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Pabitra Mukhopadhyay

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Is ‘equianimity’ relevant for an atheist?

Wikipedia describes ‘equanimity’ as promoted by several religion.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equanimity

Is ‘equianimity’ possible for one who does not have a religious ‘faith’? I find it very interesting that there are two possible extremes of life - one of constant and curious engagement with present in a deeply involved sense of meaning and other of a conscious detachment from everything around without being indifferent to life.
Should ‘equianimity’ be a preferred state of mind for a more meaningful life?

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Closing Statement from Pabitra Mukhopadhyay

My conclusion: Equanimity is certainly relevant for atheists.

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    Sep 22 2012: Of course. Equianimity is a philosophy, not a superstition.
    Most of what Jesus preached is relevant for an atheist, for instance. It's just the ending of his life, with all the special effects and paranormal events that's disapointing... and not really related to the message. (What's the glory of just pretending to die for our sins?)
    I wouldn't be surprised if more atheists lived like Jesus than Christians... Because of the confusing supernatural background in which the important messages are found, people can easily be trapped into something like crusades.
    "Love thy ennemy" vs "There is only one God"
    And doing something to get to heaven or to avoid burning in hell is not really being virtuous, is it?
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    Gail . 50+

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    Sep 22 2012: I can say that equanimity, as described by Wikipedia, is why I am an atheist. But as you are in India, rather than the USA, my answer may not be readily translated. I live in a country where "God" is a cruel and sadistic being. I reject gods who have power over me, but I acknowledge my own divinity, and yours, and ours.
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      Sep 22 2012: I have held a view, to much protest from actively religious people, that religion should be private, like sex. Will you agree?
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        Sep 22 2012: I would love it to be the case, but until we learn how to celebrate our diversity, and keep religion out of government, I don't think it's possible.

        (but, I believe that a looming global economic collapse will change the way we interact, and a survival instinct will kick in, forcing us to cooperate)
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        Sep 22 2012: There is much resonance of thought. I enjoyed your Blog immensely, and agreed.
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        Sep 23 2012: I guess some religious belief systems are more comfortable being private but others are more strongly evangelical. Also in many societies or communities being seen to be religious is a virtue.

        One sad thing for me is childhood indoctrination. Best may be to promote a blend of being open but also sceptical.
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          Sep 23 2012: I used to think that we should keep religion out of schools. Now I think that we should bring them ALL into schools - an teach comparative religion. This would lend to critical thinking.
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      Sep 22 2012: Everywhere GOD is cruel........even more cruel are GOD lovers.
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        Sep 23 2012: Public Gods are. I agree. They live in temples, churches, mosques and have their agents working 24x7 for them to determine every aspect of life. They rule by power, decrees and sanctions.
        But private gods may not be so. Ask Sufis, Bauls and mystics. I may not believe your personal god that you worship in private but still can productively engage with you.
        Hugs my friend Salim! So nice to "hear" your voice.
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          Sep 23 2012: private gods may or may not be cruel or selfish with positive or negative beliefs that may or may not correspond with our best albeit imperfect understanding of reality.

          I suggest there is plenty of subjective semi religious babble believed by mystics and gurus or people on their own privatised individual "spiritual" journey with crystal healing, astrology, with or without divine agency etc etc.

          Humans love to make intuitive connections. We evolved to see patterns and agency even if there is none.

          Some things are unknown by our species or individuals, but we pretend to know things we don't really know. All sorts of ideas floating around from thousands of years of superstition and ignorance and even with science improving our understanding some find a way to meld this into subjective belief systems.

          Still I prefer those who think or at least intuit a bit for themselves rather than take it from dogma, authority or scripture. I prefer those who are happy to discuss but admit they may not know for certain, that their beliefs are speculative and don't force them on others unless they have some non religious rationale.
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          Sep 25 2012: Great to see you hear again Pabitra my friend !!!
          Well you are right about Bauls, Sufis & mystics.....but my feeling their GOD is humanity.....

          If one has an open mind , anything can seldom be a barrier to a productive engagement.
          Have a great day my friend :)
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    Oct 6 2012: Yes!
    Once a person understand what INVALID happiness is, he or she will get equanimity easily in most cases.
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    Sep 26 2012: Interesting question! Personally, my take is that the two -- equanimity & atheism -- don't partner up very well. Unless my understanding of the definition of atheism is off, it seems to me that atheists are in a firm position of judgment whereas a state of equanimity is unconditional acceptance of life around oneself, and thus, no judgment. An atheist making positive strides towards a state of equanimity would very likely drop her atheistic stance in my opinion; it would become irrelevant, if not silly.
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      Sep 26 2012: Thanks. Your view is interesting. Some see atheism as clearly a belief system and, like any other believe system, having its own fundamentalists. Belief systems are not changeable by demands and debates, they live and die according to the relevance with life. Atheism will spread more as religion becomes progressively less relevant to life, but eventually it can have Richard Dawkins as its prophet and physical realism as its God.
      I was wondering if equanimity can save atheism from turning into a dogma.
      • Sep 26 2012: Atheism is not a belief system, it is a non-belief system. It is a system by which claims must be backed up by evidence and the bolder the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence.
        It is also usually accompanied by a reliance on the scientific method, which, requires that you change your understanding based on new evidence.
        Everything you have said is wrong.
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          Sep 26 2012: Interesting claim. I am thinking. How can one be atheist then? Which evidence backs up the life expectancy (including chances of accidents, diseases, murder etc.) of an atheist? How does he know he will live up to a certain age, so that he can marry, have a family and make long term investments? How does he know he is loved by his/her partner, trusted by his/her friends? How these claims are backed up by evidence?
          I am trying to think for one atheist, not generally.
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          Sep 27 2012: Gordon Baker :

          Whatever atheism is....... did you ever think that it could be irrational asking for every claim to be backed up by evidence ? especially the claims about god ?
      • Sep 26 2012: Life expectency of an atheist is the same as a believer. My knowledge of life expectency is no greater than your, but also yours is no greater than mine. Believe in a god does not provide insite into this matter.
        Religion does not hold any monopoly on love, kindness, partnership or any other physical or metaphysical characteristic.
        The only difference between an atheist and a theist is that I have no place in my universe for a small god. My universe is too big for that concept.
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          Sep 27 2012: I am not making a case for God here, because I do not have or require a religion to be happy and fulfilled. However, I wish to examine the case of the atheists too. Not believing in God and having no belief/faith in anything which is not backed up by evidence may not be same thing.
          I think belief/faith has come to be too charged with religious connotation in western cultures so that in order not to believe in God demands having no belief in anything.
          Sam Harris has an interesting point too.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvweK4Guph4
          My questions are not answered by you Gordon.
      • Sep 27 2012: Perhaps we got off track. If you take Sam's position and abandon the word atheist (which you are correct, has too much baggage attached to it) and replace it with "believer in reason", then the conflict goes away.
        There is nothing preventing a reasonable person from approaching equanimity, as Sam says, love and reason is sufficient.
        The fact that equanimity has been hijacked by various religions no longer becomes relevant to the discussion. It is no longer a point of being an atheist, who believes in nothing to being a rational person who does not believe in ridiculous things and perfers to believe in reason.
        I am not sure, but I think your question evaporates.
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          Sep 27 2012: I am looking for the track, I guess, by examining positions. Like Sam, I do not feel elated being called atheist - it's just that religion is unnecessary for me to live with fulfillment. Science answers a lot or daily questions, almost all practical ones; but problem is I still have questions about life where science stops answering. It is sure that God does not answer these questions either or institutionalized religion.
          So even after my question evaporates, it leaves a troublesome residue. What to do with the questions that cannot be answered backed with evidence and reason.
      • Sep 27 2012: Stripping away all the distractors, I think you are asking what to do with the big questions that religion attempts to answer and science says are not really question, like why are we here, where are we going, what is the purpose of everything.
        That takes you into an entirely new universe of philosophy running the gamut from Patonism, Extensialism, Nhilism, etc.
        Personally I am probably an Absurdist.
        In absurdist philosophy, the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual's search for meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the universe. I accept the absurd nature of the universe, embrace it and revel in the exploration of it.

        That probably doesn't help you though.
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          Sep 28 2012: Hmm. Can it be so that meaning, purpose, spirituality and ultimately consciousness are all just virtual conditions of higher brain function? It will be then like pulling the cart sitting on it.
      • Sep 28 2012: That is certainly a valid question and the point that I would argue for. It may also be that both the universe and life are total accidents and without meaning. But even if it did, how would that alter both the enjoyment of it, the wonder of its exploration and the celibration of life given (however accidently) for as long a possible.
        Is it really necessary to have a higher (bigger, smarter, more omnipotant, everlasting, however you describe it) power that we are slaves to or beholden to or must please in some fashion in order for our lives to have some meaning.
        I find that proposition to be unsettling.

        Your imagery of pulling a cart while sitting on it suggest an interesting religious cartoon that If I drew, I am sure would get me in too much trouble, but I like it.

        Cheers
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          Sep 29 2012: Thanks. Contemporary thinkers like Dan Danette, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and a whole lot of others handled the 'apparent' meaninglessness or purposelessness. When I follow them, it appears to me that most of them exercise caution while talking about this, except may be Dawkins, who is the most scathing about religious babble.
          I also want not to be dragged into religious babble either because that may derail my line of equerry. I thought about the question of equanimity, which is by far hijacked by religions, for atheists because it seeks a balance in thinking or looking at the world and thereby prevent dogma.
          I may be wrong, but it appears to me that as animals, we humans are pattern seekers as a result of evolutionary traits. Can it be somehow that we are also purpose seekers for the same yet unexamined brain function evolution?
      • Sep 29 2012: As human animals we have a love and I think a need for myth. Many writers have addressed this imperitive in our societies. Joseph Campbell (who died in 1987) has written many books on the need for stories and myth in our societies. It is the mechanism that we use to explain why things happen within a certain framework. This, coupled with the natural curosity that all animals exhibit and humans have in abundance is what drives us to look for purpose in everything. Even if its not there.
        Your other comment about pattern seeking brings to mind a study I once read that compared some brain functions to a giant bayesian difference engine. We can ignore most of the data coming into our senses but at some point our brain is constantly making predictions as to what will happen next and then only bringing it to our concious attention when the prediction is wrong.
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          Sep 30 2012: Aoccdrnig to rseerach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

          That pretty much demonstrate pattern seeking brain of humans.
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    Sep 25 2012: To the most atheists , no . Theoretically it could be but practically it is not .

    Anyway , in the religious context equanimity means more than you described .
  • Sep 23 2012: All Beings bear the relation that
    " Could be together with
    and also Should be together with
    and so Are together with ",
    and enjoys the Faith in this Relation.


    Please refer to http://www.worldwithgod.org and to one2gather.org & one2gether.net.
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    Sep 23 2012: Could be applicable to anyone.

    I'm an atheist and I meditate and practise yoga, but without the mumbo jumbo context some forms of include.
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      Sep 23 2012: Thanks. I am a person without a religion but practice pranic exercise. But then meditation or yoga has nothing to do with religion, I guess.
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        Sep 25 2012: Meditation or yoga may have nothing to do with modern religion. It had everything to do with the roots of religion. It was in the transcended state that mystics presented their ideas of a higher power. I read a book on Mystic Christianity. I also read a book on Yogi philosophy. You'd be surprised how many religious references it had.
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          Sep 26 2012: That's the spiritual part of religion, and has a connection with proto-religious thoughts when Abrahamic religions did not form fully. Interestingly, Hinduism is not a religion is the sense of meaning that is understood in the west, and it had meditation, yoga and pranic exercizes as a science of healthy living to start with - the spiritual underpinnings came much later.
          In ancient Vedic traditions there had been a school of thought that did not acknowledge any God or divinity.
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        Sep 26 2012: Thanks for the reply. I have had spiritual experiences while trying to understand what religion was teaching. I have found myself in a minority that has few outlets for communication in the current age.
        Ancient beliefs had their esoteric wisdom. the Kabalah of Judaism is one. I found explanations for the Hebrew tabernacle in Eastern philosophy but nowhere in the current church system.

        As to the topic, I don't know that everyone can have a equanimity state of mind in the jet age. How do you calm down an adrenalin junkie? These people strive on chaos. Would the world be the same without them?

        If it were not for spiritual experience, I would be an atheist today. Had I chose atheism, I don't believe I would be the same person I am today. Although I have to admit that my views differ considerably from the modern church and are more in tune with what atheists believe. But spiritual experience allows me to integrate science with what Einstein referred to as a cosmic religious feeling.
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          Sep 30 2012: I missed your comment so a belated thanks. It doesn't matter if you are not an atheist as long as you can live in perfect harmony with your environment without the need for dictating moral and ethical standards based on ancient books of dubious authorship. Spirituality is a personal thing, it can help human beings cope with unanswered big questions.
          Don't you think equanimity is even more necessary for an adrenalin junkie for his own good? Fish don't feel they are immersed in water or else how can we believe something as inhuman as eternal damnation (religion) or as absurd as infinite growth (consumerist economy) ?