Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy


    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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Archive for January, 2010

The circularity and inexpressibility of advaitic thinking

Posted by robertpriddy on January 29, 2010

There are many deniers of modern science among Indian religionists, not least on account of their most sophisticated kind of speculative ‘philosophy’ known as advaita (non-dualism). Among the claims made in this pseudo-philosophy we find the denial that any study of the ‘outside world’ will only lead to further delusion, because it is only by inner study (meditation, prayer, worship etc.) that ‘The Truth’ can be attained. Some refer to the Vedic scriptures as being the ultimate in explanation of the cosmos… and these are mostly hymns to deities! Out of the culture developed around Vedism, Vedanta and the ‘teachings’ of various alleged ‘masters of wisdom’ and gurus a hodge-podge of fantastic theories – basically solipisist – have been developed. Her follows one example of the kind of reasoning involved:-

A comment was made on my earlier posting ‘The Ultimate Fallacy: God is inside, God is all and everything” – see full version here The full text of the comment is seen at the foot of this page. The comment of Kiran began:-

“Advaita is not circular reasoning. It is also not about mental being superior to material. Since you have some philosophical training, if you wish to understand Advaita properly, you can approach it from linguistics. The quintessential element is the difference between form (word) and essence (meaning). What imparts meaning to a word? Does a word innately and implicitly have a meaning, or is the meaning attributed by something else (termed as consciousness)? Now can that “something else” be described by simpler words ? Advaita says that as you walk down this road, trying to reduce words with simpler and simpler words, you’ll inevitably encounter a paradox. There is the abyss staring at you and you cannot reduce meaning to words anymore.”

Kiran bluntly expresses his belief that advaita is not circular reasoning, – without any clear argument or evidence. Here I shall contest his attitude as shallow. Actually, I have studied Vedanta and Advaita in considerable depth for nearly 3 decades, and I was impressed by the sophistication of its ideas, but I have gone full circle and rid myself of those unfounded (otherwordly) beliefs which are essential to support advaita. I was already a professional philosophy lecturer with plenty of ‘philosophical training’ in most of its main areas, including linguistic analysis, philosophy of science, logic and so forth. Clearly Kiran does not understand linguistics at all, not even the basics. Here are some: meaning is attributed to words originally (firstly) by referents (perceptions from a physical source). Subsequently, through the mind (i.e. brain) perceptions are compared and words are invented to name the similarities and differences between physically-sensed impressions (Hume), and interpreted actions. This gives rise to the entire universe of discourse. These meanings are learned through experience and meaning does not simply arise from – but is given to – consciousness through the experience of learning (from environment not from any primeval inner source). This is backed up by most extensive scientific research.

Firstly, it is wrong to think that meaning is reduced to words in modern linguistic analysis, far from it. The distinction ‘form’ and ‘meaning’ – supposedly so ‘quintessential’ – itself leads one into circular reasoning. The  role of ‘form’ in advaita, (also central to Plato’s idealism)  is philosophically too little nuanced. It does not even take account of basic distinctions relating to the meaning of language – such as were made in Ogden’s famous triangle between ‘term’, ‘concept’, ‘thing’ – in his work ‘The Meaning of Meaning’ or Wittgenstein’s essential distinctions like tautology, contradiction and logically contingent or the rules of sense and nonsense).

Brentano’s axiom ‘Consciousness is always consciousness of something’ (even when only of its own representations of itself) is unrefuted. Consequently consciousness does not exist as an independent ‘subject’ for it arises only though it having some ‘content’ – some object, which can be a things, a perceptions, a memory, a reflected sense of a previous act of consciousness and so on…). Consciousness has no independent existence as a source of anything. This raises the debate about whether consciousness is brain-dependent. I have followed this issue throughout my life, with many changes of standpoint, and have written voluminously to defend the idea that soul, psyche, consciousness etc. transcend the physical realm and exist independently (see here). However, as the evidence has accumulated and evolution has become a more and more rocklike, unshakeable fact, I now at last regard that it is brain-dependent as well substantiated, especially in the very latest neurological psychology. See A.C. Grayling and related scientists. One may still be able to listen to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p005bckf (1 Dec 2009 … AC Grayling speaks to the Canadian neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland about what we now know . It also consequently bears on the insubstantiality of beliefs about incorporeal spirits, astral ‘realms’, akasha and whatever. If not, read my summary here.

Advaita is proclaimed as the ‘Highest Truth’ and that it can only be experienced in samadhi, an immersion in Unity where no dualism whatever is perceived. Hence it is the ultimate in imagined otherworldliness. This shows that Advaita is  totally subjective and cannot relate to objective truth is any way… for objectivity depends on the extension of space-time (i.e. the physical universe).

Advaita is ultimately truly circular, being what Wittgenstein defines most accurately as ‘tautological’. That is to say, it is without sense (i.e. having no referential relation to any sense impressions and hence is ‘nonsensical’). Advaita is a system of concepts without corresponding ‘objects’, i.e. without ANY empirical foundational data. Instead it relies on the idea that the cosmos is full of ‘forms’. This term conflates both ‘impressions’ and ‘ideas’ into one, and obviates the scientific approach.  The advaitic doctrine(s) as a whole amount only to speculation, however imaginative. Advaita – as presented in words which its ‘mystics’ insist are entirely misleading anyhow – regards the physical world and the mind equally as illusion, or ‘maya’. It is dependent on a concept of the indefinability of truth as ‘neti, neti’ (i.e. ‘not this, not that’) – and insists on the inexpressibility of the truth – of consciousness (‘all-encompassing’ as it is nevertheless said – contradictorily – to be). Advaitists can always deny the truth of anything on their assumption that truth cannot be stated… that’s the beauty of inexpressibility, but it is a trap! They often tend to refer to emptiness, just as in Buddhist Nagarjuna’s conception. The mind for them is sometimes compared to a radio receiver and sender – there is actually no one in the radio – for mind, ego and individuality are illusions. Most variants of Advaita nevertheless regard Satchitananda as the one real fundament of existence, but it cannot be described. Right? As such it totally denies all forms of physicalism as in the most modern developments in physics (which is still physics… still being an extension of the study of physical phenomena – that is, what Indian philosophy groups as Prakriti, and NOT Purusha, which has no relation to physics of any kind. I charcterised advaitic ‘philosophy’ as a dream in a hall of distorting mirrors’.

“In fact, a similar roadblock has been encountered in mathematical logic through the theorem of incompleteness of Kurt Godel. This is better digestible if you’ve a background in computer science or AI. Physicalism is just another form of reductionism, trying to reduce consciousness down to physical entities or laws. In the crudest form, this philosophy resembles atomicism (of the Greek or the ancient Indian “Vaiseshika” variety), trying to reduce everything to physical blobs or particles called matter. Modern physics makes this treatment untenable. In the more sophisticated version of physicalism, where consciousness is attempted to be reduced to a set of “physical laws”. This enters the territory of computer science and logic that has been ransacked by Godel years ago.”

The kind of extreme materialistic reductionism which tries to reduce consciousness to physical laws hardly exists today. Such roadblocks as Kiran refers to are found in many disciplines, and advaita is perhaps the biggest ‘roadblock’ of all… to further understanding that is, because it is tied to a stagnant ‘absolutist’ system of assumptions. One has to step back and see it as the historically-developed labyrinth without secure foundation that it is. (The best succinct description of this history I know is in The Guru Papers – Kramer and Alstead as noted in my earlier blog (Advaita – historical flight into abstraction and speculation – see here)

I have written much about the impossibility of totalisation, of theoretical absolutism, of objectivisation, of ontologisation too, which is the philosophic equivalent of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. I have written a great deal on the failings of excessive physicalism/reductionism (see here) but have moved on to a position which is even further from vulgar reductionism – a dynamic perception-based philosophy and psychology. There are many levels to physicalism, and modern physics is still also an expression of physicalism…

As a philosopher I point to Western thinkers who have developed the philosophy of language and meaning to a very high level. Locke, Hume, Russell, Whitehead, Ogden, Wittgenstein, Ryle – and on the Continent the phenomenology and hermeneutics of Dilthey, Betti, Ricoeur and others. Meaning is a complex phenomenon relying on concepts expressed by progressively abstracted words – taking their start from a simple object language and growing in complexity as the reach of a language expands. Simpler ideas get combined, deepened, refined in many ways including through empirical research, developing syntaxes, discovery of new referents (empirical discovery) and so on. Consciousness of itself cannot produce a single word… all words are learned and… when skill is developed, created either imaginatively or practically along with new discoveries, whether empirical or intellectual.

“The meaning that you attribute to the word “God” is entirely upto your own choice. If you wish to import Judaeo-Christian imagery with this word, it is fine. But that may not help convey you the essence of the Advaita system. It is better to use the true Sanskrit words “Brahman” (etymologically, that which grows), “Atman” (self) etc.”

Strictly, the word God has no meaning in so far as there is no existent to which it relates… It is a mental-emotional construction representing an ideal. not any real state of affairs. , not a phenomenally given referent. The same goes for Brahmam, Atma and all such names for any ‘supernatural divine’… despite their somewhat different connotations. it is paramount to such language conventions as miasma, mirage etc. It originates mainly from (subjective) interpretations of (distorted, flawed and primitive) historical scriptures.

Comment from Kiran

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India’s Ayrans, Vedic texts, mystics, philosophers….

Posted by robertpriddy on January 24, 2010

This is a response to a comment (see at foot of page) received about an earlier blog I wrote. The response is somewhat typical of Indians who take excessive pride in their ancient culture and who try to present its history, early civilization and ancient thought forms in the best possible light. I have actually earlier stood for much – even most – of what Kiran tries to express – but no longer. Life went on and I learned to find my way back out of those huge mental labyrinths – but it took many decades. At all events, I am far away from your conceptions now. You will probably feel my replies sharp, but there is no ill will intended. A sharp response is better than a blunt one, I always feel. I can’t explain my reasons fully here – anyhow, all explanations must end somewhere. My comments are in blue text.

Kiran wrote:-

“Aryan invasion of the Nazi variety never did happen in India. India has indeed seen a racial and cultural mix of a lot of people, but there is no reason to suggest that the complex civilization of Mohenzodaro along the banks of the Indus and Saraswati was disconnect from the Vedas.”

Reply: Kiran may have read, but not taken to heart, the work of India’s famous true polymath Nirad Chaudhury. He is loathed by many Indians for revealing the full truth about India and Hindu origins, its caste and related practices, its suppression of the indigenous inhabitants, its inherent militarism and so on … I find his reasoning and evidence most persuasive – though incomplete, of course, on much of the debate about the origins of India and its tremendous problems today. Try ‘The Continent of Circe’ (Chaudhury). The Ayran invasion was maybe mass immigration, undoubtedly not without considerable conflict, – but the evidence of a planned invasion is lacking, of course. One cannot either say for certain invasion never did happen.

“The Vedic texts are rich in astronomy, mathematics, medicine and linguistics.. such artefacts cannot but come from a well-established civilization. The dating that was arbitrarily assigned for the composition of the Vedas (specifically the oldest Rg Veda) are now being revised by all professional historians.”

By some – if not all – professional Indian historians no doubt (apart from that Indianized shastri from the American Frawley whose astrological evidence and astronomical interpretations are far-fetched speculations). Yet not by any world-class historians or archeologists, I fear! Professional Indian history began with the British… and India’s earlier history is misty, to say the least. Claims that India has the first airplane (pushpak) that flew by power of mantra  and many like it are not taken seriously because historical records are were never kept at all – and then seldom properly.  The Vedas are recorded inalienably in Sanskrit (the correct pronunciation while chanting them is held to be of decisive importance) Therefore they could not have been translated into a later form of Sanskrit. The well-researched study of the various phases of development of Sanskrit reportedly show in great detail how they are not anywhere near as old as Indian Hindus would like to believe.

“The Indian civilization at (and even prior to) the composition of the Vedas was the most sophisticated and technologically advanced in the world at the time, such heights were not reached by the western world until the renaissance and middle ages, which themselves owe to a certain extent to Indian influences (via the Arabs).”

I am aware that the Mohenjo-Daro civilization had made some considerable discoveries in maths, astronomy, though the Babylonians are universally recognised as prior in these areas. The Ayurveda – which you apparently endorse – is made to look extremely lightweight in the light of the current science of genetics, nutrition… it had no conception of bacteriology or viruses for a start. Thousands of discoveries of major importance to health and curing diseases had to wait until European medicine began its rapid advance with people like Harvey…. It was a lifestyle philosophy more than anything, bound up with primitive beliefs in the power of prayer (which is objectively entirely powerless, of course). Some of its claims are ridiculous, of course (urine-drinking?)

“The image of the Indian other-worldly sage is a pure imagination is distinctly colonialist, it holds no relevance today. Indian sages, for all purposes, were very worldly and developed quite sophisticated sciences and technology. A few of them were also mystics and indulged in meditation and self-reflection. Indian philosophy owes a large extent to the latter types.

“Pure imagination” it is most certainly not. Among the intensely other-worldly supposed ‘sages’ of India rank Swami Nityananda, Sri Yukteswar, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Nisargadatta (advaitist!), Yogananda, Shirdi Sai Baba, Babaji, Tapaswaji Maharaj (claimed as 183 years old!?), Shiva Bala Yogi, Toilanga or Mahatma Tailang Swami (claimed 280 yrs.) just as a start. There were some sophisticated thinkers even among them – but no empiricists and their weird beliefs are known to – and often held in awe by – most Indians today. India is famed for its host of equally or even more other-worldly figures. Consider the 250,000 stark naked and heavily cannabis-imbibing naga mendicants, the 2 million wandering sadhus, including countless practitioners of mystical and weird tapas (standing on one leg for decades, sitting amid 4 fires in hot summer, rolling thousands of kilometers (as recently done by Lotan Baba). – I can agree that many Indian gurus are very worldly. The business interests of Rajneesh, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Maharaji, Ravi Shankar – to name a few of these bogus ‘masters’  – shows that. Besides which, many who had very large followings have been imprisoned for rape, murder, embezzlement and so on. (see The Dark Underside of some prominent Hindu gurus)

Indian philosophy, though it has its empiricists – very largely ignored to this day – is nearly all speculative thought, invariably based on assumptions of a religious and otherworldly kind… the Sankhya philosophy is based in primitive earth/air/fire/water/akasa symbolism. Neither dvaita, vishtadvaita or advaitic theiological-philosophies are sufficiently empirical to be other than religious tracts – and are all entirely non-systematic as to scientific method. This is what the so-called ‘sages’ produced (Shankara, Ramanuja as examples). Let’s face it, the comparatively vast development of knowledge through the hard and soft sciences during the last few centuries totally outstrips all traditional Indian thought.

Comment received

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Light on the Cartesian dichotomy – evolution & neuroscience

Posted by robertpriddy on January 24, 2010

My summary/part transcript of the discussion on the BBC entitled: Exchanges At The Frontier, Episode 3 – Patricia Churchland This is a MOST interesting exchange because of the light it throws on the so-called body-mind duality (or matter-mind or matter-soul schizma) and how evolution provides answers to dispel miasmas and reinforce the fact of ‘free will’ – as I see it – against all religious determinisms.

How did the human brain evolve to care for others? If brain science can explain the cause of someone’s actions can we morally blame them for what they have done?

In ‘Exchanges At The Frontier’ (17 Dec. 2009), A.C.Grayling spoke to the neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland about what we now know about the machinery of our minds and the implications for society.

Neuroscience is starting to tell us how human decisions are really made, beginning to explain what it is that gives us a sense of our self and is shining light on the nature and the limits of ‘free-will’.

To understand mind we must look at the brain.

What we experience is very different from what we see when we look at a brain or a piece of spinal cord. This causes skepticism about the unity of brain and mind. Until recently very few functions of the brain were understood. But…

Evolutionary biolog: We know the structure of human and animal brains is very similar. Many animals do very complex things. solve complex problems. But could this merely be caused by instinct? Why should a Cartesian ‘spook substance’ need to exist to explain complex functions, but only in human beings?

Old concepts change as science advances… the concept of memory. Since 1950s when memory was though of as one thing, we have learned that memory is very complex which fragment into many sub-types and sub-systems. Under physical lesions, many parts dissociate. Eg. one can, in memory loss, retain skills while losing recollection of events. Short-term memory can be lost while long-term memory increases etc. Memory is multi-dimensional.

One remarkable case illustrates the question. A 40yr old man with stable re-marriage – step daughter claims she had been molested. Police found pornography on his computer. He began to get very sever headaches. A scan found a significant frontal (hypocampus) tumour… which is where sexual activity is controlled. Tumour removed, interest in young girls stopped… marriage back to normal. Then a relapse—  tumour had regrown as not all was removed, also removed with same result.

People can lose their capacity to suppress an impulse.

The prarie vole was an evolutionary mystery. How do animals develop self-care.  Then how to get from self-care to care for others. With mammals 2 major changes – use of a simple peptide – if the wrong peptide is predominant, the animal will lose all care for offspring. A mammal can feel a localised pain (big toe) or a ‘generalised sense of awfulness’ (eg. distress caused by calls from young). Prarie vole males care for the young. Male montain voles do not, they don’t guard the nest. The answer is in the microstructure of the brain. (Very detailed brain analysis and study of blocked receptors which then make self-care possible etc.). This means an evolution in behaviour, which is efficient for the species and which functions can be extended.

The same peptides is much the same as in prarie voles. Instead of fixed action patterns, in the developed state of human brains, there is flexibility, executive functions… steering attention, maintaining a goal, (deferring gratification, tolerating pain for a greater aim etc.

Culture clearly plays a huge role. It probably began with the development of agriculture (ca 10,000 years ago). Institutions developed which could enforce the right kind of behaviour. A ban is more trustworthy that one person.

Consciousness and freedom of the self: Choice the outcome of earlier states of ourselves and the earlier states of the universe? Descartes though free will “created from nothing” a choice. However, choices do have antecedent desires, beliefs,,, Discoverable differences between voluntary and involuntary choices… and a profile of these is being developed by neuroscience.

The [current UK and often prevailing] justice system does not require that a choice is not motivated by any precedent events. Though it does recognize compulsion by others as reducing responsibility.

————

Quote: A.C. Grayling: “requires a clearer conception of “free will.” Its formal identifier is the “genuinely could have done otherwise” requirement: but not only does that itself require unpacking, we also need to look for the fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) traces that suggest which structures in the brain import novelty into the world’s causal chains, making their possessor a true agent, and not merely a patient—a sufferer—of the universe’s history.”

Comment:If self-care arises only when a particular peptide is dominant, then the vast history of evolution gives room for countless such changes which result in what were once thought to be the human ‘instincts’ of motherhood, spontaneous compassion and all those observable human reactions which underpin what we now call ‘human values’. There is absolutely no need to posit an Invisible Being – found nowhere – which could instruct humanity morally… nature has done it through evolution. Of course, those who are psychologically or otherwise personally dependent on belief in a God will say that He (She or It) created nature may try to argue that God created evolution! This is the final crunch… the last argument which can never be validated in any way whatever. Some people believe what they want despite anything… there is probably no saving many of them.

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Advaita – historical flight into abstraction and speculation

Posted by robertpriddy on January 22, 2010

Please click here to go to the article, which has been moved

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Otherworldliness and futile escapism

Posted by robertpriddy on January 7, 2010

In the uncertain world of birth, life, change and death, there are age-long traditions of many kinds that try to prepare those who aspire to it for greater understanding and realization of their own potentialities.  In many cultures these traditions have become tied up with the belief in higher beings – whether spirits of the departed and ancestors, deities supposed to control the various vagaries of nature, transcendent gods and universal divinity or imagined supreme consciousness.

It is almost unavoidable that a person  - even if not brought up to some religious faith and even well-educated in the relevant sciences – will sooner or later become interested in these so-called spiritual questions and traditions. A large proportion of them will join religious or spiritual communities, possible come to believe in what they promise and so possibly strive to practise their teachings, from prayer to sacrifice, and not least to try to improve others in recruiting them. The unanswered questions which beset all thinking persons seem to be important, especially where they impinge on one’s own sense of well-being and self-trust, that most people are vulnerable to some ‘otherworldly’ beliefs and doctrines. Many seek a sense of existential security in a belief system which answers all troubling aspects of life and promises much… and the there are many forces which work towards them taking for granted the validity of age-old beliefs and practices. For example, prayer – which has never been shown to have any effect one can register by any serious means of investigation, other than giving some (temporary) relief to those who resort to it.

Through a long life (so far) I have become increasingly aware that spiritual advancement has nothing to do with any beliefs in divine figures, let alone in scriptures or other non-worldly ‘spiritual teachings’, whether inherited from parents or arbitrarily imposed by religious worldly ‘authorities’. Spiritual advancement must be, according to my conviction, entirely a product of the natural human spirit – for no help comes from any heavenly being. Nor does miraculous help come from gurus or supposed ‘spiritual masters’. The latter may be able to point out a viable way to what one seeks, but none of them can undertake the journey on ones behalf. First and last, all advancement of one’s understanding depends on oneself and comes about through one’s way of life and one’s actions.

The history of humanity emphasizes how faith in deities, invisible entities and powers or whatever can mislead people into the most bizarre of experiences and not seldom bring about the most severe consequences imaginable in terms of suffering, violence, wars, genocide, torture and debasement of the human spirit. Yet worse the possible consequences of divine retribution, constant rebirth as animals of prey, immersion in eternal hell fires (as the current and misnamed Pope Benedict believe and preaches!) and just about any perversion of goodness the human mind could invent and attribute to the supposed ‘Divine Creator’. Putting ones trust in an unworthy person usually leads to disillusionment, putting one’s faith in religious teachings and spiritual leaders is also a serious gamble where the stakes can be high indeed.

All such speculations depend on some degree of belief in an otherworldly realm, whether heavenly, hellish or both. For the aspirant to some level of imagined holiness, everything depends on other world and invisible spirits whose (often contradictory) demands one must take great heed above all else. No lively young soul can accept the need for ignoring the world they have not even explored? The supposedly ‘spiritual’ teaching that the world is unreal and only God etc. is real is hardly a very promising prospect for healthy young persons with a lifetime before them. It turns existence into becomes a ‘life sentence’, and there remains little else but to hope like hell there will be no rebirth, no ‘next time round’! How can anyone setting out to live and make a living in the competitive and tough world, or to care for fellow human beings and the fate of the earth, possibly ‘understand’ that sort of vision.

It may or may not be true that, in the long run, only goodness will eventually bring rewards. Yet one cannot know since even human goodness is an immeasurable quantity and an untestable hypothesis. let alone assumed invisible ‘divine’ goodness. This does not mean that  respect and care for all beings (i.e. ‘love’) will not eventually prevail. It may well do so if humanity succeeds in ensuring a future civilization which embodies fairness and care for all people. But that this can only probably occur because God supposedly ordains it – and can probably only provide it in some doubtful nether world –  is a belief that stretches credibility beyond all reasonable limits. Yet there are believers in it! Still, It is just about guaranteed that most youth of this world will be skeptical and will come to reject that such matters are determined by an incorporeal spirit or any such doubtful and totally unproven entity.  it. Young people can easily come to appreciate these values, if only ideals are not inculcated as immutable divine truths without any discussion or examination of alternative ways of explaining their human necessity.  If they are not misled by the accumulated negative experience of older generations and by too many poor examples around them, they can develop their experience according to ideals which are understandable as precepts in daily life, in the making of laws and the determination of human rights and duties.

Religious conviction: an essential element or a palliative and an escape?

It is often claimed by religionists that modern thinkers do not see how their own worst suffering is spiritual drought or indifference, that they are living without any awareness of divinity and promoting atheism or, at best, agnosticism. Those who are, or who have become, believers in one or another religion or Deity think they have the answer to modern problems. It is neglect of God and divine commandments. Without education that includes religious orientation, they argue, youth will be fascinated by all the baubles and bangles of material life. They need to learn detachment from undue sensuality, materialism and the worldly ambitions related to it. One claims that this denial of religion or divinity is what lies at the root of “modern man’s sense of anxiety, meaninglessness and despair”. However, these ills were never confined to ‘modern man’, they have existed as far back as records go. The underlying idea in speaking of ‘modern man’ here is to imply that the outspoken skepticism about religion which spread at the time of Nietzsche (but not without diverse ancient predecessors) is the chief cause of modern ills… that one became able then publicly to maintain atheism or agnosticism without societal punishment. One is tempted ironically to exclaim ‘Thank God!’

Religions exhort people to change themselves as individuals, as if world peace and prosperity depended on that. However, for many centuries religions have not succeeded in effecting such a change in the world situation. The advance of civilized values embodied in laws and institutions are demonstrably far more effective in solving these and other such problems. The concept of sin as an individual failing being at the root of all evil – which marks most religious doctrines in one way or another – is evidently quite untenable and hence ineffective as a moral preaching. As President Obama said in his Nobel Speech in 2009 in Oslo: “Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. “Let us focus,” he said, “on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”

See also:-

Otherworldiness as based on ‘spiritual double-think’
The psychology of believing
The spiritual master entrapment syndrome
Examples of the ‘test of faith’ rationalization

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Sex and religion – book summary

Posted by robertpriddy on January 5, 2010

‘Sex and religion – from virgin ball-goers to holy homosexuality‘ by Dag Øistein Endsjø Oslo University Press, 2009  ISBN:   9788215013503

Religion forbids sex and obliges, condemns, and blesses, penalizes and rewards it. Your sex partners’ gender, marriage status, skin color, religion or caste, are all factors that could lead either to salvation or perdition. Welcome to the universe of religious sex.

While Christians teenagers go to balls where they promise God that they should abstain from sex until they are married, Buddhist monks regard homosexuality as a holy mystery.

There is no simple key to the relationship between sex and religion. While the sexual religion debate in Norway focused on the room given to homosexuals’ in the church, others ask about whether the death penalty should be applied to heterosexual persons, whether promiscuity leads to hurricanes and atomic wars, whether God condemns marriage between black and white, why some religious sex rules are emphasised while other are consigned to forgetfulness.

In Sex and Religion author look closely at the various religions’ attitudes from heterosexuality and homosexuality, to sexual racism and demonic sex,  from to sex  as a filial duty and abstinence, to oral and anal sex, divorce and yet more toxic themes. The book also goes into what religions believe are the consequences of different types of sex, how sex is used ritually and the notions of sex with animals.

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