Atheists vs. Theists: The Quest for Middle Ground

Introducing people of all ages to mythology... in pre-college educational curricula, youth orgs, the media, etc. Share your knowledge, stories, unit and lesson plans, techniques, and more.

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Limbo
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Post by Limbo » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I think that awakening the mythological mind of BOTH atheists and theists is the only way for each side to understand the other.

Not only does a proper understanding of myth eliminate religious fundamentalism, but it enlightens those atheists who are ignorant of the message of the myth.

Those familiar with the works of Joseph Campbell are needed now more than ever, especially now that Dr Dawkins has written a new book which has motivated atheists to be more aggresive in their attack on religion.

Take a look at Dr Dawkins new forum. The ignorance is appauling.

http://richarddawkins.net/forum/index.php

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Post by neiel » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

middle ground is all that ever really exists, when it comes to the categories that the human mind creates (black/white, male/female, etc.)

the theist/atheiest argument is basically childish in which both 'sides' are making the same mistake: this mistake is to accept that God, if God exists, is like a person - to parody it somewhat the image of an old man with a white beard, sat on a cloud somewhere

given this contention, that this is what God looks like, the decision is seen as whether to believe 'he' exists (the theists) or not (the atheists)

this personification of 'God' is really a psychological projection, of all that is 'good', or 'powerful', or 'loving' or whatever adjectives are believed to belong to and describe God... in this sense God is a very powerful personal/transpersonal myth

the 'ground' of God is simply the totality of existence - or as Douglas Adams describes it 'the interconnectedness of all things', and 'life, the universe and everything'

reconciling the theists and the atheists - eventually -

on one side will happen when theists recognise that God is not a 'person' and that God is not 'somewhere else' but is essentially a way of referring to the whole of existence that focusses on the life enhancing

on the other side will happen when the atheists recognise that the psychological conception of God, and other religious metaphors/myths/images is/are both powerful, valuable, and capture some valid aspects of being... part of our ancestors solution to the existential problems of being

stage 1: if there is a God, 'he' is X
stage 2a: therefore X
stage 2b: therefore not X

it is at stage 1 that the 'theists' and 'atheists' agree (it is the precondition on which their argument is based), but are both wrong!

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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I agree with Neiel, that both theists and atheists in general share an insufficient understanding of the mystical core of religion.

As for Mr. Dawkins: Somehow I like his passionate personality and the esprit of his writing. And I share his fascination for genes and memes, while I don't share his neo-Darwinist worldview. I'm fine with Dawkins attacks on religious fundamentalism and I'm fine with his criticism of traditional religion. I do not share his opinion, that it doesn't make sense to define god other than "god = supernatural creator".
[Steven] Weinberg is surely right that, if the word God is not to become completely useless, it should be used in the way people have generally understood it: to denote a supernatural creator that is 'appropriate for us to worship'
I have an inkling, that Dawkins wouldn't appreciate Joseph Campbell's definition of god (god = a metaphor for a mystery that transcends all categories of thought). Like many scientists he is a great thinker, ensnared in Logos; and a great specialist who tends to make generalizations based on an insufficient philosophical training. (I guess he's studied only the British philosophical tradition!)

"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." - It seems, that as a rationalist, he seriously believes that the world can be understood through rational concepts. It would be interesting though to hear more from associates who have actually read his books.

I haven't read The God Delusion (his new book), but in his forum an excerpt from the first chapter is posted: http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1016

I'm not surprised that he refers to Carl Sagan. Sagan was another brilliant scientist, who tried to undermine the religion's exclusive right on the sublime. (Not necessarily a bad approach!)

However, a glimps at his forum reveals a varity of represented viewpoints. I even found a thread about Nine points the Mystics agree on, where someone points to the term undifferentiated consciousness.
Hopefully Dr. Dawkins will read it! (But even if he does, he will probably recognize Prof. Joe's concept as a meme with moderate survival value...)

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Post by Evinnra » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-11-26 05:08, Martin_Weyers wrote:
I agree with Neiel, that both theists and atheists in general share an insufficient understanding of the mystical core of religion.

As for Mr. Dawkins: Somehow I like his passionate personality and the esprit of his writing. And I share his fascination for genes and memes, while I don't share his neo-Darwinist worldview. I'm fine with Dawkins attacks on religious fundamentalism and I'm fine with his criticism of traditional religion. I do not share his opinion, that it doesn't make sense to define god other than "god = supernatural creator".

"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." - It seems, that as a rationalist, he seriously believes that the world can be understood through rational concepts. It would be interesting though to hear more from associates who have actually read his books.

Martin,

Khmm...hmmm!!! Somehow I thought Oxford and Cambridge did a pretty good job of keeping relevant parts of idealism alive in twentieth century philosophy when postmodernism dominated the agenda( when the French got befuddled with the mirror of existentialism, the Americans with probabilities and pragmatism and the Germans kept more or less quiet ...)See for example Bernard Williams's last book written about truth. <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif">

Other than this side comment, I couldn't agree more with what you have written above. Indeed, I had the same feeling that if only Dr Dawkins had trained in philosophy he would not make some of his most disturbing comments that sully his otherwise outstanding reputation as a thinker. I was completely taken by his book 'The Selfish Gene' for it explained in no-nonsense terms how matter could create this wonderful world we live in without any 'intelligent design'. I still agree with an awfull lot of what he said in that particular book, only I don't think he has the faintest clue as to why and how religion develops in human minds and hearts. Unfortunately I haven't had the time to read his other books yet but planning to do one day. He is a passionate and decent scientist only a bit taken by his own sets of 'meme'.

Cheers,
Evinnra

p.s.: In short I think Dr Dawkins mistaking evolution for GOD instead of God's 'right hand' - to use a metaphor.


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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Evinnra,

I'm delighted, that we are not just bashing Dawkins. I'm fascinated by those selfish genes, but, of course, the gene is not the innermost essence of reality.

When I read about today's biologist's worldviews, I feel reminded on those philosophers of the nineteenth century, with early atomic models as ultimate reality, and consciousness as excretion of the brain.
On 2006-11-27 05:45, Evinnra wrote:
p.s.: In short I think Dr Dawkins mistaking evolution for GOD instead of God's 'right hand' - to use a metaphor.
I'm not sure, if god has a right hand. If evolution is a blind process, there's no creator.

In short: I think Dr. Dawkins is mistaking an idea of god for god. (So we're again where we started at the beginning of this thread!)
Works of art are indeed always products of having been in danger, of having gone to the very end in an experience, to where man can go no further. -- Rainer Maria Rilke
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Post by Evinnra » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-11-27 07:12, Martin_Weyers wrote:
Evinnra,

On 2006-11-27 05:45, Evinnra wrote:
p.s.: In short I think Dr Dawkins mistaking evolution for GOD instead of God's 'right hand' - to use a metaphor.
I'm not sure, if god has a right hand. If evolution is a blind process, there's no creator.

In short: I think Dr. Dawkins is mistaking an idea of god for god. (So we're again where we started at the beginning of this thread!)
Well, that brings up the age old question, can something - like self-awareness - come from nothing? (If it could, it would disqualify causality and even determinism. No?) If the whole is more than the sum of its parts then what emerges comes from ... where?

Eagerly looking for some answeres <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif">

Evinnra
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Post by willwagoner » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello everyone!

My two cents: We all have a conception of God, even if that conception is that God transcends thought, it is still a conception, yes?

And several people with the same conception of God may have very different notions of the conception, in the details, so to speak.

Who is right? Everyone! And no one!

We can call that side ignorant, or this side - but who really knows anything about God? As Carl Jung once put it - a person can know less about God than an ant can know about the contents of the British Museum.

The only fitting conclusion, in my humble opinion, is that of mutual toleration for the religious conceptions of others, no matter what they may be.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Well said, Will!
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by Molly J » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Mutual tolerance of religious conceptions is practically an oxymoron! Who of gentle soul and peaceful intent can tolerate religious conceptions that include killing the rest of humanity? That doesn't flinch at beheading another human being because of their race/religion, etc. Tolerance between all would be ideal, but (and I'm sure this subject has been touched on many times before) what to do about the unfeeling and uncaring segment of humanity, without becoming uncaring yourself? If we are all one, why the heck can't we communicate with the other part of ourselves? That crazy part?

Sorry if this is off topic a bit.
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Post by willwagoner » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am


Molly J; I challenge you to find a single religious conception that stresses killing "the rest of humanity" - you certainly won't find such an idea in any of the major world religions. Not the Bible, Koran, Gita, or any other major scripture advocates such suicidal measures. Quite the opposite. Even the official Church of Satan (look them up on wikipaedia) is worlds away from asserting any such madness. It is the abuse and misinterpretation of such conceptions that are used to foster hatred, injustice, and intolerance.

I think you are quite correct Molly, in saying religious toleration is practically an oymoron - which is why it is so important we ourselves see to it that we do indeed tolerate other religions.
The cause of many bloody religious battles is due precisely to the lack of religious tolerance. One side points to the other for knocking off a few heads for heresy (dogmatic intolerance), and the other side chops of a few in return.

If we resort to killing those who are intolerant, we get into a such a fundamentally hypocritical position that the only justification is self - delusion. (We are right, God is on our side - they are wrong, and are going to Hell).

As far as ourselves are concerned, the degree to which we tolerate other religious conceptions is the degree to which we aid in avoiding such conflicts to begin with.

Yet when injustice rears it's ugly head it should always be fought, preferably (and most effectively) in an actively nonviolent way, which is very different in my point of view than that of passifism (often simply an exscuse for cowardice).

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Post by Molly J » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

How does one successfully fight intolerance in an active but non-violent way? Love the intolerant radicals into submission? The major religions may not push ethnic cleansing or genocide, may in fact exhort love and peace and brotherhood-- but how can so many people (of all religious persuasions) miss the point of their most holy scriptures? The lazy or ignorant who look for some purpose in life will latch on to any persuasive, charismatic rasputin-type available. I suppose my true question is, what is the antidote for blind adherence to fanatical lunacy? Can we fight ignorance on a non-violent, world-wide scale?

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Post by willwagoner » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-12-02 18:58, Molly J wrote:
How does one successfully fight intolerance in an active but non-violent way? Love the intolerant radicals into submission?
I would say, for effective approaches in active non-violence, just look at both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. I am not saying that such an approach means no one gets hurt or there is no suffering - far from it.

Both King and Gandhi relied heavily on media for their cause - relying that the obvious injustice would reach the heart of the world, especially when they did not raise their fists against their oppresors.

Imagine how much support the Palestinians would have if they took such an approach instead of exchanging 'an eye for an eye' with Israel. Currently we see the heart of the world shrugging its shoulders, sighing that 'they will always kill each other' and no real peace or understanding in sight.

I'm not saying it's an easy approach, that people do not die and get hurt and much suffering does not occur.
I suppose my true question is, what is the antidote for blind adherence to fanatical lunacy? Can we fight ignorance on a non-violent, world-wide scale?
I would say that the only antidote is not falling prey to such thinking ourselves.

"I tried to change the world, but found that I could only change myself." - A.Huxley


It may of course happen that through our example we influence others, but if initially we intend to change others all we accomplish is growing resentment.

I think it is possible to fight
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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am



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Post by FourSwords » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

An atheist is just someone who doesn't believe in someone else's god. Pious ancient Romans often called the Christians "atheists" because they didn't have the courtesy to pay any respect to the gods of others.

On another note, I like this:
On 2006-12-06 18:57, Vissi wrote:

It seems unlikely such a culture will come into being through continuing to invest in belief systems in which those who have the courage to act from their humanity are viewed as impossibly good aberrations rather than people simply doing what is most human. As people, we have moved far toward embracing our shadow, its reality, and our universal responsibility for its manifestation, but now I think there is a chance we may be allowing that possibility of our potential to overshadow the whole.

Dixie
...that reminds me of something Marcus Aurelius wrote:

"...so a man (by which Marcus meant a good or true "Man") when he has done a good act, does not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season. Must a man, then, be one of these, who in a manner acts thus without observing it? Yes."

(cited by JC in chapter 6 of "Occidental Mythology)
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Post by mihelich » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I don't know how long it's been since I visited these forums, but I know it's been months and maybe even a year or more. Anwyay, I was drawn to take a look once again because I was interested in seeing if anyone has had anything to say about the connection between atheism and theism. And I discovered this thread.

It seems that atheism, as expressed by the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, is in voque these days, and it also seems to me that someone, somewhere should offer an argument to answer the atheistic stance presented in "The End of Faith" and "The God Delusion." I have read Mr. Harris' book, but I have to confess to only reading about Mr. Dawkins'. I have to agree with Mr. Harris in that "faith," as he defines it, has to end. In fact, I think it has ended, even if millions refuse to let it go. But there is more to "faith" than what Mr. Harris defines. And anyone even remotely familiar with the life and work of Joseph Campbell would have to accept that premise. It seems to me, then, that if we grow out of Mr. Harris' conception of "faith," that doesn't mean we have to grow out of faith into nothing -- from "theism" to "atheism."

With regard to what I have read about Mr. Dawkins' book, I can't accept the premise that God is merely a "delusion," although I can, and do, accept the fact that we have outgrown our traditonal, and maybe even cherished, understanding of that life-supporting concept. If I can't accept Mr. Dawkins' premise about the delusory nature of God, I can accept the fact that the chances of God being a "delusion" are greater in the 21st century than they ever were in both the remote and recent past, with the pre-1969 moonwalk being recent.

So, in light of atheism's popularity, and, I must add, its seeming validity, what are we to do? Are we to embrace the popular atheistic stance, echoing Sartre's complaint that "everything indeed is permitted if God does not exist," or are we to retreat into the supposed comforts of our traditional theism? Either of those alternatives, I think, is more destructive than creative. The creative alternative, I think, would be to discover -- and not merely invent -- "a theism" for the 21st century and beyond. And if such "a theism" cannot be found in the world that Joseph Campbell termed "creative mythology," it can't be found anywhere -- in which case we would be doomed to a life of "atheism" that at least would carry the weight of truth. But are we not explorers? And should we ever "cease to explore?" I think not -- a conclusion, I am convinced, with which T.S. Eliot would agree.

I have tried to record the fruits of my personal exploration, hopefully for the benefit of other interested individuals, with books like "Running Clear" and "Around the Horn," to which I've referred in other posts in months, and years, gone by. And only last July I published "Eden and the Individual: Christianity for the 21st Century" in which I further try to "record," in a series of related essays, those fruits. I feel more than embarrassed publicizing myself, but if I can't find an interested aundience amongst those interested in the life and work -- and discoveries -- of Joseph Campbell, I can't find it anywhere. So, embarrassed or not I thought I'd present this post. I would be interested in anyone's response to any of the books I have mentioned -- I suppose especially to "Eden and the Individual." They can be found, online, at either the amazon or barnes and noble websites, and they can be ordered at any traditional book store through their wholesale outlet. If I could, I would distribute them, free, to anyone interested in "a theism" that can work some "magic" in the 2ist century and beyond -- "a theism" that is both "concrete" and "certain."

Thanks for listening.

Emil Mihelich


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