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Pabitra Mukhopadhyay


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Is ‘equianimity’ relevant for an atheist?

Wikipedia describes ‘equanimity’ as promoted by several religion.

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?


Closing Statement from Pabitra Mukhopadhyay

My conclusion: Equanimity is certainly relevant for atheists.

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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.
          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.

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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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