Month: April 2016

So, I repeat my question…

Michael and Larry commented whether or not I’m an atheist.  As I note in my reply, one problem with labels is that people can’t leave them alone.  As support, I read the Wiki entries on “agnosticism,” “atheism,” and theism” and listed the variations and derivatives on these terms. Here is what I found: Agnostic, agnosticism, agnostic atheism, apathetic atheism, pragmatic agnosticism, platform agnostic, hardware agnostic, strong/hard/closed/permanent agnosticism, weak/soft/open/empirical/temporal agnosticism, christian agnostic, partial agnosticism, temporary agnosticism in practice, permanent agnosticism in principle, ignosticism, implicit atheism, theist, atheist, explicit atheism, positive/hard/strong atheism, negative/weak/soft atheism, spectrum of theistic probability, theological noncognitivism, theistic nativism, practical atheism, pragmatic atheism, methodological naturalism, epistemological atheism, immanence, rational agnosticism, skepticism, logical positivism, metaphysical atheism, relative atheism, logical atheism, theodician atheist, axiological or constructive atheism, atheistic existentialism, atheistic Judaism, christian atheist, new atheism, monotheism, polytheism, hard polytheism, soft polytheism, henotheism, kathanotheism, monolatrism, pantheism, panentheism, nontheism, deist, classical deism, deism, pandeism, panandeism, polydeism, autotheism, eutheism, dystheism, misotheism, liberal theism. So, I repeat my question, “Am I an...

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So, am I an atheist?

Inquiring minds (as yet, unnamed…) want to know.  But, as I note in the last post, I dislike labels.  It’s too easy to fall into the convenience trap…convenient for me to avoid the hard work of self-discovery, and convenient for others to pigeonhole me, to categorize me to their own satisfaction. People love to fall back on labels, on dictionary definitions and etymologies…and, too often but far less evident, on their own projections of what they want a label to mean.  Words and language, like your own process of self-discovery, evolve.  Words and their meaning have done so since humankind’s first utterance.  And on today’s web, there are a dozen (if not a hundred) experts ready to tell you what a word (or a label) means. But, for the sake of this discussion (and for inquiring minds…), if you define an atheist as someone who somehow personifies that which we cannot know, then I guess maybe I am one, because I don’t.  But I reserve the right to change my...

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Labels are useless…

…and the last person you should apply them to is yourself.  Labels are convenient, but they rarely inform alone.  It’s impossible to create one, use one, or hear one without projecting onto it all your personal, cultural and tribal perspectives.  And the sum of these is you alone, and no one else.  So how useful are they? We can’t be responsible for others, but how about ourselves?  Instead of labeling myself, why not just say in the first place what I believe or don’t believe, or what I do or don’t stand for?  But to do that, I have to know–deeply and clearly and incontrovertibly–what that is.  That’s much harder that grabbing a label and pasting it on.  Learning that, and learning to articulate it both to myself and to others, that’s work.  And, it takes a committed listener to absorb it and try to understand. No wonder we fall back on labels…...

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Sometimes I look with envy…

…on the characters in old black and white home movies. Everyone in those frames has “…done gone over.” They’ve paid their dues, lived their lives, suffered their hardships, played out their stories, and left the here and now to the rest of us. You can often see their lives in the faces, faces that speak of troubles few today can appreciate. Some played out their scenes with love and support, some alone; some with joy and acceptance, others in bitterness. Maybe that’s why I envy them.  Their reels are closed out, developed and stored away in dusty boxes. But the rest of us…we’re still making our movies, too often searching for a plot. Is there one, or are our lives really just a bunch of discreet scenes with no tenable connection?  Contentment requires finding (or creating) a thread that ties them all together. It’s called...

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A life unlived…

…experiences its own kind of entropy.  We have to put ourselves into life in order to sustain it: energy, effort, self.  If not, we decay…physically, mentally, spiritually.  This is why we need meaning. This is why we need jobs and family, a sense of belonging, challenge.  These things give us identity and a reason to go on.  Take away meaning and identity, and our light flickers and eventually goes...

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Original sin?

I’ve always been intrigued by this idea.  Leave it to the Catholics to make being conceived a sin.  This concept stems from early preoccupation with our darker nature.  It brings up the old question, “Is Man basically good or basically bad?”  The Catholic (or perhaps, Christian) twist is that, if the latter, then it is somehow our fault, if only through our ancestors. But to anyone who stops referring to animals in the third person, this question is moot:  Man simply “is.”  We don’t have a dark side.  We have many sides…but only one nature:  that of a highly social mammalian primate.  We evolved to thrive in relatively small, tribal groups, and we are equipped with an array of instinctual tools to survive and compete in that arena.  How that plays out in our modern, less-than-natural social environments is the question we should consider. If we started from that point, we might manage a constructive dialogue around how to live...

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Does anyone remember silence?

You know, when you have no noise coming in?  No ambient music, no TV, no phones, no sirens, no machines, no incessant babel?  Well, ok, maybe the wind and rain, or a wood fire and ice in a whiskey glass, maybe cardinals in spring, or the voice of a friend… When did we become so afraid of...

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Can we just say no?

Having just waded through my taxes, the stress of modern life rears its head.  The tax process is bad enough, but throughout we deal with websites that don’t work, printers that don’t print, computers that don’t compute… All this is just metaphor for how we live today.  We are burdened with stress that pervades our very being, with sensory overload, with constant demands on our attention:  debt, employment, minute-by-minute news feeds, car breakdowns, relationship problems, global scenes of crime and violence and politics, online friend overloads, electronic chipping and chirping, ambient noise, schedules and calendars, newsletters and updates and more emails… None of this is natural to us.  These are not the stressors we’re designed to deal with.  And all of it takes us further and further from where we need to be, both as individuals and as a society.  What would it take to check out out of it all?  Can we just say “no”?...

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