Ming the Mechanic:
Belief, Faith and Mysticism

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Belief, Faith and Mysticism2005-03-21 16:52
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These are some quotes from Sam Harris who's written a book called "The end of Faith. Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason. I haven't read it. Looked at first glance like it was just an attempt to debunk religion and replace it with materialism. But it seems smarter than that. He says a bunch of things I like.
A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life. Are you a scientist? A liberal? A racist? These are merely species of belief in action. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings. If you doubt this, consider how your experience would suddenly change if you came to believe one of the following propositions: 1. You have only two weeks to live. 2. You’ve just won a lottery prize of one hundred million dollars. 3. Aliens have implanted a receiver in your skull and are manipulating your thoughts.[...]

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.[...]

While Eastern mysticism has its fair share of unjustified belief, it undoubtedly represents humankind's best attempt at fashioning a spiritual science. The methods of introspection one finds in Buddhism, for instance, have no genuine equivalents in the West. And the suggestion that they do is born of a desperate attempt on the part of Westerners to make all religious traditions seem equally wise. They simply aren't. When a Tibetan lama talks about "nondual awareness" (Tib. rigpa) and the Pope talks about God or the Holy Spirit (or anything else), they are not talking about the same thing; nor are they operating on the same intellectual footing. The lama is using some very precise terminology (albeit terminology that has no good English equivalent) to describe what countless meditators have experienced after very refined training in methods of introspection; while the Pope is merely reiterating unjustified and unjustifiable metaphysical claims that have been passed down to Christians in the context of a culture that has failed--utterly--to find compelling alternatives to mere belief. Such alternatives have existed for millennia, east of the Bosporus. This is not to ignore the Meister Eckharts of the world, but such mystics have always been the exception in the West. And it is important to remember that, being exceptions, they have been regularly persecuted for heresy.

Mysticism, shorn of religious dogmatism, is an empirical and highly rational enterprise. Just as people do not burn their neighbors at the stake as a result of new insights in physics or biology, no one is likely to do so on the basis of genuine mysticism. Religion--especially in the West--is another matter entirely. Religious faith is a conversation stopper.

The only thing that guarantees a truly open-ended collaboration among human beings is their willingness to have their views (and resulting behavior) modified by conversation--by new evidence and new arguments. Otherwise, when the stakes are high, there is nothing to appeal to but force. If I believe that I can get to Paradise by flying a plane into a building, and I am content to believe this without evidence, then there will be nothing another person can say to dissuade me, because my leap of faith has made me immune to the powers of conversation.[...]

"Faith" is false conviction in unjustified propositions (a certain book was written by God; we will be reunited with our loved ones after death; the Creator of the universe can hear our thoughts, etc.). "Spirituality" or "mysticism" (both words are pretty terrible, but there are no good alternatives in English) refers to any process of introspection by which a person can come to realize that the feeling he calls "I" is a cognitive illusion. The core truth of mysticism is this: It is possible to experience the world without feeling like a separate "self" in the usual sense. Such a change in the character of one's experience need not become the basis for making unsupportable claims about the nature of the universe, however.
Excellent point about the willingness to let one's views be modified by conversation, by new evidence, by introspection. If we can make a shared culture based on that, I'd say we're doing alright, even if we don't agree on everything. Mysticism and Reason aren't mutually exclusive. Neither is Science and Spirituality. But blind faith, involving no corrective feedback loop, that's the problem.

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22 Mar 2005 @ 08:40 by Ge Zi @ : the course
And this is probably exactly the problem I have with the course in miracles. I mean from its conception this is the classical deus ex machina. And the written up by the two most unlikely candidates - psychologists/psychiatrists. All us scientology trained people know what a big problem that is .
But to find out if it does work - we first have to try and to try we first have to have something that I don't know how to call - - - faith???  

22 Mar 2005 @ 23:43 by ming : Faith
Well, there doesn't necessarily have to be a problem in trying something on for size, to see if it works for you. Assuming that you'll be able to notice whether it does or not. The problem with the blind faith is that it is convinced in advance, and no amount of evidence for or against makes any difference.

Even the scientific method starts off with some kind of hypothesis, and proceeds to see if it checks out. The problem is not that we might skate out on thin ice based on some foggy idea. If we don't do that once in a while we wouldn't get anywhere. Things go awry if we aren't able to notice that the ice starts cracking.  

23 Mar 2005 @ 16:02 by Quirkeboy @ : Its in the plan..
I dont have the inside track on what God thinks.. or even what he/she is.. but I really feel like this guy picks on the Christians a little unfairly.. what about the other deities?? What about the people who believe that rhino horns will cure impotency.. this guy needs to see that others have faith also.
This guy seems to be attacking all Faith.. not just blind faith..
The problem with western religion isnt in the faith.. other religions have just as much faith and just as unfounded as Christianity.. and its not in the scriptures of the Bible that the problem lies.. it lies in how hypocritical Christians have become.. how far they've deviated from the intent of Christ: tolerance, love, understanding, peace.
I dont know why this guy relates Faith to close minded conversation.. I enjoy conversing with my Wiccan friends.. my Buddhist friends.. etc.. and I listen attentively and welcome input.. I can even try to see things from there viewpoint.. but Ive never lost my faith.  

23 Mar 2005 @ 18:45 by ming : Conversation
I often find that I can have fruitful conversations with somebody who would be in one of those categories I'd expect to be fanatical and impossible to talk with. Like born-again christians. I've met several excellent born-again people with whom I've found a lot to agree with. So I'd say it depends a lot on what they do with it. A faith in itself is not a problem.

Believing that rhino horns cures impotency, well, it isn't too good for the rhinos, but it doesn't much affect how those people relate socially to others. I.e. there's nothing immediately socially harmful about it. The same with some belief that one needs to refrain from eating meat on Thursday, or that one needs to wear a hat on Sundays, or whatever. It is maybe without rational basis, but if done just as a ritual, to uphold tradition or to cultivate certain metaphysical patterns, it has a certain social function. But there's a line that gets crossed when people actually, seriously, believe that it is some kind of natural law that bad things happen to them if they don't wear a hat. That's when they start becoming dangerous, making insane decisions in relation to other people. I'm not comfortable driving behind somebody on the road who actually really believe that Jesus is sitting in the seat next to them and telling them how to drive.  

23 Mar 2005 @ 19:19 by quirkeboy @ : Christianity is not chic..
Well.. Im saying that this guy has to look at all religions from the same viewpoint..
"Faith is false conviction in unjustified propositions"
And then:
"Spirituality or mysticism refers to any process of introspection by which a person can come to realize that the feeling he calls "I" is a cognitive illusion."
to call the beliefs of Christians as unfounded blind faith.. and in the same breath to call the meditation of Buddhists introspective and a foundation for a "spiritual science".. seems contradictory to me.
Christians examine how their actions affect others.. they spend time with the rosary in meditation.. you are taught to examine your actions and intent and emotions.
But because the Buddhists are "mystical" its now somehow different? There introspection is somehow deeper?
Shamanism believes that you can remove evil spirits by sucking them out. Shamanism is mystical.. does that mean there beliefs are any more valid than Christianity?
Christianity is not cool.. its not chic.. Tom Cruz is a Scientologist.. but that doesnt mean that the Christian self examination is any less meaningful.. or that Christian beliefs are any less beautiful or mysterious. Theres just as much mystery, magic and introspection in a church as there is in a Wiccan ceremony.
People love Wiccanism because of its mystery and connection to nature.. but think about how magical it is that I every Sunday I can go into a temple and consume the body of Christ as a symbol of our connection?? If you look at Christianity without all the stereotypes or the stagnation.. you realize its just as magical.  

25 Apr 2005 @ 23:04 by james @ : e-mail address of enginieing in usa
i want to search mails  

21 Apr 2016 @ 08:46 by Emily @ : WICYZUacAwxKhYLc
Wait, I cannot fathom it being so strhtgaiforward.  

21 Apr 2016 @ 19:19 by Derex @ : vyUEhRTzsD
This is the ideal answer. Evyorene should read this  

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