Ross Bagley

Santa Monica, CA, United States

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Comments & conversations

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Ross Bagley
Posted over 2 years ago
Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0
Ritual must be significant and not vapid or else it is worthless. But there is no reason why we can't construct significant rituals without an appeal to the supernatural. We can find ways to mark and celebrate growth into adulthood, the change of the seasons, birth, death, achievement, marriage, etc. all without the supernatural. All of those events are significant, all can be acknowledged, and none of those celebrations need to be vapid without the supernatural. Like you and like Alain, I'm hugely in favor of meaningful rituals to help us add significance to events in our lives, to provide emotionally significant markers around which we can declare a moment to mean something more than just another tick of the second hand on a clock. I also agree with you that many attempts to create atheist rituals fail, sometimes because they mimic theistic rituals, or because the potential participants don't understand the significance of the event (anticipation is a huge part of passing a threshold). But these challenges don't mean that atheistic rituals are inherently worthless. Just that the challenge is larger.
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 3 years ago
Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0
Of course you should be entitled to your own opinions and beliefs. The difficulty is that so many religious people are willing to support representatives who are willing, nay eager, to embody those personal opinions and beliefs into law. That's when belief becomes dangerous: when it acquires the power of legitimized force (i.e. government). As for judgement, I do think that you're wrong, but I don't think you're a terrible person because of it. A lot of overly sensitive people think my statement is judgemental because I disagree, no matter how frequently I try to tell them that I would never use force or support a law to force them to act as though they agreed with me. So is my belief that you're wrong (and that it's okay and doesn't bother me that we disagree) an unacceptable judgement of you? I hope you don't think so, but if you do, I'll suggest that the solution lies within you and not within me.
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 3 years ago
Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0
There's a big difference between saying "There is no God." and "I don't believe in God." Both are atheist assertions, but one is a positive assertion that should be substantiated, while the other is simply a statement about one person's lack of belief. These should not be confused with the agnostic assertion, "It's impossible to know anything about God." And the comparison to China is invalid. We accept the falsifiable assertions of others once they have been verified enough times. A lack of belief in God is more like a lack of belief in Invisible Pink Unicorns. The assertion that they exist is not falsifiable and can't be verified, just like the assertion that the Christian God exists. Atheism is the only rational belief system. Any belief system that requires the acceptance of an unverifiable assertion is by definition arational.
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 3 years ago
Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0
In Christianity, a direct experience of God is "an epiphany". Perhaps a parallel to what you're discussing in Hindu religious practice. And that was specifically covered by the questions at the end of the talk about seeking transcendence and a conception of those things larger than yourself. I am not a believer in any supernatural or mystical assertions, and yet the most important goal for my life is to seek and experience uplifting and abiding joy. Were it possible to compare, I would put my quite successful experiences on that front up against any meditative nirvana or other religious epiphany. Without any need for mysticism, isolation, asceticism or massive physical self control. And all that I have needed is to place myself in situations where joy and love can be found (as frequently as possible) and be willing to accept and welcome the transcendent aspects of the experience. Far from belittling the aching and search for transcendence, I cherish it. But there are many paths to such an experience, and they don't all require belief in the supernatural.
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 3 years ago
Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0
I was a born-again Christian for many years. Then one evening, I realized that I could no longer accept what I had believed that morning. I bowed my head, prayed that Thomas received the evidence he asked for, that I also wanted evidence, and I would not believe until it was provided. I have been a non-believer ever since. I will assert that my conversion to Christianity was one of the most positive events so far in the life of a confused and frustrated teenager. The following years were filled with a lot of happiness and joy that I would not have found without the certainty of faith. I will assert that my step away from Christianity was also a very positive event for me as an adult, albeit less dramatically so than the conversion to Christianity. A parallel might be found in the experience of a person with a broken leg. The crutches that allows him to walk and get out of his depressing bed are a huge liberty. But eventually, he is strong enough to walk on his own, and he sets aside the crutches. A useful tool that is no longer needed for his walk. Obviously this metaphor is completely personal. I don't mean to disparage your faith by calling it a crutch. But "a crutch" is exactly what faith was to me and I'm thankful that I had it when I needed it most. Alain, myself, and many other non-believers each have our own story. I would be very surprised if Alain didn't have some personal experience as a believer before getting to where he is today. He sounds like someone who has been informed by being there.
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 3 years ago
Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0
There are significant type I and type II errors in your logic. Type I: religious people (and non-religious people) agree on many values despite having very little agreement about the nature of the supernatural. If morality came from the Christian God, then why do so many other faiths (and people of no faith) agree on many moral statements? Type II: ever heard of a deeply religious person unable to live by their beliefs? Cheating on their wife? Wanting to keep a mistress? Or perhaps cheating with a male prostitute? Humans are quite capable of believing in a supernatural creator and the justice that he will dispense and simultaneously breaking every important promise they have ever made. We're quite perfect that way. Religion doesn't make people more moral. Nor does being a non-believer make someone less moral. Morality is part biology, part culture, and entirely natural. So is being immoral (when you think you can get away with it).
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 4 years ago
Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning
Tony Porter conflated a highly destructive concept and cultural model of masculinity with the larger concept of masculinity. Sure, don't act like the men he describes. But instead of throwing out the idea of acting like a man, why not redefine "man" and "masculinity" to something more constructive and beneficial? Importantly, wanting to construct a more positive masculinity doesn't mean that you can ignore the underlying nature of men and boys. Masculinity is a natural behavior set shaped, interpreted and altered through a cultural lens. If you pretend that there is no natural masculinity, you have no hope of approaching boys through their own interests. And yes, violence is one of those interests. Allowing boys to explore their interests in a way that doesn't threaten others seems like an obvious approach. To assume that those who don't agree with feminine ideals need help or counseling to fix what's wrong, well... we've obviously got a long way to go.
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 4 years ago
Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman: Let's talk parenting taboos
Where I live (Santa Monica, California), the pressure to look like the perfect parents is gigantic. You must be happy, perfectly groomed, your kids must be happy, perfectly groomed. And you have to do it by yourself or possibly with a nanny if you're well off. Also, nobody warned us about the realities of miscarriage and we only found out how common it was after my wife was a month into mourning the loss. Then the discussion of love as a continuum and not a binary state is such a relief. The real world is shades of gray, never black and white. A lot of people that I see daily or occasionally overhear on the TV and radio could use frequent and repeated reminding of that fact.
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Ross Bagley
Posted almost 4 years ago
Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman: Let's talk parenting taboos
The more interesting question is: the word is already out that children are a terrible investment both monetarily, and with regard to your happiness and lifespan. Yet people still want to have them and will go to extraordinary lengths to have them. Can we do better at explaining that than simply offhanding the observation with "biological clock"? As for the downratings, the statement that Jeff makes about environmental and economic appropriateness are highly contentious, not taboo. Personally, I find it a little odd that he chose 2 children, slightly below the replacement rate, as his "environmental and economical" ideal number. Most of those who feel that children are economically/environmentally risky think that zero is the ideal number, which is much more defensible on both environmental and economic scales. We've got two kids, will definitely have a third, and may have a fourth (we'll see how the wife feels after #3 is a year old).