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Is There An Artificial God


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...But here's the interesting thing. I said I wanted to ask 'Is there an artificial god?' and this is where I want to address the question of why the idea of a god is so persuasive. I've already explained where I feel this kind of illusion comes from in the first place; it comes from a falseness in our perspective, because we are not taking into account that we are evolved beings, beings who have evolved into a particular landscape, into a particular environment with a particular set of skills and views of the world that have enabled us to survive and thrive rather successfully. But there seems to be an even more powerful idea than that, and this is the idea I want to propose, which is that the spot at the top of the pyramid that we previously said was whence everything flowed, may not actually be vacant just because we say the flow doesn't go that way.

 

Let me explain what I mean by this. We have created in the world in which we live all kinds of things; we have changed our world in all kinds of ways. That's very very clear. We have built the room we're in and we've built all sorts of complex stuff, like computers and so on, but we've also constructed all kinds of fictitious entities that are enormously powerful. So do we say, 'That's a bad idea; it's stupid - we should simply get rid of it?' Well, here's another fictitious entity - money. Money is a completely fictitious entity, but it's very powerful in our world; we each have wallets, which have got notes in them, but what can those notes do? You can't breed them, you can't stir fry them, you can't live in them, there's absolutely nothing you can do with them that's any use, other than exchange them with each other - and as soon as we exchange them with each other all sots of powerful things happen, because it's a fiction that we've all subscribed to. We don't think this is wrong or right, good or bad; but the thing is that if money vanished the entire co-operative structure that we have would implode, but if we were all to vanish, money would simply vanish too. Money has no meaning outside ourselves, it is something that we have created that has a powerful shaping effect on the world, because its something we all subscribe to...

 

 

...The one I have in mind at the moment is one that describes the culture and economy of Bali, which is a small, very crowded island that subsists on rice. Now, rice is an incredibly efficient food and you can grow an awful lot in a relatively small space, but it's hugely labour intensive and requires a lot of very, very precise co-operation amongst the people there, particularly when you have a large population on a small island needing to bring its harvest in. People now looking at the way in which rice agriculture works in Bali are rather puzzled by it because it is intensely religious. The society of Bali is such that religion permeates every single aspect of it and everybody in that culture is very, very carefully defined in terms of who they are, what their status is and what their role in life is. It's all defined by the church; they have very peculiar calendars and a very peculiar set of customs and rituals, which are precisely defined and, oddly enough, they are fantastically good at being very, very productive with their rice harvest. In the 70s, people came in and noticed that the rice harvest was determined by the temple calendar. It seemed to be totally nonsensical, so they said, 'Get rid of all this, we can help you make your rice harvest much, much more productive than even you're, very successfully, doing at the moment. Use these pesticides, use this calendar, do this, that and the other'. So they started and for two or three years the rice production went up enormously, but the whole predator/prey/pest balance went completely out of kilter. Very shortly, the rice harvest plummeted again and the Balinese said, 'Screw it, we're going back to the temple calendar!' and they reinstated what was there before and it all worked again absolutely perfectly. It's all very well to say that basing the rice harvest on something as irrational and meaningless as a religion is stupid - they should be able to work it out more logically than that, but they might just as well say to us, 'Your culture and society works on the basis of money and that's a fiction, so why don't you get rid of it and just co-operate with each other' - we know it's not going to work!

 

So, there is a sense in which we build meta-systems above ourselves to fill in the space that we previously populated with an entity that was supposed to be the intentional designer, the creator (even though there isn't one) and because we - I don't necessarily mean we in this room, but we as a species - design and create one and then allow ourselves to behave as if there was one, all sorts of things begin to happen that otherwise wouldn't happen...

 

I'm having a bit of trouble grokking this. It seems that there may be or are emergent social properties that we can't do with out even if they can be shown to be fictions. Gods may be necessary for reasons that can't be articulated. That is the reasons given in support of god's necessity is not necessarily the actual function god serves.

 

Just because an emergent fiction causes a lot of trouble doesn't mean that it is not preventing worse trouble. Perhaps the present financial meltdown is the result of too many people recognizing the fiction of money as fiction at the same time.

 

What if agricultural scientists had studied the religious rice system of Bali instead of just pasting on a system that may have worked elsewhere? Could that system be used elsewhere without the religious trappings or are the religious trappings necessary behaviors for the good rice growing system. My mind rebels against people being kept in place like workers in an ant colony, but maybe the alternative is starvation for the many.

 

Antlerman said something about not destroying religion with out having something to replace it with. I can now see that it might be so. The myth may be necessary for some emergent function that can't be grokked on an individual level. Sure religion has screwed me into seeing the fiction, but the fiction may still be necessary. Considering Saddam Hussein I was sympathetic to his removal as a dictator, but it turned out that he served as the cork in Iraq's Pandora's bottle. My ideals of liberty were not good for the people of Iraq. My ideas of liberty from religion may be just as wrong headed.

 

Disscuss

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I can't live without money but I've done very well living without god for the past 13 or so years. Are people really so feeble that they can't find meaning without something they imagine greater than themselves? If so I find that sad. I also don't buy that it's true.

 

Antlerman is probably right in saying that without something to replace religion people WON'T give it up. But I don't buy that they CAN'T give it up and not still find meaning in their lives and a reason to live morally.

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I can't live without money ...

Theoretically, you could. People lived, thrived, and survived four thousands of years before money existed.

 

but I've done very well living without god for the past 13 or so years. Are people really so feeble that they can't find meaning without something they imagine greater than themselves? If so I find that sad. I also don't buy that it's true.

My view is that a majority of people can't live without their imaginary being(s). Some of us can, through experience and though, come to sense with it, but not everyone is as smart as you. :)

 

Antlerman is probably right in saying that without something to replace religion people WON'T give it up. But I don't buy that they CAN'T give it up and not still find meaning in their lives and a reason to live morally.

Perhaps. But I'm not sure we can really know if they can or cannot. I wish they could, but my wish isn't the same as something being possible.

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I agree that if it were possible to forcibly eradicate religion overnight, the result would be chaos. Religion has naturally changed over time (when was the last witch burning?) but if people finally evolved intellectually and socially to a point that religion served no practical function (and practical includes emotional fulfillment) we would be better off.

 

Let's consider the money example. In the USA, the medium of exchange has been through many changes, from fur trade, to gold, to barter, to precious metal coins, to silver certificates and currently fiat paper. The move away from cash is gaining momentum because "plastic money" is convenient for both buyers and sellers, and electronic transactions are cheaper to make. The result is that we're better off, but if plastic had been decreed to replace all cash transactions immediately, there would have been a breakdown.

 

If we finally outgrow the need for religion its functions would be naturally replaced (as it is now to some degree) by philosophy, introspection, artistic expression, and fictional works that address human needs, without the baggage that religions normally drag along with them (guilt, shame, fear, hostility, etc.).

 

Religion obviously fills a need, but that need can and has been filled by other things, too.

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I agree that if it were possible to forcibly eradicate religion overnight, the result would be chaos. Religion has naturally changed over time (when was the last witch burning?) but if people finally evolved intellectually and socially to a point that religion served no practical function (and practical includes emotional fulfillment) we would be better off.

 

Let's consider the money example. In the USA, the medium of exchange has been through many changes, from fur trade, to gold, to barter, to precious metal coins, to silver certificates and currently fiat paper. The move away from cash is gaining momentum because "plastic money" is convenient for both buyers and sellers, and electronic transactions are cheaper to make. The result is that we're better off, but if plastic had been decreed to replace all cash transactions immediately, there would have been a breakdown.

 

If we finally outgrow the need for religion its functions would be naturally replaced (as it is now to some degree) by philosophy, introspection, artistic expression, and fictional works that address human needs, without the baggage that religions normally drag along with them (guilt, shame, fear, hostility, etc.).

 

Religion obviously fills a need, but that need can and has been filled by other things, too.

 

I think it is a natural human reaction to have heros and to sometimes create little cults around those heros. Something like that has happened with Ayn Rand. I personally find Ayn Rand and her followers nauseating, but you can take her cult as evidence of how natural cults must be.

 

If we are lucky, we will outgrow religion and religion will be naturally replaced by introspection and artistic expression. We could also be unlucky and religion could be replaced by something less benign than poetry. The French have a much longer tradition of atheism and seem to have made the transition seamlessly. Will Americans be able to that, I'm not so sure.

 

My major points in my posts to and others have simply been that religion is not useless and that under the right circumstances religion can "end itself" so to speak. We've seen that in some forms of Judaism and I'd like to see that in Christianity. Christianity is like a wise but senile granduncle, full of interesting stories but occasionally insane. A graceful retirement for Christianity, I think that's what I'd like to see.

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I think it is a natural human reaction to have heros and to sometimes create little cults around those heros. Something like that has happened with Ayn Rand. I personally find Ayn Rand and her followers nauseating, but you can take her cult as evidence of how natural cults must be.

What cult is that?

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My own thoughts about supernatural god-religion is this:

Cultural and familial beliefs are taught from infancy. The main (if not sole) reason western religion does not die (and even seems to be essential), is education. Get 'em while they're young. Even though we cover that shit with chocolate, the stink will seep through. We can replace that shit with reverance for nature or the universe, (or whatever else we may add) but it must be taught from infancy throughout the culture. Since we can't force it and there aren't enough people who think it....ain't gonna happen! The stinky shit will continue until it decays, unless we shovel more onto the pile....

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I'm having a bit of trouble grokking this. It seems that there may be or are emergent social properties that we can't do with out even if they can be shown to be fictions. Gods may be necessary for reasons that can't be articulated. That is the reasons given in support of god's necessity is not necessarily the actual function god serves.

 

Though the actual value of money is fictional, there is a truth in it. The truth is we can't live without it in today's time. In times past as well, though it was a more real value back then, going back to trading goods. Death is a tough cookie for any human being to handle. We are who we know are self to be, then we die. All the feeling, emotions, thoughts, plans, of the human mind; and the defining point between all is our knowledge and abilities with our mind and our body. I think death haunts all mankind, and whether God was created by humans is a little different than money.

 

Maybe He was created, but for a reason. Maybe the reason is sanity. Maybe it is self help. Maybe it hope of life after death. Whatever it is, it has kept the majority claiming something religious since time began.

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Theoretically, you could. People lived, thrived, and survived four thousands of years before money existed.

 

Not without moving and radically changing my lifestyle.

 

My view is that a majority of people can't live without their imaginary being(s). Some of us can, through experience and though, come to sense with it, but not everyone is as smart as you. smile.gif

 

What would happen to them if they could be given a pill that opened their eyes? It might be a bitter pill for some but I can't see how it would be a message that they wouldn't be able to push on through. It's not like you are telling them they have cancer or that they are going bankrupt or many other possible stressful situations that humans have proven they can push through.

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I agree that if it were possible to forcibly eradicate religion overnight, the result would be chaos.

 

It might be chaos for a period of time if it were possible to give everyone pills and dissolve their illusions in one stroke, but this is not what we are talking about since it's not practical. The question is does humanity really need the god concept, not what would happen if the god concept disappeared overnight.

 

I think it's like heroin. If you take heroin away from an addict he has a shock. The rest of the population happily lives without heroin without ever needing it.

 

If we finally outgrow the need for religion its functions would be naturally replaced (as it is now to some degree) by philosophy, introspection, artistic expression, and fictional works that address human needs, without the baggage that religions normally drag along with them (guilt, shame, fear, hostility, etc.).

 

Now that I can hang with. I hadn't thought of it this way. I suppose it would be impossible to yank out the god and leave a void that didn't demand to be filled. I had considered that the filler being offered up was another delusion. You have clarified this subject for me with this sentence.

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I lean towards the idea that if language can be considered artificial then in some sense our concepts of God can be thought of as being artificial also. But I don’t believe anyone has been able to explain natural language in its entirety.

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Antlerman right? Oh no!

 

All Antlermen are always wrong. I heard this straight from an Antlerman so it must be right.

 

mwc

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I can't live without money but I've done very well living without god for the past 13 or so years. Are people really so feeble that they can't find meaning without something they imagine greater than themselves? If so I find that sad. I also don't buy that it's true.

 

Antlerman is probably right in saying that without something to replace religion people WON'T give it up. But I don't buy that they CAN'T give it up and not still find meaning in their lives and a reason to live morally.

 

 

Maybe you haven't given up god in a collective sense. That is you still live in a religious society wherein religion is doing what ever it is doing as an emergent property of the collective. This happens without your direct participation, but you may still benefit from it.

 

Money is a fiction that is in trouble right now. I wonder in a speculative way if the developed countries actually acknowledged Mammon as God or even a god if they would loose confidence in the fiction so easily. Perhaps the Holy Free Market suffers from the lack of a fictitious controller with a sacred text of regulations who will bust your ass forever if you fall into the sin of derivatives.

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I lean towards the idea that if language can be considered artificial then in some sense our concepts of God can be thought of as being artificial also. But I don’t believe anyone has been able to explain natural language in its entirety.

 

Steven Pinker has made a good stab at it: The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

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There's nothing sacred about the free market. It's up for scrutiny like any idea. It, unlike god, has a practical application however. For every inefficiency of the free market I can point to 10 efficiencies that have improved the standard of living for just about everyone in Western society. I can't do the same with religion.

 

I think the comparison is unfair and unfounded and amounts to apples and oranges.

 

For example, I give up religion and my life doesn't really change all that much. I quit going to church, I quit feeling guilt, life goes on. I give up money and I have to scratch the earth for food instead of going to the grocery store and paying others to scratch the earth for me. I give up the comparative advantage that such an arrangement offers me and my life becomes one of subsistence. That right there is a whopping difference.

 

There is nothing wrong with collective arrangements as long as they serve a practical purpose.

 

I suppose it could be argued that collective guilt ensures collective honesty. I would argue that that line of argument is spurious as there are many, many examples of moral success without theological guilt and many, many examples of moral failure where theological guilt exists.

 

What other purpose could religion serve other than to sooth the worries of those over the idea of impending death? That too is spurious as there are many examples in the world where people live happily and healthily without the need to be soothed in this area. The needs religion fills are fabricated. The needs money fills are very real and practical.

 

The comparison between the two stops at the idea that both have collective acceptance; one to a much greater degree due to it's practical service.

 

One last word, money, though it's value may be fictitious in a sense, is necessary. Religion is not. You can replace money with the exchange of promise for service and goods, but that's just an less efficient way of achieving the same ends. Other collective alternatives require force, such as communism. Money alleviates the necessity of force via a higher entity like a state.

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My own thoughts about supernatural god-religion is this:

Cultural and familial beliefs are taught from infancy. The main (if not sole) reason western religion does not die (and even seems to be essential), is education. Get 'em while they're young. Even though we cover that shit with chocolate, the stink will seep through. We can replace that shit with reverance for nature or the universe, (or whatever else we may add) but it must be taught from infancy throughout the culture. Since we can't force it and there aren't enough people who think it....ain't gonna happen! The stinky shit will continue until it decays, unless we shovel more onto the pile....

 

 

You might be right but I'm going to disagree anyway. :Hmm:

 

I think that there is may be a religious instinct in humans and that education only serves to fill that instinct with a certain religion in the young. The religious filling probably happens in the formative years something like language.

 

We have been raising my grandson (7) without any religious instruction or religious example. I notice lately that he has been questioning what we believe. "Do we believe in science grandpa?" he'll ask. He also believes that he has been reincarnated from a galaxy far far away and that they are sending ships to pick him up and take him home to Connectorship Planet when he is 14. The other day we where watching a sunset and he told me that those were the kind of clouds that Connectorships liked for camouflage so that you can't tell they are there. It appears as if he is constructing his own religion since we are not giving him one.

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I agree to a certain extent Chefranden. A child's imagination makes up and believes supernatural fictions, but I was referring to the specific (taught) fictions that are inescapable (the child sees and hears) from family and society. Christianity, for our example. Unfortunatley children are exposed as soon as they leave the house or watch tv, etc.

 

I guess one's definition of "religion" also comes into play. The one I am thinking of is restricted to a supernatural being that is to be obeyed and worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe, as in the accepted one in the adult world. I think children outgrow their madeup worlds. As to whether this is a religious instinct or a necessary brain function as it develops, I don't know. But they will have a difficult time outgrowing adult -enforced religion.

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Theoretically, you could. People lived, thrived, and survived four thousands of years before money existed.

 

Not without moving and radically changing my lifestyle.

True, but it's not impossible, just a hassle.

 

My view is that a majority of people can't live without their imaginary being(s). Some of us can, through experience and though, come to sense with it, but not everyone is as smart as you. smile.gif

 

What would happen to them if they could be given a pill that opened their eyes? It might be a bitter pill for some but I can't see how it would be a message that they wouldn't be able to push on through. It's not like you are telling them they have cancer or that they are going bankrupt or many other possible stressful situations that humans have proven they can push through.

Maybe, but so far, from experience trying to reason with some of these hardcore believers, it's like trying to give a cat a bath. They fight to keep their religious delusion. Not everyone of course, but many do. Just look at Europe where secular society has grown, you still have some nutjobs holding on to religion. Not as extreme anymore, but people still believe in "something" (as they say), in other words, they can't make themselves say "God," but somewhere lurking in their mind they still have the idea of some super-magical-being who can do super-magical-stuff. When I grew up, there were not many crazy evangelicals around like me, but on the other hand, there were not many hardcore atheists either, most people were somewhere in between in some transitive form of agnostic-theist status, where they could say: "Yes, I believe there is a God, but it's not the Christian one, but I have my own image." So people kept the God image even after leaving the Christian behind.

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What other purpose could religion serve other than to sooth the worries of those over the idea of impending death? That too is spurious as there are many examples in the world where people live happily and healthily without the need to be soothed in this area. The needs religion fills are fabricated. The needs money fills are very real and practical.

 

From the Bali example, which I'm trying to find out more about, religion serves the purpose of keeping the system of livelihood intact. I'm suggesting that religion may serve a unknown purpose, something other than soothing impending death.

 

In Bali only the women can harvest the rice and they use a small palm knife so as not to scare the goddess. The method of harvest may serve the purpose of better yield even though it's known WTF purpose from our point of view is don't scare the goddess. We can say without study that this is the men's way of getting out of work. However, from the story I get the sense that the religion keeps the people in tune with nature and each other so that they grow the rice in a sustainable fashion rather than exploit the land for all it can produce right now.

 

As a parallel nothing serves a sustainability function for the market. Instead greedy people exploit it for all they can take and then the system collapses. You can provide examples of the market making things better. Why not keep the system closer to a sustainable balance point? If it took a religion to do that, why not?

 

Edit: http://www.findbali.com/bali-agriculture.html

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If we are lucky, we will outgrow religion and religion will be naturally replaced by introspection and artistic expression. We could also be unlucky and religion could be replaced by something less benign than poetry. 1. The French have a much longer tradition of atheism and seem to have made the transition seamlessly. Will Americans be able to that, I'm not so sure.

 

2. My major points in my posts to and others have simply been that religion is not useless and that under the right circumstances religion can "end itself" so to speak. We've seen that in some forms of Judaism and I'd like to see that in Christianity. Christianity is like a wise but senile granduncle, full of interesting stories but occasionally insane. A graceful retirement for Christianity, I think that's what I'd like to see.

 

1. The French tradition started with a lot of blood and guts. I wouldn't use the word seamless to describe it.

 

2. With this I may have to agree. However, I haven't put my "religion is bullshit" prejudice back on the shelf next to the bible yet.

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If it took a religion to do that, why not?

 

Edit: http://www.findbali.com/bali-agriculture.html

 

If is a big if. Right now we don't see religion doing anything but encourage the greed.

 

Under the right circumstances I can see how religion or superstition can be used as a tool. That does not mean that alternative tools couldn't also be used to achieve the same ends, no?

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If is a big if. Right now we don't see religion doing anything but encourage the greed.

And sorry to say, but greed is one main component of market economy and progress.

 

Under the right circumstances I can see how religion or superstition can be used as a tool. That does not mean that alternative tools couldn't also be used to achieve the same ends, no?

Absolutely. If there were a less damaging alternative, it would be great, I'm just not sure we have found it yet. It's like inventing the non-cancer-making-cigarette, same feeling, but no side-effects. It would still be a cigarette, just it wouldn't cause harm.

 

So the answer might be to have a different kind of religion? Still the same practice, filling the same needs, but yet allow free thought and allowing many versions of belief? (Actually, I suspect that was the idea behind Catholicism.)

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And sorry to say, but greed is one main component of market economy and progress.

 

Greed is prevalent on Wall Street, but I don't see that it's a necessary factor. Need is the driving force. Greed is just a byproduct.

 

Would you call the guy who sells fruit on the corner greedy? Why would we then call the grocery chain greedy? They are filling a human need and getting paid for it, just more efficiently than the fruit stand.

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And sorry to say, but greed is one main component of market economy and progress.

 

Greed is prevalent on Wall Street, but I don't see that it's a necessary factor. Need is the driving force. Greed is just a byproduct.

 

Would you call the guy who sells fruit on the corner greedy? Why would we then call the grocery chain greedy? They are filling a human need and getting paid for it, just more efficiently than the fruit stand.

True, but I don't completely agree. The line is very thin between need and greed. The fruit guys charges a few cents extra, more than he really needs, because he's saving for a new hat he saw in a store and he liked. He got a hat that works fine, but he just wants the other one. He's charging a bit more because he wants to, not because he needs to.

 

If we were only driven by our needs, we wouldn't have the progress we have. No one would really care for a TV, latest model of the car, making some extra bucks, eating fancy and expensive sushi. Humans are greedy by nature. Wanting more than we already have, and wanting more than we really need.

 

Put it this way, what I mean with "greed" is not only the greed of having more money, but the desire for improving and adding things to your life that are not mere necessity but to some extent luxury. I'm basically using the word in a wider definition than just hunger for money. I'm consider it the drive and force behind our work against the "better tomorrow."

 

My opinion is that greed is in the human nature, and we won't be able to get rid of it. And I believe greed is the main driving factor, more than need. The need is there too of course, but people don't charge just barely enough just to get by, but they charge as much as reasonable they can, without losing customers. Just look at the hagglers who sell fake watches. They sell them for $20 or something like that, and they really got them for a buck. You can start argue, and you'll get the price down. It's not like they try to sell them for some estimated best profit for what they just need, but for as much as they can, and if they have a good day, they can celebrate by buying a bit better food than usual. Not that you absolutely need better food to survive, but if you make enough, you can treat yourself.

 

So I guess we differ on this point. :)

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I'm having a bit of trouble grokking this. It seems that there may be or are emergent social properties that we can't do with out even if they can be shown to be fictions. Gods may be necessary for reasons that can't be articulated. That is the reasons given in support of god's necessity is not necessarily the actual function god serves.

 

Just because an emergent fiction causes a lot of trouble doesn't mean that it is not preventing worse trouble. Perhaps the present financial meltdown is the result of too many people recognizing the fiction of money as fiction at the same time.

 

What if agricultural scientists had studied the religious rice system of Bali instead of just pasting on a system that may have worked elsewhere? Could that system be used elsewhere without the religious trappings or are the religious trappings necessary behaviors for the good rice growing system. My mind rebels against people being kept in place like workers in an ant colony, but maybe the alternative is starvation for the many.

 

Antlerman said something about not destroying religion with out having something to replace it with. I can now see that it might be so. The myth may be necessary for some emergent function that can't be grokked on an individual level. Sure religion has screwed me into seeing the fiction, but the fiction may still be necessary. Considering Saddam Hussein I was sympathetic to his removal as a dictator, but it turned out that he served as the cork in Iraq's Pandora's bottle. My ideals of liberty were not good for the people of Iraq. My ideas of liberty from religion may be just as wrong headed.

Can I propose chefs post for a prize?

 

It's exactly what I feel, even for myself. I am an atheist, and I find terribly sorry for people that live atheism as joyless, cynical, cold polar bears. I have nothing against polar bears by the way, and I guess they are warmblooded too. Anyway, I would like to be a buddhist atheist, a xian atheist, a islamic atheist, a jewish atheist. Steal all the good stuff from a religion, just not the gods, they can keep that part. There are some shows lately here on Dutch television that are funny and really atheist, the more points you get the deeper you will be in hell. It is such a relief! But it is not big, it is not wide, not a lot of people can get inspiration from it. We need to get that part from religion that resonates with our real nature, and I don't think that is necessarily dictator-like.

 

I would be very interested in working out a world view that helps people in life. But from the viewpoint that there are neurons, atoms, genes, etc. A full acceptance of mainstream science, and a full acceptance of spirituality. I care if by some quirks in my hippocampus I can have an out-of-body experience! I would like to know how that works and marvel if that is happening. It is my biggest miracle that I carry around all the time: my brain.

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