March 1, 2015

I was wondering the other day whether some atheism has roots in the person’s sensitivity to feeling controlled, that their concept of a divine force gets mixed up with a perception that greater power is (necessarily) about controlling others.

I can also imagine some people having a similar problem with what we call “surrender:”  it could get confused with something humiliating or unpleasant, since when humans do it with each other that seems to be a part of what’s involved.

My point is that talking about divinity or surrender won’t make any headway with someone who perceives those things in a negative way, even if that negativity is a product of their own outlook — the point at which the speaker and the audience diverge occurred at point much prior to the discussion of divinity or surrender.


12 Responses to “Controlling”

  1. Matthew Brooks Says:

    Another perspective is contained in the movie Fight Club, one of the defining films of my generation;

    “Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?”

    This is the opposite of being controlled; it’s being abandoned. The idealised Judeo-Christian God anyway is a sort of benevolent, protective, authoritative force; our parents occupy a similar role for us while we’re children. As family disintegration has become more widespread, more and more kids are being abandoned by their fathers (mothers usually get custody after a separation).

    On the other hand, that fact might actually reveal the mother role is the more important/essential one (and thus more representative of God). I think it’s especially true for younger children (babies/toddlers). Related;

    Therefore maybe “women’s lib” is also or even moreso responsible for a rise in atheism, since it separates babies and toddlers from their mothers when these children need them (emotionally/psychologically) most.

    Or maybe atheism is a symptom of a dying society (eg. one on the verge of a catastrophic collapse and attendant die-off). That is, if God is everywhere and everything, then belief in God is also the extent to which we believe in ourselves. Atheism (being an actively negative “ideology”) represents then a sort of fundamental self-denial.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      And now maybe we’re back to my point, in a way, because self-denial and the creation of a false self may be related, I think; the people I know who tend to feel controlled when others wouldn’t also tend to have constructed a false self for themselves out of which they live. So maybe we are talking about injury to healthy formation of the self at some critical stage leading to this constellation of symptoms …

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        >injury to healthy formation of the self at some critical stage

        Right, different avenues to a similar place.

        A false self is like an attempted escape. It is a kind of denial; an expression of being controlled (being denied agency). Compelled away from reality one is less able to deal with it adequately, putting oneself at the mercy of those who can and do.

        Abandonment seems like another kind of “being compelled away”. Part of our presence-of-being in the world is an emotional/moral presence, and if there’s nothing early on, perhaps, to engage that capacity, then it doesn’t develop, and our presence in the world thereafter is diminished; not necessarily false, but cold/distant.

        The whole thing reminds me of Calhoun’s mice experiment. When pressures build beyond a certain point, things start breaking down, and the negative consequences that result cascade.

        Reminds me also of de Waal’s study on morality in chimps, and that he thinks we’re born essentially good and that being bad is a consequence of some fundamental failure or frustration. It’s like we all have a will to develop, and if it’s not guided or allowed to continue in a good way it will deviate off and continue in a bad way.

        That might explain why levels of atheism, as well as family structure failure, diagnoses of mental illness, drug addiction, etc., have risen significantly in recent decades. Just too many pressures.

        Calhoun’s mice population collapsed entirely, but they didn’t have a way out. Whereas the implication of de Waal is that the strong remain good (none of the mice were “strong”, since they were all at the mercy of the researchers).

        Also reminds me of degenerate matter in stars. Stars generate energy by fusing elements up to iron/nickel. Once the core is iron/nickel, the core is inert – no more energy can be produced from within. The outward energy pressure from fusion was balancing the inward gravitational pressure of the mass; the point of reflex is degeneracy (sort of a suspension – structural equilibrium rather than thermal). In sufficiently massive stars, the gravitational pressure is too strong for degeneracy pressure to bear; at the point of reflex the star collapses and explodes in a supernova. Energy converted to gravity, gravity converted to energy. Life, death, and rebirth. I don’t know what that means for us, or if it does; but it seems ultimately optimistic. The go(o)d is eternal.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        When our cores become rigid, there’s trouble, I think. On the other hand, I could see that state of being as as end-state reflecting having had a very high capacity to take on, or mimic, the characteristics of the energy producing process of stars. Interesting.

        Since you comment pretty regularly on the Shields & Brooks segment of the Friday PBS NewsHour, I will share here an experience I had when I briefly met David Brooks after he participated in a symposium-type event at Harvard some years ago (he gave a speech, a panel of professors gave responses). I thought, “Wow, this is the most imploded person I have ever met, as if he has a core like a meteorite.” But he had an inner self I could perceive, too, it’s not as if it came across that his self had turned to stone or something.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        >When our cores become rigid, there’s trouble, I think.

        There is trouble, of sorts, because at that point the process is unsustainable. On the other hand, it is what stars aspire to. Desire involves a lack of fulfillment. Fulfillment involves a lack of desire. Both are problematic alone, I think. The saving grace is they’re never alone; ebb and flow.

        I think you’re right about David.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        Remember that concept of how ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny? I think sometimes humans and human activity and human civilization recapitulate something that has occurred elsewhere. Earth contains meteors embedded into it, why shouldn’t we have our own shadow version of that? We’ve created bombs that explode in mid air and produce great clouds, after all, haven’t we?

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        Makes sense. The principles (natural laws) don’t change.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        My most recent post needs a revision of sorts.

        It turns out most of the “gravitational energy” released in supernovae is not in electromagnetic (energy) form; it’s either in elements heavier than iron (representing gravity), and principally neutrinos (over 99%), which, according to my understanding, are little neutrons (chargeless mass) also representing gravity; or finally a black hole, also representing gravity. It seems the process is largely a transition to gravity instead. The transition back from gravity to energy is less immediate and more nuanced, which makes some sense if energy and gravity are to actually balance. I think, much as energy production via fusion leads to the creation of mass (gravity), black holes must recycle mass somehow back to energy (if the forces are codeterminant and reciprocal). No proof for it beyond cyclical necessity; as it stands, without it, the 2nd law of thermodynamics implies a bleaker future (heat death of the universe). I don’t think that’s right tho because, if time is infinite and we’re not there yet, then…

        Or maybe, as some have proposed, there’s a countervailing something else that brings it all together again.

        Anyway, energy predominates at the beginning and during the growth phase of a star and a society, and energy represents masculinity; Glubb said, “An increase in the influence of women in public life has often been associated with national decline.”

        The transition from energy to gravity for great stars doesn’t leave the star intact tho. It’s not a slow decline, it’s a collapse. It’s like, perhaps great societies cease to exist after they become degenerate and collapse too. If so, what is the thing that exerts itself after societies collapse, if the people are gone? Maybe what remains after death; a spirit? And energy rises anew elsewhere.

        And if it is a great supernova and there’s nothing of the star, as such, that remains, what does that imply for us?

        Ahh, but now I remember that some of the gravitational energy is released as energy. The star (the nation or society, as such) does not remain, but some people do. There’s hope for us yet. This is exhausting (and I haven’t slept).

        On the other hand, speaking of neutrinos, I think I’ve discovered where the survivors of the apocalypse will be – “neutrino observatories”. Science has historically been a convenient cover for classified projects.

        Here’s an observatory underneath Lake Baikal (already the deepest lake in the world);

        This one is under Amundsen-Scott (Antarctic ice);

        Here’s one 2.5km underneath the Mediterranean;

        Here’s one near Hong Kong;

        Another in Japan;

        Here’s one 2km underground in Canada;

        And one in Italy;

        The Lord works in mysterious ways. I knew about IceCube, and it’s where I intend to go if and when, but seeing these others doubly confirms my faith. These are international projects with “monitors” from all the major (otherwise antagonistic) nations to ensure procedure in good faith.

      • Matthew Brooks Says:

        One more update;

        Neutrinos actually aren’t essentially gravity after all, I’ve realised. They’re in motion. They’re superkinetic, and they also have mass (exert gravity). They’re the culmination of the process; like reaching God; a synthesis of the two forces. The supernova releases the star, like returning to nirvana.

  2. seev78 Says:

    My atheism comes from the simple question “Who made God?” I thought most atheists are bothered by this. Is it “turtles all the way down” or “was there not a beginning”? To inject Gilbert and Sullivan, “a most ingenious paradox aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”! I think our minds are just not capable of resolving this paradox.

    My mother was a gentle person, an atheist who believed everything has always been here and will always be here. This didn’t seem to bother her. My father was not very controlling and my upbringing was not dysfunctional.

    I do believe in the overwhelming mystery that is the universe. Why is it here? Why am I here? What’s it all doing here? But also I feel that when I’m dead, that’s it. No more consciousness. Nothing. This bothers me quite a bit at times, especially since I just turned 86. Aha ha?

  3. Oh yes, I like to watch the logs burn in my wood stove as seen through the glass darkly, I mean brightly! And let’s hope the second law of thermodynamics does not apply to the universe as a whole, otherwise the process will eventually run down…. to infinite winter.

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