Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Certainty, Rationality, Fundamentalism, Philosophy, and Zen Catholicism

The line between rationality and irrationality isn't faith. It is certainty. Fundamentalists of any stripe are dead certain they are correct. Certainty is dangerous. Certainty is not compatible with either Rational Religion or Science.

And Certainty is what creates Hell.
As Einstein observed:
When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute -- then it's longer than any hour. That's relativity!

It occurs to me that moral relativity creates its own hell. It is entirely possible that the afterlife of Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism is indeed just an effect of a dying brain- but that doesn't make it any less real to the brain that is experiencing it. Just because you can explain a miracle or curse, doesn't make it any less of a miracle or a curse.
As 2000 years of research into Near Death Experiences in the Tibetan Book of the Dead explains, time no longer exists for you once you are dead. If you have a yidyam, a savior- even an evil one- you will be tempted to go to their place. But place, as John Paul II is entirely the wrong way to look at it- it is instead, a State of Mind. What if the afterlife, as we experience it, is *both* joining with the divine (or the evil) AND the final "letting go" where the brain freezes all memory into a permanent state, and can learn nothing more due to the lack of oxygen to keep the cells "alive and growing"?

In this way, if you are so certain as to become disobedient in this life- then your certainty, frozen at the moment of death, is what will create Hell for you.

Likewise if you are so open to faith and belief that you die happy- truly in joy at the prospect of worshiping God forever- then Purgatory/Bardo will freeze your brain into that happiness for all eternity.

There is of course one other option, according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, that Christianity has no knowledge of- If you are truly committed to Atheism, and able to resist the temptations of the Gods and Demons- then you are rewarded with reincarnation, another spin at the wheel of life. This is what the Dali Lama preaches and apparently, has accomplished repeatedly (that's how you get to be the Dali Lama). But another interpretation of that is this- that Atheists have missed the point in life, and therefore, are sent back to get another chance. And that is Hell in and of itself.

Having contemplated the last things, I return to certainty and the scientific method. The scientific method requires that any given hypothesis, even a scientific law, be open to new evidence. Certain people are not open to new evidence- as my T-shirt in my Senior Picture back in high school loudly proclaimed "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts". This is NOT a scientific way of thinking- it is more faith based than a Westboro Baptist claiming not to be a Christian but rather a reincarnation of the bodyguards of King David. I wish somebody had warned me about certainty when I was young. Rational thinking has no room for certainty, no room for ideology, no room for blind obedience. The Truth must find YOU, you are incompetent to find the truth on your own.

18 comments:

Bill S said...

" It is entirely possible that the afterlife of Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism is indeed just an effect of a dying brain- but that doesn't make it any less real to the brain that is experiencing it."

That is entirely possible. I can see that happening. Otherwise, death is just a dreamless sleep. You didn't exist before you were born and you won't after you die. Of this you can be certain.

Bill S said...

"Rational thinking has no room for certainty, no room for ideology, no room for blind obedience."

Or, in other words, no room for religion.

Theodore Seeber said...

No room for FUNDAMENTALISM. It is quite possible for RELIGION to be rational, and for SCIENCE to be rational, but one must oppose FUNDAMENTALISM in all of its guises.

"A dreamless sleep" is *after* the afterlife, if my interpretation is correct- before that is a subjective eternity of paradise or punishment, depending on your yidyam.

Bill S said...

"before that is a subjective eternity of paradise or punishment, depending on your yidyam."

I can see a person reflecting on their life and in turn experiencing satisfaction for a life well lived or regret for one not lived well. Those could be perceived as heaven and hell. I'm good with just welcoming the relief from life's cares, worries, regrets, etc.

Bill S said...

Ted,

I'm sorry for harassing you. We both have other things to do. I enjoy your intelligence.

Bill

Theodore Seeber said...

Bill, it comes down to this: as you said before 99% of the human race has believed in an afterlife. That belief didn't just come from thin air; it came from biological and spiritual realities.

I somehow managed to squeeze a 20 minute drive into our conversation, but yes, now it is time to work.

Bill S said...

"99% of the human race has believed in an afterlife. That belief didn't just come from thin air; it came from biological and spiritual realities."

Well, there is no biological reality that would indicate the possibility of an afterlife. The brain ceases to function and the deceased loses consciousness and doesn't experience anything else. And spiritual reality is an oxymoron.

Theodore Seeber said...

The NMDA receptor exists:

http://www.mindspring.com/~scottr/nde/jansen1.html

Theodore Seeber said...

Of course, even the doctor who found the Ketamine effect doesn't think that is the entire story; he's gone on away from the physical to write a spiritual, if modern, version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (I must go find it!). But there is *clearly* a biological component to this spirituality, and your model of " The brain ceases to function and the deceased loses consciousness and doesn't experience anything else." isn't telling the whole story.

Bill S said...

"your model of " The brain ceases to function and the deceased loses consciousness and doesn't experience anything else." isn't telling the whole story."

Unconsciousness is a common phenomenon. At some point, the brain of a human no longer works resulting in permanent unconsciousness. It is essentially the same for all animals. We have all experienced unconsciousness. It is perfectly natural and to be expected.

Those who can remember dreams they have during NDEs have experienced something that can be replicated using drugs. There is nothing supernatural about it. They can experience it at any point while losing or returning to consciousness and have no awareness of the time that passes when they have been totally unconscious. When they die, there is no further transition between full consciousness and total unconsciousness. Sooner or later there is nothing. Some people fear this state of nothingness. Some are ambivalent about it. Some welcome it or think they will go to heaven. Whether they do or not becomes irrevelant.

Theodore Seeber said...

God is natural. So is Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, and the only line between the natural and supernatural is human knowledge.

The fact that we CAN replicate it with drugs, means that these things exist.

You are just getting confused on the language.

Bill S said...

"God is natural. So is Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, and the only line between the natural and supernatural is human knowledge."

Forget it.

Theodore Seeber said...

Forget it is exactly what the atheists want us to do isn't it?


Ignore the entire last 2 million years of human experience, because they think the effect of religion is evil and they are scared of it.

But it is equally dangerous to forget.

Bill S said...

No. Because we cannot even agree on the distinction between natural and supernatural. God, heaven, etc. are supernatural, which I say doesn't exist. The physical universe and everything in it is natural. Please stop trying to mix them up to make me look wrong. I know the difference. One exists. The other does not except in the human imagination. That which exists but has yet to be discovered or figured out is still natural, not supernatural.

The only possible gray area would be if there really was an intelligent designer. That might be supernatural, but not necessarily. We really don't know. If that does turn out to be supernatural, it does not open the floodgates for all the crap that we currently refer to as the supernatural. That remains imaginary.

Theodore Seeber said...

God and Heaven, Purgatory and Hell are a part of the physical universe. Everything supernatural or natural is a part of the physical universe.

Even an Intelligent Designer, since His Handiwork is the physical universe, is thus a part of the physical universe.

The rest isn't crap, and it isn't imaginary. You just WANT it to be imaginary for your own purposes, because it makes your life easier not to have to deal with good and evil, sin and virtue.

Bill S said...

"God and Heaven, Purgatory and Hell are a part of the physical universe. Everything supernatural or natural is a part of the physical universe."

Fine. Define the physical universe to include metaphysical concepts. What kind of empirical data are you going to present to prove they exist.

Good and evil are concepts based on judgments made using certain criteria. They are not the same for everyone. It depends on the criteria. I prefer a utilitarian approach where we judge the benefit or the harm to society.

Theodore Seeber said...

All data is empirical. Even dreams and hallucinations. Anything that can be experienced, repeatable or not, is empirical data.

It is ridiculous to eliminate data, but that brings us to our next topic.

Good and evil are guides. Morality itself is just a guide.

Over the last 10,000 years, ever since the agricultural revolution when we stopped allowing our morality to be shaped by our environment and started shaping our environment to fit our morality, we have observed some hard and fast rules that ARE universal.

Some actions universally create a peaceful, happy, just and merciful life, full of generosity.

Some actions universally create a unhappy, violent, unjust, and vengeful life full of selfishness.

True "benefit or harm to society" can be judged based on these.

I see great harm to society done whenever any single individual strays from Tradition- and that harm ripples out from them like a pebble dropped into a pond.

Likewise, great good can come from being generous and putting others first.

To break away from the flame war, let us consider something we both likely agree on, or I would hope so in this post crash of 2007 world: the sin of usury.

When bankers are only concerned with the profit margin of the bank, and not their effect upon the common good, they can overextend credit to many hundred times their actual assets. They can do this because M2 Money, the kind that only exists in the virtual world of checking and savings accounts, is almost entirely imaginary. They can expand credit almost indefinitely. And when there is no usury law or virtue to limit them, they can easily find the market to charge 580% annual interest (as many payday loan outlets do). This is using the misery of the poor for profit, and is completely banned by *most* world religions. But under secular capitalism, because it produces profit and lubricates the market to produce consumer confidence, it is considered good- even though in the long term the practice will destroy the entire economy.

One must consider far more criteria than one's own life.

Theodore Seeber said...

It is not generosity to promote that which is evil because of tolerance and acceptance. It is not generosity to allow the banker to continue to be a usurer, for eventually, even his own business will fail because of it, and harm both investors and customers.

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Oustside The Asylum by Ted Seeber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at http://outsidetheaustisticasylum.blogspot.com.