Friday Roundup (belated)

  • What a crazy suggestion…

  • Trying to bridge an infinite gap…good luck with that…and yes, it should be made fun of…

  • The real priests of illusion and magic are our economists and elite financiers…and as with everything—it’s all about the metaphysics–it’s all about the stories we tell including our stories of money, what it is and what it means.

“This artificial conception of money perhaps lies behind the pathological tendencies of high finance which are destructive of real wealth. Our governments and finance sectors are so often permitted to act in a criminal manner because we assume that money is amoral, disconnected from any right order, and thus open to manipulation by the masters of high finance. If we are to change this situation in a lasting way, we need to change the way we think about money, wealth and power.”

  • Yes, again, thank you.

  • This looks very close to Caputo’s project…

  • Gee, I wonder if it’s a reaction to progressive Islam or fundamentalism…



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23 Responses to Friday Roundup (belated)

  1. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    Looking at the Kearney book.. he is indeed pals with Caputo. Anyhow, stop me if you've heard this one before…

    “The more strange God is to our familiar ways, the most multiple our readings of this strangeness. If divinity is unknowable, humanity must imagine it in many ways. The absolute requires pluralism to avoid absolutism.”

    “If Gods and prophets talk, the best we can do is listen- then speak and write in turn…”

    “Especially for thos who- after ridding themselves of 'God'- still seek God?”

    This is typical and a grievous error. If divinity is unknowable, why talk about it all the time? Perhaps 1. it does not exist, and 2. if it does, we can't say or know anything about it. If he had truly rid himself of it, it would be done and finished. Basta. It is rather clear that his impulse comes from his indoctrination, not from any analytical process. It is entirely emotional and personal, thus writing about it has extremely little informative significance, other than in a memoirist, expressionistic kind of way.

    This author seems to confuse charisma and empty claims for divinity. Indeed, he seems like a sucker for every charismatic person and tradition around. Swami Vivekenanda? Honestly. Interesting? Surely, But divine, or informative about this thing he is seeking? Not at all. It is all rather clearly a highly motivated con game, until evidence can be brought to bear. And as usual, to hear him call all this “philosophy” is appalling in the extreme.

    “Believers typically pray to God 'to help their disbelief'”.

    Why do they do this? Another case of indoctrination. They are instructed from earliest age to believe in imaginary people and fathers, and find it hard to swallow, and / or empirically disconfirmed. Then they feel guilty for having eyes in their heads and brains behind them. Appalling.

    ##

    Allright. Let me offer a slightly more constructive critique. Which is that our sense of sacredness is the core of what this book, and perhaps much else of this ouvre and what you are interested in is about. We sense deep meaning in aspects of the world in quite immediate ways. The flight of a humming bird, a child's laugh. It is this meaning, (a mystical universal, I should add), and those who can tie it into some more systematic structure (motivational speakers, religious gurus, etc.) which characterizes the seeker- dispenser dynamic. Frequently such structures involve a huge amount of imaginative material and exotic ontology, from spirits to gods, heavens, chosen peoples, fights of evil vs good, comic book characters, etc… the list is endless.

    The sense of the sacred is very real and a precious resource to humanity. It is something we should be paying more attention to in this (fallen / unsustainable / market-driven.. take your pick) day and age. All that is very good. What is not so good is apotheosizing and manufacturing “unknownable” stories about it with “hidden” entities, and all the rest. Especially not while claiming they are true! While our senses of meaning and sacredness are important guides to life and action, these stories are *necessarily* false, being built on unknowable-ness, and detract from what is important. They are at best art and metaphor about the human condition and our sense of meaning, rather than about “reality” in any outside and non-subjective way.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “The sense of the sacred is very real and a precious resource to humanity. It is something we should be paying more attention to in this (fallen / unsustainable / market-driven.. take your pick) day and age. All that is very good.”

    Let me get this straight: this “sense” of the sacred is very real, but there is not a “real” true existing sacredness (no correspondence)…so it is in something imaginary…like a comic book character…but this is all very “good” and “precious”. And by “good” and “precious” you must have some sort of standard in mind…but that too is imaginary, not real, and also like a comic book character. And we should pay attention to these senses or feelings…even though they are in imaginary (nonexistent) concepts or things…like Santa Claus…or Spider man…

    Got it.

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  3. Darrell says:

    No need to clarify…you just repeated what my point was addressing.

    I just want it on record that you think it good and precious that we have these senses that have no external-objective referent…as you noted, like a comic book character…that we value imaginary things–things that do not exist.

    Oh and that the terms “good” and “precious” reference matter-in-motion and nothing else…atoms and molecules moving…but it is all good and precious…I guess.

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  4. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    If matter in motion is all we have, then it is all we have. Making up imaginary validators and meaning-givers is not going to alter that situation. The reality-based world is telling us that it is indeed all we have.

    You seem uncomfortable with the idea that meaning is made by us (or not made) out of what comes to hand in our emotions and existence. I take it you would prefer it to be handed to us on a plate, or from on high. But that isn't happening.

    It all seems to boil down to an analysis of what is going on in our “guts”. If our intuitions are signs and pointers from a hidden, meaningful, and great super-reality, then we get to participate in a drama that seems bigger than our mundane world.

    But I would ask (aside from the scientific analysis of such intuitions) how much better that drama really is than the one down here on Earth. Don't we have plenty to chew on down here, appreciating the beauty of all this matter in motion? (And dealing with our ever-challenging moral conundrums?) What good would it be to spend eternity at some smiley dinner party in disembodied form? That whole thing is, frankly, not very well thought out- a sign that it is constructed out of wishes, not data.

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  5. Darrell says:

    “But I would ask (aside from the scientific analysis of such intuitions) how much better that drama really is than the one down here on Earth. Don't we have plenty to chew on down here, appreciating the beauty of all this matter in motion? (And dealing with our ever-challenging moral conundrums?) What good would it be to spend eternity at some smiley dinner party in disembodied form? That whole thing is, frankly, not very well thought out- a sign that it is constructed out of wishes, not data.”

    This is fascinating. This really goes to my whole point. The above is a caricature and has nothing to do with the Christian understanding of heaven or life after death. The Christian life is all about the present, the now, the life here on earth. It is why Christians pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Bible doesn't speak much of heaven; it speaks of a new earth. Again, fundamentalists simply don’t know what the “other” person really believes—but they are sure they are against it and that it’s wrong.

    So again, it is really something to know you believe these “feelings” you speak of are important even though they point to nothing, just some internal processing of gears and fluids. I guess it’s similar to heart burn or gas? Anxiety? I'm just trying to understand.

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  6. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    Well, the escatology is hardly more reality-based than the ideas of heaven. It is millennia overdue, for one thing, and equally imaginary (and appalling when considered in detail, actually, per revelation). However, to hear Eric tell it, (not a fundamentalist, from what I understand), heaven and the hereafter is a rather important part of the program.

    On the other point, you are quite correct. Since we construct meaning, it is ours to disparage or cultivate.. a complex task for sure. I would have thought that as a postmodernist fan, you would be totally on top of that issue and topic. Or are you actually not post-modern at all, but hold to the rock of faith and the reality of the Kingdom and the God?

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  7. Darrell says:

    I am a Christian in the same stream as Eric and millions of others. “I believe”, notes the creeds and I do believe. And Eric would not agree with your caricature of the after-life, or I would be very surprised if he did. The point remains, you really don't know what Christians believe in these areas or the nuance involved. And yet, you are sure you understand that which you disagree with.

    On top of what issue and topic? Postmodernity has nothing to do with suggesting that our feelings don't reference something outside ourselves. The postmodern allows for that very possibility, thus the “post” part. Modernity doesn't allow for it.

    How do you know that your “sense” or feeling of something be sacred isn't just anxiety or a bad reaction to something you ate? Maybe the other person's “sense” is toward the very opposite, but his is just a different anxiety or reaction to heart burn or something. Should we really decided issues of war or what is sacred or economic policy based on the fact my internal matter-in-motion factors are just different than the other persons and all the while we both agree that in reality nothing is sacred?

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  8. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    With all due respect, the postmodern is something entirely different. It is not about letting the creationists believe whatever they want to believe without evidence. Or you or Caputo or your fellow travellers to maintain some sort of faux-edgy faith, also without evidence. That isn't even modern, it is Catholic, Novak, etc.. nothing new there.

    Postmodern is the destabilization of all received structures, ontologies, and truths, recognizing their constructed-ness (religion most of all, naturally!). Which then leaves the subject in a completely at-sea condition, from which state they write novels about utter relativism and anti-social fantasy and anomie. While knowing that none of it is true or significant.

    “Jameson argues that distance “has been abolished” in postmodernity, that we “are submerged in its henceforth filled and suffused volumes to the point where our now postmodern bodies are bereft of spatial co-ordinates”. This “new global space” constitutes postmodernity's “moment of truth”.”
    etc, etc…

    “Economic and technological conditions of our age have given rise to a decentralized, media-dominated society in which ideas are only simulacra, inter-referential representations and copies of each other with no real, original, stable or objective source of communication and meaning. ….
    The postmodernist view is that inter-subjective, not objective, knowledge will be the dominant form of discourse under such conditions and that ubiquity of dissemination fundamentally alters the relationship between reader and that which is read, between observer and the observed, between those who consume and those who produce.”

    etc. etc…

    I think it is pure idiocy, or at best a fad / attitude, but at least it differs in some fashion from both pre-modernism and modernism.

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  9. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    We've been through this before. The postmodern is here to stay and you know what type postmodernist I am. http://byzantinedream.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-horse-of-different-color.html

    I can see why you wanted to rehash that rather than defend your view of the “sacred” which really boils down to nothing being sacred…just illusions based on neurons firing and nerve endings and some other guy's neurons and nerve endings.

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  10. RonH says:

    Hi, Burk…

    But I would ask (aside from the scientific analysis of such intuitions) how much better that drama really is than the one down here on Earth.

    The one here on earth? Oh, you mean the one where everything we do basically (and necessarily) reduces to feeding, fighting, fleeing, and… er… fertilizing? The drama about life essentially being competition for resources, until all resources are gone?

    Yeah. That's really compelling.

    At some point, Burk, if you want to get any meaning beyond “survive to reproduce”, you gotta make something up. What do you have? How is it better than what I have? If we're both just making stuff up, then you need to cough up some empirical evidence for your story being superior to mine. Otherwise, you've got no reason at all for suggesting it's in any way inferior to yours.

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  11. Burk says:

    Hi, Ron-

    Great to hear from you. Is the problem that I have no story, or that I have one, which is insufficiently flamboyant and counter-factual?

    Anyhow, I guess I am not that desperate for meaning. That is the difference between philosophy and theology.

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  12. Darrell says:

    “…which is insufficiently flamboyant and counter-factual?”

    So you agree with Ron's assessment? Wow. The cold hard truth, right?

    But the “sacred” is good and precious…

    Yeah, right…what a joke…

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  13. Darrell says:

    You are desperate for meaning…which is so obvious…it's painful…

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  14. RonH says:

    Hi, Burk…

    The problem is that you want to have your cake and eat it too. On naturalism, no stories are true. Well, none beyond the four Fs, since that's all that science gives us. Everything else is just in our heads and necessarily just reduces back to the four Fs anyhow. By those standards, any story is essentially as good as any other story, since they're all equally false. It is true that some stories, though false, nonetheless provide advantages in pursuit of the four Fs. In fact, I guess that's the only standard you've got by which a story could be objectively considered “better” than another one. But while you talk big trash, you can't actually show how your non-story meets this standard. You want to criticize the Christian story for not being as good as the “drama here on earth”, but on your terms there ain't no drama but the four Fs. Which, if you're happy with that, fine. It just means you have lousy taste in drama. It also means that your posturing about theological thought being inferior is just noise — an impotent attempt to compete at the story game, which those of your persuasion are doomed to lose because you deny all stories. It is irrational to fight for the proposition that nothing should be believed without sufficient objective evidence except the proposition that nothing should be believed without sufficient objective evidence.

    When it comes to invigorating a society — motivating it to become more — naturalism is flaccid. Which means there's a really important F it fails at.

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  15. Darrell says:

    And just to echo Ron, it is especially egregious when coming from someone who is so critical of capitalism and so protective of environmentalism (things I support), but who then tells us it is an illusion to assert such (the objective reality/morality of those issues, which requires speaking out for or against) and no more or less “sacred” or “precious” than someone who advocated the complete opposite (just one's personal anxiety or gas/stomach issues over another's). It is, then, all about power and ultimately…violence. That is all Burk has then…

    Nice…what a great narrative…

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  16. Burk says:

    Darrell, Ron-

    Little of this is worth comment. But one idea is particularly wrong-headed. That is that if one does not have a fantasy narrative, one can not have values. Think about it for a second. It is typically insulting, but of course telling as well. Why can't one's motivations be a simple desire to make the world a better place? Do we need the sign of the beast, and relics of the saints for that? No we don't .. it is very simple and accessible without recourse to made-up stuff.

    The values one has are valid in any case, fantasy-based or not. Indeed more valid the more grounded they are in actual reality. Example: I think my religion is the only true religion and unbelievers are infidels who should be killed. It fulfills your standard of deriving meaning from a fantasy story. But somehow the result isn't so great either. That is because it loses sight of simple humanity: the on-the-ground empathy that needs to be cultivated for a better society, which can indeed happen under the auspices of liberal religion, but equally or better under other unbelieving and liberal auspices. No totalitarian story is required, indeed little stories work quite a bit better.

    For those who don't “believe” have plenty of stories. Shakespeare comes to mind.. not a religious bit in there, yet full of meaning, wisdom, and life. Shakespeare would be the last, however, to portray himself as a prophet of otherworldliness or some other “better” reality. It was this one here that got him going.

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  17. RonH says:

    Of course you can want to make the world a better place, Burk. It's just not particularly rational for you to care about the world, except beyond what benefits you directly. Of course, you're supposed to be the rational one, in touch with reality. It's hypocrisy, really… although benign. You just need to face the… er… reality, is all.

    The truth is, it is human nature to privilege oneself over the welfare of the rest of the world… and that is precisely what people tend to do when it is inconvenient to do otherwise. Unless there's some larger telos in play, which naturalism explicitly prohibits. Your philosophy can't build a world you will want to live in. The world you do live in was built by others, with a different vision. It's so much a part of the air you breathe, you don't even recognize it. But, like the air you breathe, you'd notice if it were gone. Too late, I'm afraid.

    Valid values, you say? Valid to you, perhaps. But what of that? There can be no objective value without an objective consciousness (since “value” is entirely an artifact of consciousness). You can have your own, possibly idiosyncratic, values. But you can't make a society based on that.

    the on-the-ground empathy that needs to be cultivated for a better society

    Do you read any history? Genghis Khan built a much better society than the one before him, and it wasn't based on empathy, my friend. In nature, the “empathic” get it in the neck because they can't do what needs to be done to protect their territory. Your “empathy” is a luxury good created by societies that recognize the intrinsic value of an individual human life… Something which cannot be justified on naturalism.

    As for Shakespeare… HAH! The man was a product of as Christian a culture as has ever existed. Religious themes and ideals are as woven into his work as the patterns of English itself. On naturalism, Hamlet never delivers a soliloquy. He can shove the bare bodkin into his eye socket without fear, because it's irrational to suffer when suffering can simply be abandoned for the void at will. Lady Macbeth can live a happy, powerful life free of a troubled conscience, since after all the strong prey upon and use the weak as a matter of nature. Oh, and ghosts don't exist anyway.

    Sorry. You atheists are going to have to find your own damn stories. Oh, wait…

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  18. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    My two cents…

    “…That is that if one does not have a fantasy narrative, one can not have values.”

    Typical misunderstanding. No one has accused you of having no values. What we have accused you of is believing that your “values” are illusions and thus everyone else’s as well. That is indeed insulting. Go ahead and insult yourself but please leave us out of it. What is especially ironic here is that you accuse of believing in a “fantasy” and yet…that is exactly what you believe about your own sense of what is sacred or what is a value.

    “Why can't one's motivations be a simple desire to make the world a better place?”

    You have just told us there is no real or true “better” so what are you talking about? All you mean is “power” or getting “my” way. That is all “better” can mean given your idea that all such ideas are illusory.

    “The values one has are valid in any case, fantasy-based or not.”

    Really? So Hitler’s values were valid? Osama bin Laden’s? The KKK’s? Or the group you really hate: the Republican’s?

    The rest of your diatribe is against fundamentalism, which has nothing to do with what Ron and I are about. So your point? Why can’t you address our critique rather than switching to address an entire other subgroup that is a tiny minority within Christianity?

    As to Shakespeare, what in the world are you talking about? His works and sensibility are soaked in the Christian narrative.

    “Kastan has surveyed the evidence with scrupulous care and so has earned the right to speculate. He suggests, following Christopher Haigh, that Shakespeare was probably a ‘Parish Anglican’, a tolerant, largely habitual Christian, who recognised the ‘communal values of village harmony and worship and objected to the divisiveness of the godly’.” http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/what-kind-of-god-did-shakespeare-believe-in-1.1720414?page=1

    Translation: he also had an issue with fundamentalism–but he inhabited the Christian narrative.

    Yes, Burk, you have a story. A story you believe strongly in and have great faith in. You are a believer. It is the worn and tired Enlightenment story that history has now passed completely by.

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  19. Darrell says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. Burk says:

    Darrell, Ron-

    I think the one constructive thing I can say here is that morality goes far deeper than you both seem to think. I will stipulate that morality and meaning are very closely tied. What is important to us is what we want to see protected, deem sacred, etc.

    But their connection with religion is rather tenuous. You cite human history as a litany of war and pillage. Very well. But human history is a litany of religion as well. We were always religious as we were going about our wars and pillaging. Why is that? It is because religion has a modulatory role at best over the basic motivators of human nature. Buddhists still have their wars, and a billion Muslims more or less are peaceful citizens. The extremes of each of these traditions, who take their teachings most seriously, are respectively compassionate models for humanity, and bigoted jihadist zealots. But this is the fundamentalist fringe, as you note.

    So morality comes from somewhere else. You don't induct someone into Hari Krisha and automatically turn them into a new and moral person. No, it is a task common to humans of all walks to decide on and practice morals in accord with their best natures, however construed. Religion is merely a gloss and story told for many comforting and uniting purposes, but it rarely deflects people from their basic nature. Witness all the scandals of the evangelicals and fundamentalists. And Catholics, etc. etc.

    And it isn't that they have standards they are being held to that are unfair or higher than normal. It is the most basic human universal that has been appalled by the Catholic priest scandals- no higher standard need be applied, though the extreme hypocrisy certainly adds flavor to the story. Everyone has a conscience, and many stories, not just a religious one, can inform and cultivate it. And do so with great effectiveness.

    ##

    Does naturalism function as such a story? For some people, it can, prompting compassion for the great suffering that has taken place, appreciation for the great beauties that abound, and responsibility for this our only world. But it is by no means the only story that is of use. Bernard writes some of them, indeed. They are everywhere, in fantasy and reality. So religion is far from alone in this process, and its characteristic behavior of claiming an unbelievable story as the only and true one is really a weakness, however psychologically understandable.

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  21. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “I think the one constructive thing I can say here is that morality goes far deeper than you both seem to think.”

    Seriously? You are the one reducing it to pure matter-in-motion, i.e., neurons firing, and nerve endings. This is about as surface and reductionist as it gets. It doesn't go any deeper for you–it can't. We are the ones suggesting it goes much, much deeper.

    No one suggested that religion is the only story. What I've said all along is that every person and culture inhabits some story, some narrative–even atheists/agnostics. The problem is that while I'm sure naturalists are very compassionate, the story they inhabit provides no rational basis for that compassion so they simply borrow it (the rational-not the feelings, I get that they feel this way) or are acting under the greater Judeo-Christian narrative they were brought up in and still carries much weight. Of course the Christian would say they are compassionate, partly, because they share God's image. Thus, we all share this feature, regardless our faith. Again, this is not to say one must be a Christian to be compassionate, it is simply that the narrative makes compassion something central to existence–and gives it a referent (God) that is outside our simply “feeling” one way or another internally. Some narratives do not provide that rational.

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  22. RonH says:

    Burk…

    I will stipulate that morality and meaning are very closely tied… But their connection with religion is rather tenuous.

    That's a ridiculous thing to say, Burk! Throughout human history, critical aspects of morality and meaning have been based on religion. Human nature gets you to competition with others for resources, and maybe a bit of local, reciprocal altruism. But no further. One might argue that such behavior is hardly in the realm of morality at all, given that any higher animal exhibits similar instincts. To get past that level requires something more… something metaphysical. Even the deists of the American Revolution had to ground individual rights in the “Creator”, “Nature's God”, etc. Because “Nature” doesn't confer any rights at all, much less the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Contrast this with a more “natural” approach in east Asia, where the individual has little value at all, and what is moral is whatever benefits the group/collective.

    Religion is merely a gloss and story told for many comforting and uniting purposes, but it rarely deflects people from their basic nature.

    This is utter bullshit, Burk. On naturalism, there is only basic nature. Everything you do, you do just because it is in your nature to do it. How could it not be? Where people have acted in ways that cannot be explained in terms of the four Fs, it is because of a metaphysical principle at work.

    In fact, on naturalism, it is simply in my nature to be religious. So why should I stop?

    Does naturalism function as such a story? For some people, it can, prompting compassion for the great suffering that has taken place, appreciation for the great beauties that abound, and responsibility for this our only world.

    How, exactly? Naturalism only gets you the four Fs. Compassion for suffering? Why? Suffering is just the gears of evolution turning. Compassion for organisms within your immediate sphere is self-beneficial. But beyond that, you're just competing for resources. Responsibility for our world? Technically, you only need to care about the world immediately around you, and only for your lifetime. If I can exploit the environment for the benefit of me and mine now, why should I care what the consequences will be long after I'm dead? Not my problem! Apocalyptic religious types are notorious for this kind of thinking, but naturalism has nothing to say to refute it.

    You can handwave all you want about compassion and beauty and responsibility. But unless those increase your chances of reproduction, they're ultimately pointless. On naturalism, that is.

    (BTW, the only one of Bernard's stories I've read was Genesis, and I didn't get naturalism out of it at all. Actually — true to Bernardian form — it asked more questions than anything else.)

    So tell me, Burk: Does an individual human being have objective value?

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  23. Burk says:

    Ron-

    Well, we may just have to disagree here. Partly, it goes to the question of whether god makes man, or man makes god. But religion? The history is very clear that man makes religion. And we have made plenty of crappy ones, prior to coming up with the glorious perfect truth that is Christianity. So to say that morals are based on religion is nothing more than saying that morals are based on whatever we are and want at any particular time in history, which is the same as saying that religion, like any book or painting or song is another cultural artifact that we make, which serves us in turn in some way to express our feelings, bind us together, elevate our discourse, or whatever the case may be. It is all a self-made work in progress.

    You concentrate on naturalism being “nothing but” your 4 F's, which you evidently view as dirty and unworthy. So do you avoid them? Just kidding. But I think here to you fail to appreciate the true complexity and generative power of simple ingredients. Just as chemistry arises from only a few elements, great biological complexity, and indeed behavioral and moral complexity, arises from the evolution and naturalism that you set to little store by, but which is the only and complete explanation for our development from simple to human organisms, as far as every scientist is concerned, in her professional capacity, without exception.

    Lastly, on the objective value of humans. Since I do not hold to objective values in anything, because values are not objective, but subjective, I could hardly claim an exception for humans. As a humanist, I value them/us/each other, but don't assume the universe does in some objective way as well. Do you have some kind humano-value-ometer that puts us on the scale, so to speak? I would bet what you have is your feelings, and that is where all this comes down to reality. Or when god says to slay the Amelekites , and your first born, etc., do you say how high?

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