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Tom Drake-Brockman

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How to change the world with compassion: a new spiritual humanist purpose for existence

The problem with secular humanism is its tendency towards nihilism. If we are to find the resolve to transform our world, we need to believe there is a purpose to this universe and that requires a divine plan. But the ones on offer by conventional religion do not cut the mustard. They fail to resolve nagging enigmas like why God created a world with so much evil; why he so often fails to respond to prayers; and how a goal centered on some mystical afterlife can only distract us from the critical problems of this world. What we need is a new spiritual paradigm that could resolve these problems.
How about this:
Imagine before the ‘big bang’ there was simply the goodness of God. But that goodness could not be fully actualized due to the absence of its opposite- just as, for example, white might not be fully appreciated without the presence of black. This inexorable necessity eventually produced the ‘big bang’, a spontaneous (more than God created) clash of opposing titanic forces. The result was a universe based on finite mortality and hence self preservation. This made self interest the dominant instinct of all the living creatures that evolved within it. Given the inexorability of this situation, God has had very limited scope to intervene without upsetting natural laws and a moral order based on free will. But when sentient life evolved, he managed to infuse some primates-humanity- with a capacity for transcending their egoism. Later, he sent a few messengers like Buddha, Christ and Mohammed to show us how to do this.

Their central message and that of prophets generally, was compassionate love- compassion for the suffering that God had unwillingly caused. God selected humanity to become his agents, giving us the task of reducing this suffering and improving the world, Far from being helpless sinners, we can see ourselves- as humanists have always insisted we should- as masters of our own destiny.

Could we transform the world with this kind of world view?

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Closing Statement from Tom Drake-Brockman

Sorry but I don't think many of the contributions have been strong so much as trite, platitudinous and narrow minded. But the issue obviously hit some raw nerves, especially with Ted lover!

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    Gail . 50+

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    Jan 27 2013: You begin with saying that secular humanism leads to nihilism. I couldn't disagree more. Secular humanism leads to self-awareness, and self-awareness leads to compassion - for self and others. (When I say for self, I do not mean that it allows one to escape responsibility for one's choices; but rather, that it demands that one accept full responsibility for one's own choices.)

    You then go on to give an almost secular humanistic explanation for the Big Bang. The difference being that you insert a powerful being called God, who has some power-over creation rather than a god-concept equivalent that is the power-of creation with no ability to have power over it. This view diminishes and vastly disparages the human, which of course, encourages lack of responsibility thus lack of compassion.

    What if you were to say that god is "being" rather than "a" being. What does that do to the human? It makes the human a god - self created out of god-stuff (awarized energy) - able to select and then create a life according to his/her own choosing. And, in our common culture, when such persons begin to experiment with their powers, they quickly discover that as they do to others, they do to themselves. All thoughts, words, & deeds have their own consequences. As they belittle others (as your view does of me), they are belittled in their own minds, and their access to conscious use of their power is decreased.

    A self-aware person is cognizant of the perfection of being, thus is able to see the perfection of self and others in spite of mistakes made. This is far more compassionate than seeing the inferiority of others and letting them know it (which is cruel not compassionate)

    I think that it's so sad that this is the entirety of the message that Jesus offered, but the religion that claims to stand for Jesus' teachings prefers the opposite (mutually exclusive) teachings of Paul. Jesus didn't worship the Judeo-Christian god. He tried to expose it for what it is.
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      Jan 28 2013: I think it is almost self evident that without some purpose for our existence, life is ultimately futile and meaningless. That doesn't mean we cant enjoy it and find it satisfying but it surely does apply a real break on human aspiration.
      From my understanding of all the great sages and mystics of history, self forgetfulness and detachment rather than self awareness is the key to compassion
      I don't see how this view diminishes and disparages humanity when it effectively makes us-not God- masters of our own destiny.
      I think regarding human beings as being capable of perfection is not compassionate but dangerous. That is what underpinned Marxism and Nazism. We can be self confident about our basic goodness and unlimited capacity and even strive for perfection-but that's a long way from ever achieving it. That I believe was the crux of Jesus' message though I largely agree with your comments in the last paragraph.
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        Gail . 50+

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        Jan 28 2013: I have never met a self-aware person who is not aware of his/her purpose for existence. It comes with the territory. Compassion comes from an absolute awareness that all are one. Thus, as I do to you, I do to me. (Golden Rule in practice)

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