Archive for the 'atheism' Category

Controlling

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.

Holding two perspectives

December 29, 2013

Last night my cousin let me know his perspective on my putting a statue of the Buddha in my home.  Not only could I read his words and understand their content, but after I replied to his comment, I could actually see how the statue could look like an idol.

I can’t know whether what I perceived was actually what my cousin sees, but it certainly was a version of seeing the statue as an idol and not seeing the statue as I usually do.

I was reading Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today, about holding in tension what we know and what we don’t.

For me, a big lesson and challenge has been to recognize what is my perspective and what is someone else’s, instead of just getting swamped by someone else’s, which I am perfectly capable of doing, just as we are somewhat susceptible to effective sales techniques even when we don’t realize it.  And that’s just it; just as savvy shoppers are aware of advertizing manipulation or sales associates’ techniques, I can become aware of when I am picking up someone else’s perspective.

For me, in my context, what can be difficult is when the other person is completely dismissive of my own point of view, when there is no room in their perspective for mine.  It can happen when I interact with people who hold their atheism strongly, for example, or even with people who judge my family members or my life in strongly negative terms.  It can leave me, in a way, gasping for air; maybe it’s like a guitar player hearing from someone that a guitar is just a wooden box with strings with which they are making noise.

But there is something helpful about this experience.  It shows me how a perspective is just that, a perspective, my own included.  That helps me with detachment and with understanding our world and how we see it.

But with all due respect to feedback from others and from visiting their perspectives, in the end I have to find the view that supports my greatest good, not adopt one that suits somebody else out of people-pleasing or trying to reach some other social goal.

So I go back to seeing my statue as an encouraging reminder of how, while we may go from dust to dust, we also go from enlightenment to enlightenment — we have been enlightened before, we will be so again.  And that is a source of joy, that we can be reborn into that consciousness.  This stream of thought for me gets collapsed into just being thrilled when I see my Buddha statue.  I don’t see it as an idol but as a concrete reminder of an ethereal process in which we each can become a buddha.

I come by my joy not easily, whether that’s intrinsic to me or a result of my experiences.  But when I do encounter joy, the deep, child-like kind, it feels like a blessing.  And part of the ability to encounter it seems to come from having found the perspective that allows me access to it, so I am not in a hurry to give that up in favor of the perspective that allows someone else access to it.  It’s not de gustibus non disputandum est (tastes cannot be argued about) exactly, but that is the phrase that keeps bubbling up in my mind, and I think the concept is something similar.

Artificial byproduct or precious goal?

October 18, 2013

Well, I’m glad somebody had more patience with the NYTimes and their focus on debunking faith than I do.  There’s a letter today that talks about the writer’s research finding that people who endure trauma need their faith.

This way of stating the scientist perspective makes it easier to see the resolution:  faith is both a byproduct of trauma and a goal of development.

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations of late have talked about the role of suffering in our spiritual development, including today’s.  Religion and the letter writer (Shane Sharp, an assistant professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University) are in agreement:  trauma can result in the state of mind of faith.

Scientists seem to think of this result as an artificial state of mind, while the religious camp sees it as reaching a desirable goal.  They are describing the same thing, only characterizing it differently.  The disagreement is all about the adjectives, the judgment of the phenomenon.

That leads to the questions of, why we are judging the phenomenon, how we should judge it, by what criteria are we judging it, etc.

But it also, for me, provides the unification of the two competing camps:  the phenomenon occurs, our need to appraise it is just our human need, not one that exists outside of ourselves.

At the highest reaches of the universe there is no appraising and judging.  It is the state of achieving “Let it be.”  In scientific circles I thought we focus on the objective and withhold our editorial response.

We can all just rest on the narrow point of equilibrium that suffering produces the phenomenon of faith, that faith exists.

Some of us celebrate it, some of us deride it, some of us rely on it, some of us wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.  But we agree that the phenomenon exists.

That, to me, is an example of how we bridge a perceived gap.

An issue with atheism

February 3, 2012

I recently learned that men engage in a variety of dysfunctional behavior that I was already aware that women do but didn’t realize men were vulnerable to — acting towards a romantic partner as if they were more omniscient and omnipotent than they are, and behaving towards them as if they are the appropriate recipient of a surrender of themselves.

In mulling this over, and talking it over with the guy who mentioned it, I started thinking how this relates to poets and their muses.  That got me thinking about other contexts in which this dynamic might not work out as it may have been intended, namely when people who don’t believe in God, higher powers, impersonal forces in the universe greater than ourselves, etc., which can receive our deepest energy safely and do something helpful with it, feel a need to turn their deepest energy somewhere —  where do they turn it?  Towards another human being? towards acquisition of money or power or prestige or mansions or collecting watches?

I don’t know, but if humans have the urge to share their deepest energy, and it doesn’t go somewhere that can handle it constructively, I suspect it develops all kinds of eddies and whirlpools and maelstroms, instead of just flowing through unimpeded.

So, my question for atheists is, where do atheists put their needs that other people satisfy through a spiritual life?  And I don’t mean it in a way to suggest they can’t have found a constructive way to do this, I just wonder what it is.