning dopamine levels. So my point is that you have the brain determining trust, reality, and subjective experience.

          You have the subjectivity as a product of the brain so then why not consciousness as well. When we have a dreamless sleep we are not conscious but we wake up and we are. this leads me to believe that consciousness is not a result of an outside force but more likely a state of the brain.

          Of course I cannot prove one model true or untrue. However when taking the above points into consideration the antenna model seems unlikely and dominated by spiritual motives.
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          Jun 16 2012: Obey,
          Yes..."Some damage can be worked around and other damage can not". New neural pathways are formed...or not. There are many factors involved. I know that many do not have the same results I had, and I also know that many others HAVE had similar results....again...there are many factors.

          When I was unconscious, according to the medical model, the part of the brain that allows communication as a human was disabled. There was something else functioning, because I was experiencing several levels of consciousness. I equate it to a computer...some programs can be open and running, while other programs may be turned off or disabled for some reason.

          I experienced the NDE as very comforting as well. I was not practicing any religion at the time, and still do not practicing a religion. The NDE was totally beyond my belief system at the time. My belief is that we all go back to spirit/energy form, and no, we do not have to embrace a particular belief to experience the spirit/energy form....in my perception.

          You ask..."When the energy in the brain stops, when it decays, what then from your perspective?"

          I believe that the energy leaves the body when brain activity stops. The body, including the brain, goes back into the earth...buried....cremated....whatever one chooses. The energy returns to the "pool" of energy to be recycled. My experience was that although the energy that powers my body was seperate, it was also connected to the rest of the energy.

          I agree with Frans Kellner, who said in a comment the other day... trying to explain this stuff is like peeling an apple with an ax!!!

          I am very sorry about your friends that you mentioned above. Life is not easy. I lost 2 friends in the last couple weeks. One finally died from a brain tumor he's had for awhile, and the other one was fatally injured in a car accident...severe internal injuries, including traumatic brain injury. After 10 days in ICU, her family agreed to unplug life support systems last week.
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          Jun 16 2012: Thanks Colleen.

          I'm glad there have been some positives from what must have been a traumatic situation. I can see how your view fits your experience intuitively. Similar to my Aunt.

          For me NDE is an unanswered question. Great quote from Franz.

          Yes, life can be brutal even in a rich modern country. Our bodies are quite easily broken and none of us last for ever. That is a tough decision for your friends re the ICU.

          I'm not surprised by the array of beliefs in regards to the afterlife when you mix in NDE, centuries of religion and spiritual ideas, and increasing scientific understanding. It is an inevitability facing us all.

          Usually I'm all for the contest of ideas, but it would be nice if death was something that brought us all closer instead of being another point of contention. Perhaps it does if we pause for minute and reflect. Thanks for the discussion.
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          Jun 23 2012: Obey,
          Death CAN bring us all together rather than seperate us, because it is another similarity that we all share. You insightfully say..."perhaps it does if we pause for a minute and reflect".
          You have spoken the magic words that could bring us together more and more in many ways..."pause for a minute and reflect".

          I think/feel/observe that many times, people are so caught up in their own beliefs, there is no pausing and reflecting on the words they are speaking, the beliefs they are fighting for, how it impacts themselves, how it impacts others, or the world we all share.
      • Jun 12 2012: Obey,
        the complexity of the brain is, I agree, something that science is delving deeper and deeper into. Thousands of kilometers with microscopic neural connections. But what we see as the connections firing are always in response to an asked question or a requested thought or feeling that is asked to the subject under the MRI. It always has to come from the individual(ity) who is actively thinking. What reveals itself in the form of "lighting up" in the various areas of the brain, are the footprints of the spiritual activity going on in these neurons. They are not the actual "thoughts" It would be a mistake to say so. And neither would I guess that an honest truth seeking scientist would even say. ... as ... How can one convert the MRI's flashing lights to real thoughts.....?
        Now, because physical science is at the limits of it's material explanation, it can go no further. But it must. It must ask the next question honestly to itself. How does this lighting up reveal the activity going on from within the neurons. . The answer so far is this.. Our tools of measurement are not sensitive enough to capture what is "really" going on here.. There must be something more. As we see this activity occurring only in the "conscious" mind of the person under the MRI. The person must first take the sense impression, sound, color or physical stimulation before the MRI can register activity. If the activity is measured, it is of course because the person is thinking of this or that thought or feeling of stimulation.
        Even dreams are "objects" of our own perception, as much as we can remember them. I ask how can this be? As we are very little conscious in the dream state. This says that there must be an "observer" somewhere within our being. Had it not been so... then how could "I" relate the dream to my reality in waking life?
        This "observer" is what I would call our "spirit" or our "ego" The eternal part of our being that rests, lives, exists within our thoughts.
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          Jun 13 2012: My recall is 100 Billion neurons with 100 trillion connections.

          I agree to the extent that seeing brain activity does not mean there is also an internal spiritual dimension.

          But there is no way of knowing. You are simply asserting there is a spiritual element to all this. You don;t know and offer no evidence.

          Again the natural explanation could suffice for most experiences deemed spiritual. It could all simply be brain based.

          Our minds are amazing. An event such as having a vision is not that much more profound than having a dream.

          You seem to be flitting in and out of a naturalistic view and a mystical speculative view.

          You don't explain how the ego, sense of self observer etc part of our mind is anything more than a product of our mind/brain. Simply calling an element of our mind/consciousness/self "spirit" doesn't make it an immortal spirit that survives beyond. Its just another word for something that occurs naturally and most likely dies when our brain dies.

          Again, noting offered to show that a spirit that is ultimately not reliant on our body. Just because the idea or derivatives is popular doesn't make it true.

          Supernatural assertions require reasonable proof otherwise they are just guesses, wishful thinking or unsubstantiated dogma with origins in a time when we had much less understanding about brains and the universe in general.
        • Jun 13 2012: All animals have brains as far as I know. Mammals have more developed brains than birds or reptiles. Brains seem pretty important to the effective functioning of animals. As far as I know the Bottlenose Dolphin have highest brain to body ratio after humans and are capable of empathy, tool use, mirror recognition, numerical values, etc.
          Are all animals "spiritual" creatures? Just mammals? Just animals with convoluted prefrontal cortexes? Or just humans (monkeys in pants). When did this happen in our evolution? 200,000 years ago? 35,000 years ago? July 20, 1963 during the total eclipse of the sun?
          As I wrote in another forum thread, "Spirit is a metaphor for currently unexplainable phenomena, or intuitions, of matter and energy".
      • Jun 15 2012: Obey,

        To make the assumption that our ancestors simply dreamed up the realm of the spirit is to disregard a possibility that you may not have considered. If you look a little further down on the comments, you will find another way of looking at our ancestors relation to the spiritual world that you may find interesting. I make a comment to Mike Adams which may give you another perspective on this matter.
        What appears to us as simple "dreamery and superstition" may be looked at in another light.
        Could it be that in ancient times the human being had a more direct access to the spirit realm? If you could take into consideration this possibility, there may present itself another interpretation of what at first sight appears to our modern intellectual mind to be a naive world view of demons and gods. But on second consideration, we have to ask ourselves the question ... Maybe the ancients experienced something that we no longer experience so easily today in 2012.
        Consciousness has evolved. We today are highly developed in certain intellectual capacities ... but maybe this development is at the cost of another older stage that has been put aside. Something that has been lost.
        Not to say the one is better than the other. I simply state that this is an interesting possibility that one must honestly consider. Our spiritual evolution has many facits.
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          Jun 15 2012: Hi Daniel,

          I'm not surprised our ancestors saw agency behind floods and lightening. I'm not surprised that dreams and visions were treated as portents or communication from a supernatural entity.

          We take for granted now that disease is from viruses and bacteria. To the ancients these were magical plagues sent by gods. Many cultures before monotheism had a rich spiritual belief filled with animist entities and spirits. Some still have shamans.

          My guess is that goblins, fairy and demons and magic and curses were the explanations developed in a time of relevant ignorance about how the universe worked. The must have been brought up infused with these beliefs. Some still are.

          I doubt that our brains have changed much over 50,000 years. The information we put in them has more science. So maybe we are not primed the same way as the ancients so belief paradigms are more restrained by this knowledge. But still our intuition and supernatural ideas persist. For some though the need for evidence and reason comes into how we explain things and what to believe. People believe they see ghosts. They believe they were abducted by aliens. But what has really happened. I woke up once feeling a weight on my legs when I looked I saw small creatures standing on my legs clear as day. I moved my legs and the toppled over, then I rushed out of bed and turned the lights on and their was nothing.

          Could be real. Or could be the tale end of some dreamlike state with my eyes open. No evidence for it to be anything else but a product of my mind.

          I guess wet dreams were considered visitations by succubus. Epilepsy = demons.

          What do you mean by consciousness when you say it has evolved?

          I guess only our knowledge and culture has developed not our physical brains for the last millennia. I can understand that having a belief in a spirit world you would intuit a subjective picture of spiritual evolution. I suggest just ideas and culture, We may have lost Zeus, but might we be better off
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          Jun 15 2012: Daniel, my rambling ran out of of space.

          I was wondering if we might be better off now with medicine rather than the mythical explanation for disease. That we may be better off understanding storms and earthquakes as natural events rather than punishments from gods. That kids with epilepsy are not possessed.

          I'm glad we don't go around killing witches or our neighbours for supposedly cursing us. They still use this as a defence for murder in some countries.

          I'm glad this world paradigm has been questioned and helps us avoid theocracies. I'm glad kings are just men by accident of birth now not our rulers by divine right.

          I'm glad our laws are constrained by perceived human rights and we are not stoning adulterers in my country because some supernatural god got humans to write this down in a book.

          Actually the more I think about this superstition does exist still. There are people that believe in demons and gods and crystals etc. It is just in a more advanced society.

          I get your point about losing some richness to the human experience or actually being less in touch with the invisible hidden world if it actually existed. But for me it removes the fear and pitfalls of superstition.

          For me organised religion is just codified and organised superstition at heart.

          One question Daniel - do you think all interpretations of this supernatural spirit realm are equally valid or is there some streams of teaching closer to the truth?
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      Jun 11 2012: I would say that what has historically been the realm of the spirit doesn't exists. I don't believe in an afterlife or anything metaphysical.

      To me, spiritual relates to the human spirit (think of calling someone spirited). Psychological doesn't seem to encompass enough for me.

      I don't see a border between science and spirit. My sense of spirituality is based in the incredible wonder and beauty that science reveals.

      I'm blown away that scientists have been able to "synthesize" a spiritual experience by using magnetic stimulation directed at certain parts of the brain (I can't find my original source on this sorry). This knowledge doesn't soil my memory of previous spiritual experiences, but it does let me know what was going on, physiologically.

      Obey No1 (love the name BTW) has taught us well, in that matter is composed primarily of "empty" space. I quote empty because we don't know for sure. It boggles my mind that every object we see is created of the same basic matter, which came into existence roughly 16 billion years ago. No new matter has been created or lost since then. It has simply changed form from energy into various states of matter millions of times and evolved through this incredible series of events and processes to create life as we know it and possibly life as we don't know it somewhere else in the cosmos.

      I don't think it likely that science will find a spiritual realm (in any Judeo-Christian sense) but might there be something to the concept of our personalities being energy and therefore never lost? Possibly. I don't think so, but I won't say no, because I don't know and can't know.

      I have no opposition to faith or belief. I don't intend to convert people. I simply like a good conversation! I like to be challenged and to examine a topic from every angle. I am comfortable with my beliefs, but happy to challenge them, because I might stumble on a better idea, which I will adopt. I'm glad everyone has been willing to play along :-)
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        Jun 12 2012: Thanks Mike.
        I've enjoyed the discussion too.
        • Jun 16 2012: Obey,

          I fully agree Obey, you do have a tendency to rambling! .. and repeat yourself. But please don't just argue for the sake of "good conversation" itself. It gets rather pedantic after a while. Your responses seem like you almost have a peculiar unconscious fear of the world "spirit" After reading the little story about the two "beings" sitting upon your legs, it really made me wonder. ...

          You come with a question at the very end of you most resent comment. you ask

          Daniel - do you think all interpretations of this supernatural spirit realm are equally valid or is there some streams of teaching closer to the truth?

          My answer is of course not...

          Do you think all forms of science are equally valid or are some streams closer to the truth...
          One could point at a lot of "superstition" in science if one wanted to... and one wouldn't have to go back very far in history to do it..
          One could point to a lot of immorality in science if one wanted to.. also going on this very moment. Immorality didn't stop when witch burning stopped.

          This is not my intention.

          My intention is to point out that modern science can and eventually will discover the realm of the spirit and when it does, there will "open up a whole new can of worms" as Mike Robinson said.
      • Jun 15 2012: Mike Adams,

        "I'm blown away that scientists have been able to "synthesize" a spiritual experience by using magnetic stimulation directed at certain parts of the brain"

        I think your referring to a "forced" OBE / NDE ("Synthesize" a spiritual experience)...

        Now to "force" ( in the Bible " to take heaven by force" an OBE / NDE is nothing new. Nothing that has come up in the last few years with sciences new found interest in NDE. This has been going on for hundreds, yes even thousands of years.

        I can imagine that some people will find the following claim somewhat controversial.

        As far back as the time of Jesus and even much further back in time.

        There was a time in our history when people had direct access to the "Akashic record" (google it if you don't know what it means) As our evolution progressed, this access to this "spiritual book" (also referred to in the Bible to those who know their Bible) became more and more limited to
        fewer and fewer people. These people were the spiritual leaders or prophets of the different societies throughout the entire world. Some older cultures, not yet strongly influenced by the materialistic culture of the west, still have individuals who have contact with this realm. For example in Nepal. Also areas of deepest Africa. Every society had them. Some people have this ability still but only a few. Here in Norway there are several.

        As this ability slowly disappeared in a culture, they then found ways ... "initiation ceremonies" that could lead individuals "over the threshold of death" and then back again. This was also practiced by the Jews at the time of Jesus. This is what "baptism" really was.

        This is what John the baptist was doing. He was giving people a NDE by not just sprinkling a little water on the forehead as is practiced today... but submerging the person under water until they actually "drowned".
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      Jun 12 2012: i dont belive that we can prove the existance of spiritual world using science. i think science is a wrong tool to measure spiritual existance. i believe there are limits for the dimensions and size in which we can apply our science, its right that we have discoverd atoms, nucleus and many facts like that. but there will be always something inside everything and how deep we can dig and how can be sure that we reached the bottom even when we think we have? i'm talking about the science that we know... but i do believe that, behind every single incident and phenomena in this universe there is a science...a science that existed even before we defined the word 'science' and even before we existed,. that will be ultimate truth, but i doubt whether, human brains have the ability to process informations at that level or whether we have that much information to even start with.
      still we dont know how big this universe is or how small it is..and about the science , that we are going to use for proving the existance of spiritual world, what once proved right in our science have proved wrong other times and the tools we have today, is definitly more than enough for our needs...but for this purpose, think of the difference..how big is universe and how small is spirit/soul??. it will be like a chimp going for the same with his sticks..
      also, we shouldn't be thinking of that unless it will improve or make an impact on our lifes here... its a dead end of thoughts where we get lost... i used to have this same feeling in mathematics exams where i used to think too much and equations get bigger and answers goes far away... i would be thinking in the wrong direction.. but the real procedure will always be simple,,and usually i ends up with a 50 marks thinking for a 5 marks question and yet no answer....doesnt suits here, but just saying :D
      • Jun 12 2012: Pranoy,

        I feel just the opposite. I think science will get there one day. 100 years.. a 1000 years I don't know. But as we continually seek the truth, the real honest truth .. and science generally speaking does this, they have no other way out than to come to this conclusion. If we are truly spiritual beings and not just physical beings then science will find this out.
        Some areas I would guess might be through the phenomena of NDE's or OBE's or hypnosis, or trances, possibly through medical technology such as organ transplants, or research into sleep. Clairvoyance is also a possibility. In psychology there are things going on in regressive therapy where people are led back into previous lives.... Could there be something in it??
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          Jun 12 2012: Daniel,
          talking about NDE,OBE and trance i think your brain - antenna analogy works there. out of body expiriances makes be believe that consciousness is not brain centered. it is like the signal and can exist without brain. science needs better tools to quantify what consciousness is...and when we discover what consciousness is we will be on the road to provide absolute scientific evidence for spiritual world..but science need material explanation. i have heared that the trance effect can be created in laboratory by a method which actualy confuses our brain and gives us an OBE. but thats all we can do in laboratory...but, intresting thing is that, those who really had an OBE was able to tell where they went and what they saw, which came out as true afterwards. i know some spiritual communities, here in India, which teaches meditation. and what i felt is that, their methods are like self hypnotising to generate a trance..and they seems to be able to do that. they doesnt have any scientific support though. they belive every individual is a soul and souls changes body like we change clothes,,like when one dress becomes not good enough to wear anymore, it chooses another one through death and followed by re-birth.
          another thing about proving spiritual existance scientifically is , it appears that a soul is non-physical..then there is no question of a truly scientific explanation having recourse to anything like non-physical souls. also i believe OBE and trance are not hallucinations caused by brains chemical actions...as people frequently learn facts during an OBE that would be very difficult or impossible for them to know on the assumption that it is a pure hallucination...Out of body experiences are real. but to know it, you must have one, and then be able to prove it to yourself..
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        Jun 14 2012: Pranoy, can I give you a link to a book that, I believe, deals (and supports) exactly with how you describe what this spiritual topic is all about. These ideas are based on someone's 27 years of daily, spiritual experiences. That person was also a well known and respected scientist who also had a normal, everyday life with no abnormalities during those years.

        I hope you like it too and if you want to react privately, that's fine.
        http://webhome.idirect.com/~abraam/documents/TheSpiritualWorld.pdf
        • Jun 15 2012: Hi Adriaan,

          I just wrote a longer comment to Mike Adams a few comment windows up. It would be interesting to hear what you think about this. Swedenborg has surly spoken about it.

          Greetings from Daniel
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          Jun 16 2012: Adriaan,
          thanks for the link, i think Bible have had influenced Swedenborg's views of spiritual world. i came to know that, most of his belives was based on the experiances he had during his trance. as i believe, whatever you feel during trance will be based on the believes you had and deeply believe till then, more like hallucinations.
          also, here on earth, good and bad peoples live together, so i dont believe there will be seperate places for good and bad souls (heaven and hell) after life in the spiritual world. and also, Swedenborg seems to belive that angels, which are souls of people ealier lived on earth, effect the enviornment on earth. which i find hard to understand.. soul is non physical and how can it effect the physical world.
          one thing i found intresting is the description of judgement day. it says, on judgement day period, souls exibit their true nature.. i have the same believe that souls show their true nature, because logical thinking is not possible without brain...or after death. just consciousness exist. (and hence we cant lie, if we are subjected for a trial). i haven't got a chance to read that book completely, so pardon me if i misunderstood things :)
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        Jun 15 2012: Daniel, you are absolutely right, in fact when I read what you write, it seems you have been reading Swedenborg :) Maybe that's why I reached my limit to TED-credit you comments :)

        He describes the spiritual path of humanity as a 'down-fall' in every one of the 5 churches that have existed. Each down-fall is a further removal of the human connection with the spiritual world (not of intelligence). And believe it or not but this is for our protection. For the same reason we do not (or should not) explain all secrets of the sex life to a 10 year old. Or how to use a gun.

        A very strong parallel with that path of humanity, is the one we as each individual person, can travel on. The perfect path Swedenborg describes for each one of us, is to proceed from the innocence of ignorance, to finally arrive that the innocence of wisdom.

        We can so much depend on, and believe, that what our senses (the serpent) tell us is the only truth, we never even start this spiritual journey. This same spiritual journey is the single and only meaning in the Creation Story.

        Swedenborg, as far as I know never made any connection between baptism and NDE. Before which it was circumcision. We certainly believe baptism introduces one to the heavenly society the baptizers belong to, but it does not do one single thing for the child. It is just a ritual and does not change (or save) a person. Neither do NDE's as is clearly shown by someone on this site :)

        Did you actually read any of Swedenborg's books? If you'd like to, there is a free download section of all his books on www.Swedenborg.com
        Great to hear from you!
        • Jun 15 2012: Hi Adriaan,

          I'm interested in everything... either alive or dead.... Walking or crawling.... Athiest, Christian, Agnostic ... everyone's struggling along the path towards the / their own light.

          I'm off to bed now. 1.10 here... catch you later.

          Yes, I've checked out Swedenborg. Very interesting I agree!

          I
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    Jun 10 2012: As long as you know that at the end of the day, you lived a good life physically, emotionally and spiritually.
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    Jun 9 2012: Dear Mike,
    I doubt whether atheism and spiritual path are divorced from each other and that these two make polar opposites. But the real issue lies at how we define atheism and spirituality. Philosophically, some people i meet do no like to categorize themselves either as atheists or theists.
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      Jun 10 2012: Hi Teja,

      Agree definition is important..

      I guess everyone either believes in gods and goddesses or doesnt.

      But that doesn't make all atheists the same in terms of personality, interests,other beliefs and how they live. There is no other dogma with atheism - just a shared lack of belief in one thing.

      If you don't have a belief in gods or goddesses you are an atheist.
      Doesn't mean you know for sure, you can be an agnostic atheist.
      Gnosticism is about knowing.

      I understand not wanting to say you are an atehist because it can lead to social alienation by those who don't really understand what atheism is or have been programmed to hate atheism and misrepresent it as it challenges the power and influence of religious traditions. Simply not having a belief in god leaves everything else open.
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        Jun 14 2012: Dear Obey,
        I have left a response to you latest comment to mine. I hope it is the latest comment on the topic, and if it is so you will find it at the top. I hope Ted would allow us to have more threads of comments, so that the conversations can have flows.

        Regards :D
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      Jun 10 2012: Teja and Obey,
      TED is the first experience in my life adventure, where I'm meeting people who want to catagorize in this respect. Prior to my interaction on TED, I've had lots of conversations with people about god/no god, and they have not needed to catagorize themselves, just as I do not catagorize myself.

      Not wanting to catagorize myself has nothing to do with social alienation, or not wanting to challenge religious traditions. I challenge religious traditions a LOT! It is, as you say Obey, I like to be open to possibilities, and once we take on a certain identity by catagorizing, or labeling ourselves, sometimes that stops the exploration of the life adventure. Once people accept a certain religious dogma without question, it seems "stuck" to me.

      I've found that here on TED there are a few folks who seem to need to convert everyone, and their religious beliefs come into EVERY conversation as the one and only "cure" for the worlds challenges. It feels like they are "programmed", as you say Obey, and cannot step out of that program to express their own thoughts, feelings and ideas.

      In my conversations on TED, I percieve those who call themselves atheists, as much more open to possibilities, and less likely to try to convince me they are right. This is simiply my own observations regarding this topc of course. I personally do not see a need to catagorize oneself, feel it is limiting, and it is a choice each individual makes for him/herself.

      My observations of people and the life adventure show me that practicing a certain religious or philosophical belief does not necessarily make one a better person. In fact, in my perception, it often serves to disconnect people from the whole.
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        Jun 10 2012: Dear Obey and Colleen,
        Thanks a lot to both of you for your beautiful comments. But Obey, the way i grew up and the people around me do not care that much whether one is atheist or a theist. Such terms almost are never used. As Colleen Mam has said, it is not a categorical necessity to categorize oneself. Also, even if I call myself religious, atheist or whatever, that need cause alienation as long as one's practices and perceptions do not harm oneself and others. My best friends have diverse beliefs, cultural origin, etc. But i love them thinking they are same as me: human beings with common aim of happiness, common dislike for suffering, and common thing called "struggle" (although our forms of struggles differ).
        As to categorizing, let's assume that it is similar to identifying. Although our ideas of spirituality differ, here i think it spiritual not to identify oneself. Identifying is a convention, socially created. Who is this Teja, Obey or Colleen. Why are we called so? Is it the hand, the leg, the body, the ear, the consciousness, that is called Teja, etc. We just give ourselves names to identify, to follow conventions. Atheists, theists, spiritualists, American, Sri Lankan. etc. These are all conventions. Even if I do not like my national identity, i have to bear my passport, etc. The society wont allow us to do otherwise.
        Besides, think of the whole of human existence: friendship, relationship, poverty, happiness, etc. To give a helping hand to someone need not require an identity. For us to eliminate poverty, we need to work hard, and other nations and related agents and phenomena need to play a helpful role. It is like creating a structure, a fabric, a building. A building a such cannot exist itself, but as a structure of interconnected things: bricks, iron, etc. We exist in an interconnected world, and our conditions depend on our interconnected roles. There is no categorical necessity of identity. But we identify.Identifying is not the end but a means
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          Jun 10 2012: Well said Teja:>)
          We are all more the same than different. We are all interconnected, and when we recognize this, the labels don't mean a thing AS LONG AS how we use the labels does not adversly impact others.
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          Jun 11 2012: Hi Teja. I'm also weary being labelled, particularly when it is used to misrepresent or limit who I am and what I believe.

          Labels can both help and hinder communication and understanding.

          We are so much more than a theist or non theist etc. Although I suggest atheism is more narrow than most religions in terms of defining a person. Not believing in gods leaves everything else open. Whereas being an evangelical christian or jehovahs witness often implies a shared set of beliefs, interpreted by each individual. But even a theist is more than their religion.

          Agree many important things can be shared across all humanity and the degree that these are shaped by religious or spiritual beliefs depends on the individual.
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          Jun 13 2012: Hi Teja,

          Atheist, theist etc also wasn't part of my childhood vocab until I was born again in my early teens. Thankfully sanity prevailed even though I wanted and tried to believe. Reading the bible helped me realise what it really was. I see the same flawed arguments I learnt all the time which is, well, repetitive. But good to have the xperience.

          You can not believe what you don't believe - its not a choice. If you eventually grow to see as nonsense and social/psychological manipulation with bogus science and logic etc no matter how hard you try you know in your heart it is false.

          We had discussions about this stuff at university and with friends from time to time, but if you don't go looking for it it doesn't really come up in a non religious household.

          I guess if you go looking for philosophy etc, as you experience different things, from meditation to living in a buddhist infused country, have Muslim colleagues and friends, as you live through 911 etc and can access learning sites such as TED, then labels are part of the communication and argument,

          You'd think atheism would be fairly straight foward in terms of how people define it but the variety is impressive.

          Then you have a word like god that means something different to everyone. Something that can mean nearly everything in a way means nothing in communication terms unless you define it. I never cease to be amazed at the variety of meanings for god or gods or goddesses. Or the certainty and conviction and behaviour that flows from these conflicting beliefs.

          Lots of fun.
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        Jun 10 2012: I wonder Colleen, if perhaps Atheists tend to be more interested in questions than in answers, so rather than trying to convert you to their answers, they're trying to convert people into looking for nuance and giving up certitude. I never thought of this before and I'm not saying that all atheists, like me, are more interested in questions than answers, but your comment made me wonder about that possibility.
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          Jun 11 2012: Mike,
          As much as I dislike labeling, I also dislike generalizing certain groups of people....as in atheists/theists. There are many different thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and beliefs within these catagories, and we never really know what a person's intent is unless s/he shares that information with us, in one way or another. I agree with Teja and Obey, in that we are much much more than theist/non theist.

          I observe, generally, that people who are secure in their own beliefs, do not need to convince the world that they are "right". When we are secure, we can have a discussion about almost anything, that will be an interesting exploration, with questions and perceptions of answers going back and forth to build on the topic.

          When we are secure in ourselves and our beliefs, it doesn't matter if everyone in the entire world has different beliefs. We "know" in our heart what our truth is, and we feel no need to convert or convince anyone of anything different.

          Those who tell us we will go to hell if we do not embrace their beliefs, those who violate the rights of others, or try to push their beliefs onto others, are simply demonstrating how insecure they are with their own beliefs. Those who are insecure in themselves and/or their beliefs, generally do not like questions because it threatens something they are already insecure with.

          I am not aware of atheists ever involved in a "holy war"....are you?
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        Jun 11 2012: "Those who tell us we will go to hell if we do not embrace their beliefs, those who violate the rights of others, or try to push their beliefs onto others, are simply demonstrating how insecure they are with their own beliefs. Those who are insecure in themselves and/or their beliefs, generally do not like questions because it threatens something they are already insecure with."

        I have to disagree with this statement. My Grandfather was a devout and steadfast Catholic until the day he died. There is nothing in my life long experience of him that would lead me to believe he or his beliefs were threatened by my atheism or my Mom's turning away from the Catholic church. Rather, he was confident that if he failed to convert us back to Christianity, two people he loved would spend eternity suffering in hell after we die. His point of view was thought out and included logic (starting from the premise that the Bible is God's word on earth).

        I am secure in myself, but based on my choice as a Unitarian Universalist to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people, I do feel that I need to convert people from being homophobic to being inclusive, that I need to participate in changing aspects of this world, which deny people their basic rights. I want to convert people who practice genital mutilation to believing that is wrong and that they need to stop, not because I am insecure in my beliefs, but because I believe it is wrong to do that to people.

        There hasn't been a "holy war" exactly by atheists, but Stalin was responsible for nearly 30 million people dying in the USSR and one aspect of his persecution was against religion. The communist revolution required that people give up religion and devote themselves to the welfare of the state and others. That wasn't entirely done in the name of atheism, but there were massive atrocities committed in the name of atheism in that part of human history.
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          Jun 11 2012: That's ok Mike...I agree to disagree. You notice I said "generally":>) Kudos to your grandfather. My mother, a devout catholic until the day she died was not disturbed when I abandoned that religion. She was secure in herself, her beliefs, and in addition to teaching me some very valuable lessons, based on her beliefs, she also encouraged me to open the heart and mind to seek my own beliefs, which happen to include some of what she taught me:>)

          My intent in the life journey is also to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people, and I encourage inclusiveness. I like to plant the seeds, through example, that violation of rights in any way is not useful to the individual who violates the rights of others, nor is it useful to the whole. It is only an insecure person, and one who does not recognize the connectivity of all people, who can violate the rights of others. One of my life philosophies is that if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I like the idea of "planting seeds", rather than trying to "convert".
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          Jun 12 2012: Most atheists I know support freedom of and from religion.After all we are a minority in many places. No issues in the battle of ideas and debate, but I'm not aware of anyone suggesting forcing atheism these days.

          Stalin, Mao etc was a particularly nasty person with a nasty perspective in many areas including in regards to religion.

          I guess they saw religion as a threat and supporting the status quo e.g divine right of the Tzars etc.

          Forced atheism is as evil to me as forced theism. Communism was kind of like a particular totalitarian atheist theocracy.

          Having no belief in gods does not automatically lead to forcing the same on others. Atheism does not support communism or democracy - it is neutral. Atheism was just an element of stalinism. Not the cause of it.

          But I note you said not exactly, and one aspect only, not because of.

          I'm an atheist but don't have any dogma encouraging me to suppress religion within a secular society. Whereas religions are filled with pointers to do bad stuff - e.g. homosexuality is wrong, suppressing women is okay, killing in the name of god is okay etc. And this is seen as an absolute truth by many.

          Atheism is not an excuse for doing harm to others. It just means you have to figure out what a good life is for yourself and not rely on this or that religion.
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        Jun 11 2012: I had to go all the way back up to your first comment to respond...Ted responses seem a bit quirky! Don't get me wrong, I didn't appreciate the way my grandfather acted. It saddened me, when he died, I was the only person there. He and my mom hadn't spoken in nearly two and a half decades. This was due to his belief regarding her religious choices. He and I discussed the situation often and his pride got in the way of his being able to express his love for her in any way other than railing against her choices, which he thought would send her to hell.

        I know what you are saying in "planting seeds" I periodically find myself at odds with members of my congregation because I often take a more head on approach to things that I think need to change in society. In the end, however, I believe that for change to take place on the scale necessary in this day and age, a diversified approach is necessary.

        I do admire MLK and the nonviolent civil rights movement he spearheaded. I also admire Malcolm X. My empathetic tendency would lean towards favoring MLK, but my sense of urgency for justice might push me towards Malcolm X.

        Have you ever read any of Star Hawk's books? I read "Webs of Power" a while back and it made me pause and think (not sure I ever stopped after that though LOL) Sometimes I wonder if I'm the guy who stopped to think and then never got around to starting again!

        Anyway, she has been involved in the anti-globalization movements since the late 90s and discusses how decisions were made in the field...affinity groups. She discusses the idea that peaceful protest and the so called "black block" might both be necessary to foment change.

        This might be making excuses for my personality, but it has given me room to be more of who I am, which is someone who is passionate and sometimes a bit "in your face" about things I really care about. I've quit fighting that and quit trying to be some other way. It has been liberating

        --Mike
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          Jun 12 2012: Mike,
          LOL...you had to "go all the way back up to your first comment to respond...Ted responses seem a bit quirky".

          It's kind of like life...is it not? "Quirky" at times, and sometimes, we can explore back to the beginning for information which may help to respond in the present moment:>)

          That is very sad that your grandfather and your mom didn't speak for so long because of belief choices they made. That happens way too much in our world, unfortunately.

          I agree that to facilitate change, we can all use diverse approaches, because we all act and react to/with different stimuli. To create change in our world, it is important to participate and be aware from many different angles. There is not one approach, belief, idea or opinion that will appeal to everyone.

          I agree with your perceptions of MLK and Malcolm X. They both demonstrated a different approach, which led to the same perspectives and resolutions. There are many different paths to the same goals.

          I appreciate and respect the differences offered by different people, and I believe that is how we will create resolution and unity in our world...IF/WHEN...all people (I know that's a big stretch..."all people"!!!) let go of the belief that their truth is the one and only truth.

          I have heard about Star Hawk's books, but have not read them.....yet!

          Being who we are, and being clear about who and what we are, is indeed liberating. Anything else is illusion...in fact...who we think we are could be an illusion as well:>)
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          Jun 14 2012: Hello Mike and Colleen,

          Dont want to miss your lovely conversations. To sum up your conversations: beliefs and social life, beliefs and interpersonal relationships, beliefs and world situations, "planting seeds," relativity of truth, and the need to incorporate diverse approaches/perspectives.

          For me, it's good to have theories of evaluation that concerns human beings and the world as a whole with its interdependently weaved fabrics of existence. One such theory would be like: neither harm oneself nor others. Any belief that harms oneself and others can be undesirable. Related questions would involve: how can we harm oneself and others? what is one's relationship to others and why should not we harm them? If we harm ourselves, how can that affect others? How can it possible that harming others will involve harming ourselves? (Any more questions?)
          These questions may sound out of place, but we dont seem to be sincere in our wish for a peaceful world if we discard such concerns. Beliefs and practices can be evaluated to how much they promote to this cause of peace and happiness, both of the individual and of the society. It's not an issue whether we are theists, atheists, liberalists, secularists, or communists, although these conventions may shape our ways. Certainly, there can be diverse ideas of heavens, utopias and felicities. but can there be a single road? To elaborate: some people find happiness in drinking liquor (one way to happiness?). If it is so let it be. But the undesirable aspects of it can be domestic violence, possible health threats, etc. We believe drinking is a source of happiness, but how can it be if it harms oneself and others, causes social turmoil. etc? It is not bad in itself but how it affects.

          Wishes :D
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          Jun 23 2012: Teja,
          It appears that your exploration of life is similar to mine...questions....questions....questions!

          I agree that how we choose to lebal ourselves, is not that relevant. What is important to me, is how I live my life...how do I use the information I gain from the questions?

          "One of the great difficulties in the new order of thought is that we are likely to indulge in too much theory and too little practice".
          Ernest Holmes - "Science of Mind"

          We can call ourselves theists, atheists, liberalists, secularists, etc., as you have pointed out. What does that really mean to us as individuals? Sometimes, we embrace the labels without fully exploring the meaning to us as individuals....too much theory...not enough practice!
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      Jun 10 2012: I choose to identify as an atheist specifically because of society's prejudice against atheism. As you probably read in my UU sermon, I have been a "gnostic atheist" when I was young, meaning I not only believed, but believed that I knew there is no god or gods. Then I joined AA and became a theist and for several years, I was a "gnostic theist" meaning I knew that god or gods existed. Now I'm something of an agnostic atheist. I don't know there is no god or gods, I simply don't believe there are. I may change my mind again some day if a good enough case is made.

      Many members of my church, the Unitarian Universalist Church, are uncomfortable with the term atheist. The atheistically inclined prefer the term, "Secular Humanist."

      My choice in this arena is similar to Star Hawks choice to call herself a witch. She is reclaiming a word, which in her estimation has been misused. A few years ago, I read a news article, detailing how more than 50% of the US population wouldn't vote for an atheist. My two older kids were cub scouts when they were younger and I seriously objected to the notion that the "Best Kind of Citizen" is someone who believes in a god or gods. I think that statement is patently false!

      In terms of spiritual, I find that so many secular humanists get upset by the word spiritual or prayer and this is fine, but isn't, in my opinion, appropriate in a Unitarian Universalist Church, which requires neither belief in god nor disbelief in god. UUs as a class are more concerned with how someone acts and whether we are making the world a better place.

      Thank you everyone for reading and for taking the time to make a great discussion on this topic!
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        Jun 11 2012: Mike, thanks a lot for your explanations and also for starting this conversation. You certainly have great understanding. I admire your flexibility. I'm learning a lot from here.

        (I don't know why Ted allows replying only upto the second reply, not a third one or to several steps further. If Colleen Mam and Obey are reading this, i want to thank them for their comments)

        Best Wishes :D
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          Jun 11 2012: Thanks Teja! :-)

          I'm appreciating your participation in this conversation.

          --ma
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        Jun 11 2012: Hi Mike, I'm also an technically an agnostic atheist.
        Although I'm 100% sure all the human religious belief systems can not be literally correct.

        I do struggle with theists who think the interpretation they believe, usually just depending on where and when they grew up, is the truth, particularly if they try force it on others. I just want a secular separation of church and state where people are free to follow or not follow any religion, within limits e.g. no genital mutilation of infants, no stoning homosexuals etc.

        The indoctrination of children saddens me immensely.
        Adults often fall for the psycho-social tricks in religious and cultist institutions as well, but at least they have had a chance to build to develop critical thinking and skepticism.

        At best one stream is closer to the truth than others but I guess they are all just man made.
        Pantheism or Deism is less specific and hence less nonsense, but no evidence.
        My best guess is the natural universe is weirder than our human senses and intellectual capabilities can grasp.

        Who knows for sure? I guess no one.

        UU, is quite interesting. There are a couple branches in Sydney I thought of checking out, but I personally don't need or want to strongly. Good for people who want something like that. I guess some reformed theists miss the religious or community spirit. Whereas my little community or tribe is my group of close friends. However, I have enjoyed meditation and yoga in groups. I guess we are social and meaning seeking animals.

        To each their own I guess as long as they don't adversely impact others. Also, if people want to make claims about the truth or force them on other people they need to have decent evidence and a non religious rationale, and be prepared to defend their assumptions, as do I.

        Interesting topic. Thanks.
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          Jun 11 2012: I would tend to agree with you about religious belief systems not being 100% correct (and I think that is a generous way to put it!)

          I also strongly support religious freedom.

          I think the main reason I'm a UU is that it is the venue in which I've decided to try and make a difference. For some stupid reason, I've decided to try and write a book (like I have time for that). Here is the opening paragraph to the preface.:

          I am motivated to write a book for Unitarian Universalists, not because I believe myself a skilled author or profound thinker. Rather, my reasons are very personal, they consume my time and energy, they motivate my focus on career and they simultaneously invigorate, and deplete my personal energy reserves. Regardless of any immediate emotional state I may be experiencing, they motivate my efforts to become a better person and provide a continued reason for my identification as a Unitarian Universalist. In short, they constitute the foundation for my unyielding commitment to spreading our message.

          My motivations are named, Rowan, Devin and Mikalh. They are my three exasperating, inspiring, draining and beautiful children. To me, they embody humanity’s future and they serve as a constant reminder that my generation’s legacy, though still unwritten, may prove a burdensome load for its inheritors.
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    Jun 9 2012: Is that like asking if I can over eat to get skinny?
    • Jun 9 2012: Hi Debra,

      What about...

      Wash me... but don't get me wet.... ;-)
  • Jun 28 2012: Old Atheists never die ... they just... dis-be-liv
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    Jun 27 2012: I too am in wonder of are universe and it's evolution. Like you I am so greatful to be alive in this mathematical improbability. However, I do not see a need for anything spiritual. When I hear the word (spiritual), Immediately accociate it with religion, soul, and some unseen energy that is us. I am pretty sure this is not how you think of the word spiritual. I Think you are using it in a sense that connects you to are universe in a deeper way. As an atheist I do not want to give any power to religious dogma, because I feel it is infecting and contagious to mankind. For these reasons I will not call atheism a spiritual path. However, I will call it an exciting enlightened journey towards truth, knowledge, and wisdom. I donnot need a God or spiritual connection to appreciate the universe in all it's complexity. All I need is the will to continue towards a path of truth and understanding.
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      Jun 28 2012: I think generally, you and I probably agree, except in your condemnation of religion. I don't believe humanity will be any better off if religion is eradicated. I believe religion is merely an expression of the human condition (though it is one of many).

      I think people tend to be more interested in being right than in embracing the inherent ambiguity of life. If people stop having religion, I think they'll become dogmatic about something else...probably about topics which already carry a heavy load of dogma, like politics or economic theory.

      We'll substitute Cambodia's killing fields for the crusades. Well substitute right vs. left dogma for religious dogma. We'll let people starve in service of the holy "free market."

      I don't think much would change in terms of how we treat each other. I could be wrong...I often am, but this is my sincere opinion.
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        Jun 28 2012: Hi Mike, I think Marshall is just saying he doesn't want to reinforce religious beliefs by linking an atheist life journey to a word like spiritual with all its religious/supernatural meaning. No overt condemnation. Just some language like infection, contagious.

        I agree an end to religion will not be an end to greed, tribalism, misuse of power, respect for undeserving authority, hateful cultural practices and attitudes, or being dogmatic. Not all terrorists and wars are religious. There will still be bad people, ideologies, leaders.

        Atheism isn't an ideology, just a lack of belief in gods. Up to the individual to develop a world view, rather than a cookie cutter religious denomination. Humanism, Buddhism, Nihilism, whatever. Guess there will still be a battle of ideas and conservative versus liberal. Sexist, homophobic versus equality - just not empowered by religion, by claiming an absolute authority.

        But suggest there is special power to religion that can be extra dangerous reinforcing tribalism etc. It also supports dumb and harmful ideas making them off limits for review.

        Religion intertwines with other aspects of culture. It seems to have a multiplier effect in some situations. Atheism with enlightenment human rights and responsibilities is a good start I suggest.
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        Jun 29 2012: Mike, I apologize if I come off as condemning religion for all of mankinds trouble's and wrongs. Surely this is not the case. However, their is no denying the influence religion has in are daily global events. It is hard for me to accept the absolute power some people give religion without any question or evidence. It seems to me that most, (not all) religions teach people to close their minds to new ways of thought. If we do not evolve are thought processes, how will we ever have a better world then the one we have today. Why do so many people allow these archaic ideas govern and control every aspect of their live's? Look at places like Iran where you can be convicted of blasphemy of the holy spirit and sentenced to death. What is a spirit? And how do you prove it has been blasphemed?
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          Jun 29 2012: Hey Marshal, no apology necessary, this is a forum for open discussion and agreement or disagreement. I feel your comments were an addition to the conversation and I think this has been a respectful discourse.

          Also, I agree with most of what you've articulated, in particular with "If we do not evolve are thought processes, how will we ever have a better world then the one we have today."

          I think what I'm really getting at (and it is theory) is that without religion, I firmly believe people will simply find something else to believe completely and without question. I have known people from the far left and the far right, who in either case refuse to acknowledge that scientific knowledge is more likely to point in the direction of truth than a subjective point of view or anecdotal evidence.

          I don't see much difference between some of the free market purists or neo-cons with regards to their economic "truths" and my grandfather and his catholic "truths." I have family, who simply want to end petroleum production. I point out that it would devastate our economy and we need a comprehensive plan. They refuse to talk after that. It occurs as an article of faith to me...stop oil production and all will immediately get better.

          That is all I'm saying. I'm not trying to defend religion exactly, I just think that if we want to create that just world, the focus will have to be on people's need for certainty in life. I have known many "gnostic atheists" who in conversation would say that they don't "know" there is/are no god/s. But when the topic shifted to something else, they would make statements that firmly imply knowledge of god/s non-existence.

          I also know religious people, Christian, Mormon, etc... who embrace the ambiguous nature of life and who are pretty clear that their religious beliefs are beliefs, rather than knowledge.

          I'm just think that a focusing on religion, whether pro or con, will likely lead down a tunnel with no cheese.
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      Jun 28 2012: Marshal and Mike,
      I don't interpret Marshal's statements as a "condemnation" of religion, but rather his reason for not wanting to "give any power to religious dogma", as he says.

      I agree Mike that religion is one expression of the human condition, and throughout history, it is apparent, that many times religion does indeed, become an infection and contagion in a way that often adversly impacts many people.

      I agree that some people often tend to be more interested in being right, than accepting each other and beliefs that may be different. I also agree that if some folks didn't have religion, to act out their underlying feelings, they may find another avenue. Those who have a tendancy toward controlling others, violence and abuse, will find a "cause" with which they can use their agressive behaviors. Those who have an argumentative personality, will find something to argue about.

      One of the problems with religions, is that they often sanction mistreatment of others. Nothing is done within a religious organization about the molestation of children, the killing of people under the guise of religion, mistreating and rejecting people because of prejudice. These adverse actions, which are sanctioned by churches, need to be recognized for what they are. Many people who say they are devoutly religious and adore their loving god, turn around and abuse people in so many ways.

      The molestation of so many children for example...
      It was covered up by the leaders of the church and allowed to continue, because they were representatives of god and protected under the rules of the church. If they were in the general population, they would have been convicted of a crime and punished.

      I grew up with this hypocracy and contradiction with a father who was known to be violent and abusive to his wife and children, and was honored by the church because he did volunteer work for the church and school, and showed up for mass on Sunday...sitting in the front row of course...to be seen.
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        Jun 28 2012: Perception and reality.
        Its not just what you do.Its who knows what you do.
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          Jun 28 2012: I agree Obey...that is one perception...who knows what we do is important to some people.
          In my humble opinion, it's HOW we do something that is MOST important....what is our intention?

          If one truly believes in a religion and a god, and lives the beliefs, like my mother did, then HOW it is done is beneficial to oneself and all of humankind.

          The opposite way of "being", is my father's life, in which it was ok, as far as he was concerned, to sit in the front row at church, recieve communion, do volunteer work for the church and school, then go home and beat his wife and kids.

          I see this concept way too much with religious fundamentalists/extremists. They say the words...love thy neighbor...treat everyone as we would like to be treated...bla....bla....bla!!!
          Then they exclude certain people from their church because of prejudice, kill people under the guise of religion, and often, even tell us we are uninformed and ignorant because we do not accept their god and religion! These are some of the very apparent reasons that many people are turning away from beliefs in a particular god or religion.

          If they (religious fundamentalists/extremists) would simply take a look in the mirror, and evaluate their words and actions, our world could be a better, more harmonious, more peaceful, safer place to live.
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        Jun 29 2012: Don't misunderstand me about religion, I'm not saying it is all great. I honestly believe, though that not much would change if we do away with religion.

        I just believe that when we see the hypocrisy of many religious people or hear the religious justification for perpetrating evil, people are quick to blame religion, because it is used to justify horrible actions.

        Stalin, however, didn't use religion to justify the death of more than twenty million people under his reign, communism was officially atheist. When the US Government took my full blood Native American Mom away from her parents and adopted her into a white, American family, they didn't use religion as an excuse, but rather the concepts of integration and cultural superiority.

        I truly believe we will cross all of those bridges of poor ethics, using our politics or economics as justification. The global sex trade is funded by greed. Hundreds of thousands of young children are kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery so that someone else can make money. It is justified by the need to make a profit. The same can be said of sweat shop labor.

        I just don't see the end of religion making any real difference in these sorts of things. While defending freedom, "patriots" will continue to say things like, "America, love it, or leave it!" We'll continue to accuse people of being Nazis for trying to expand health care. People are capable of pretty disgusting behavior and they'll find a new religion to justify that. Some other belief system, which perhaps doesn't include Gods, but does leave them feeling justified in not examining their own faulty point of view. I think if we want to change this, we'll have to dig a lot deeper than religion.
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          Jun 29 2012: Hi Mike, we had similar race policies in Australia with the indigenous people, although my understanding is part of it was to give them some god.

          Totally agree bad people and inhumane policies don't need religion.

          Atheism is lacking a belief in god. It's a personal choice. Outlawing religion is not atheism. Stalin may have been an atheist but outlawing religion it is not an automatic outcome. Atheism does not equal communism.

          I think theists are being a bit deceptive or ignorant when they link a lack of belief in god with totalitarian regimes that outlawed religion.

          Most Atheists I know support human rights including freedom of and from religion alongside the separation of church and state.

          Agree that it takes more than an end to religion to address the bad that are not part of or reinforced by religion. While I have an opinion, I'm not sure on balance if the world would be better or worse with or without religion. Either way we can do better than we are now.

          My guess is things are much better now than the past in many places. Thanks to the enlightenment etc cruel punishment and torture is frowned upon. Slavery is no longer accepted although sanctioned by the Abrahamic texts. Equal rights. We no longer lock up homosexuals in Australia. They are still killed in some places. The idea of monarchy is challenged etc.

          There is something beyond religion, maybe helped sometimes, maybe hindered sometimes, where our cultures have evolved. Sometimes in the early days religions may have been socially innovative and improvements. Nowadays I see religion in many places being dragged slowly into the 21st century, with human rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.

          Things like greed etc seem to be par t of our nature depending on the individual. Maybe religion moderates some individuals, but I think the underlying cultural norms are more powerful. I think religion can be a + or -.

          Regardless, of the pros and cons, the question is is it true
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          Jun 29 2012: You know Mike, I am less interested in an end to religion than I am in moderating it.

          No more theocracies. Freedom of religion with a secular government. Not sneaking creationism and prayer into state schools. Not forcing iron age and medieval morality on others based primarily on dogma.

          One of my bugbears is how it is difficult for religious adherents to reject the dogma that is damaging. The advocacy of slavery in the bible was fighting words leading up to the US civil war. The stand against same sex marriage has strong links to religious dogma. Why shouldn't catholic priests be able to marry? Why not women priests? Circumcision of powerless infants is simply GBH wrapped up as tradition and religion. Who says aborting a fertilised egg is the same as killing a thinking feeling self aware child. Why does the foetus's right to develop and be born automatically trump the rights of the mother in regards to what happens in her body, particularly if she was raped etc. Its not black and white. A lot of religious morality stamps binary directives on complex issues.

          Religion may stunt the debate of these sorts of issues on their merits. The starting point and sometime the end point is a book, or religious authority says this, every other argument is just to defend the dogmatic position.

          So while a lot of the bad isn't going anywhere in general, there is nothing wrong with hoping bad is reduced, including the bad from religion.
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          Jun 29 2012: Mike,
          I don't think I misunderstand you about religion. Your topic is "Atheism as a Spiritual Path", and that is what I am addressing. Nowhere, have I suggested doing away with religion. In fact, I've spoken in favor of religions on many discussion threads in which people suggested doing away with all religions.

          I am very aware of the benefits derived from religious beliefs for some people. That's why I used the examples of my mom, who truly lived her beliefs, and used her religion as a valuable life guide, and my dad, who was hypocritical and contradictory in the way he used religion.

          I also clearly stated in my comment above..."One of the problems with religions, is that they often sanction mistreatment of others. These adverse actions, which are sanctioned by churches, need to be recognized for what they are."

          Religious organizations are a HUGE part of our societies. The catholic organization, for example is one of the largest and richest entities in our world. I believe that if/when religious organizations start being accountable for their actions, which adversly impact people, it WILL make a difference in our world simply because of the masses of people who are controlled by religions. I agree with you that all challenges in our world are not going to be resolved by encouraging accountability/responsibility within religious groups, but it certainly will start to influence the way our world functions, simply because of the numbers of people we are talking about.
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    Jun 9 2012: Interesting topic Mike,
    I believe we can call ourselves whatever we choose, and live with whatever principles we choose. I don't like labels, so I choose not to label myself. I do not believe in a god, do not practice a religion, and live mindfully aware in the moment.

    A little background...
    I was born into a catholic family, and percieved the dogma/teachings to be hypocritical and contradictory, so I was constantly questioning. It never made sense to me to have a religious belief based on fear. At some point, I abandoned the belief, but had to continue going to mass on Sunday as long as I lived with my parents. Otherwise...you know...I would go to hell...LOL:>) As soon as I moved out (age 19) I abandoned the practice.

    Fast forward...23 years later...
    I had a horseback riding accident and sustained a near fatal head/brain injury, had a near death/out of body experience, which was totally outside any belief system that I had at the time. After that, I explored, researched, studied, and even practiced several religions and philosophical beliefs for years. While some religions have some valuable core beliefs, I find the dogma of many religions controling. So, I embraced, accepted and use many of those core beliefs independant of a dependancy on a religion.

    I did not meet a god, when I was in the spirit/energy state. There may be a god "out there" somewhere, but with the information I have at this time, I do not believe so. I did not witness a heaven or hell. It doesn't make sense to me that a god of love (which "he" is called by religious people), would create this earth, and put us here only to worry about going to hell!

    I like to live life from a place of love, and if there is a god, I believe that is how he/she/it would want us to live our lives as well:>)
  • Jun 9 2012: Mike,
    check out here, it may help
    http://www.ted.com/talks/karen_armstrong_let_s_revive_the_golden_rule.html

    "Dethrone yourself from the center of your world, put another there and you transcend yourself"
    I believe, this is what spirituality is all about :)
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    Josh S

    • +1
    Jun 9 2012: I may be wrong but isn't a spiritual atheism a great example of an oxymoron?
    definition of atheism is 'disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.' from Miriam Webster.

    So if you believe in ANYTHING spiritual you aren't an atheist...
    • Jun 9 2012: That is what I always thought. Until I looked it up in Wiki. .. Just how much Wiki gives a correct definition of things can be debated, ... but it seems some so called "atheists" do give room in their definition for the possibility of the existence of the immaterial world....

      It seems that the definition .. .. in as much you can define a "collection of ideas" that a certain group of people share... is rather unclear ... even for Atheists.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
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      Jun 9 2012: It depends on how you'd define spirituality.

      For me there are many spiritual things that have nothing to do with a god or a religion like spending a wonderful night at the opera, watching a performance that let me forget everything around me and connects me at the same time with the people in the room. For others it might be a spiritual experience to play a game of chess or even an online game throughout the night on your playstation, spending time laughing with good friends or family, a rock concert, a walk in the nature, ... attending a TED event!

      I personally think that people need those spiritual moments and I can understand that they find them within their religion and their faith. But I also believe that if we teach our children how to live spiritual moments without being religious, we will take away the last "core competence" of religion. And that's what religions are mostly afraid of.
      • Jun 9 2012: Katja,

        Looking totally aside from what we call "religion" Just what is your idea or your "concept" of the word "spiritual" ?
        Does it have to do with your thinking .... or more to do with your feeling life ? ... or both ?

        If we can gain a "concrete" picture of the "spiritual" (oxymoron anyone)

        And furthermore how can this experience at the opera or the walk in nature continue on living in your being. Perhaps you can recall the music at the opera. ... perhaps the shiny trumpets or the violins whispering strings. How can we do all this ? You can find joy in this experience that you may have had years ago. And this you can choose to do at will ... whenever you like !! Isn't that amazing !

        If your a materialist, you might say that this is all lodged in your brain somewhere. ... chemical reactions, neurons, ... etc. etc.

        Where is the fulcrum point here ?? Just who is looking back at these so called spiritual experiences that were so much enjoying talking about. If the experience is as you say spiritual ... then there must be a "spirit" that observes it all ...
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          Jun 9 2012: Hi Daniel...nice to see you again...as always:>)

          Because I percieve myself to be an energy (spirit) being, every single thing I experience is thought of, felt and experienced, knowing of my connection to all that is.

          We can experience by remembering, if we choose. And by being totally focused and engaged in the moment, we can experience this thought/feeling of interconnectedness in every moment. It is "lodged", as you say, in every single cell that makes up this person we call Colleen, and is also part of the energy that moves through the body:>)

          We are multi-dimentional, multi-sensory beings. So, yes, we can get outside ourselves and be the observer, even as we are activily participating:>)
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          Jun 10 2012: Only because we call it "spiritual", there isn't necessarily a spirit involved. It's just the language, the word, that implies it.

          I don't believe in a god, in a spirit that observes or judges or creates. So I guess I should label myself as an Atheist (again, that's just a word that's been created by humans, right?).

          But I do believe in energies or vibrations that are set free with whatever we do, good and bad ones and that these energies influence us more than we are willing to accept. And maybe we just don't have the means to measure them or we have lost the ability to see and feel them.
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          Jun 10 2012: I agree Katja...we use the words created by humans in an attempt to explain feelings:>) I believe spirit, soul, god are words that were created to try to explain the energy vibrations we experience, and we can experience them at many different levels, for many different reasons. If it is a religion that causes one to recognize the energy vibration, so be it. If it is interacting with people, specific activities, nature, so be it.

          I agree that the energy vibrations influence us, and we influence the energy vibrations with our thoughts, feelings, words, actions and reactions. I believe that we can increase the energy vibrations, by the way we live our life journey, causing more peace, joy and contentment. We can be open to experiencing the energy vibrations on many levels, and we recognize it at whatever level we are willing to be open to.

          Sounds like you know all this already...I'm simply confirming my agreement with you:>)
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        Jun 9 2012: I totally agree Katja,
        I don't like to label myself because I feel it is limiting. With the information I have at this time, I do not believe in a god and do not practice any particular religion or philosophical belief. I am everything and nothing, living a life of integrity, with joy, compassion acceptance and unconditional love.

        I agree that we can feel connected (which is spirituality to me) in every single moment, by being fully engaged in the moment with each and every activity.

        I agree that religious leaders are afraid of losing control, when people realize that they do not need a religion to experience a close connection with everything and everyone:>)
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        Jun 10 2012: Hi Katja, what you feel is not spiritual feeling, its mere happiness and getting lost in the moment. that feeling is for you and its good for you.
        on the other hand, to have a spiritual feeling, you dont need an opera or chess board or a play station or the help of friends and family...you just have to know yourself. you have to isolate yourself from materialistic world and should listen to yourself.
        you get that feeling, you said, only when you go to an opera. what about the rest of times? how about having that feeling every moment, no matter whether you are in an opera or not. if you had a spiritual feeling once, you wont need any operas to feel that again.
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          Jun 10 2012: Pranoy, you didn't read my post correctly.
          I just mentioned Opera as an example. I feel this connectivity all the time and I think I am a very spiritual person. But I still don't need a god to feel this and

          Obey, I don't think that spirituality is something supernatural. It is very natural, it's something that is produced in our bodies, in our brain. It's a kind of energy, that we produce and feel and share with others. This energy is still natural.

          The only thing that - in my opinion - is not natural, is the believe that there is a god or there are gods and goddesses somewhere out there that influence our lives and our destiny.
        • Jun 10 2012: Bingo Pranoy !!
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          Jun 10 2012: Pranoy and Katja,
          I understood that you were using opera as an example Katja, just as you used several other examples, which led me to believe that you experience connectivity, joy contentment in every moment?

          I agree Pranoy, that to experience this feeling of a higher energy vibration, we simply need to know ourselves. It seems like Katja knows herself pretty well, based on what she has written. How does it serve you to tell her what she is, or is not feeling?

          I agree Katja...experiencing the energy vibration is not at all "supernatural". It is part of our natural human experience, and by giving control of our natural human experience to some power "out there" we are giving up an important part of our "self".
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          Jun 10 2012: I agree Katja. These so called spiritual experiences are probably just going on in our brains/body.

          No need for magic spirits or supernatural beings.
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          Jun 10 2012: Pranoy, I'd beware of telling people whether they are or aren't spiritual.

          It seems to me that the nature of religious dispute lies in people telling others whether what they are experiencing is spiritual or not.

          Katja, I tend to agree with what you've said with the exception that I don't believe it is unnatural to believe in a god or goddess. I think that must be natural as many people have naturally been believing that for thousands of years.

          In terms of a spiritual experience, according to this Scientific American article, there is a spiritual part of the brain which scientists have identified:
          http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=brain-activity-altered-during-relig-08-12-24
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          Jun 12 2012: I agree Colleen. Feelings of transcendence can be achieved without resorting to religious type pathways and processes.

          I get the same from meditation as a someone who visualises connecting with a supreme being.

          Even some drugs make us lose our sense of self.

          I guess just our brain. Although religious folk may twist this natural phenomena to indicate there is some god that has created us this way or being tricked into a substitute to the real god.

          The other aspect is the softer eureka, ah ha moments, the felling connected, the seeing connections the intuitive.

          The more we think for ourselves and not take things as the truth without critical evaluation the better. So I hope you are right. I fear a backlash by fundamentalists. They have more children and it keys into the worse of our primal tribalism, heirachialism etc.
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        Jun 10 2012: Hi Katja, I guess the word spiritual can be stretched to cover a lot of ground.
        It is quite loaded with meaning related to spirit.
        A lot of the things you mention can be profound, similar to religious type experiences.
        After all we share the same brains.
        When we use the word spiritual if often comes with connotations of the supernatural where as the things you mentioned are natural and non delusional.
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          Jun 10 2012: Obey,
          I think/feel that what has "loaded" the word and concept of spirit, is the connection it has been given to religions? There have been many people throughout history, who believe that the ONLY way we can experience the increased energy vibration that creates contentment/happiness is through religion. And, of course, some religious leaders reinforced this belief in an attempt to control people....in my humble perception.

          I find that the higher energy vibration can be attained without dependance on a religion, and it appears that more and more people in our world are thinking and feeling for themselves and discovering this idea. I believe that we are evolving as human beings to the point where we will no longer settle for being led by others' beliefs. We are thinking, feeling and experiencing on a higher energy vibration, and there is NOTHING supernatural about that. It is real, and very natural....in my experience:>)
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        Jun 10 2012: Katja, i never said spirituality is supernatural or there are gods and goddesses somewhere out there that influence our lives and destiny (and i dont believe in tooth fairy too :) ..see, i dont believe in any particular religion, i have my believs and i had posted that earlier in this conversation...
        its all natural and its inside us. thats what i was saying, its INSIDE you, if you search for it in the outside world you cant find it..
        and yes, i dont know what you feel. as long as you can connect to that feeling all the time, even at tough times when you really need that...you are doing it right.
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      Jun 10 2012: Agree that atheism is simply not having a belief in gods.
      You can believe in all sorts of other speculative and mystical stuff, just not gods.

      Most atheists I know have awe and wonder, many meditate, but they tend to think that what we expeirence is the material. universe, our minds, which are amzing enough without inventing stuff like spirits.
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      Jun 10 2012: From free online dictionary:
      spir·i·tu·al (spr-ch-l)
      adj.
      1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. See Synonyms at immaterial.

      This does not contradict disbelief in a supreme being or beings.
      • Jun 10 2012: Hi MIke,
        There you are ! I've been waiting for you to pop up on your own conversation...

        Most people in the Atheist corner of the ring refuse the idea of the "not tangible or non-material"

        Although, strangely enough, when you ask them about their thinking and feeling, something that is most highly intangible, they seem to be a little thrown off. Loose their balance. They do of course have both feeling and thoughts, but they have a hard time connecting that with the concepts of spirit and soul. This is a big jump for many Atheists.

        What could be the chances of their being a very direct correlation between your thinking and your spirit .... and your feelings and your soul....?? Could the spirit be actually be something of the nature that is living and pulsating in the here and now. That which is also here walking around on the physical plane of existence. Living within a little 80-90 year segment of "time" ... a little slice of eternity within a physical existence yet still "within" the eternal now.... ?
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          Jun 10 2012: Good questions.

          I have been gone, due to yard work. My wife and I have a permaculture garden, so I've been chicken-proofing a coop and setting up drip irrigation. Finally had a chance to drop in and see what was going on with this conversation today and I'm surprised by the excellent response!

          I tend to disagree with "The New Atheists" in terms of believing that that atheism is superior to theism. I do believe a lack of certitude is superior to certitude in most arenas.

          I don't personally believe in a spirit (not as being distinct from the biological and chemical reactions in my mind). I use the term spiritual, because I believe it causes people to stop and think. To ask questions, to wonder, "What does spiritual mean?" I spent 13 years as a regular member of AA and though AA has a spiritual solution to Alcoholism, it doesn't in the end define spirituality. In fact in any meeting with five or six different people, you are likely to find five or six different answers to "What is Spirituality?"

          --ma
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      Jun 10 2012: Just curious, JS, if you read my link? Perhaps your comment was intended as a shift in context, but it isn't in keeping with the context of the link I provided as the foundation of this discussion. Which is fine, but I thought it could offer clarification if you are confused by my use of spiritual and atheism to describe my theology.
      http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2011/01/morality-spiritual-atheism.html
  • Jun 9 2012: Mike,

    I guess it depends on what you mean by a "spiritual path" Of course we "are" on a spiritual path, ... all of us! Whether we know it or not. Whether we "will it" or not, define it so or not. The real question is in which direction the path is leading. Satanism is also a "spiritual path...."

    To deny the existence of the "spiritual" seems to be the common ground that most Atheist rest their ideas upon. Although I have seen on Wikipedia that this is not always necessarily the case. .... So can one be an Atheist and still have a belief in the "spiritual world" without having the particularly annoying self-contradiction gnawing at the root of your life / world view....?? ... or.... Is their room for an immaterial form of existence...?

    Most Atheists would have to answer no to this question... Even though the faculties of thinking and feeling in themselves are about as immaterial as things can get.... Question mark, Question mark... So ... in my mind, to say that the immaterial parts of our being .. (read soul / spirit) .. do not exist as a "real entity" based on a lack of a "material scientific proof or evidence" Is close to, or about the same as saying that our thinking and our feeling do not "really exist" ... which you and most Atheist might again, find rather challenging to their world view.

    Even the most hard core Atheist would / could / might accept that thoughts and feelings must be more than mere chemical reactions within the brain .... or...?

    I am of the opinion that

    We are not "bodies with a soul" ... we are ... "souls with a body"
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      Jun 10 2012: Daniel, agree that there is a good chance most atheists do not believe in a supernatural spirit, although the definition of atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods or goddesses - simply being a non theist.

      So it is possible to believe in a supernatural spirits as long as it does not involve gods or goddesses. An atheist could believe in faeries if they wanted, or ghosts. just not gods.

      I guess many atheists use the same logic for gods as for immaterial spirits. Our minds, consciousness appear to be a product of our brains. Damage the brain and you damage the mind/consciousness. Most likely when our brain ceases to function we cease to be a conscious entity.

      To me, an immaterial spirit as per the usual religious types is highly speculative, a step down from the extremely low likelihood there is anything like the gods and goddesses we imagine.

      There could be something more but for me the physical, chemical, electrical could potentially explain it just fine. No need to add something supernatural without any evidence.

      I see us just as animals with a more complex brain than the others. Self awareness does not necessary mean a spirit. If we have a spirit then perhaps all life does.

      To me humans thinking they are the reason for the universe to exist is simply hubris. To believe we have an immortal spirit is simply speculation leveraging primitive belief systems and ignorance, wishful thinking in regards to our inevitable end, and taking something that is awesome in its own right - our lives, our minds, our selves and adding pixie dust and magic.

      May sound a bit harsh, but let me say that I get the awesomeness of exploring our mind and being. I get the search for meaning. I get that much about the universe and ourselves is counter intuitive and we are highly intuitive, pattern seeking creatures, with some ability to reason. Our super ape brains are not all that good dealing with the cosmic, the infinite, the quantum, the start and the end. Spirit lives in that.
  • Jun 28 2012: Vegetarianism as a way to gain weight.
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      Jun 28 2012: I suspect this was meant as a snarky or derisive comment, however, having lived in the bay area for sixteen years, I knew many vegetarians who gained a lot of weight. Calories make people gain weight, not meat.

      There has got to be a parallel here with conversation. Something about adding to a conversation vs. providing empty calories with little nutritional value.
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    Jun 26 2012: I've just remembered to stop and check in. I'm not receiving emails about comments on this conversation, only on threads within this conversation, where I commented, so I apologize for my extended absence! Also I had to take care of chickens and ducks and gardens and three kids.

    I've been thinking about the idea of atheism as a spiritual path. Why I wrote a sermon for Unitarians on this and why I started a discussion on it.

    I've stated that the wonder and beauty of evolution over the past 16 billions years has left me in awe, but really where my spiritual path comes in, probably has more to do with trying to make a difference in the world. I grew up hearing about Unitarians and Universalists, who helped slaves escape the south, who participated in Martin Luther King's march on Washington (every Unitarian denomination in the US was represented). About UUs who gave their lives during the civil rights movement in the south, About the Unitarian service committee, which sent volunteers into Europe during WWII to help Jews escape the tightening Nazi noose.

    More than anything, it is service to others, which has defined my spirituality when I was a theist and now as an atheist. The willingness to look at another human being with empathy and to extend my hand in an effort to ease their suffering or help them out of a difficult or impossible situation. It is why I support marriage equality, immigration reform in the US and a path to citizenship, planned parenthood and why I oppose the Arizona prison camp created by Sherrif Joe Arpio: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uucollective/2012/06/fear-and-love-at-tent-city/
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    Jun 23 2012: I am a pantheistic freethinker. I believe very strongly in God. But my concept of God is in total contrast to any traditional definition. My view is based on a childhood experience while meditating on God. What I saw can best be explained by quantum physics. How I saw it is more easily explained by Eastern philosophy. Neither quantum physics nor Eastern philosophy was part of my traditional Christian church indoctrination.

    According to religious fundamentalism, I am an atheist because I do not subscribe to any fundamentalist view of God. According to God, there is no issue. Your view is more in tune with what I believe. You don't need to be religious to have a spiritual path. You only need the desire for the world to be a better place, and to embrace the laws of nature to make that happen.

    The word theology used to include the following; that which is revealed by revelation, and that which is revealed by nature (taken from Noah Webster's Dictionary 1904 edition). The modern definition of theology ignores any reference to nature. (This appears to be in response to the Catholic Church’s rebuttal of science in contrast to its own doctrine.)

    Currently, religious fundamentalists embrace a false notion of God based on literal views of ancient literature, further corrupted by traditional dogma. The atheist allows the cosmos to speak for itself. If you have any apprehension about not believing in God, let it go. God doesn’t care if you believe in “him” or not. God only cares in how you treat others. What you project comes back to you. Your report says a lot in your favor.
  • Jun 21 2012: Hi Brian,
    Its been a few days... I wasn't sure if I would hear from you again. I saw you were in on the discussion on "What happens after we die"
    It seems like we've slowly been sliding away from the original topic here, but that's OK by me.. Lets see, we were talking about oxytocin and trust weren't we..?

    First you say Brian that we... "don't choose to trust anything"

    Then you say it is "based on past experience and intuition"

    That was a little bit unclear to me... seems like a contradiction ... or?

    So what your really saying is that we have no control over our emotions?
    • Jun 24 2012: Hey daniel, sorry I didn't see your reply. What I mean was that the neuronal patterns that are formed when we are young, along with genetic tendencies, make for what you trust or don't trust. Also experiences later in life can influence this.

      When i said, this is based on past experience and intuition, I am saying that you didnt choose your past experience, not without outside influence. You definitely do not choose your intuition. So no you don't choose to trust anything, you either do or you don't.

      You can never stop yourself from having an emotion, you can choose wether it influences your behavior. Which is essentially dependent on how you were reared as a child and overall healthy brain formation. So in some cases you have no choice, in others you have more of a choice, this is merely a matter of luck when taking everything into account.
  • Jun 15 2012: To Brian Klink,

    To say that Oxytocin IS trust

    ...is like saying testosterone IS my sex life...

    ....the s**t doesn't hang on the pitchfork !!
    • Jun 16 2012: No it isn't saying that whatsoever. Im not sure how you can really argue that oxytocin isn't the cause of trust when the experiment has been run both ways. You wouldn't have a sex drive mike if you didn't have testosterone thus making your sex life a product of testosterone. Yes oxytocin gets created from the subjective feeling of trust. So in the experiment they allowed for individuals to have an exchange in a scenario where trust was rewarded. So they drew blood and found that when the subjective feeling of trust came about there was a major spike in oxytocin. So at that point all there was is a correlation between trust and oxytocin.

      Paul Zak then gave subjects oxytocin prior to an exchange scenario and found that it changed the level of trust and charity by upwards of 40% and this has been run again and the increase was closer to 50%. So you have the state of the brain allowing for trust. Without oxytocin you do not have this subjective experience. If by some tragedy you were born without all natural oxytocin in your body you would not have the ability to feel trust.

      Im not really sure how you can contest this? I also don't think knowing this diminishes the experience of trust. You still feel trust and it can still be just as profound prior to knowing that it has been made possible by brain chemistry.
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/aug/21/oxytocin-zak-neuroscience-trust-hormone
      • Jun 17 2012: Brian,
        This is Daniel writing, not Mike.
        What you are doing Brian is falling to an illusion. Which is not so unusual for the conventional thinking scientific / materialistic way of looking at the emotional / spiritual phenomena in the human being. This is simply because the spiritual aspect of our being is not taken into account when observing such phenomena.

        Let me give you an example.

        If you think of a rainbow. Now, when we observe a rainbow, just where "is" the rainbow? Is it not a product of the "observers position" in relationship to the light and darkness, combined with the rain / humidity that then creates the possibility for the observer to actually see the rainbow? As the rainbow could not exist without the "participation of the observer", at just the right angle to the light / darkness, humidity / rain in the air at the moment of the actual observation of the rainbow... As person standing just a few hundred meters away from the correct angle of the light will not see the rainbow at all.... So the rainbow "arises" in the moment an observing individual actually sees the rainbow.

        Take another example.

        If you were going to jump from an airplane for the first time at 30,000 feet. You adrenaline level in your blood would without a doubt be pretty high, at least for most of us... Now to say that the adrenaline is "in itself" this excitement would be to mix the cards of the emotional experience with the chemical substance that is produced from the person about to jump.

        Now you could theoretically give an injection of adrenaline to this person while they were standing on the ground .. thus not needing to spend all the time and money on renting the airplane to take them up to 30,000 feet.. very practical and economical. But you now see my point. We must not confuse the inner experience of "trust" with the mere chemical that is "produced" by our own body in order to provide for the arising of the inner "emotion of trust"

        So the "cause" lies where??
        • Jun 17 2012: Daniel,
          Im pretty sure that the illlusion is found in subjectivity and not the material world. To say that something does not exist until you observe it is true, for the subjective experience. However that does not mean that the object does not exist prior to observation. There is subjective ignorance of the objective brain. You can have an intergalactic spiritual experience and at no point in the process would you ever get a glimpse that this based on the fact that you have billions of synapses and neurons firing that allow for this process to occur.
          Subjectivity is not what makes the objective world exist. I will grant you there is some connection via quantum superposition but this hasn't been realized(and maybe never will) on the extreme macro. Spiritual and emotional feelings are a product of the brain you can see this in Michael Persingers God Helmet. He stimulates the temporal lobe on the right side of the brain and this allows for an out of body experience. People report seeing themselves objectively and also commonly report seeing entities that don't seem to exist without this experience. My point is that it is an illusion that the brain allows for. you have the brain governing your ability to reason, postulate, and all subjective experience including spiritual.

          When considering your adrenaline example I have to say that there is a ted talk that discusses origins of pleasure. So if you knew that i was going to give you adrenaline and it was going to reproduce the feeling of skydiving it would not live up to the actual experience of sky diving. However this doesn't change the fact that without adrenaline in your body this feeling cannot be realized. So therefore it is the cause and it is a cause based on brain chemistry.
          Daniel, there are many illusions the brain gives rise to and supernatural experiences are a part of that. Subjective experience is not the end all be all for what actually exists.
      • Jun 17 2012: Brian,

        Again I have to point out your misconception of what you are calling "cause"

        If we go back to the adrenaline example. Just as in the oxytocin example of trust, saying that the oxytocin itself is the "cause" of trust. The oxytocin is NOT the cause at all. Just as the adrenaline is not the cause of the excitement of jumping from 30,000 feet. The cause lies one step further back than the mere chemicals that are produced within the brain or blood. And these chemicals are "produced" by the body only after the emotional condition has arisen. The body that cannot produce adrenaline will limit / hinder the persons "inner experience or excitement" of the upcoming jump.

        But the adrenaline is thus only the "mediator" of the emotion. Not the "originator" of the emotion.

        The "causality" lies in the particular emotional condition of the person in this or that particular circumstance of either jumping from an airplane, or having the emotion of trust, or anger, or aggression, or love, or what ever the emotion might be. The emotional element of the experience is also quite a "real element" that has to be taken into account in the whole picture if one is going to gain a true understanding behind the chemicals that are then produced by the physical body.

        Although an emotion like "trust" is subjective. We each have our own experience of it within our own emotional life. There must still be an "objective" element of the concept trust... otherwise we would not be able to do experiments at all on how we have / relate to / experience .. trust itself.

        So when you speak of the subject / object relationship of the inner emotional life of the individual, it must also be taken into account that these emotions are "real" and "objective" ... not just subjective as you seem to be alluding to.

        Perhaps I misunderstand you.... But your first 3-4 sentences were a bit unclear..
        • Jun 17 2012: Ok ill grant you that you can produce oxytocin from the feeling of trust. What I am saying is this, you can generate oxytocin from trust you cannot generate trust without oxytocin. So if the chemical is non existent then trust cannot be realized. Yes it mediates the feeling and level of trust, but at its base without the chemical oxytocin there is no feeling of trust, period. Without the chemical compound oxytocin you absolutely have no ability to feel trust. So yes, it is the final say so of wether or not the feeling of trust is realized, I'm not sure how much more plain I can make this. Again look at the experiment, it was run both ways. If i give you an injection of oxytocin and you have no external experience that would induce trust normally and you feel trust post injection, then you have oxytocin as the cause of trust. You seem to be expressing skepticism about wether or not the brain is involved at all in this process.

          To reiterare my first few sentences, i was responding to you saying that i was falling into an illusion which is produced from a solely materialistic, scientific approach.
          So my response : The illusion your referring to in regards to not taking into account the aspect of spirit, is in itself produced by the brain. The brain creates experiences that seem spiritual. I again reference Michael Persinger"s "God Helmet" which stimulates the right temporal lobe and allows for an experience that is out of body. This proves that out of body and supernatural experiences are illusions created by stimulation to the brain in certain areas.
          There is some relationship to observation and visual form but you can't say that something doesn't exist because it hasn't been observed.
          My point is that the spiritual aspect comes from giving far to much credence to subjective experience. If you are hallucinating then you don't know this is happening it is real to you. However it is not real and caused by malfunctioning dopamine levels(the brain).
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          Jun 18 2012: You could go back many steps Daniel. We evolved to have emotions and hormonal physiology and responses. Life started. The planet formed. The universe started etc.

          Biology + event + experience + situation etc >>>> emotional response

          Agree, a valid hypothesis is that perceived experiences interpreted as spiritual in the metaphysical sense could entirely be something going on in our brains and nothing to do with some imagined spirits or spiritual realm.

          Is Deja Vu a meta physical spiritual experience. Is a vivid dream on a religious topic a metaphysical spiritual experience. Is the warm fuzzy feeling, the dissociative trance like state in church, mosque, or nightclub dancing with friends a spiritual experience. LSD. MDMA. Cocaine. Pot. Peyote. Praying versus non religious meditating. Watching your team win or a beautiful sunset.

          A super naturalist may answer that some of these may involve spirit and some of them just involve activation of the same parts of the brain. We actually can not determine either way. Without any other proof seems the naturalistic approach would be best guess at this time as it does not add extra complexity in need of explanation.
      • Jun 17 2012: Brian,

        So we can agree that the actual feeling of trust must come first .. right? Trust must be an "objective" experience ( that we all can agree on it its inner nature, its description, its feeling, a general consensus or agreement upon the "content of the concept" trust ... or its .. "beingness")

        Can one then "create" the feeling of trust in a child simply by giving the child an injection of oxytocin ??....Are you trying to say a child .. without the prior inner emotion of trust, can simply be given an injection and then the feeling of trust will eventually arise.. by itself... or would the child somehow have to "learn" what "trust" IS .. would have to experience trust ...

        I still stand fast that the brain is not the end station. The physical brain nor the chemicals within it are neither the root or the cause or the emotional condition of trust. Trust is an abstract emotional condition that must first be learned by a thinking / feeling human being. Now the brain may serve as a mediator for this emotion...just as the chemicals serve as a mediator. But the actual "emotion" of trust is an extremely abstract, immaterial feeling that no materials, brain or chemical or otherwise can possibly account for.

        The building blocks of a bridge do not account for the need to get from point A to point B. Nor can they explain the reason for the crossing. They simply provide the foundation for the the journey to take place.
        • Jun 18 2012: When thinking of trust in the most normal sense, i would say it is simultaneous, the experience of trust happens and simultaneously triggers oxytocin to be released. However if oxytocin is injected and trust occurs then you have the injection first and trust is realized as it is metabolized and runs through the bloodstream.

          As far as your example goes i think it would be very interesting to somehow test this but Im not sure how ethical that would be. My contention would be that if the child has never experienced trust then he would experience a foreign feeling when injected. This feeling would most likely later be realized as trust when the child experiences this later in life.

          Again I implore you to look at the evidence that this is based on. I understand everything you are saying and i would agree, if it had not been demonstrated that when given a nasal spray or an injection of oxytocin that trust was then realized as well.

          Your statement that the brain is not the end station i just cannot agree with. If this were so then brain damage would have no effect on consciousness or the way you experience reality. It has been proven that people with frontal lobe damage have trouble with impulse control. Yes the brain is plastic and gains most of its direction from its interaction with the environment. But at the end of the day if the brain is malfunctioning and this is distorting reality then you have the brains malfunction as the final cause of the disturbance. Correct the brain chemistry and function, wether this is through non pharmaceutical treatment, surgical intervention, or chemical treatment at the end of the day all you have done is restored proper brain function.
        • Jun 18 2012: Although your analogy is very elegant it doesn't apply. sure the building blocks don't account for the need or reason for crossing they just allow for it. But based on the evidence that oxytocin when injected increases trust this model doesn't apply. More likely you could relate an oxytocin injection to a forming of a bridge when their isn't a need for one and the materialization of traffic moving from a to b.
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          Jun 18 2012: This is a bit chicken and egg.
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        Jun 18 2012: Suggest oxytocin is central in the pyscho -biological phenomena of trust in the feeling sense,but not the full picture

        We also can rationalise trust or confident in people, processes etc based on consistency, reliability etc.

        Brian, suggest you are oversimplifying.

        Others are over complicating with subjective ideas like spirit.

        Dogs trust their pack leader whether human or canine. No spirit needed.

        Playing around with the chemical agents involved in emotional responses/feelings but of course the context is part of the experience. People get extreme serotonin warm fuzzies from MDMA. It just shows we can play around with brain chemistry. Interpretation is up to the individual. Hopefully based on more than intuition and feeling.

        I heard a guy once talking about how his mushroom experience made him believe we are all one with god. The chemicals made his lose his sense of self and feel connected to the universe. Another way of interpreting this is it is a pointer towards religious experience being related to brain chemistry. But the context, beliefs etc are important too.

        If I'm meditating and get a sense of peace and connection I don't assume I'm connecting to a god intelligence. Others may have the same experience in the context of believing they are.

        I see winning the lottery as probability. Others an answered prayer. Context and interpretion is part of human experience and attributing meaning to it.

        The chemical or hormonal
        • Jun 18 2012: I agree obey I am probably over simplifying this but i do this with best intentions. Of course the nature of this argument is one that is commonly seen on TED, science vs spirit. Your right, at the end of the day we are arguing things, that although seem to be true to myself I cannot prove. I believe these things to be true based on evidence that is partially subjective. We all have a bit of emotion that dominates our train of thought. However I like to think(although this may not be true) i employ logic over emotion when reasoning. As where it seems to me that religious and spiritual individuals seem to base their entire arguments on feelings and overlook logic and evidence beyond personal experience, even when its right in front of their face.

          it seems to me that spirituality is amongst one of the oldest traditions of human culture and there is some evidence that it is an evolutionary trait. A trait that allows for the continuation of life and happiness. However when this is applied to modern society you see the problems that arise from this.

          The modern spirituality which seems to be loaded with references to things like quantum mechanics and consciousness are a step away from religion. I have no doubt that it helps people. But at what price? At it's root you still have the same problem and its a problem that will be with us for the existence of the human race. This problem is that we don't have all the answers and the world is a scary place. Being consciously aware of terrifying possibilities that include death, purpose, and future struggles creates anxiety. By turning to spirituality or religion you have pacified this anxiety. Since there isn't much humans can do to ease this there doesn't seem to be an end no matter how intelligent we get. The delusion just seems to get more complex.

          Although you could probably make an argument that the answers I have latched on to are a result of the same problem i state above.
          -Brian
        • Jun 18 2012: Obey,
          I see by your comments that you find this subject quite interesting.. here and on other conversations. You are an active participant.
          You have also now related two, so called "spiritual" experiences or perhaps you would prefer to call them hallucinations. .. makes no difference to me.

          Firstly, I'm not out here to "save" anyone as some others appear to be. That's not my bag.
          I am simply very very interested in life itself. And in my 56 years of living, I have reached certain conclusions. They are different than your conclusions. I am not a naive believer in any sense. .. scientific or religious. I am in neither corner.

          But to come forward to the truth, and this is what all of us are interested in !! It is important to try to have an open mind instead of slamming everything you find to be superstitious or fantasy. We all know how you feel about the so called "spirit world" and what your idea of it is surely not even close to my idea of it. Your concept of it appears to be lacking substance. Your negative towards it reflects so much antipathy that seems to color your vision.

          Now let me tell you that I have been reading esoteric literature for about 35 years now, I would guess that's older than you are.. So the next time you slam everything that has to do with the world of the invisible, please check your own baggage. Have you read anything at all along the lines of occult knowledge? If you haven't, I would highly recommend it.

          As you see, I'm not just talking about Gods and ghosts in my comments... and I think you realize that. I'm talking about a deeper understand of how, that which I call spirit works in and through the material world. How we can gain an understanding of it where it is active from the stone to the plant to the animal and finally up to mankind.
          If your really a hard core "Dawkinist" then everything I've said up to this point has been a waste of time. .. but somehow, from your other comments, I get the impression your not..
        • Jun 25 2012: Just a few thoughts to add to this "spirited" dialogue.
          Children probably do experience trust and other chemical/hormonal feelings before birth because mom and fetus share the same blood.
          Trust, or any other feeling, is not the exclusive domain of homo sapiens.
          Daniel you might be wise to get over your anti-Dawkinsism. I feel it cheapens your interesting perspectives. I can understand your, what I would call "agnostic" approach to matters spiritual, and it is hard to prove what cannot be measured objectively, however if we don't start with a foundation built in the material world it is hard to imagine that we will get anywhere. We eat, breathe, poop, procreate, pay taxes and become worm-food. Along the way we hypothesize like crazy, and sometimes we are right! But, and you can quote me, even the most enlightened Zen monk gathers berries for winter.
          Carry on you pioneers of thought!
      • Jun 18 2012: Brian,

        I finally got the time to read the article you posted. I found the comments below the article very interesting. Trust is, as I said earlier, a peculiarly human attribute. A lot of people had a lot of trust in Hitler in 1939. ... or trust in politicians, or salesmen ... might even trust a thief with enough oxytocin in my blood..

        But that's not your point .. nor is it mine.

        Oxytocin appears to have dozens of effects on humans and animals according to Wikipedia, not just the feeling of trust. There were so many things referred to that there are too many to mention here.
        My point is that "trust" the emotion of trust is always considered against the background of a real living human being. Now of course we could take the animals along for the ride here too.. I guess I can go along with the idea that animals can show trust.. but the fact remains that there must be a mind behind the actions of the animal or human that decides where it will allow this trust relationship to form. Give a good shot of oxytocin to a tuna fish in the same tank as a shark... I'm so trusting thinks the tuna as he slides down the throat of the shark...

        The whole concept of trust starts to get a little blurred doesn't it..? There has to come something new into the picture. Something that Paul Zak didn't include. There has to come into the picture a mind that can determine what it will choose to trust. .. as trust is learned over time, even in the animal world.
        I guess if you got everyone backstage at TED to smoke a joint the effects might have been the same...


        ..and yes, I could turn your argument around and say that materialists are really unconsciously afraid of the possibility of the spiritual world being real...
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          Jun 19 2012: Hi Daniel,

          I've taken some time off work to look after someone. They are pretty zonked out so spending time online.

          Perhaps repeatedly pointing out that intuitive, even well thought out world views, or explanations that might make sense to someone internally, but have no compelling evidence, are simply unsubstantiated beliefs, is annoying.

          A lot of comments on TED come from intuitive connections. Some great discoveries are from the intuitive. But they are later verified. Otherwise they are unsubstantiated ideas.

          If you have been filling your head with this stuff for decades coming to some sort of internally coherent world view I understand it has value to you even if none of your interpretations and beliefs can be proven. I guess I've been filling my head with ideas too, but suggest there is a way to distinguish between a belief reflecting reality and a guess or delusion, no matter how well thought out.

          If real, knowing the hidden world is frustrating. There are many interpretations of the same stuff. They can not all be correct. I guess your views have evolved over time. You might even disagree with your younger self.

          I note you have not resorted to dogma. However, these type of beliefs are by their nature often speculative and unverifiable even if consistent with some internal logic. I've probably made the same point 10 times so understand you must be getting tired of it. But people keep on making the same sort of assertions. Ultimately they seem to believe because they want to.

          I've also spent years reading widely (not as many), but over the last few years have learnt to distinguish between ideas on their merits. The validity of ideas is independent of the years spent developing them. But respect your independent search.

          This is an open forum so you should expect your ideas to be explored or questioned. I've enjoyed the discussion and am not trying to spoil your enjoyment.

          Enjoy your exploration
        • Jun 21 2012: Daniel, we don't choose to trust anything, you either do, or you don't. This is based on past experiences and intuition. You don't choose to love somebody, you either do, or you don't. You may choose to act kind and loving towards all, but that doesn't mean you love the guy/girl who jogs by your house every day.

          -Brian
  • Jun 15 2012: Just read your essay Mike. Beautiful and touching, it brought a tear to my eye. Part of that I think comes from the hope that more people will follow your path of reasoning to a, in my opinion, much more sensible and nuanced interpretation of life. Keep the lack of faith!
    Mike
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      Jun 22 2012: Thanks Mike, I've not remembered to check in on this in a few days (lame) My weekends come along and distract me. There are gardens to tend, chickens to feed, etc....

      Anyway, I appreciate your comments and thank you for stopping to read.

      --Mike A.
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    Jun 14 2012: Hi Obey!
    This is a response to your latest response to me beginning with : "Atheist, theist etc wasn't part of my childhood vocab." I hope you are reading this!(i have missed much of the conversation. Although I'm busy these days struggling with my BA thesis, i will try my best to participate. It's interesting :D)
    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. Yes, i too agree with you that there are variety of definitions of god and goddess but that any such definition is central to one's experiences and shape one's peculiar "certainty and conviction and behaviour." Truly, I was born to an indigenous tribe whose practices and ways of the world may probably be called superstitious. Our people believed that there are gods, goddesses, ghosts or whatever that shaped our destinies. Black magic was a widely prevalent practice. In occasions of sickness, starting a journey, marriage ceremonies, etc. animals would often be sacrificed. this idea of gods and goddess was naturally uprooted from my mind, because of my upbringing in another country (Sri Lanka) and because of my education and life experiences. Now, if i would ever think of these god, goddess, or even as ghosts if there are, i would think of them as different species of beings just like humans, animals. Having a background in Buddhist studies, I'm convinced that the human mind is more advanced than them. It can be developed or cultivated, so that it can withstand fear, find peace within, and promote to social well-beings. Heavens and hells, even if they are, are as unstable as the human world, and it is believed in Buddhist literature that gods have to become humans to find actual happiness. This is because ultimate happiness is believed to involve a psychological transformation, cultivation of the mind, the ultimate mental health. Peace is peace within!

    You talked of the variety of atheism, and i dont know if this also involves one and if can also be called spiritual, even if conventionally.

    Best Wishes :D
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    Jun 11 2012: Hi

    I consider atheism is not as simple as disagreeing to specific God that already known. Disagreeing to specific God may still put someone on theism however it is.

    The most important, crucial and the core of theism is, they believe that there is something could be considered as the root of all powers and having consistent ability (power) to give us hope at the highest level than others.

    Whether we have religion or not, or we are entering spiritual paths or not, as long as we believe there is something could be considered as the root of all powers and having consistent ability (power) to give us hope at the highest level than others, then we have God, whoever it is.

    Whether we have religion or not, or we are entering spiritual paths or not, as long as we disbelieve there is something could be considered as the root of all powers and having consistent ability (power) to give us hope at the highest level than others, then we have no God, whoever it is.

    Any way, i salute you for your assertion. We may stay still on something but finding another way to seek better completion, is a way of life.

    Warmest
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      Jun 11 2012: I may be misunderstanding your statement, but I would say I believe energy is at the base of everything. This is from a purely scientific point of view, however. I don't believe Physics provides for either hope or not, but rather seeks to enlarge its explanation of nature.

      Based on my understanding, everything we know and in our universe is spawn from supernovas starting roughly 16 billion years ago.

      One of the recent questions I've seen posed from scientific circles is whether evolution could have happened any other way? Or is the way evolution happened for us essentially how it had to happen, based on the scientific laws of the universe.

      This also moves away from pure science into philosophy, but it is an interesting question I have to say.
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        Jun 11 2012: Hi Mike. I've seen the evolution question discussed before.
        There are different views.
        My understanding is that if we rolled the dice again or if self replicating molecules developed on another planet (perhaps they have) then the outcome is not going to be identical to what we have now on earth.
        You are unlikely to get exactly the same species.
        You are likely to get some similarities e.g several different types of eyes have developed independently vertebrae have camera eyes, other animals have compound eyes. Birds, bats and some marine mammals have sonar.
        The laws of physics and conditions on Earth would of course apply some constraints that would drive certain characteristics to be similar or the same.
        But no guarantee of homo sapiens.

        I've heard others speak about how different life might be on other planets. We only have the DNA based example and C H O based life. So it is speculative, but my recall is a self replicating molecule is probably the starting point for any form of life as we know it.

        There is no evidence of a guiding hand, just natural selection - in my view.

        I guess if we discover life on other planets, or it discovers us some might lose the idea that the universe is all about humans. No doubt religions will find a way to build it into their belief systems like some have with evolution.

        To think it took about 13 billion years to come up with homosapiens via the formation of the cosmos, earth, origin of life, evolution of homo sapiens and to imagine it was essentially for us seems to be following the same logic as religion - that we are the reason the universe exists. Which is an inherently human thing to do. I think therefore I am, and the universe is all about me/us.
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          Jun 11 2012: You don't think they have already found us? what about crop circles? LOL

          I think if we ever have a chance to travel to another planetary system, which contains intelligent life, we should definitely sneak in at night and leave pretty designs in their crops...it'll be like a really fun inter-galactic prank! Sort of a pay it forward of the cosmos if you will.

          I saw an interesting program a few years ago, where some scientists created a computer program, which was supposed to model evolution on other planets, with similar traits to ours, but in some cases, it maintained richer levels of atmosphere and in other instances with a thinner atmosphere.

          It was interesting, but what really stuck with me was that the scientists being interviewed seemed to forget that it was a computer simulation and not real. They were really excited about how the computer generated organisms were developing, but not in a detached "this is interesting" sort of way. I seemed more like "Wow look at my little child growing up"

          Non-the-less it was pretty interesting. I love the topic of evolution, because some propose questions that things evolved exactly as they had to, due to physical laws, others propose that it's completely random, which is consistent with a quantum understanding of the universe. There is speculation that belief in God is genetically advantageous or that morality allowed us to survive the last great event (either meteor or volcano, I can't remember). It's all so interesting to think about. I wish I had become a physicist instead of an Alcoholic, who dropped out of school! Oh well!
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        Jun 11 2012: Yes, Mike

        Whether it's energy or anything. Whether it has conscious or not. Whether it considers having super intelligent or not. Anything could be considered as god as i mentioned. People could believe in planet, sun, or anything as their own god. It has levels.

        There is a great example from yours:

        //I would say I believe energy is at the base of everything. This is from a purely scientific point of view, however. I don't believe Physics provides for either hope or not, but rather seeks to enlarge its explanation of nature//

        In this example, in my opinion, since someone couldn't get a hope from energy, than energy couldn't be considered as god.

        And as you said: //is whether evolution could have happened any other way?". You are correct, indeed that's very interesting question.

        Keep on moving. Dare to seek the truth :)

        Warmest
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      Jun 11 2012: Bernard, your point reminds me that often the western view of theism or religions are quite narrow.

      I lived in a Buddhist country for 4 years. Buddhism, which does not rely on gods fulfilled all the needs that a god based religion did. I attended some Buddhist funerals for friends. Went with others to temples to ask whatever for help. I read up on Buddhism and spoke with some monks and my local friends.

      I note many scholars suggest Buddha probably did not deny the existence of gods, just that there was a better way to escape the cycle of rebirth and suffering.

      To say Buddhism and following Confucius are not religions because no supernatural entity at the heart of it is almost cultural imperialism. Astrology was also important to many civilisations.

      It seems very human to search for meaning and explanations.

      While an atheist might believe in Astrology or reincarnation or a spiritual realm without gods, I guess many shy away from supernatural speculation, superstition, magic etc if they apply the need for a reasonable burden of proof and healthy skepticism.

      It is hard to escape all this stuff as our cultures are soaked in superstition/religion.

      My understanding is atheism is not having a belief in all the gods proposed by humans. So if you were say
      a typical Muslim you'd believe in Allah, but not that Jesus was a god, or Zeus, or Shiva etc. You would be atheist to all theist interpretations except your own. You would be the same as an atheist about all gods and goddesses except your own.

      I note some theists see all religions as representing aspects of the divine. Religious and spiritual belief is so diverse and convoluted it is amazing anyone thinks they have the specifics right. The root of all powers seems mere speculation to me. Often framed in cultural religious frameworks. A Deist or Pantheist approach is specific and hence less obviously nonsense but also lacks evidence and probably just a reflection of the human search for meaning.
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        Jun 11 2012: I sort of lived in a Buddhist country for sixteen years (Can Northern California be considered a Buddhist country? LOL)

        I read a book, The Three Pillars of Zen, which was very engaging and practical. Another book I really enjoyed was called, "A Crisis in modern thought." It was pretty interesting, but not so much as the Zen book.

        My impression is that Zen is an atheist religion...it doesn't require atheism of its practitioners, but Zen its self is essentially atheist.

        It is the only form of Buddhism I know anything about though! I've seen 7 years in Tibet, but that doesn't make me the least bit knowledgeable about Tibetan Buddhism. I know there are some pretty mystical forms of Buddhism and that as a religion, Buddhism is probably far more diverse than Christianity.

        I had a friend who was Taoist and he really wasn't fond of Buddhism, in fact he referred the spread of Buddhism in China and the ancient Orient as, "The Buddhist onslaught." That always made me giggle a bit.
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          Jun 12 2012: Had to laugh reading that. Nth CA could well be an informal Buddhist nation. We'll have to update the maps.

          I guess you can divide people in believe in gods or not.
          Perhaps you can further divide by believe or openness to to particular supernatural or mystical elements.

          I get a lot out of meditation, but don't classify it as mystical or magic. Just the brain at work.

          There are supernatural elements to some forms of Buddhism e.g. reincarnation etc.
          But a lot of good stuff as well. I bag the bible when people say it is gods handbook because there is a lot of nasty stuff. But the wisest of the ancients had a pretty good understanding of the human condition in some regards and made up stuff in others.

          Evolution explains our sinful nature. We are competitive and cooperative animals. Life is hard. Not because a god evicted us from Eden or other myths but because survival is a challenge.

          I don't know that much about Tao (Daosim) or Zen. Religion and spiritual belief systems are fascinating. I also found a lot of Brahaminism melded with Buddhism.

          Funny how Buddhism spread from Nth India to East Again a cultural construct. A lot of parallels between the spread of language and words and religions.

          I wouldn't be so worried if people took the good bits for what they are. Useful insights. But giving this stuff the mantle of absolute truth from gods is dangerous.
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          Jun 12 2012: You may find it interesting that D.T. Suzuki called Swedenborg "The Buddha of the North" and also translated several of his books.
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          Jun 12 2012: I hadn't heard that Adriaan.

          My understanding is he was big on charity or good works not just faith for salvation. Probably some positive ideas.

          I guess I'm a bit sceptical about revelations in general. Not sure why his were more important than say Muhammad's a thousand years earlier, or anyone elses personal revelations.

          Apparently Swedenborg stated that he conversed with spirits from Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Venus, and the Moon But he did not report conversing with spirits from Uranus and Neptune, which were not yet discovered.

          This seems to raise specific questions or doubts.

          I note religiously inspired texts have failed to offer any previously unknown scientific knowledge. Seem to be completely man made.
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          Jun 13 2012: Hi Obey,
          As far as I can see, indeed, religion will never update science.

          My personal idea about Swedenborg speaking with spirits and what planets they were from is that how would you explain or relate to someone from another world? Names are not universal. They could be from another universe, I don't know.

          Maybe this revelation was more 'iimportant' because God Himself was involved. Explaining why He come to our earth. All Swedenborg's text is based on the Bible and his own experiences.
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        Jun 12 2012: As you said: //My understanding is atheism is not having a belief in all the gods proposed by humans. So if you were say
        a typical Muslim you'd believe in Allah, but not that Jesus was a god, or Zeus, or Shiva etc. You would be atheist to all theist interpretations except your own. You would be the same as an atheist about all gods and goddesses except your own.//

        But, i don't want to start from "What is God? or "God is". I'd rather put my self away from standardization that labeled from others in this case. Because it could put us in the middle of confusion. I'd rather use essential standardization (whatever i could find what it is), and see whether this standardization could lead us to God or not. It has purpose to put as fair enough in this case.

        We should seek from what can be offered by the truth as it is about God. Next, whether this decision will eventually lead us to religion or spiritual, or not, it's another case. But the most important why i don't want to start from religion, it's to see the truth and to value it as it is. It's to put us fair enough in this case.

        And that's great you lived on Buddhist country for 4 years. It should help you more to widening your knowledge.

        Great experience.

        Warmest
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    Josh S

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    Jun 10 2012: Mike, just putting restarting that thread up here.

    i didnt read the whole blog when i posted so yes, my context and where i was coming from were off. I'd like to refocus my response then.
    My impression is that while you don't believe in God but you still want to live by basic morals and principles for the common good, and that these morals are spiritual principles.
    My view on this is that you are a product of your environment, whatever that may be. Our morals, as you explained, may be different from the next person, and vary from religion to religion, but you noted that most of them have common ground. You want to maintain that common ground, of grace and acceptance and your spiritual principles.
    My point is that religion for the most part created these principles, and it is a part of the religion. What you are doing is simply taking God/god/gods out of the religion but maintaining the moral value.

    The reason i don't understand this is because without religion to create the morals in the first place, we simply wouldn't have any, no one would care if someone was killed. But because we grew up in environments that heavily condone this, we condone it as well. Let's look to the middle east as an example. Women are generally mistreated, but it is seen as normal, customary. In America it would be seen as abusive, evil. This difference in morals can apply to anything, including murder. Our morals, especially in America are based off of primarily Christianity, and we see its affects even today when most people arent christian. So to say that you will take a spiritual path without believing in a god or spirit or supreme being is essentially taking out the base of your morals. And without a base, it would fail.

    in general, while having this stance can work, it only works because there is religion to base your morals off of, and if everyone took your viewpoint, there would be no religion, and thus no morals, and no spiritual principles.
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      Jun 10 2012: Hi JS, you make some interesting points, but ultimately, here do you believe morals came from in the first place? I don't think you are arguing that there is a god and that morals come from that god are you?

      There is a certain level of moral relativism involved, with anything, but I suspect that is primarily based on justification, rather than a sense of what we consider to be moral.

      An interesting essay explores morality (below) the conscience of Huckelberry Finn:
      http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/jfb/huckfinn.pdf

      One of the interesting things about HImmler, is that he suffered greatly on a personal level for his part in crafting the "final solution" for the Jews. This would indicate to me that while he may have distinguished between his "morals" and his empathy, I would argue that he was justifying his evil actions in contradiction to his morals.

      I commented somewhere else on this conversation about the National Geographic Ultimate Survivor , where the possibility that human morality is based on the necessity for our ancestors to come together and work together as a group 100k years ago. That people who placed their own selfish ambition ahead of the community was ostracized and therefore unable to procreate. This lead to within a few generations, a genetic predisposition towards community spirit and community welfare, the basis of morality.
      http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/319571/National-Geographic-Search-for-the-Ultimate-Survivor/overview

      It is the reason that most religions, with which I am familiar, have some version of the "Golden Rule".
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      Jun 11 2012: J C I agree with you in a way. and Mike seems to say that's what happened 100K years ago. We have to be organized to have any results. Even if everyone in that organization is an individual.it is the organization that enables events to happen. That's how companies work or anything else for that matter.

      I see religions as nothing more than spiritual car-pooling. Organized we can do better and more, with less.
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      Jun 11 2012: J S to think we need religion to have morals or invent morals is simply ridiculous.
      What is good and right can be very complex. So humans love having cookie cutter lists found in religions.
      Anyone can ask what improves what the human condition and reduces harm.
      Anyone can make some basic premises that life is better than death (in most cases)
      Not suffering is better than suffering.
      Etc

      Confucious came up with the golden rule before Jesus.

      Our ancestors have been living in groups far longer than religions ever existed. Working out how to get along has been part of being human since we evolved.

      Religion did not create principles of morality. It is just the social technology often used to order societies.

      The basics, don't kill, lie, steal etc are not rocket science for any human society.

      I note religious morality doesn't stop there.Take the bible - slavery is sanctioned, you only get in trouble as a slave owner if your slave dies within 2 days of a beating. Kill homosexuals. Kill witches. Kill people who work on the sabbath. If an unmarried woman is raped she should marry her rapist. It is sexist and racist. It promises eternal punishment for simply being human and not believing in what appears to be human made. It I could go on. If you believe the bible Yahweh is a monstrous tribal god and we are his playthings.

      Religions have rules. Some of them immoral by most reasonable standards.

      Have you heard of philiosophy, the enlightenment. Humanist ethics?

      To believe that whatever rules attributed to a particular god or goddess is morality can lead you to immorality. We can do better than whatever a god does or says is by definition moral.

      If a god asked you to sacrifice your child is that a moral act?
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    Jun 10 2012: Hi Mike, I respect your choice and find your statement thought provoking. One of the things I think that most people disregard is that in order to make that chioce you must study each option and defend your choice. Most atheists I know can quote the bible and ask valid and challenging questions. In turn that makes those who have chosen the other path read more and ask questions of their own in search of deeper knowledge.

    Here is my answer to you. Some people are not comfortable with organized religion or do not want to make a choice of which "church" to go to. Is a man who sets on the mountain top in awe of nature any less spirtual. Religion is not confined to a structure or defined by rituals.

    Live your life in harmony with nature and respect your fellow man. Honor your spouse and family. After that you are probally in good graces with your fellow man and any diety that may exist.

    I would love to have you join our church but I would also be happy to be your friend and rejoyce in the peace you have designed in your heart.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Jun 10 2012: Thanks Bob,

      I actually am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Los Alamos. I grew up as a UU. It is one of the only churches I know of where people are welcome regardless their theology. Our interests lie primarily in how people act. Thanks for your very kind note. I'm curious if you have a chance to read the blog post to a sermon I wrote and delivered at two separate congregations here in New Mexico last year. It was in response to a controversy that had boiled over between the spiritually minded people in my congregation and the secular humanists.

      We also have growing numbers of non literal and liberally minded Christians. It is an interesting denomination. What church to you attend?

      --Adios, MIke
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    Jun 10 2012: In religious naturalism - the idea is that as human beings, we are prone to religion-like behaviors. A religious behavior varies depending on culture and society, but overall it would appear we have a natural tendency to want to invest in thoughts that are instinctual for survival (what is the end, beginning, the now, etc) and at the same time having the desire to seek out group opinion and structure. _ I like to call it the metaphysical longing to know vs. be happy CLASHING with self actualization vs. social acceptance... What do I think? How do others think about what I think? Which 'others' are most important and why? Am I sharing positive thoughts with others?

    - Whether or not we consciously think these questions, our physiological nature wants to these foundations established in order to know who to mimic, re-represent and overall to seek out self nurturing....

    Neo-atheist at this point are performing similar cultural tendencies as other groups (broad notion) perform, except no ritual in the physical - rather the argumentative; the verbal. "Burden of proof is on you" is the most common phrased example.. The problem/concern is, there is nothing wrong with organizing thoughts and concerns with others, but when you completely dismiss the fact you are a cultured person based on others... You are being religiously fundamental.

    Religious naturalism say "look at what is the nature of a human being, work with it to understand the overall workings of nature, perhaps God." Kind of like a process to metaphilosophy - (If it's cool if I make one) naturalism, existentialism, ignosticism, pragmatism, and circular logic (process philosophy) - That we all should consider into the ideas of picking what to eat for breakfast let alone questioning nature.

    In brevity; I believe whether you are denying God or accepting God, you are receiving the same euphoric mental process from trying to know or be happy... Finding the middle ground is the hardest to perform here..
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      Jun 12 2012: I agree with much in your first paragraph.

      Some interesting points on the similarities of theism and atheism.

      Atheists and theists are all human. And with new books and speakers and youtube and the internet there is a new wave of atheists. As the connections increase there will be more psycho social dynamics.

      Although as a non theist, my life does not revolve around it like the religious experience can.

      I guess many enjoy the robust debate and expressing their views, and interacting, and learning etc. Glad we discuss these religious/spiritual etc concepts today in some places, more than the past at least.

      There will of course be tension when some religious folks push against the separation of church and state and push their religiously inspired values and truths on other, and atheists insist on maintaining the separation and become more vocal and connected.

      Suggest one aspect of middle ground is tolerance for freedom of religion and from religion (within limits so as not to adversely impact others).
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    Jun 10 2012: when we choose a religious path we have to live according to some religous beliefs ... atheism is living according to your beliefs...and that will allow you the freedom to discover. both these ways are spiritual...but, as i think, it will be more easy to believe what YOU have discoverd than to believe what others have discoverd.
    think of this, if lord buddha had believed in christanity and lived according to that, he would have never been able to discover buddhism. have your own beliefs and live according to what you believe or else you will be denied the freedom to discover
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      Jun 11 2012: It is interesting to me that you mention Buddha. My first venture into a spiritual practice as a young adult was to read "The Three Pillars of Zen." I practiced (as best I could) Zen on a regular basis and wanted to go all sorts of supernatural places with it.

      What was interesting about the book, however, was the discussion about belief. The author was at pains to make it clear that belief or faith is not part of Zen. You could believe in a god or in gods and practice Zen or you could be completely an atheist and practice Zen...no contradiction. You could believe in an afterlife and practice Zen, you could believe in reincarnation and practice Zen or you could believe that this life is it and still practice Zen...still no contradiction.

      That was what I liked so much about Zen. The lack of dogma and the lack of telling people that they couldn't have any dogma. It all boiled down to practicing Zen and trying to spread compassion in the world. Much like my current religion.
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        Jun 11 2012: Mike,
        It seems we have taken some of the same paths in our explorations! I mentioned in another comment that I explored, researched, studied and practiced several religious and philosophical beliefs.

        Zen Buddhism was one practice that I focused on for awhile. UU was another one that drew me, and I notice that is the one you settled on and are practicing. Sufism was another big draw for me, and the common denominator was the appearence that one had a lot of freedom while embracing and practicing these traditions. I studied/practiced each of them for about a year...one at a time.

        The people were lovely, welcomed me into the group with encouragement and enthusiasm...at first. My perception was that although these folks were practicing what could have been a benificial life guide, they were often not walking the talk. They were not living what they were preaching. When I declined to make a life committment, or financial committment that was acceptable, they were not so friendly any more. That was the common thread that caused me to not accept any of these beliefs as an ongoing life practice.
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          Jun 11 2012: I don't still practice Zen Buddhism, but I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which allows me to gain many of the benefits I used to gain from practicing zazen. Additionally, I get a really good workout mixed in with practicing an empty mind.

          I have never looked into sufism, however Unitarian Universalism has been something I've looked at since I was a young teen.

          It has some definite weaknesses, one of which being a general assumption that UUs will have a college degree. It can feel unwelcoming to people who don't have mastery of the the English language or who haven't been exposed to philosophy, etc. Being someone who dropped out of college (due to my drinking) this causes me some consternation some times.

          I haven't had your experience of being treated cooly for not joining a congregation or making an appropriate annual contribution, rather my experience was that they made such a big deal out of everyone upping their pledge, that I felt my paltry and symbolic contribution was insignificant, though it was exactly what I could afford with five mouths to feed.

          I'm sorry you had that experience! I have noticed with consistency that people in general tend to fail at "walking the talk." I believe it is part of being human and that when we are at our best, we recognize our hypocrisy and try to mitigate it. When we are at our worst, be don't believe we have hypocrisy and we inflict it on others.

          You might get a kick out of this link:
          http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2012/04/parable-of-demonic-feline.html
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        Jun 12 2012: Mike,
        I have not checked out the link you provided...I will catch up to it one of these days:>)

        I got that you no longer practice Buddhism, although it feels like you still retain many Buddhist beliefs, as I do:>) It is actually the philosophical beliefs of Buddhism, that most closely connect to my heart/mind as my natural truth.

        More similarities with our paths...you practice Tae Kwon Do, I at times, practice Tai Chi, yoga and meditation. My greatest "practice" right now, is working/playing in the gardens, which incorporates all of the above practices. Actually, living the life practice being mindfully aware is my main "practice".

        An assumption that UUs will have a college degree seems prejudice, hypocritical...don't you think? They accept everyone from different religious traditions, and NOT those without a college degree??? How silly is that!

        I am not "sorry" I had that experience. It provided me with good information on which to make a decision, so it was a gift...was it not?

        Yes...perhaps failing to walk the talk is part of being human...for some people. I think it is much easier, clearer and more enjoyable to do what I say...say what I do...say what I mean...mean what I say...walk the talk:>) It contributes to a much more simple life...in my humble perception:>)
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          Jun 12 2012: I think I'm sorry you had that experience, because I love UUism and I think given our seven principles nobody should have that experience in a UU congregation. It makes me feel a bit sad.

          I've wanted to get into Tai Chi, but don't have the time right now. My eldest son and I have both earned black belts in Tae kwon Do and we hope to enroll in an Aikido class this July.

          You might be interested to know that my wife and I have been trying to start a permaculture garden in our back yard. We have four ducks and four chickens (for eggs and to help produce compost). I've been working on setting up drip irrigation and such as well, but on a shoe-string budget, so we're still watering by hand.

          thanks for your response!
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        Jun 23 2012: Hi Mike,
        You can be sorry/sad if you wish....I am not. I believe EVERYTHING is an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve, and my experience with the UU offered many interesting opportunities.

        It was through the UU that I was introduced to Zen Buddhism, with classes provided by the church. I participated in a retreat to a Benedictine Priory, sponsored by the UU church, and liked it so much, I visited the brothers again for a week on my own. They hooked me up with their Benedictine sisters in Mexico, and I stayed with them for 2 weeks, going off into the small mountain villages, where the sisters worked as nurses and educators. Never once, did I hear them preach their religion. They were totally dedicated to education and good health.

        I attended several workshops and participated in discussion groups at the UU, facilitated workshops, and even attended wiccan meetings, which were held in the UU facility:>) It was a year of interesting, exploratory activities and educational opportunities.

        Thanks for your response too. Hope your garden is doing well:>)
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    Jun 9 2012: I would suggest atheism is simply not having a belief in gods or goddesses.

    I guess an atheist can explore or believe anything they like, just not believe in gods or goddesses and still be an atheist. Reincarnation, a spiritual realm without gods, magical human spirits, astrology, alchemy, destiny, ghosts and goblins.

    I guess atheism often goes hand in hand with not believing in a supernatural plane of existence or spirits that live apart from our body and other speculative concepts and ideas with no reasonable evidence.

    I'm not sure if you are suggesting we have a supernatural spirit or are just using a word loaded with supernatural religious meaning.

    Of course we can have awe and wonder at the universe and our consciousness. We can explore meaning, meditate, feel connected and not believe in gods. This can be done without resorting to the mystical starting to overlap supernaturalism. Or I guess you can delve into the mystical if you like and not believe in gods and goddesses.

    I guess even without actively exploring, we all have a path of self development and belief systems to make sense of life and the universe, our existence and eventual passing. There is a continuum of beliefs and approaches to life available to atheists. From nihilism to finding wonder in our consciousness and life.

    To close I would suggest atheism is just a not believing any any gods (generally because there is no evidence to) and your journey through life can be anything you want, you can call it anything you want, believe in anything you want other than gods and you are still an atheist. Call it a spiritual path if you want. I tend to avoid the supernatural elements and loaded words but have awe and wonder, self development and explore my consciousness without resorting to speculative ideas such as spirits. I expect when we die and our brain stops working the I ceases to exist, like all animals before us. But up to everyone to work it out for themselves.
    • Jun 10 2012: I agree with Obey. Just look at the etymology of the word atheism. It is all in the prefix... atheism, monotheism, pantheism. Agnostic means "without knowledge".
      Spirituality is a word to describe a feeling of wonder or awe at the extraordinary planet and cosmos we inhabit. Maybe it is just a sense of gratitude for the awareness to appreciate it all profoundly.
      It may be a trait that evolved because ladies like sensitive and thoughtful men, and mated with them often enough to make it a desirable and evolved mutation, like other social predispositions.
      Dawkins say that a predisposition to respect authority may have led to a belief in gods. It is a helpful trait when mom says, "Don't pick up a rattlesnake.", but maybe not so helpful to individuals and societies when a chief, king or the Spanish Inquisition says, "Get on your knees an pray or I'll burn you alive."
      • Jun 10 2012: Mike,

        Does that mean that all Atheists have a predisposition towards a lack of respect for authority that has lead to a disbelief in God ...?

        If only Dawkins's brain was half as big as his mouth...
        • Jun 10 2012: Is that a serious question? Most atheists I know respect authority that is justified. A lot of religious people choose irrational or "divine" authority and use it to break laws. SInce the Enlightenment many people have sought to use the scientific method to answer existential questions.

          Dawkins is a brilliant man who has a lot of courage and conviction. Does his rationality and reason threaten you somehow? What do you get out of slagging him, and I am curious how you would finish that sentence... I'm sure it will be very profound.
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          Jun 11 2012: Hi daniel, I haven't seen any data of a correlation between agnosticism and respect for authority.

          I have seen data that suggests many first world countries with a high % of non theist have less crime than more religious nations e.g. Japan, Nordic countries versus say the USA. But I don't find these examples particularly useful other than to argue against those that suggest atheism leads to immorality, chaos, social decline etc. Society etc is very complex to analyse. I'm wary of simplistic comparisons.

          Atheism is such a narrow focus. Not having a belief in gods. It doesn't say anything about authority. I recall at grad school studying cultural dimensions and India and Japan for example have high power distance (respect for authority) whereas Australia and New Zealand are very egalitarian.

          Not sure what atheism implies about attitudes of individuals to authority. From my own experience, I would not be surprised if there was some correlation between skeptism and questioning the status quo. Certainly religious authorities, have little validity to me, other than other people have a right to their religion and association until they push what I perceive as nonsense on me and wider society.

          I'm also a very strong republican in the anti monarchy sense. I don't believe political power should be hereditary. Aristocracy is just a human invention that has no relevance to me. I would never bow to a royal this or that or show more respect than any other person.

          There are some Ted talks about values and the respect for authority and the staus quo is one dimension.

          For me personally I have respect for authority I believe deserves it. Not dictators, not theocracies, not monarchies - but I do for the rule of law applied equally. For democratically elected governments and officials, although no issue with robust debate.

          I see there is a place for Dawkins Hitchens etc. Religion should be open to challenge and questioning. Atheists are a minority and religions too priv..
      • Jun 10 2012: Mike,

        All I did was turn your own sentence around, or rather Dawkins's sentence. Didn't you catch that ? To say that a predisposition of respect for authority is what lies behind peoples belief in a god is as absurd as things can get. Did Dawkins really say such a stupid thing...? Do you have any references for that. I do think you should post it if you do.

        I really can't believed that even Dawkins would come up with such a short sighted, closed minding statement. If you do have a reference to that statement, then we could very easily conclude the size of Dawkins's brain compared with the size of his mouth.
        • Jun 10 2012: Sorry if I took your off-the-cuff remark too seriously...

          You can watch Dawkins say it with his own words here.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC58vglNOOo

          Please give me some reasons why his statement is a: "short sighted, closed minding statement."

          What is your theory for attraction to spirituality? And if you say "God", please be so kind as to tell me which one you refer to.
      • Jun 11 2012: Mike, I watched the interview on your link. Jesus saves at city bank... good one!

        I've never heard him say before that he is actually open for the "possibility" that there could be a god. That was rather sporty of him.

        The reasons for my criticism "short sighted, closed minded" in ref. to Dawkins are his continual bottom line "gene explanation" for absolutely everything. Every single human ability, every little human condition, all that the human being is ... of good and evil, it's wealth of intelligence, creativity in music, architecture, art, as well its horrors of immorality and profound indignation, etc.etc. and now, as the video shows, even the very tendency toward a belief in a god,.... everything he manages to press into his little picture of the world ... his "selfish gene" He has a one track mind. He's stuck in his "genetic ditch" and can't get out of it because he sees no other answers, he sees no way out of his own dilemma. ... as if if all that we are and all that we can be is something that is only determined by our genetic condition... To me, this demonstrates again his closed little mind.
        He could have been a genius had he only managed to pull himself out of his materialistic interpretation of the world. What a waste..

        We don't need to mix God up in this conversation... or which one I prefer. It's more than enough to speak only of the spiritual world. People get all bent out of shape when others start referring to God out here on TED. The hardest part is just defining what the spiritual is here on Mike Adams's conversation. No one seems to agree on just what the concept "spiritual" is.... Do you have any ideas? If it means to just go to the opera and have a spiritual experience than I'm not in on that discussion... That's not my definition of spiritual.

        What does the word mean to you ? Do you think that we as human beings have a spiritual part of our being that exists after we die ?
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    Jun 9 2012: Dear Mike, I very much appreciated your sermon (as you call it) and very much appreciate your search for something spiritual in life.
    Basically, as Daniel says, we are spirits in a body. That, however is the tip of the iceberg.

    Being a spirit does not mean we are a cloud of something in a body. It means we actually live in a spiritual world while we express and communicate through our physical body.
    http://webhome.idirect.com/~abraam/documents/TheSpiritualWorld.pdf

    God set it up in such a way that if we want spiritual answers we need to reed what we (honestly and sincerely) regard as His Revelation. We cannot determine or discover anything infinite or omnipresent by thinking deep thoughts or contemplating with great and very high truths. It does not matter what belief system we subscribe to in this world. What is important is what we DO and WHY.
    https://sites.google.com/site/liveitupspiritually/home/writings/DLW_DP.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

    As you noticed Mike, while living in this physical world we experience (and can decide to focus on) two very different spiritual realms or worlds. Heaven and hell. You have met people that showed they were connected to one or the other.
    Those two worlds will always exist because it is their balance within us that gives us our free will.
    http://webhome.idirect.com/~abraam/documents/Heaven%20and%20Hell.pdf

    Humanity did not get a 'cookbook' to tell us what to do when and how and with how much.. We are human beings and not puppets or animals, we are human beings that are meant to become angels but with the freedom to become devils. We are meant to live our life as WE love to live our life. If it was not like that, this would not be OUR life but someone else's, and what fun is that? :)

    This free will exists because God is a God of love, not one who forces us in something we did not choose. Hell is not a punishment, although it may certainly feel like that at times, but the only 'place' we can be selfish and do evil to others.
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      Jun 10 2012: Hi Adrian, I guess you mean you believe humans are spirits in a body and that there is a mystical spiritual world no one can see, touch or feel except in brain experiences and imaginings as far as we know.

      You assume a god being, and of a particular form. Again invisible, immaterial virtually non existent.

      You believe a lot of stuff from an old book as well as stuff from a more recent human being - Swedenborg.

      You could be right about everything but at this stage it is unsubstantiated beliefs and has similarities and conflicts with thousands of other unsubstantiated beliefs.

      Don't intend to be blunt, just pointing out what you state as the truth is highly subjective and one of millions of explanations with a lot of assumptions or beliefs that are highly speculative.
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        Jun 10 2012: Yes Obey, yes, I assume a lot :)

        "You assume a god being, and of a particular form. Again invisible, immaterial virtually non existent."
        I believe that God is spirit, somewhat like we are, but infinite etc. and since He came into the world 2000 years ago as Jesus, He is very imaginable, connectible and can be related to as easily as a distant relative.
        Mike, who started this, for some reason has no trouble believing in a spiritual realm. Maybe it would help if you read his link at the very top about what started it all.

        Maybe for all Christians everything is based on an old book, but when that old text is maintained over thousands of years with an incredible level of consistency, which now is shown to have application through an internal spiritual meaning of every story and each word. WOW!
        Many Christians indeed ignore the Old Testament because it is old stuff and just 'history'. It is like the story of the Valley of Bones in which everything is fully brought back to life.

        Also, (and I know not many Christians agree with this) we believe God is a God of love, Who does not condemn anyone for having never heard of a Bible. That's why everyone, everywhere has their own opportunity to have their (local) sacred texts and base their life on that.
        As Mike (not Adam) seems to have discovered, to just believe in a higher power can be a very saving experience.
        Just a thought, did I ever tell you that every single detail and aspect of the Tabernacle is based on and describes our human spiritual environment?
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          Jun 11 2012: Thanks Adrian.

          I guess I see another side as well. Yahweh is a cruel and jealous god. A tribal god who personally killed thousands (about 300,000 enumerated) and probably millions if you believe the stories of plagues and floods. He ordered millions killed (nearly 4 million enumerated).

          Much of the morality of the bible is simply immoral. Sexist, rascist, pro salvery, kill this and that etc

          Ignoring the OT is a good way to avoid some of the nasty bits of this god. Good way to avoid dissonance. I just ignore the rest as being anything more than a profoundly important historical and cultural document.

          Not sure if the bible is anymore profound that the myths and stories of other religious traditions.

          Maintaining accuracy in regards to the myths doesn't mean the stories are true or representing actual reality.

          Christians might be surprised how closely how some of the stories closely match other earlier mythologies e.g. Mithra, floods, virgin births.

          People ignore it is internally consistent. 2 different genesis stories. OT wargod and NT guru. Different versions of the ten commandments

          They might also be surprised that some parts of the New Testament have not been found in older scriptures e.g. the latter parts of Mathew seem to have been added later e.g. speaking in tongues and snakes etc.

          Then different christian sects have different bibles, some have more books, some have less.

          The inclusion of the 4 gospels seems arbitrary. What about the gospels of Thomas, Judas, Mary M. These are also real historical documents.

          Read the NT and after Jesus died they were making up the rules as they went e.g. whether gentiles could join, and whether they had to get circumsized

          And there is very little mention of Jesus in any other historical references. No one knows who wrote the gospels down.

          Any god that wants people to chop the end of their genitals off seems pretty man made to me.

          Add your view to mine and you you get a more balanced perspective of the bible.
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          Jun 11 2012: Adrian one other thing, (I've got some computer time while the wife is out)
          Isn't it a bit strange that the creator of the universe for most of human history has only been known to a small % of living humans.

          Go back beyond 6,000 years and Judaism did not exist.
          Go back 3000 years and Gods chosen were a small backward tribal group in the middle east.
          Meanwhile China flourished as a civilization completely ignorant of Yahweh.
          After JC, Christianity started to spread round the Roman empire, but not Asia, the Americas, most of Africa, Oceania.

          It took till 500 years ago to reach the Americas.
          300 years ago to reach New Zealand and Australia.

          Not really indicative of being anything related to the creator of the universe.

          Further to the god of love. I guess many define the Christian god as Omni, benevolent etc etc

          Defining your god this way does not make it so.
          Hell is not loving (you may not believe in hell, but others do)
          Making the descendants pay for the crimes/sins of others is not loving.
          This harsh brutal world with disease and deformity is not the sign of love.
          All animals survive by eating or killing other living things. It is survival of the fittest.
          Making your existence so unlikely, making it hard to believe or differentiate this god from all the others, is not smart. It is such a tricky system.
          Plus the nasty side of god in the bible, the evil biblical morality etc.
          Calling this god loving is very subjective and counter to many of the facts and even biblical evidence.

          It's like believing whatever gods says is moral by definition even if it is immoral. So if god says marrying a woman who has been raped to the rapist is moral it is moral. Killing witches is moral. Killing disrespect children is moral.

          Even the whole Resurrection is a bit off. This god needed a blood sacrifice to forgive us for failing his big set up. Yahweh, being a bronze age god, needed a scapegoat. Why should one man have to suffer for the sins of others. Think about it.
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        Jun 11 2012: Dear Obey, Great facts and reasons to not believe :) Instead of debating every point you make, there is a basic approach that levels the playing field for some or many people.

        Mike mentions the existence of a spiritual path, even as an Atheist. So there is hope :)

        Even while growing up we, at first, take the words from our parents literally. They appear very angry, even to the point we think they may want us dead! How would a child respond if told that it was all based on love?? At some stage in our life, however, we recognize the fact that there is more to it than what they said or did. Humanity also has, and still very much is, growing up and developing.

        By taking the Bible literally we can hate God or love Him, depending on what we chose to focus on.

        To respond to your very last (and most important) comment first. Maybe you have seen my reaction to that before.
        This interpretation shows how off-track Christianity is off this spiritual path. Because Jesus is God on earth. God is Jesus' Soul and Spirit. That's why they are One, just like you and your soul and spirit are one.

        Many of us have a GPS that tells us where to go. I see a thousand years from now how we can just tell it where we want to go and it will take the car there. We could go back to sleep. Some time after that we may not know how to drive any more, like some cannot drive a standard now.

        God did not give us a spiritual GPS for that simple reason. Every single one of us has to know how to live and love and grow up, spiritually. We have to get on our spiritual path and work on it to get there. To be good has to become second nature, not just fall asleep in a pew because our GPS/God will just get us there.

        --"Christians might be surprised how closely how some of the stories closely match other earlier mythologies e.g. Mithra, floods, virgin births."--
        That is because God does not care whether we call Him Allah or Buddha etc. All of humanity has been given the information that can work for them.
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          Jun 12 2012: Thanks for the considered response. I was typing fast and furious so probably blunt.

          I think Mike is talking about spirituality in a self actualisation sense rather than a metaphysical spirit sense.

          In a non supernatural sense, I consider myself quite spiritual. I usually avoid the word because of the religious and supernatural baggage. But I don't go for unsubstantiated superstition from astrology to whatever.

          Often I find I have a naturalistic explanation for things a theist has supernatural explanations. Everything from morality to how humans came to be.

          I note some see different religions as discrete and contradictory and others see them as different pathways to the same sort of place. Theism is so wide and varied - some parts adaptable, others locked in and literal/orthodox.

          I suggest the reason religions in the same region share similarities is that they borrowed ideas and infused each other.
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        Jun 12 2012: Well as I say, no one should (or could) force you into anything that you do not want, not even God.
        Often the only reason people are in a religions is because their parents are.
        The law seems to keep religions in line as well, it used to be expected you killed those that thought or believed differently.

        In a way I'd like to think we've come a long way and still have a long way to go. But to have people like you and Mike with thoughtful questions and a healthy approach to reality only makes the trip better.
        Just keep an open mind OK who knows what might fly in :)

        There was no room above but I'd like to add:

        "I am come from God" (John 8:42); the Body came forth from the Soul. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do"(John 5: 19); the Body can do nothing of Itself, but what it is directed to do by the Soul. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God"(Matt. 16:16); the Messiah, the Body of the Divine Itself, which alone is Life-in-itself. "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased"(Matt. 3:17); the Divine Body in which it pleased the Lord to dwell while on earth. "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28); the Soul is greater than the Body, since it directs it. "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me"(John 14:6); just as we cannot know a man’s soul except insofar as his body reveals it, so also the only way we can have any idea of the Divine Soul is by means of the Divine Body, which was visible to man. Or, as it is said in another place, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him"(John l: 18). "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?”(Matt. 27:46). On the cross, the last of the Lord’s lifelong temptations, He was painfully aware of the Body to the exclusion of the Soul, as we also are during temptations. The Divine Soul seems to have forsaken it. "Father forgive them..."(Luke 23:34); forgiveness comes from the influence of the Soul, not the body.
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          Jun 13 2012: Hi Adriaan. I agree with keeping an open mind, We all should, but also with healthy scepticism and critical thinking.

          I agree we have come a long way. We had the enlightenment, science etc and moved beyond medieval and bronze age morality and beliefs. These have even infused the less fundamentalist believers.

          Someone like me stands on the shoulders of giants who found a non supernatural path to better explain the universe and ourselves, who fought against the divine right of monarchs and theocracies, and developed ideas such as equality, liberty, freedoms, secularism, ethics etc.

          Most the time there are the same old tired and fallacious arguments - uncaused cause, Jesus miracles and ressurection as if there was any reasonable evidence for this, assumed souls/spirits, the psycologhy of spiritual experience, the misrepresentation of atheism or quoting bits of a book that suit a particular viewpoint. Believer tend to think their mystical view is better than the rest.

          The religions we have the most information on were all started by humans (mostly men). Buddha started Buddhism. Jesus started a little cult and Paul, Constantine etc put it on the path to an organised religion. Muhammad started Islam. We know who started Mormanism, JW, Scientology, Christian Science (a woman at last), Jonestown.

          The closer we get to verifiable scientific thinking the more the golden age seems magical and mystical and today's religions look simply like cultural artefacts.

          The best arguments are things that point towards the improbability of a universe that would support life etc , but this is no proof of a creator let alone a specific deity. Just a question. Almost certainly all the specific detailed religions are made made like languages.

          I happen to lean towards questioning whether Jesus actually claimed to be god. Hard to tell how the stories were developed after he dies and before they were recorded. We don't even know who wrote down the gospels. If he did he was delusional
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        Jun 13 2012: Hi Obey, Could not agree with you more (except for the doubts).

        "I happen to lean towards questioning whether Jesus actually claimed to be god."
        The Jews heard it loud and clear and were ready to stone Him for it.

        BTW, just remembered reading in your 'list' above
        --"Maintaining accuracy in regards to the myths doesn't mean the stories are true or representing actual reality."--
        Well, when it is now shown to have a consistent, word for word, and applicable spiritual meaning.. it could proof something. There was a reason for not changing a jot or a tittle.

        Yes. I do believe in a hell. You can 'see' the existence of it around and in you. That's where ideas pop into our mind from to get us off our spiritual path. Influences from heaven try to keep us on track. Again it is our choice which side we favour.
        So is not a hell of eternal punishment but a state of mind that allows us to love ourselves first.

        Anyway, I thought you mentioned the fact there are two Creation Stories. You are right and that is because Creation Stories have nothing to do with this physical world. The first story is the creation of a spiritual person from a natural (void) person. The second story is the creation of a celestial person from a spiritual person. There are three levels in heaven, like in the Ark and areas in the Tabernacle. But that is another story.

        Just in case you have found that my links don't hurt, this is a short version of Heaven and Hell (it also deals with what happens when we die, going through 3 stages).
        https://sites.google.com/site/liveitupspiritually/home/writings/Heaven-and-Hell_Short.pdf?attredirects=0
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          Jun 14 2012: I guess we don't know which stories in the bible reflect reality and which are made up. We don't know if Jesus was even crucified for sure. Maybe he was.
          We don't know why. You just take it on trust that the bible is accurate in this regard.
          I guess he was probably a real person. But if we start believing all old religious writings there are lots of gods and miracles.
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        Jun 14 2012: We are told that the first 10.5 chapters of Genesis are made-up and copied from the previous stories which were not written but verbal. Maybe some drawings on cave walls might help.

        "We don't know if Jesus was even crucified for sure. Maybe he was."
        He probably was run over by a camel :)

        Just like in anyone's life, development starts from the beginning and is done by the parents and our environment, and if done right should be consistent. Old sayings might come back and remembered. Just because they were voiced 10, 40 or 80 years ago does not mean there is no internal meaning or thought behind it. Same with humanity.

        You are quite right, all that 'info' I do indeed take on trust and let that guide my life or spiritual path. If I thought that Jewism did a better job I'd be a Jew.
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      Jun 10 2012: Adriaan,
      I respect your choice to embrace a certain religious belief.

      You write..."God set it up in such a way that if we want spiritual answers we need to reed what we (honestly and sincerely) regard as His Revelation. We cannot determine or discover anything infinite or omnipresent by thinking deep thoughts or contemplating with great and very high truths. It does not matter what belief system we subscribe to in this world. What is important is what we DO and WHY".

      Your statement seems contradictory to me..."God set it up...we need to reed HIS Revelation". We cannot determine or discover anything infinite or omnipresent by thinking deep thoughts or contemplating with great and very high truths."
      Then you state..."It does not matter what belief system we subscribe to in this world. What is important is what we DO and WHY".

      I agree that what we do and why we do it is the important part of the life journey. You've already stated, however, that "god set it up...we need to read His Revelation...we cannot determine or discover anything by thinking deep thoughts or contemplating

      So, you're saying that what we do and why is important...AS LONG AS WE DO IT under the limited circumstances that you advocate!

      You say Adriaan, that "while living in this physical world we experience (and can decide to focus on) two very different spiritual realms or worlds. Heaven and hell. You have met people that showed they were connected to one or the other".
      Those two worlds will always exist because it is their balance within us that gives us our free will".

      While in this physical world Adriaan, I like focusing on every experience here and now. I see no useful purpose in focusing on heaven/hell, which are concepts that you believe in because of the religious teachings you accept.

      To say that you have met people " that showed they were connected to one or the other", is a judgement on your part, and only serves to disconnect people rather than connect. It feels kind of arrogant.
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        Jun 10 2012: Hi Colleen,
        --"Your statement seems contradictory to me..."God set it up...we need to reed HIS Revelation". We cannot determine or discover anything infinite or omnipresent by thinking deep thoughts or contemplating with great and very high truths."
        Then you state..."It does not matter what belief system we subscribe to in this world. What is important is what we DO and WHY"."--
        By "His Revelation" I do not mean just the Bible. We believe that every single person gets the opportunity to accept the belief in a higher power. As simple as that.

        --"So, you're saying that what we do and why is important...AS LONG AS WE DO IT under the limited circumstances that you advocate!"--
        Sorry but what am I limiting?

        --"To say that you have met people.."--
        I said: --"You have met people that showed they were connected to one or the other." because that is what Mike described in his sermon.
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          Jun 10 2012: Yes Adriaan, I know what you believe, because you have flooded the TED sites with your belief:>)

          I agree..."every single person gets the opportunity to accept the belief in a higher power"......or not:>) It is, as you say...that simple:>)

          In my perception, you are only limiting yourself:>)
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        Jun 10 2012: --"In my perception, you are only limiting yourself:>) "--

        I'm sorry Colleen but that still does not explain how or what I'm limiting.
        Am I limiting myself by believing in a God?? Or by believing our actions have spiritual consequences?

        Do you think Mike's original statement: "..I continue to feel the need for a spiritual path and to live with spiritual principles" is going to limit him too?

        Please explain.
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          Jun 10 2012: No Adriaan, I do not think/feel that believing in a god is limiting. Nor do I think/feel that to believe our actions have consequences is limiting. To know that our actions have consequenses is insightful and intelligent in my perception.

          To believe that YOUR god and/or YOUR beliefs are the one and only is limiting...in my humble perception. To believe in some of the concepts you preach is limiting...for example...
          "while living in this physical world we experience (and can decide to focus on) two very different spiritual realms or worlds. Heaven and hell. You have met people that showed they were connected to one or the other".

          Those kinds of beliefs are judgemental, limiting, and only serve to disconnect people.

          No...I do not believe that seeking a spiritual path is limiting. You preach this all the time Adriaan...it is how and why we live that is important. That I totally agree with. I love it and totally connect with you and that idea when you express it. Then you go off on one of these limiting (in my perception) topics.... like.... we all see only two different realms...like heaven and hell. Can you not see how those ideas are contradictory?

          It feels like every once in awhile, you are speaking from your heart, then you go back to the programming of your chosen religious belief. It is simply my observation.
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        Jun 10 2012: --"To believe that YOUR god and/or YOUR beliefs are the one and only is limiting."--

        Many times I have said that we can follow ANY religion or belief system. Many times I have mentioned my motto "IF whatever you believe makes you a better person, BELIEVE IT!"
        As humans we have to, and can only, believe what WE see as truth, or it is blind faith.

        We can tell everyone to live their life the way they want to, have a great time and practise unconditional love. We can have a great time flying but should we not also mention there is gravity? We can have a great time swimming, but should not forget that water can kill too? When we see the news or read the paper, bad stuff does happen.

        Living in a spiritual environment also has its own pitfalls and surprises.

        Since you do not believe any of this could we just agree to disagree? The next time you read the word 'religion' could you just exercise some of your unconditional love?
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          Jun 10 2012: Adriaan,
          I am aware that many times you mention that your motto is "If whatever you believe makes you a better person, BELIEVE IT!". When you say that, it feels like you are actually speaking from your heart, rather than from programmed preaching:>)

          Of course we can agree to disagree...I've said that to you many times, and also told you many times that I respect YOUR choice to believe what you choose to believe:>)

          I DO always exercise unconditional love for you Adriaan. The topic of this discussion is
          "Atheism as a Spiritual Path". Could you stay on topic rather than trying to promote your religious beliefs?
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      Jun 10 2012: I don't tend to believe in heaven or hell...not in any sense other than metaphorical. Hell can be inflicted on someone or self inflicted. When I was a theist, I used to believe it was placing yourself in the position of not being able to experience god's love.

      Today, if I had to define hell, I'd say it being in a position where you are unable to experience love either giving or receiving. But since I don't actually believe in hell, I suppose that isn't too relevant.

      I do believe that morality is genetically coded into humanity. A few years back, I watched a National Geographic documentary called, "The Ultimate Survivor." it was fantastic and really looked at a possible evolutionary explanation of morality. That when humanity was nearly wiped out 100k years ago, we came together and formed societies, because people were more likely to survive when they worked together. That people who put their own selfish ambition above the welfare of the group were ostracized and that within a few generation, our ancestors were already forming the genetic tendency towards morality.

      --ma
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        Jun 10 2012: Hi Mike, --"I do believe that morality is genetically coded into humanity"--
        Does that mean sending someone who committed a crime to jail, maybe changes his or her code?
        Come to think of it, In a way the word 'code' you use might be what we might call love. Maybe you would say 'we are our code'. I would say 'we are what we love' And then we can change what we love and so change our 'code'. How would that work for you?
        I certainly hope that by 'code' you do not mean the chemistry balance in our brain.

        Do you believe in free will? If not, do you then somehow feel 'forced' into saying or doing whatever you say or do?

        You said above that you are looking for a spiritual path. Did you take the opportunity to see the link above to the book The Spiritual World? Did you see any of the other links? That path you are looking for, should that include some answers as well?

        BTW my approach to the spirit is based on what Emanuel Swedenborg wrote. He had a 'NDE' that lasted 27 years. That's why he wrote about 30 books.

        I really appreciated your sincerity regarding the spiritual side of life, throughout your sermon.
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          Jun 11 2012: Jail doesn't change someone's genetic makeup. If memory serves me well, the scientific facts are that humans share roughly 40% genetic coding with a banana and only one or two chromosomes difference from a Chimpanzee (someone should feel free to correct me if I got that wrong).

          Free will doesn't really enter into the equation of genetics, except when someone's genetic makeup robs them of sentience, in which case they also lack free will.

          I didn't say I'm looking for a spiritual path, I said I continue to need a spiritual path and I continue to live by spiritual principles.

          I do have a spiritual path, which has found expression in my atheism. It lies in the unimaginable creative evolution of this incredible universe, in the complexity of our ecosystem and the incredible far fetched chance that with all the twists and turns that evolution took along the way, humans evolved and luckily for me, I somehow was born. I experience gratitude that despite all odds to the contrary, I get to experience this crazy and beautiful, yet challenging life, that I get to be a parent and try to make a difference for my fellow humans.

          I definitely have a spiritual path. It includes and is largely based on science, on quantum mechanics and theory of relativity. It allows me to sit in awe at the wonder of a developing human fetus, which goes through the stages of evolution in it's mother's uterus. That we are all spawn from matter created from super novas and transformation of energy into matter and back again millions or billions of times until today. We look around and see this mass of diverse matter and life, but it is all star-dust, created by exploding stars and the transformation of energy.

          Evolution continues to unfold unbidden and undirected, but incredibly beautiful!
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        Jun 11 2012: Hi Mike,
        A great view of awe, and enjoyment. I can easily embrace that too.

        --"Free will doesn't really enter into the equation of genetics"--
        I was just trying to find out if you also see that as a human trait or condition, if you even thought it existed, and if so what it is.
        What I'm saying is that I believe we have that spiritual level you embrace, because we are a level above animals. We can learn by our actions and their consequences and change. If animals could do the same we'd have less road-kill to worry about.

        To get through and out of the need for AA you said it helped to accepted the existence of a higher power. If I may ask, what does that mean to you? So you don't call it God, but would you see it as Influence, Energy, Love, Gravity, Nature.. or just anything outside yourself ?

        --"I definitely have a spiritual path. It includes and is largely based on science,"--
        In my opinion, spirit is well beyond science and I'm very grateful you made that step. It's a great notion that we not only prepare ourselves, and our kids, for this life but also for the next.

        Thanks for this great thread
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          Jun 11 2012: To make use of AA, I accepted the existence of a Higher Power, which I did call God. It was difficult, but today, I don't really believe in a high power (not a conscious one anyway).

          I see the universe as a mass of chance and happenstance. If you have ever watched "The Elegant Universe," you could see a summation of my views on existence in the discussion about the "quantum cafe."

          BTW, the Elegant Universe is a documentary about String Theory, which isn't actually science, it is philosophy, given the lack of any way to prove or disprove string theory. It simply makes sense mathematically for now.

          Thanks for participating...though I don't believe in a next life. I think that is why social justice and standing up for what is right feels so immediately important to me now. Because I believe this is our one precious life and I don't think anyone should have to sacrifice it to feed someone else's avarice.

          I expect my kids to stand up for people who are being bullied. I speak out strongly against homophobia and other forms of bigotry. I often serve as the "harshing the buzz" guy in a room, by bringing up child starvation or enslavement or sweat shops. I ask people to avoid Wal Mart and I try to promote permaculture. I want to leave a better world for my children and though I'm often ineffective, I keep trying to make a difference.

          Mostly, I think that by engaging in big questions and continuing to examine and question our own beliefs, people will tend to have enough humility that we can move away from prejudice and bigotry. I see certitude as the enemy.
      • Jun 11 2012: Mike, "I see certitude as the enemy."
        ... But isn't it just exactly that we are all looking for...?? Is not science looking for the highest degree of certitude... in absolutely all aspects of research...?

        Adriaan, yes, ...in the next life .. and the next life ... and the next .... and the next
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          Jun 11 2012: I'm not a scientist, per se, but I live in a scientific community and my step-father is a scientist. He has a Phd in Physics. I did science projects every year of my life in Middle School and High School, including a three year ongoing project about holographic interferometry. I would argue that there are scientists who are looking for certitude.

          But science is a way of viewing the world, which does not really look for certitude, in fact, it embraces questions. True, at the point someone has proven with multiple trials that 100% of the time you can produce a specific result by following a specific set of procedures, that provides a sort of certitude, but it is not the end, it is the means to throwing out another hypothesis, to further engage our curiosity and wonder.

          Maybe?
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          Jun 12 2012: Are you really equating the evidence based, falsifiable process of science that has led to amazing working technologies to certitude in a religious belief that conflicts with thousands or millions of other beliefs.

          I note science updates when a better theory is found. Some types of religious belief do not. Scriptures don't update when humans work out slavery is not acceptable, or that freedom of religion is a good thing etc.
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    Jun 9 2012: Then it's a good thing that religion has nothing to do with spirituality.
    • Jun 9 2012: Gerald,

      Religion has no monopoly on spirituality. It is important to see the two in two totally different lights.

      It could be compared to using an old road map from 1920 or a GPS
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        Jun 9 2012: I wasn't being ironic. I do believe that religions destroy spirituality.
        The less spiritual people I ever met were Jehovah Witnesses, Catholic integrists and practicing muslims.

        Spirituality is curiosity. And in so many ways, I don't think faith leaves any room for that.
        • Jun 9 2012: Nor did I interpret you so.

          Main stream religion is like most things in life.... conformity's in fashion. The car you drive. The cloths you wear. Even down to your Adidas shoes or your i-phone. That which is called religion today is growing closer and closer to what Marx once said ..... a reference to opium as I recall.

          However, there are some esoteric streams that I'm sure you would find more palatable.

          Seek and ye shall find.
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          Jun 10 2012: Hi Gerald,
          Then you have not yet met a Swedenborgian :) We believe spirit is all there is, the only reality. Also the more questions the better. But I see what you mean, although I'm wondering how important spirituality is to you?

          Our definition of faith is an "internal acknowledgement of truth". Real truth, not based on mysteries.
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        Jun 9 2012: That's already something. But still. Why bother with any esoterism? Isn't the cosmos awesome as it is?
        How can you beat scientific inquiry at unveiling just how mysterious everything really is?
        That's why I believe unspiritual people are drawn to hasty interpretations.
        Spiritual people, on the other hand, are drawn to the mystery itself.
        • Jun 10 2012: Gerald, Yes the cosmos is amazingly awesome... amazingly awesome!! I couldn't agree with more on that one. Scientific inquiry is also steadily amazing at how it uncovers the mysteries of life. The only thing that seems to limit science is the fact that science limits itself to the material world as the final answer to explaining the phenomena of the world. This is where science falls short in its mission. Although science has in a way defined its very own limitations here, it seems to be headed toward a major paradigm change. We may even see it in our lifetimes (depending on how old you are) But I would bet that in the very near future, science is going to come right out and say that... "yes, there is an immaterial side of existence, a whole world of a reality that we have not discovered until now. But now we know it is there. We don't know much about this realm of existence, but we are working on it." This will be an awakening that will go down in history like nothing before. NDE will be one pathway towards this new enlightenment. Organ transplants may be another. Computer / medical technology may be a third. We are on the verge of a major breakthrough and when it happens, there will be a lot of materialists looking for some quick explanations to straighten out their world view.

          As for Spirituality,

          We are all spiritual beings.... yes. Atheist as well as Theist. Weather we accept it or deny it. There are many very spiritual Atheists as well as many materialistic religious people. It goes both ways. Just because one adheres to this or that form of religion is no green card to get into the "pearly gates"

          Just think how much more awesome it would all be if you knew that your own death does not mean the final end ... or the wiping out of all your knowledge and experience, feelings,..... but it is rather a new beginning !

          Think about that my friend ! That is awesome !
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          Jun 10 2012: Exactly! My wife's blog is faith-in-ambiguity and it is devoted to something we both believe is fundamental to a spiritual life (even an atheistic spiritual life like mine). Questions! A lack of answers is what set people apart for me as being spiritually attractive or not, both as an atheist and when I was a theist. Here is another sermon I delivered in a UU church, called, "Do We Know What We Believe ...or Do we Simply Believe that We Know!?
          http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2012/01/do-we-know-what-we-believe-or-do-we.html
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        Jun 11 2012: daniel,
        what are you talking about? Isn't science immaterial since einstein?

        "Just think how much more awesome it would all be if you knew that your own death does not mean the final end."
        That'd be something, I suppose. But you can't cheat. Things are only awesome if they are plausible. Science explores the plausible.
        • Jun 11 2012: Gerald,

          If you really have already decided that something (spirit) is not plausible, then there is not much more to say. You have made up your mind. But I'm saying it is plausible and very much so if one can see things in a little different light. I agree that most traditional religions and their concept of a god are way off base. I don't have much interest in any of them. Haven't gone to church in years except for funerals and weddings and the like. But if you can put aside your prejudice for these tradition forms of religion and think in terms of an existence outside of your physical body, your viewpoint on this little lifetime might just give you a whole new dimension to ponder over.

          Science has never operated with the concept of the spiritual. For science, everything has to do with purely physical laws. We could ask ... Just what is gravity... or light... or magnetism ... are they determined simply by "physical laws" The evidence of the "immaterial" world is all around us, we bump into it every day. Still we are not awake enough to go deeper past the surface of things. There are endless phenomena in the world that science has no explanation for. "Were getting to it ... were working on it" and of course they are. My point is that some day soon, science will come to the very bottom of the material and still not discover any real answers to the fundamental questions we as human beings ask. "Who am I.? Where do I come from? Where do I go when I die?
          Certain phenomena like NDE are pushing science to these limits. And I would bet that one day soon, as many scientist already are saying, there is in fact something after this physical life... we don't know what it is, but there seems to be a strong correlation in our studies that point in this direction. So look, surf, open your mind, the truth is there and it's not that hard to find !
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        Jun 11 2012: " as many scientist already are saying"

        Who? What? Where?

        I guess you're talking about articles that exist in a spiritual realm.
        • Jun 11 2012: Gerald, Not at all! Surf on NDE. There are lots of cases. Lots of stories. They are even going so far now as to test the verifiability of the NDE by placing things on roofs of hospitals or in other rooms to test if they are true. To see, really if a "dead" or "unconscious" person has the possibility to gain access to information which is not available to that person other than "being out of the body"

          Surf! If you can't find something interesting out there on the net, I can find some things for you. Raymond Moody is one name. There are many others.
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        Jun 11 2012: Oh... But that's not science.
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        Jun 12 2012: The websites you've pointed me to are not scientific. I don't mean that there is an academia of science and that everything outside the academia is crap. But what I've read there is just not science.

        In fact, there is a name for that stuff which mimics the scientific method : pseudo-science.
        I could talk to you about homeopathy, or Emoto's snow flakes, etc... There's just a load of BS out there, hiding behin a few PhDs and a few crakpot laboratories.