2.18.2016

Some Explanations here; email to a great poet and dear friend, Bill Carpenter.


My faith is endangered, not by external influence. I can talk to atheists all day and they seem harmless to me. It may sound vain, but at times I feel like David slinging pebbles at an onslought of silly Goliaths. I'm rarely challenged anymore, but it does happen. A young man named Mark Wittberger runs a discussion forum, is in his late 30s, a seemingly committed materialist and atheist, and he and I clashed, and I was impressed by his cleverness; but even more impressed by the fact that he was a better gentleman than I. I quit his discussion group but went back due to his invitation. A very bright, very sharp man he is, but he is completely blind to God.

Like I said, my faith is precarious at this time. I find myself in conflict, and unable to reconcile two disparate parts of my being: the reasoning mind that won't stop questioning, doubting, finding fault with Scripture, with the way people of faith have wrought havoc and bloody destruction in the world, the 40 some thousand denominations of Christianity, the utter confusion, contradiction, and sheer terror the so-called followers of Christ have brought upon every generation, up to this day; but there is also my heart, that tells me something different, that informs me that our capacity for ethical thought and moral behavior cannot be explained by science, that we are miniscule and ephemeral reflections of our Maker, a Being of such magnificence and magnitude that the most enlightened among us would fall on their faces in astonishment if they were to comprehend even a tiny fraction of Him/Her/It [GOD].

I think I can understand what caused John Berryman to go and leap to his death in Minneapolis, Bill. If this conflict between my heart and mind continues at this kind of pitch for much longer, I won't be able to bear it. I can clutch my cross in one moment in prayer, and five minutes later be convicted in my mind that the Bible is just the work of very bright men, very smart, all-too-human brains, and that all religions are the result of our fundamental need for devotion, the expression of gratitude for consciousness and life in this cosmos, the collective realization among intelligent men that no social order can function without an ultimate authority, a top dog: GOD.

The materialists call it objective values, or objective morality. The religious call it God, by a thousand names.

I will never lose my devotion to Christ, my Lord, and to God, the Father of fathers, my Maker. But, ultimately, that might not help me much. It didn't help John.

Bill

ps: I am NOT suggesting that I am going to kill myself. NO. I have two sons I want to see grow into men. I am simply giving you the "straight dope."  - PM to Bill Carpenter at 

Eratosphere. 9.10.15

10.25.2015

Utopia? Nope. FB dialogue

P. O. to me: We could rearrange the how the world is organized such that everyone could attain their heart's one true desire if they are only willing to play by certain rules. I think that perfect happiness would be a sufficient motivator for all besides the few that have short-circuits in their minds.

Moi: 

Certainly - if only everyone would abide by the rules, we'd have a Utopia; but Utopia is not possible, because of the people I referred to, sociopaths and psychopaths in the main, but also your average joe (if such a person exists, which I'm inclined to think: Not). How many people do you know who have never broken a law, have never broken a rule? I've never met a single individual who would meet that criteria, and I'm not sure I'd want to, because such a person might possibly be an anemic, lifeless, approximation of a human being, rather than the real McCoy.

We stand at a place in history where hindsight tells us abundantly more than foresight or insight. Nearly 3,000 years of various attempts at Utopia-building, all of which have failed. Some of these attempts were monstrous, such as what we saw in the first half of C20, as well as many a barbarous empire in ages past; some had better luck, as in the UK, the USA, the EU, or places like Australia and Canada. 

Now we are witnessing what appears to me as the downfall of the last, and perhaps greatest empire: the USA. What will become of the world when the USA goes down, as Rome went down? The future looks grim from my perspective, though I admit I'm an American, born at West Point, with every advantage, and I've lived my life in relative safety and security thanks to the industry, effort, and sacrifice of millions who came before me, who made it so I could live my life without the fear of having a bomb dropped on my house, or my town or city invaded by a foreign invader. 

I don't know if a world stripped of religion is the answer. And the only way a "Utopia" could be established would be through means envisioned by writers like Orwell and Huxley.

10.25.15

10.02.2015

Information versus Entertainment; posted @ FB

I want to offer some suggestions to the producers of media content whose primary purpose is to educate people, and not necessarily entertain them.

If you have information that you would like to communicate to people that you think is vital, and that they should understand for their own betterment, you should concentrate on educating, and lower - or even eliminate - the entertainment aspect of the content you produce.

If one goes to Youtube to watch videos on any given topic, and if these videos are somewhere in the higher-budget area, ie, if they have a certain value as items of entertainment: a look, a sound, hi-def quality video and music, one might notice that often it appears that the producers have placed a higher priority on entertainment value than on the value of the information they wish to communicate.

This is especially the case with respect to videos that are political or polemic. If a video is trying to convince you that aliens have visited Earth, for example, you will notice that it will have a music track that creates an atmosphere of mystery, fear, intrigue, excitement, and controversy; and usually the video will be edited in such a way that the atmosphere of intrigue and mystery is even more enhanced: For example, documents will be shown with focused areas highlighted while the outer areas are blurred or obscured, and these will be shown for only a moment, and usually accompanied with dramatic music. The editing is frenetic and confusing, causing a sense of disorientation in the viewer.

Now, if a producer and/or writer's intention with these videos is to convey information they believe to be credible and important to other people, the viewers, I believe it is absolutely contrary to that intention to create videos that induce in the viewer a definite sense of disorientation, shock, alarm, and a general feeling of emotional ambivalence to what they are witnessing and hearing.

In other words: producers and writers of that kind of video are automatically suspect, and I would encourage people to avoid and even ignore that kind of content, because those producers and writers are patently more interested in entertaining you than in persuading you to believe in whatever it is they want you to believe.

The above refers not only to lesser known or unknown producers on sites like Youtube, but to any and all creators of such content, even National Geographic and other prestigious, world-renowned individuals, groups, or companies.

If you have something of vital import to tell me, tell me, don't entertain me. I can seek entertainment elsewhere.

10.2.15

9.27.2015

Sam Harris, Nominalism, Islam, Mustaches, & Swiss Cheese; navelgazing @ FB

I was having a discussion with a young man about religion, Islam, Sam Harris, and accusations directed at Harris of racism and "Islamophobia". The conversation started off on a sour note due to some misunderstandings of what I had written. I was happy to take the blame for that misunderstanding - occasionally my writing is convoluted, goes off on tangents, and crawls up its own arse. I get gabby, I lose focus and go off into areas that in my own mind are relevant to what I started out with, but are utterly confusing to someone trying to make sense of what I'm trying to say.

I ended up deleting the post and subsequent thread that initiated this conversation, since the young man with whom I was talking has either blocked me or deactivated, since his posts vanished and I can't locate him in a search. Ah, well.

The point I tried to get across to this person was that I'm a nominalist, in that I subscribe to the idea that groups are not real entities, that only individuals are real entities. A group is made up of two or more individuals who have at least one attribute in common. The group called Americans, for instance, is a big group, and the one attribute all Americans have in common is that they are citizens of the United States of America. Americans have many other attributes in common with one another, but none of them are necessary attributes. The only necessary attribute of an American is that he/she be a citizen of the United States of America. That's it.

Americans have innumerable attributes in common. Some of them are Christians, some of them are Jews, and some of them are Muslims; some of them are white, some of them are black, some of them are hispanic. Some of them are women, some of them are men. Some of them are Christian and white. Some of them are Jewish and white. Some of them are Muslim and white. Some of them are white Christian men, some of them are white Jewish men, some of them are white Muslim men. Some are black Christian men. Some are black Muslim men. Some are black Christian women. Some are black Muslim women. Some are hispanic Christian women. Some Americans are atheists. Some Americans are white atheists. Some are black atheists. Some are hispanic atheists. Some American atheists are white women. Some American atheists are black women. Some American atheists are black men. Some American atheists are left-handed. Some Americans are gay men. Some Americans are gay women. Some Americans are claustrophobic hockey players. Some Americans are blind. Some blind Americans are blues guitar players. Some blind guitar-playing Americans are black. Some Americans have mustaches. Some Americans like cheese. Some Americans don't like American cheese.

Sorry for all that, but I think it's kind of necessary. When someone like Sam Harris, or any rational person, stands up and says that radical Islam is a danger to real people in the real world, he is not saying that everyone who is an adherent to the Islamic religion is therefore dangerous. As a matter of fact, Harris has gone out of his way, time and time again, to explain that he is, in fact, defending innocent people in Muslim countries, who are themselves at least nominally Muslim - meaning in name only - against the people who are oppressing them and keeping them in a constant state of fear and danger. By the very act of denouncing the atrocities committed by radical Muslims against their own people, Sam Harris is defending the majority of Muslims, the far greater majority of individuals who are just as sane and rational as anyone else, who just want to live their lives in peace and be left alone.

And yet, by some amazing miscomprehension, or purposeful slander, he is accused of being an Islamophobe, of being racist, of being the very thing that he is in complete opposition to.

At the heart of most of the confusion is a simple conceptual error: the failure to distinguish the real from the unreal. A group is not a real entity. It's just a label, an abstraction. The word "Muslims" does not identify any individual, rather it's a term that refers to a massive group of individuals who share at least one attribute in common: that they are, at least nominally, members of the religion of Islam. They may be hardcore fundies, or frightened atheists who are unable to confess to disbelief because to do so could get them killed, or any number of moderate, liberal, or orthodox believers.

When Americans fought Americans in the Civil War, Sam Harris, while he is an American, was not a member of those groups that fought. I'm an American, but I am not in the group of Americans that fought against the Japanese and the Germans in World War Two. Those people were Americans, and I'm an American, but I was not a member of that group of Americans.

Spaniards killed a lot of Native Americans. There are many Spaniards who never killed any Native Americans.

Some Spaniards are men. Some Spaniards are vegetarians. Some Spaniards like American cheese. Some Swiss people don't like Swiss cheese.

9.27.15

9.23.2015

Yet another definition of GOD. IMHO. Posted @ Youtube to discussion re: Atrium Carceri vid; dark ambient music

God doesn't seem far away here, nor does He seem far away in blackness, in emptiness, in the void. To me, God IS the void. He's the Field + the Knower of the Field. He is absolute and perfect. Unlike us, who are mere reflections of Him/Her. We are fragments, fragmented, confused and conflicted, and all that we want is to be like our Maker, God, Who is perfect in stillness, in silence, in absolute Being. Pure consciousness, tranquil, and eternal, while we are material, transient, ephemeral, dynamic, anxious, struggling, in pain, suffering, emotional, vividly alive, yet never complete, as GOD is complete. Our single wish, our single will, is to join and be with our Maker, Who is pure and still, quiet, conscious, intelligent, eternally at One with Him/Herself, knowing all and wanting nothing.

 - 9.23.15

8.11.2015

Middle Path; Jesus; Buddha; posted to Facebook philosophy group

...I really don't understand the extreme view to either direction. I don't understand scientism any more than I understand religious dogma. I don't understand an appeal to a purely materialistic view any more than I understand an appeal to a purely mystical view. I think, and the history of the human race has illustrated, that we need the objective and the subjective, the quantitative and the qualitative, the empirical and the conceptual. The human mind requires a balanced synthesis of opposites. The black and white worldview, good versus evil, right versus wrong, is misgiven. The far left and the far right are both a little bit right, but quite a bit wrong. Reality is in the middle, the *Point*, as Julian of Norwich *and* Euclid would agree. Gautama and Jesus taught the Middle Path, IMHO. We need the Light and the darkness to sort things out. More importantly, we need to face the darkness, to look into the evil in the world straight on, and say, "Bring it!" I pray to my conception of Christ - which I admit is eccentric - and I plainly let Him know that I find the concept of a literal Hell abominable, revolting, heinous, criminal, unspeakably evil. If I have to go to Hell for having that belief, then so be it. That's where I'll go. Bring it on. I imagine souls in Hell would need consoling and comforting, and as a Christian, that's what I'm called on to do. An eternity of ease and bliss is unchallenging, and I find most conceptions of Heaven to be greatly lacking in appeal to my heart, soul, and mind.


8.09.2015

Me 8.9.15; posted also @ Facebook


I am a Spinozan agnostic non-denominational universalist follower of Jesus Christ as I understand Him to be and as He has revealed Himself in my heart (not the pump in my chest).

I am not diagnosed bi-polar, but underwent treatment for emotional disorder for a while - to no benefit. My brother and sister (I'm in the middle) have both been diagnosed bi-polar and both are on medication. My mother was also hospitalized in her 30s for severe depression. It's in the family.

I believe very strongly that bi-polar disorder (and other similar mental disorders perhaps) may be at the heart of many religious conversions, many a deeply religious person, and also be at the core of many testimonies by individuals who claim to have been 'touched' (for want of a better word) by a higher power, or God, some of whom are quite famous, such as St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. There are no doubt countless others, ancient and modern.

I do not really **know** what I believe or don't believe; I have zero certainty; but I do know that I have a strong faith (made the leap) that a Being or Beings have intervened in my heart and mind and that this Being or these Beings are benign, loving, and are of a nature that is beyond my brain's capacity to comprehend. I have named these Beings God and Jesus Christ, and while my gut and my heart tell me I am correct, my reasoning brain allows me to consider that this could be (and probably is?) due to the place of my birth, my upbringing, and the information about the world that I have been exposed to. From my scant reading of Buddhist beliefs, if I were born in the Far East, I would probably be a Buddhist; and the same may be said if I were born in the Middle East, etc, etc.

I've been astonished of late by the similarities in core teachings of all world religions, and believe that there is a reason for that which goes beyond what we know scientifically, historically, philosophically, and sociologically.

The LAST thing I wish to do is offend my Lord, or to offend God. I would gladly die right now than willfully do such a thing. While I say this, I am fairly convinced that Jesus Christ and God cannot possibly be offended by me, because their nature is such that there is simply no means available for me to cause any actual offense to them. I may, however, be wrong, and this very thing that I've just said right there could very well constitute a grievous offense to the very Lord and God Whom I love with all my heart and soul. That is my greatest fear at the moment. I don't fear eternal punishment, as I believe that to be utterly contrary to a loving God; what I fear is offending That which I love so much, so deeply. A retreat to disbelief, at this point in my travels, would leave me with a feeling on par to that of abandoning one of my children, and/or forsaking my parents.

I realize that none of this sounds remotely rational or reasonable. I cannot defend my views or my feelings with wholly rational, reasonable discourse or argumentation.

I was a militant atheist, and was even a Randian Objectivist for a few years, for most of my adult life. I went through what I can only call a radical religious conversion in 2011, over the course of a few months of intense depression, elation, confusion, grief, and sporadic bouts of prolific artistic creativity, which has lasted up until now and is ongoing.

That's about it,
Bill

7.17.2015

Stuff initially meant for Facebook; God, sin, Ayn Rand, contradiction

Where does the teaching, "God cannot look upon Sin" come from? If it's in the Bible, what book, chapter, and verse? To my mind, saying that God can't look upon sin is like saying a baker can't look upon flour, or a mechanic can't look upon an internal combustion engine. 

I just found this person, and I agree with what he writes. And I like his blog's purpose: "Rescuing Scripture, Theology, & Church from the Shackles of Religion." which you realize is the same thing Christ was trying to do, if you read the New Testament like Spinoza did, which means the same way you read any other book, ie, knowing that there will be a need to sort the wheat from the chaff. In other words: Cherry-picking!

I don't know about you, but I'm a cherry-picker. I pick up a book, I don't assume that everything in it is true. I read and use my brain to try and determine what sounds reasonable and what doesn't. I reject what sounds like nonsense, or unfactual, or what appears to be inserted for the purpose of political persuasion; and I accept what appears to be sensible, and based on what appeals to common sense or is verifiable scientifically and/or historically. 

That doesn't mean I won't make mistakes. Of course I will accept some falsehoods as true and reject some truths as falsehoods, because I'm fallible. All I can do is keep going, acknowledge errors, be grateful for having my mistakes pointed out to me, and understand that every time I correct a mistake, I am becoming wiser. 

I think God (and that is just a word) is something far more amazing and wondrous than any human can conceive. There is a unique concept of God for every individual, and no two concepts are identical. A scientist, or a person with a refined, analytical mind, would tell me that what I just wrote is a perfect indication that I ought to reject the word God and forget the concept altogether, since I am quite patently speaking about something which I candidly admit to not having the capacity to understand! 

And so it goes. All I know is, Pascal makes just as much sense to me as Carl Sagan. Ayn Rand said that when you arrive at a contradiction, examine your premises, because one of them has to be wrong. That's true, but it's also true that Ayn Rand was a living contradiction. She claimed that it was not proper for a woman to aspire to the U.S. Presidency. And here she was, the living proof that a woman could be a leader. Ayn Rand, the leader of one of the largest intellectual movements in history, claiming that a woman ought not aspire to a position of prominent power and leadership! 

6.22.2015

Gun control; rights; @Facebook

Well, I did some reading as promised, but in the long run my opinion on the issue remains as it was. Even if it's true that owning a gun puts one at greater risk for harm, which is self-evident by virtue of what a gun is: a potentially deadly instrument, that's simply not a justifiable reason to divest a person of their right to own a gun for the purpose of self defense. I'm a professional cook. I work with fire and sharp knives. Common sense tells me that I run a higher risk of burns and cuts than a person who doesn't work with fire and sharp knives. ?

You say a person may "feel" safer, but in reality not be. So what? Who are you, or I, to deny a person their right to "feeling" safer in a dangerous environment? Furthermore, and much more importantly, people are different. Person X, who is well-trained in gun safety, will be safer than Person Y, who hasn't bothered. Citing stats that show any number of horrible things happening when people get hold of deadly weapons changes nothing when it comes to the fundamental issue of rights.

Having the right to do something, like own a gun, or eat at MacDonalds every day, does not carry with it any guarantee of safety or wellbeing, nor should it. And if I defend a person's right to own a gun, or to eat at MacDonalds every day, it doesn't mean I am giving either thing my stamp of approval.

Ayn Rand made a similar point when she brought up the subject of pornography. She found porn repellent and disgusting, but she was willing to defend a person's right to consume it. Defending a person's right to do something is neither a moral sanction nor a stamp of approval. I hate to repeat this but it bears repeating, because it's frequently forgotten.


Gun ownership entails a great deal of personal responsibility. Some people are simply not responsible. Do you suggest that we limit a responsible person's rights by virtue of the fact that irresponsible people exist? Perhaps you and I are vastly different people.

6.19.2015

Media data overload; madfingering @ Facebook

 I've got so much I could add to this conversation, I could literally go on for thousands of words. However, I'll try to keep it short and sweet. I think we need to ignore the media. Ignore it flat out. We're in an age now where "information" - (usually misinformation, especially the very first articles or blogs about a particular event or issue, because people are too eager to get their opinion out there, and too eager to play the part of the concerned citizen who's more on the ball than their neighbor, whom they imagine is an ignoramus - and I am generalizing here as well, committing the very mistake I am blaming others of!) - is so readily available and so easy to access, so everyone (not literally) is going mad thumbs on their smart phones and on their pcs trying to keep up. No-one (not literally) wants to be thought of as ignorant, or unconcerned, uninvolved. And most people (even that's a stretch) still can't stand to see someone else who's "wrong on the Internet". Basically (and don't you hate ppl who start sentences with that word, as if things need to be dumbed down for others?) the world and world events are no different than they have been since day 1, the only difference is the massive media scramble to glut the information highways (cliche alert) with data - and negative news has more appeal than positive news, so we hear about criminals and catastrophes far more often than we hear about the latest child prodigy who just wrote an opera in three days, or five year old drummers who can give Mike Portnoy a run for his money, or the average joe or jane in the street who is doing wonderful things without concern for media attention, and simply out of a love for humanity and the selfish joy of reaping the rewards of being a good person and living according to an unwritten code of morals and values. That's all for now. And everything I've just said has been said by a million people in the past five seconds, and probably said better.

6.13.2015

Chinwagging @ the Jethro Tull Forum; as FrontDoorAngel; confusion & conflict

Oct 27, 2014 at 12:03pm 1WD said:
Capitalism is against the things that we say we believe in - democracy, freedom of choice, fairness. It's not about any of those things now. It's about protecting the wealthy and legalizing greed. -Michael Moore.

OfD

Holy crap! (Raymond's Dad), I need to be paying more attention to the rest of this wonderful board. 

I have mixed feelings about MM. It seems I have mixed feelings about just about everything nowadays, which, if my TOE (Theory of Everything) is anything close to true, is probably how it ought to be.

In my half decade I've been an Objectivist (Ayn Rand), a militant atheist, a converted mixed-up Christian of some indeterminate variety, a libertarian, a long-haired liberal pinko (in my late teens and early twenties), a Buddhist-leaning Hindu-inspired honorary Catholic Messianic Jew of the Spinozist stripe, a conservative retro-progressive humanist and carnivorous latent vegetarian, a raving heterosexual lesbian trapped in a man's body, a left-handed left-leaning God-bothering anti-Calvinistic Methodist Unitarian Universalist, and currently a non-practicing quasi-Christian yoist.

I also think the universe may be a gigantic or miniscule computer, or an antfarm, or a dream. I'm (lately anyway) a low-wage earning pro-capitalist tea party anti-conspiracy conspiracy theorist who loves science but mistrusts physicians and scientists, a poet who thinks most poets are thick as a brick, a musically illiterate guitar player with a chronic ear infection and zero interest in stereo speakers and/or audiophilic paraphernalia and gadgetry, a career cook who doesn't give a tinker's damn about fine cuisine and thinks 'fine dining' is a first world elitist fetish, and lastly, a man who adores women who has not gone down on Velvet Green since 2006, despite having a plethora of attractive lady friends and worlds of opportunity.

Thus, I am eminently unqualified to determine whether MM is right or wrong. And I maintain the right to be wrong, thank God.

6.12.2015

Thanksgiving

Whatever happened to politeness and simple courtesy? At a BB I post regularly at, which shall go nameless, I've noticed over the past few years an annoying tendency amongst the more entrenched members, particularly those who are widely published, to ignore the time-honored etiquette for such public fora, meaning the idea that one should always thank a critter for their critique. At least two prominent senior members, both very well known and widely published, seem to have a habit of posting work, receiving critique, and then only thanking the critters they are pleased to thank, or just not saying thank you at all. How difficult is it to say thank you? One can abbreviate, Facebook style: ty, and that would at least be something. But they seem content to give nothing, which is bothersome, and downright silly. Perhaps a thank you is implied, without actually being present in text form, and I'm just out of the loop? Or could it be that George Orwell was right, and that some animals are more equal than others? My Christian goodwill would like to believe the former, while my reptilian kernel believes George was right. 

7.09.2014

Definition of God; posted at Talk Freethought BB.


I'll attempt to define God, not just the word itself, which I admit is a cheat, but the Being itself, at least as I conceive of that being, so long as it's understood that my concept of such a Being does not in any way constitute a knowledge claim, and as long as anyone reading my definition realizes that I cannot possibly have derived it on my own, but that it is a composite, or a distillation, of prior definitions. 

First off, I would not consider such a Being as supernatural, since I cannot conceive of what supernatural might be. God would be the single greatest and highest being imaginable, which I take from Anselm and others, such as Aristotle, Hegel, Spinoza, et al, each of whom had their own private conception of God and different modes of expressing that definition. 

This Being is natural, as I cannot conceive of anything, being or otherwise, as existing beyond or transcending nature; but that being said, this Being is absolutely primary, as in Aristotle's Prime Mover, and by this it should be understood that nothing can be prior to or outside of this Being. 

(Note: this is not to say that something supernatural does not or cannot exist; it's only to say that given my complete inability to conceive of what supernatural might be, I decide to avoid it completely and stick to a framework I can grapple with.)

Even if we conceive of any number of gods, we would always have to reduce back to a single God in which all lesser gods are subsumed and from which those lesser beings derive their existence. To arrive at a proper definition of God, one would have to accept the fact that no further reduction to something prior is necessary or possible, unless one would prefer to drive oneself mad in a constant mental battle with infinite reduction (or extrapolation). I derive this idea from Lactantius, who laid it out in the most clear way for myself personally. I don't expect anyone to respect this hypothesis, but rather I would expect them to object to it, since that's what thinking creatures do.

To know what is referred to by the word God, with a capital G, is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, to  quote Anselm, who for all I know derived that expression from others before him. 

To quote certain apologists, God is the explanation, and requires no explanation of Himself. This is the starting point and necessary axiom for any theist. It is granted that no atheist is required to adopt that as satisfactory, hence the ongoing debate in respect to definitions of God. But at the same time, anyone discussing the concepts of Existence and cosmology needs to have some kind of initial axiom, a jumping off point. This could be argued as well, but why bother?

I guess the accepted secular definition of Existence is that Existence has existed eternally, with no beginning and no possible end. This has to be acceptable to the theist as well as the atheist, unless either can come up with a definition which has Existence beginning at some point. But such a definition would only beg the question: what caused that beginning to begin? And, what was going on before Existence began? 

Are such questions remotely answerable? Do they make any sense at all? Is the problem merely one of semantics, or is it a metaphysical problem? Or a science problem? Who can sort this out better, a scientist or a philosopher? Or a theologian? Who the hell knows! No one knows at this juncture of our civilization, and any pretense to certain knowledge is just that: pretentious. 

(Noted and granted: Science currently has the best grip on the actual state of affairs as we as biological entities can understand it. I think it would be pointless and indeed, hugely ungrateful, to deny this. Without the scientific method, people like myself, who do not have a mind cut out for rigorous science, would not be able to sit here and speculate comfortably in front of others. It just would not have come to pass.)

Given that no one knows for sure how or why (if there is a why) Existence began, or simply, exists, all we need to know is that there is indeed something rather than nothing. Whatever that something be, it is manifestly obvious to anyone, or ought to be, that it exists, and that our conscious minds are capable of wondering what it is. Any denial of that, to my mind, is utterly futile. 

This is not to say that I don't grant anyone the right to entertain a denial. Anyone may do as one pleases. This is what thinking creatures do; however, I cannot be bothered to try and argue against such a denial, as my arguing against it would constitute proof, to my mind, that the position of the denier has already been undermined, second by my arguing with him, but first by the denier himself by virtue of his denying. This makes sense to me, but I don't require it to make sense to anyone else, nor do I have to trouble myself with it any further, as it would be a waste of time.

Lest I run away with the thoughts rattling around in my noodle, let me come back to God. My definition of God is a composite, or perhaps a distillation (I don't really know which would be the proper term, could be they both apply, or neither) of everything I've ever heard, read, thought, or felt about God. This is the same for anyone, regardless of what they might say about it. 

If the fundamentalist suggests that his definition of God is derived from the Bible and that alone, then he is forgetting (maybe) that the Bible is not a single work but a collection of works written over the course of nearly a thousand years, from the earliest Hebrew writings up to the later books in the New Testament. 

He might also be forgetting (willfully, or not forgetting at all, but with his private rationalizations, or understanding) that those works that make up the Bible in its current form were selected from a vast amount of similar documents by a select group of selectors, themselves selected by other selectors who entrusted them with the selecting. 

We are all cherry pickers. Any and all rational humans are cherry pickers, whether they be fundies or skeptics. The fundamentalist, by deciding that the Bible is perfect and inerrant, has only selected for himself one big, juicy cherry from an even juicier body of other big juicy cherries, such as the Quran, various Hindu and Buddhist texts, and a plethora of similar scriptural works. Even Ayn Rand's school of Objectivists are cherry pickers, and have selected Rand's system of thought as one big juicy cherry among thousands of other cherries of organized thought. 

As can be seen, there are splits and divides among any groups of thinkers, be they theistic or secular. Even among fundies who are inerrantists, there are splits, dissensions, branching-offs into subgroups, who can often be extremely vicious with one another; the same with Objectivists, who have already, in such a comparatively briefer amount of time, subdivided and twigged into various subgroups and bicker amongst each other with vitriol and venom that would impress the most zealous cleric or theologian.

Onwards!  

What follows is my personal definition of God: personal to me but not originated nor owned by me:

First: the sentence: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is true, and if it's not true, then my whole definition of God is in the bin. Everything in my conception of God as it currently stands hinges on the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To cut to the quick, before I go too far off the mark:

God is the greatest Whole that is greater than the sum of Its parts.

A car is greater than the sum of its parts. This should be apparent on any examination of what that sentence means, but in case it's not - and it isn't to quite a few people - imagine a car taken apart bit by bit, into its constituent parts, then reassembled in some willy-nilly fashion by people who do not know how to assemble a working car. The product achieved by this half-arsed reassembly would not be a car, and hence would not be greater than the sum of its parts. A car is only greater than the sum of its parts if all of its parts are assembled correctly, so that the finished product is a vehicle that operates as a car is designed to operate.  

The universe is constituted of a ridiculously vast number of bodies which are not only wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts, but are also parts in some still greater body. God is that Body we come to when we have arrived at a Whole that is not a part of some still greater whole. That still greater whole is a phantom of the imagination and doesn't exist, and if it did exist, than It would be God.  Prudence tells us that we have to stop somewhere, in respect to extrapolations beyond as well as reductions. Our imaginations are limitless, but nature, or God, Itself, need not be so. In fact, I cannot conceive of a limitless God, an unbounded and uncontained God. 

But while this is so, I cannot possibly conceive of God as God is in and of Himself. All I can do is agree with myself to stop at some point and call that God. God is beyond the human mind's capacity to fully comprehend. If we posit a being that is wholly comprehensible to the human mind, then what we are talking about is not God, but some sub-god, or some super alien or AI. It may be the case that the Jehovah in the Bible (or any other God or god) is a sub-god or even some super alien or AI, that the literature we call the Bible (Quran, etc.) is only a stepping stone to something far greater, a local map of, and to, a local god, part of a far greater Map which is God. I think that may be the case, but it doesn't have to be. 

Jehovah, Allah, may be the God of all, the Father of fathers, or the god of one universe among a vast array of universes. I'll stop there for now and suggest that, again, we could go on forever extrapolating to something grander, but we don't have to, and God may in fact not be limitless or even infinite. Maybe She is, but maybe She's not?

As a sidenote, I recall that Spinoza defined God as a Being of infinite attributes; but he goes on to deny emotion to God. Hmm. Why should I conceive of God as being unemotional, since if I have emotions, it seems only logical that my capacity for emotion is not special to me and cannot possibly be unknown to God? If God knows me, He must know my emotions, and if He knows my emotions, He must have emotions Himself, else, why would, or could, I have them? 

It reminds me of something Socrates is supposed to have said to someone (can I be more vague?), and I shamelessly and loosely paraphrase: How is it, so-and-so whose name probably ends with 'es', that the universe has no intelligence, and yet you do? You, being only a tiny part of the cosmos, which as you say is blind, unthinking, and without purpose? How is it that tiny you are intelligent, yet That which you come from, and of which you are merely a constituent and infinitesimal speck of matter, is not? 

Anyway: to reiterate: God is the greatest Whole that is greater than the sum of Its parts.

As with the analogy of the car, it is to be understood that all of these parts are perfectly organized and assembled, in an exact and precise manner, and that there can be no possible alternative to the manner in which this Whole (God) is assembled. To consider an alternative to how God is composed is to entertain Chaos, when Cosmos is the state of affairs we actually have and in which we exist. Chaos is a mental fabrication only, it is imaginary, and cannot come to pass. 

Chaos theory, random variables, stochastic universe theory (I can pretend to know what all of these terms means, but I have only the most rudimentary grasp of them, as any scholar reading this will know) are all well and good, but no theory has upset the natural order of things, at least as far as we know. All we can do is seek to understand nature (God), we cannot alter it. We can use nature to further our ends, to good or evil; but we can only do so while obeying nature and its laws.

Ultiamately, I propose a God Who, while infinite in respect to time and space, is nonetheless limited: As in contained, defined, with specific and perfect parts in perfect and precise order, working eternally, without possibility of successful interference or alteration from or by internal forces [man, bombs, angels, demons, aliens, AI, etc] (there are no forces external to God). I also ascribe intelligence and purpose to God, although I cannot possibly describe what Her ultimate purpose is. I can only speculate, going on what seems to me is entirely obvious in our current world: 

We seem to be progressing, albeit with much bloodshed and suffering on grand and unforgivable scales, as a species. With the help of the Internet, people are coming together and understanding one another in an unprecedented manner. While that is true, there is also the opposite: we are also misunderstanding one another in an unprecedented manner.

Pascal said something like: The opposite of a truth is a falsehood; but the opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.

Go back to the Biblical story of the tower of Babel, where God decides to put into play factors which will result in mass confusion, mass misunderstanding, mass contention, prejudice, and all the ugliness contingent on that. Now  consider that God is not the actual author of the Bible or any of its stories, but is probably, and I would say almost certainly, the inspiration and true source of those stories, as well as all the other religious stories around the globe, past and present. 

The Bible was written by men (and women who didn't get nearly enough credit) who had the same imaginations and fancies that we have now, but they lacked technology and what they wrote appears barbaric to us. I don't find those writings barbaric - although there are bits here and there which I find repugnant and disgusting - I regard them as humanity's infantile expression of what would eventually unfold and develop into the moral and legal concepts extant on this planet today.

The problem of evil is not a problem philosophically or theologically, at least not in my conception. However, it is a tremendous problem for the inhabitants of this planet. If we conceive of a Prime Motive Power that is Nature, which is in fact (not fact literally, I say it as a figure of speech) endowed with consciousness, intelligence, and purpose, then we must realize that there is a balance that is and must be kept, by sheer necessity.

In order for things to have life, they must live at the expense of other living things. This is a fact of nature that cannot and will not be altered. The most benevolent fruitarian lives by consuming living things. By boiling his water to make it less harmful to him, Albert Schwietzer had to routinely kill a vast number of living organisms. When we plant crops for the vegetarians among us, we are killing the innumerable little beasties that live in that soil. Etcetera, etc. When we bathe, we are, etc, etc.

That's why I say the problem of evil is not a problem philosophically or theologically. It's only a problem for us, for the beings who suffer for the gratification of beings more powerful. Spinoza said (I paraphrase), there is no power so great in the universe wherein there is not something even more powerful that can destroy it. 

This does not apply to God, Who cannot be destroyed by anything more powerful. If we conceive of something that might be able to destroy God, then that would be God, and not the being that might be destroyed. 

The above are simply my ruminations, and I don't expect anyone to read it, take it seriously, or have anything to do with it. I offer it up to please myself, and hopefully, God.

If this in fact pisses God off, well, I guess I'm in for one hell of a ride.

If there is no such thing as God, then, it is what it is.

7.8.14




6.05.2014

Emmet reckins at the Sphere; deep end or rear end? as Williamb


I think I have this all sorted out.*

I agreed at first about what that one guy said, but then the other guy said something I agreed with too, and it made me think more about what that one guy said, then when that lady said something, I thought, yes, she's got it, but then that other lady said something that was going against what that lady said and I had to think more about it, and you know what, it seemed to make sense, at least until that last guy there came and said what he said, and that gave me a whole new perspective on things, and everything was making sense there for a while until this other guy said something about what that lady said, to which that other lady replied, and then I had to go back to scratch and begin to think about everything all over again, until that really good post back there that that one person made made me realize that it wasn't all that hard afterall. I got confused there for a while but I think I got it now.

 *spelling modernized & past-yer-eyes'd

Pontificating at the Sphere; crit and critters phase 1 where Doris gets her oats; as Williamb


Many in this thread have already given expression to most of the things I think and feel about poetry, but there are some things I'd like to say about the relationship between poet and reader, or poet and critter.

 There are always people in workshops who take a hard, aggressive approach to critique, and this, by and large, with proper moderation and attention to board etiquette, is a good and productive thing.

 Knowing that, and knowing that aggression is not a big part of my nature, and that I always regret any instance when I become aggressive, and that I feel better after I have behaved passively and not belligerently, I go about critiquing in a more passive manner. I, as the reader, am the passive vessel, into which the poet pours her words. These words, in the arrangement she has made, are intended to affect me, and as a reasonable reader, I know that she wants me to be affected by the words in the same way that the words affected her, so I try to do that, to share her experience. I don't go into it with the feeling that she owes me something, or that she will be responsible for my disappointment if her poems fails to make an impression on me, or is simply poorly made: I let the disappointment fall on her by virtue of my having failed in sharing her experience. 

 There is no reason whatsoever for me to be angry or indignant towards her. And the worst thing to do is act offended by a poorly made poem. I've seen that kind of thing happen a million times: a critter acting like a shrinking violet, so in accord and at one with the benevolent power of good poetry that bad poetry is odious, even harmful to them. Bad poetry cannot possibly harm or offend a competent poet; on the contrary, it should arouse pity and compassion. Without bad poetry, no-one would know what good poetry was, and if all poetry was good poetry, there would be no need for poetry, no reason to write it. 

 I take a subordinate position to the poet. The poet has made something that she thinks might work, and wants to try it out on like minded people. I voluntarily take the time to read what she has made, and voluntarily agree to think and think and think and think about what she has made. The poet has not coerced or forced me to read her poem by the mere act of posting it for critique. 

 There are those who argue the contrary, but those arguments are not valid . Even in a workshop, any critique done by a member is done voluntarily, of their own choice. No-one is forced to critique a poem in an online workshop. No-one. I've seen many poems slide down the board at another site with a big goose egg in the reply column. I've had one or two of my poems slide down the board with nothing but a goose egg to bid it farewell. That, when all is said and done, is probably the harshest critique a poet can receive. We all have egos. No comment is worse than no comment.

 Now, some of the more aggressive critters like to say things like this to the poet:

commentexample_one says > I can't believe I wasted three minutes reading this. I wish I had those three minutes back! Will you please read the guidlelines, and post in a forum appropriate to your level of ability and experience, so that other people [meaning we really smart people] will not have to waste their time reading a poem written by someone who obviously doesn't know anything about the craft of writing poetry? We value our time as much as you value yours. 

The above comment, to my mind, is an example of someone with an ego on overdrive. Something similar to the above has been typed, or copy-pasted, millions of times, at other sites, and at one site in particular. The best response, even if the poem is execrable, as far as I'm concerned, is this:

poetreplyexample_88 says > Thank you, commentexample_one. I appreciate your taking the time to write this response. However, I'm afraid I cannot feel responsible or guilty about how you manage your time. I can only manage my time. Thanks again! 

At which point, due to the critter being wounded by the poet, much nastiness ensues, until a moderator steps in. In the real world, it sometimes happens that a Colley Cibber actually can hurt an Alexander Pope, though for most people the joke is always on Cibber. Ha-ha-ha. 

 It's obvious to anyone who knows about poetry that Pope was better at it than Cibber. It is glaringly obvious, hence the tragedy (to my mind) of Pope spending so much time wasting his gift, his remarkable skills, on laughing at and mocking writers who everyone knew could not hold a candle to him. Who knows what amazing works he could have penned had he been able to value a great poem over a good joke? 

 Luckily, for readers of poetry, along came poets like Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, who spent their time writing with an effort aimed at exalting the human experience, of finding value in human life and human beings, in reverencing the natural world and the cosmos, rather than focusing on putting mankind to shame. Our religion, our faith, if we understand and practice it to the best of our ability, provides us with shame proportional to our deserving of it as individuals, and history gives us an abundance of reasons to be ashamed of ourselves collectively. 

 I prefer to use poetry, the artform that I love the most, even above my great love for music, to make an impression of that passion, that love that I feel, in the minds of a few other people. I don't wish to use poetry to make myself feel better or bigger than others, to softsoap or coddle myself, a purpose for which certain authors of satire have used it. I'd rather use it as a means of helping a reader to empathize with another human being, no matter who that human being is, just to take a severe example: a violent criminal undergoing capital punishment, or an innocent wrongly undergoing the same; how would, or could, that feel to the father and mother of the former, or the latter? How must that feel, as a human being? That's a big part the experiment of poetry for me, to explore situations in which I haven't been involved, to wonder how I would react, how I would feel, in such scenarios.

 In the end, I'd rather praise than blame as a critter, I'd rather reward than punish: knowing that there are plenty of harder, more aggressive critters out there doing what they do, keeping things balanced. I can't act in contradiction to my nature, nor, I think, can anyone else. Our job is to understand this and to enslave the emotions to reason, as best we can, even if, in reality, that goal is most likely impossible.