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Bush's Psyche

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  • Harold Fromm
    One of the most unfathomable aspects of the Bush phenomenon has been the general public s disregard of, insensitivity to, or willful repression of the fact of
    Message 1 of 22 , Aug 16, 2003
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      One of the most unfathomable aspects of the Bush phenomenon has been the
      general public's disregard of, insensitivity to, or willful repression of
      the fact of his body language. From Day One of his public appearances as a
      candidate until his most recent remarks, it has been difficult to ignore
      the startling disconnect or mismatch between his body language and his
      utterances. There is a zombie-like quality to his production of sentences,
      characterized by the absence of real (as opposed to feigned) affect driving
      the remarks, a body that refuses to exhibit the expressions that normally
      accompany intentional statements. Bush always appears to be mouthing a
      script while his body expresses a psyche that is otherwise engaged,
      dwelling in a world elsewhere for which the expression "never never land"
      seems particularly adroit. The most "real" and convincing body signals
      that he displays are the ones people describe as "a deer caught in the
      headlights." These signals are the bonafide revelations of self that are
      hidden in most of Bush's other appearances, which seem staged and bogus.

      Evolutionary psychologists keep telling us that the ability to discern
      cheaters is one of humanity's most pronounced atavisms, yet Bush's
      dissimulations, evasions, and outright lies seem to go undetected by an
      electorate whose need to believe seems stronger than their ability to
      recognize universal facial expressions and gestures. How is possible for
      such a disconnect between intent and expression to go on so unheeded by the
      gut responses of so many people?

      Harold Fromm
    • John A. Johnson
      ... In the earliest version of his evolutionary personality theory and social interaction, Hogan (1976) makes some observations that may partially answer this
      Message 2 of 22 , Aug 16, 2003
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        On Sat, 16 Aug 2003 00:48:09 -0700, Harold Fromm wrote:

        Evolutionary psychologists keep telling us that the ability to discern
        cheaters is one of humanity's most pronounced atavisms, yet Bush's
        dissimulations, evasions, and outright lies seem to go undetected by an
        electorate whose need to believe seems stronger than their ability to
        recognize universal facial expressions and gestures. How is possible for
        such a disconnect between intent and expression to go on so unheeded by the
        gut responses of so many people? 

        In the earliest version of his evolutionary personality theory and social interaction, Hogan (1976) makes some observations that may partially answer this question.

        First, he notes that there is a two-part ethic underlying self-presentation. The first part is that an actor should be what he/she claims to be. Bush apparently violates that ethical principle. However, the second principle is that an audience should honor the performance of the actor as valid for as long as possible, even if the performance is awkward and non-convincing. Because we are highly social animals, social interaction (no matter how good or bad) is often an end in itself. This "politeness" ethic allows interaction to continue through rough spots rather than disintegrating completely. When you have an individual who was chosen (at least allegedly) for the leadership role of a group it becomes particularly important to give that person the benefit of a doubt. Only when the actor has flagrantly violated the first principle beyond tolerable limits will the audience dismiss the actor.

        A second observation made by Hogan is that we have two kinds of problematic players in social interaction: cheaters and spoilsports. We all know what a cheater is. A spoilsport, on the other hand, is someone who calls the entire game of social interaction into question, someone who will mock any social interaction by saying, "This is just a stupid game that is ultimately meaningless." Despite the fact that a cheater is lying and a spoilsport is telling the truth, people generally tolerate cheaters much better than spoilsports. At least cheaters are playing the game, but how can life continue if disaffected people keep pointing out the triviality and meaninglessness of social interaction? Bush may be a cheater, but he has absolutely no role distance so he is totally engaged in playing at tribal chief.

        [Hogan's original version of his theory in his 1976 book, Personality Theory: The Personological Tradition (Prrentice-Hall), blended insights from classic role theory, Goffman's analysis of self-presentation, Bowlby's attachment theory, Huizinga's analysis of the play element in human culture, and, of course, evolutionary biology. In 1978 he dubbed his perspective socioanalytic theory with a contribution, coauthored with Nicholas Emler and myself, to William Damon's series on child development. Today, his publications that incorporate socioanalyatic theory focus on the five factor model of personality and its role in explaining the achievement of status and social solidarity.]

        -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        John A. Johnson <j5j@...>
        Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
        http://www.personal.psu.edu/~j5j/
        My views do not necessarily reflect the official views of Penn State.
        Penn State is not responsible for my behavior. Nor am I for the university's.

      • Jeremy Bowman
        The academic mind often seems constitutionally incapable of grasping the conservative mind. Most academics assume that all human knowledge has the
        Message 3 of 22 , Aug 19, 2003
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          The "academic" mind often seems constitutionally incapable of grasping the
          "conservative" mind.

          Most academics assume that all human knowledge has the "foundational"
          structure of mathematics. Everything must be part of the "system" by
          resting on a firm foundation of basic principles. Anything that is
          uncertain or "merely pragmatic" is illegitimate. Their minds are geared
          towards -- and they get professionally rewarded for -- the production of
          ever-increasing amounts of increasingly irrelevant detail. They tend to
          show off their erudition as much as possible.

          By contrast, most conservatives are pragmatists. If political arrangements
          work tolerably in practice, they don't care if the "theoretical
          underpinning" doesn't fit into a grand foundational "system". Most working
          conservative politicians try to ignore irrelevant detail for the sake of
          getting the big picture. They tend to disguise their erudition.

          Another important difference is that most academics are atheists, whereas
          most conservatives believe in God. The academic's rule is "true beliefs
          good, false beliefs bad". The conservative has to accept that his own
          religious beliefs are just one faith among many.

          So in their interests, beliefs, and personal styles, academic and
          conservative minds tend to be diametrically opposed. They tend to distrust
          and misunderstand each other.

          Since there are many more academics than conservatives on this list, the
          tacit agreement that "Bush is an idiot" strikes me as ignorant and
          parochial. Of course he isn't an idiot -- you just fail to grasp his type
          of mind. That's your failing, by the way.

          If you ask me, the political naïveté of the academic mind reached its
          absolute rock-bottom nadir recently when Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett
          publicly defended "brights" against the "forces of supernatural thinking".
          I admire the scientific writing of both men, but what a pair of political
          ingénues! Historically, religious believers in government have a much, much
          better record than atheists. With some exceptions, religious believers are
          pluralists who regard themselves as fallible, and answerable to a higher
          authority. They tend to enact political programmes with due modesty and
          caution. They reject moral relativism. By contrast, atheists tend to assume
          that they alone cannot be mistaken. They are prepared to enact "grand
          schemes" to rid the world forever of one pet hate or another, and some have
          been prepared to commit mass murder to achieve their goals. When they
          appeal to the people, they are obliged to treat morality as
          indistinguishable from mores. That is the political poison of the mob.

          By the way, I've been atheist all my life, and I'm not changing now.

          Jeremy Bowman

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        • Larry Gorbet
          Jeremy Bowman wrote ... I d love to see evidence that even a large minority of academics hold that belief. Recalling that academics
          Message 4 of 22 , Aug 19, 2003
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            "Jeremy Bowman" <bowman@...> wrote

            >Most academics assume that all human knowledge
            >has the "foundational" structure of mathematics.

            I'd love to see evidence that even a large
            minority of academics hold that belief. Recalling
            that academics include folks in literature and a
            lot of both social sciences and messy natural
            sciences (e.g. biology) where what you say, in
            its strict sense, involves commitments to beliefs
            that are virtually unknown, much less adhered to.
            Or were your claims merely pragmatic hyperbole?

            >...By contrast, most conservatives are
            >pragmatists. If political arrangements work
            >tolerably in practice, they don't care if the
            >"theoretical underpinning" doesn't fit into a
            >grand foundational "system". Most working
            >conservative politicians try to ignore
            >irrelevant detail for the sake of getting the
            >big picture. They tend to disguise their
            >erudition.

            OK.

            >If you ask me, the political naïveté of the
            >academic mind reached its absolute rock-bottom
            >nadir recently when Richard Dawkins and Daniel
            >Dennett publicly defended "brights" against the
            >"forces of supernatural thinking". I admire the
            >scientific writing of both men, but what a pair
            >of political ingénues! Historically, religious
            >believers in government have a much, much better
            >record than atheists.

            Better in what regard?

            >With some exceptions, religious believers are
            >pluralists who regard themselves as fallible,
            >and answerable to a higher authority.

            Evidence? BTW, you seem to be vacillating between
            "conservatives" and "religious believers" as the
            contrast with "academics". The former two are
            hardly the same.

            >They tend to enact political programmes with due modesty and caution.

            I think here you must surely assume a *much*
            broader definition of "conservative" than most of
            us, where virtually *all* modern politicians are
            "conservative. And I see remarkably little
            evidence in the U.S. at least (and I'm sure we
            are not wholly unique here) for either modesty or
            caution on the part of politicians.

            >They reject moral relativism.

            No. They reject moral relativism in some domains,
            but accept it in others. Or do you claim that the
            presumed conservatives running the U.S.
            government see the lying that they do, and that
            they presume to be standard practice in much of
            the corporate world as "moral"? Not to mention
            many other such moral generosities.

            >By contrast, atheists tend to assume that they alone cannot be mistaken.

            Any evidence at all? Actually, not true much at
            all for the individual, since most (all those
            that we wouldn't call "cranks") believe that a
            substantial number of people share their beliefs.
            Not to mention that there are a lot of academics
            (a majority, I believe) who regard most of what
            they believe as tentative.

            >They are prepared to enact "grand schemes" to
            >rid the world forever of one pet hate or
            >another, and some have been prepared to commit
            >mass murder to achieve their goals.

            Unlike conservatives? Gimme a break.

            >When they appeal to the people, they are obliged
            >to treat morality as indistinguishable from
            >mores. That is the political poison of the mob.

            So now you claim that there are no conservative demagogues? Not credible.

            - Larry

            --
            Larry Gorbet lgorbet@...
            Anthropology & Linguistics Depts. (505) 883-7378
            University of New Mexico
            Albuquerque, NM, U.S.A.
          • Rich Faussette
            Walking into the thread below I thought I might post the following regarding D.P. Moynihan s view of the liberal mindset of academic social scientists of the
            Message 5 of 22 , Aug 20, 2003
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              Walking into the thread below I thought I might post the following
              regarding D.P. Moynihan's view of the liberal mindset of academic
              social scientists of the tumultuous '60s:

              In The Divided Academy, published in 1975, two distinguished
              political scientists presented a detailed profile of the political
              orientation of faculty members of American colleges and universities.
              In a chapter on the social sciences, they cited Daniel Patrick
              Moynihan's Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding:

              "During the 1960s… social scientists gained quite extraordinary
              access to power, which they employed for intellectually partisan
              objectives, `to promote social change in directions they deem[ed]
              necessary and desirable.' Moynihan [sees] the social scientist as
              suffering from a kind of split personality, on the one hand as a
              scholar genuinely committed to an objective pursuit of truth, but at
              the same time as `a passionate partisan of social justice and social
              change to bring it about.' The dominant ideological posture among
              social scientists is liberal left, a kind of upper middle class
              leftism which involves strong sympathy for the disadvantaged –
              `social scientists love poor people' – but a total lack of
              appreciation for the needs and interests of the people in the middle,
              of values like stability and order. In particular, they would appear
              to have little sympathy with the desire for order, and anxiety about
              change, that are commonly enough encountered among working class and
              lower middle class persons… The presumption of superior empathy with
              the problems of the outcast is surely a characteristic, and a
              failing, of this liberal mindset (Moynihan, 1969, pp.178-179).'"
            • Jeremy Bowman
              ... -- I was using the word conservative as most philosophers and political theorists use it. It doesn t apply to any particular nationality. I accept that
              Message 6 of 22 , Aug 21, 2003
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                Ted Laurenson wrote:

                > We now learn, from his response
                > to Fredrich Weizmann, that
                > Jeremy Bowman was talking
                > primarily (solely?) about Burkean
                > conservatives in the U.K.

                -- I was using the word 'conservative' as most philosophers and political
                theorists use it. It doesn't apply to any particular nationality. I accept
                that journalists who write for the multitudes use the word as a synonym for
                "right wing" (and 'liberal' as a synonym for "left wing"), but I was
                writing for the well-educated members of this esteemed list.

                > I was responding to what Jeremy
                > wrote, not, apparently, to what he
                > "meant."

                -- Interesting hermeneutic method! -- Suppose I literally wrote the
                sentence 'the judge was disinterested', say, meaning that he was unbiased,
                but suppose you took me to mean that he was bored. Would you say I "wrote"
                that the judge was bored?

                > [Burke] has some significant
                > problems as a reliable narrator
                > and analyst of the way political
                > change tends to occur,

                -- It's probably better to read him as a polemicist, or even as a
                propagandist. He isn't narrating or analysing the course of events so much
                as issuing dire warnings. It does not follow that he was a sloppy thinker.
                His powers of prediction were breathtaking.

                > among other things completely
                > ignoring the English revolution
                > (but not the Glorious Revolution
                > that followed it)

                -- Polemicists tend to omit details that do not help their case, and Burke
                was no exception, but he never disguised his horror of the 1649 regicide,
                and his fear that the same thing was soon to happen in France. A
                present-day defender of the US Constitution, using a similar time-scale,
                might appeal to the smooth transition of the presidency following
                McKinley's assassination, but he might not explicitly mention the American
                Civil War.

                I dwell on Burke because my main point was that academics tend not to
                understand conservatives (of the Burke variety). Like their students,
                academics tend to be warmly disposed to revolutionary youth movements
                (especially atheistic ones) in support of "the oppressed". Conservatives
                tend to belong to the opposition to such movements. There is a yawning gulf
                of incomprehension between them.

                By the way, I think this is crucially important today, because present-day
                terrorism is just such a movement (although it happens to be religious).
                The War Against Terrorism is partly an intellectual struggle between
                academic types and conservative types. (But again, I fully admit that there
                are individual exceptions!)

                Burke's remark that "a spirit of innovation [in politics] is generally the
                result of a selfish temper and confined views" probably sounds completely
                bizarre to most academics. But just think how well this remark applies to
                the minds of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and various more recent Islamic
                fundamentalists.

                My remark about atheistic versus religious political leaders was an
                afterthought, intended to help explain academic hostility to Bush, but I
                stand by it. Pound for pound, atheistic political leaders have filled mass
                graves much more efficiently than religious political leaders. I cannot
                think of a religious equivalent to Stalin, who had 27 million people killed
                (quite apart from the many further millions killed in WWII). And so on down
                through Hitler, and the rest. You don't have to go back too far to compare
                the two types, because atheistic leaders are a relatively new phenomenon.
                Just look at what an incredible impact they made in the twentieth century
                alone, arguably the first truly "secular century".

                Of course many religious believers have "selfish tempers and confined
                views". Many such people live in the Bible Belt of the USA. But a religious
                believer really cannot get anywhere in mainstream American politics --
                certainly nowhere near the presidency -- unless he habitually and publicly
                acknowledges that his own religious beliefs are just one faith among many.
                I have yet to meet the "bright" who is able to admit anything of the sort.
                Atheism is not "one faith among many", but the creed of those who strive to
                have No False Beliefs At All.

                Jeremy Bowman

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              • John A. Johnson
                ... I truly wish that those who claim that a-theism (the absence of belief in gods) contributes to greater slaughter than theism would at least speculate on a
                Message 7 of 22 , Aug 21, 2003
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                  On Thu, 21 Aug 2003 16:13:53 +0100, Jeremy Bowman wrote:

                  My remark about atheistic versus religious political leaders was an
                  afterthought, intended to help explain academic hostility to Bush, but I
                  stand by it. Pound for pound, atheistic political leaders have filled mass
                  graves much more efficiently than religious political leaders. I cannot
                  think of a religious equivalent to Stalin, who had 27 million people killed
                  (quite apart from the many further millions killed in WWII). And so on down
                  through Hitler, and the rest. You don't have to go back too far to compare
                  the two types, because atheistic leaders are a relatively new phenomenon.
                  Just look at what an incredible impact they made in the twentieth century
                  alone, arguably the first truly "secular century".

                  I truly wish that those who claim that a-theism (the absence of belief in gods) contributes to greater slaughter than theism would at least speculate on a mechanism by which this could be possible. Because a-theism refers to the lack of something rather than the presence of something, it is difficult to see how someone's atheism could lead them to any behavior, including slaughtering people. Hatred of a particular religious group is something I can understand as leading to slaughter. But hatred of particular religious groups is not logically entailed by atheism, and there are plenty of theists who hate those of different religious persuasions. Allow me to suggest that factors other than Stalin's atheism led him to slaughter people.

                  As for Hitler's alleged atheism, a number of passages from Mein Kampf suggest otherwise. For example, "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord. [original italics]"

                  Not that it matters whether Hitler was an atheist or theist. Atheism, as a mere lack of belief, is never sufficient to cause slaughtering, and most forms of theism also seem insufficient to cause slaughtering. I believe that this argument is well presented by Mark I. Vuletic at http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/violence.html . Here is the beginning of his essay:

                  "There is incessant debate about it: have theists or atheists historically caused more suffering and death? When you add up the numbers, opposing Stalin with Torquemada, the Chinese Revolution with the Crusades, have atheists or theists killed more, tortured more? And was Hitler a theist or an atheist, anyway?

                  Here's a better question: who cares?

                  Suppose Hitler was an atheist. Suppose Stalin tortured and killed more people than all of the theists put together. What implications follow for atheism as a whole? None -- few atheists are even remotely like Hitler or Stalin. Suppose Hitler was a theist. Suppose the Crusades resulted in more suffering and death of innocents than the actions of all atheists combined. What follows for theism as a whole? Nothing -- the majority of theists are nothing like Hitler and despise the Crusade mentality."

                   --John A. Johnson

                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  John A. Johnson <j5j@...>
                  Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
                  http://www.personal.psu.edu/~j5j/
                  My views do not necessarily reflect the official views of Penn State.
                  Penn State is not responsible for my behavior. Nor am I for the university's.

                • Jeremy Bowman
                  ... -- A person who knows that there is no God is in possession of dangerous information, because with that information his behaviour is liable to become
                  Message 8 of 22 , Aug 22, 2003
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                    John A. Johnson wrote:

                    > I truly wish that those who claim
                    > that a-theism (the absence of
                    > belief in gods) contributes to
                    > greater slaughter than theism
                    > would at least speculate on a
                    > mechanism by which this could
                    > be possible.

                    -- A person who knows that there is no God is in possession of dangerous
                    information, because with that information his behaviour is liable to
                    become "unbridled". The most striking thing about Stalin et al was not
                    their "lust for power", or their hatred of particular ethnic groups --
                    nothing new there -- but the "unbridled" quality of their behaviour.

                    Of course it is a banal truism that "morality can exist without religion".
                    Everyone knows that. The trouble is, morality without religion is morality
                    without sanctions. One might have a theoretical objection to doing x, y, or
                    z -- one can label these acts as "immoral" in one's mind -- but actually
                    doing x, y, or z will no longer result in shame and fear. In that sense,
                    without religion "everything is permitted".

                    You might argue that not all religions explicitly sanction morality. Maybe
                    so, but the ritualistic, communal, conformist aspects of life in a
                    religious society give "the rules" a special seriousness that they cannot
                    have in a society without religion.

                    "Man is a religious animal", as Burke said, and those of us who live
                    without religion adopt a lifestyle that is in an important sense
                    "unnatural". We evolved with the natural moral inhibitions that go with
                    religious observance. Of course, I think it is true that God does not
                    exist, and it is liberating to know it, and truth and liberation are both
                    good things. But those good things come at a price -- other people are
                    liable to suffer the consequences when we lose our natural moral
                    inhibitions. 27 million people paid the price of Stalin's liberation.

                    I hope it's clear that I'm not saying religion is all good. Religious
                    believers tend to be zealous, and that's dangerous. The question is, which
                    is more dangerous: zeal, or the lack of moral inhibition? -- Here, I think
                    we have to take account of differences between religions. The worst
                    religions, I would say, are those whose followers unquestioningly regard
                    themselves as being in possession of the truth, and who regard
                    non-believers as "infidels". The younger a religion is, the less split into
                    factions it tends to be, the less need there is for ecumenism, the less
                    pluralistic its rhetoric, the more zealous its followers. For example,
                    Islam is a relatively young religion -- roughly as young as Christianity
                    was at the time of the Crusades. But Judaism and Christianity are old,
                    well-established religions, with divisions all over the place. Over the
                    centuries we have learned -- usually the hard way -- that a person's
                    religious beliefs are his own business.

                    Nor am I saying that atheism is all bad. But we do regard ourselves as
                    having a uniquely uncorrupted world view, and that worries me. Furthermore,
                    we mustn't suppose that because we atheists have a "scientific" attitude,
                    we are somehow immune to pseudo-science and moral claptrap. Atheists of the
                    Soviet Union believed in "dialectical materialism" and followed Lysenko.
                    Most of the atheists I know seem to believe morality is based on "human
                    rights", entities as occult as any religion's God or gods.

                    Jeremy Bowman

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                  • Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
                    ... I am not aware of any study, either historical or experimental, which shows that professed atheists have engaged in unbridled behavior to a statistically
                    Message 9 of 22 , Aug 22, 2003
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                      Jeremy Bowman wrote:
                      >
                      > -- A person who knows that there is no God is in possession of dangerous
                      > information, because with that information his behaviour is liable to
                      > become "unbridled".

                      I am not aware of any study, either historical or experimental, which
                      shows that professed atheists have engaged in unbridled behavior to a
                      statistically greater extent than professed religionists.

                      > The most striking thing about Stalin et al was not
                      > their "lust for power", or their hatred of particular ethnic groups --
                      > nothing new there -- but the "unbridled" quality of their behaviour.

                      It is not the least bit striking, historically speaking.

                      > Of course it is a banal truism that "morality can exist without religion".
                      > Everyone knows that. The trouble is, morality without religion is morality
                      > without sanctions. One might have a theoretical objection to doing x, y, or
                      > z -- one can label these acts as "immoral" in one's mind -- but actually
                      > doing x, y, or z will no longer result in shame and fear. In that sense,
                      > without religion "everything is permitted".

                      I choose to be a nice person of my own will. It's not that I think I'm
                      going to go to hell and be subjected to eternal negative reinforcement if
                      I disobey orders, and it's not that I think I'll go to heaven and get an
                      infinite number of food pellets. I help people because it matters to me
                      that people be helped, not from shame, not from fear, and not for any
                      reward and punishment that might be doled out by a big bearded tribal
                      chief in the sky. If I sacrifice my life in what I deem to be a good
                      cause, I will do so knowing that I will blink out forever without any hope
                      of reward. That is what it means to be an atheist.

                      --
                      Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://singinst.org/
                      Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
                    • Karen Norberg
                      ... (other material deleted) ... Without religion everything is permitted? There are many avenues for enforcement or retaliation that are open in social
                      Message 10 of 22 , Aug 22, 2003
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                        On Fri, 22 Aug 2003, Jeremy Bowman wrote:

                        > John A. Johnson wrote:

                        (other material deleted)

                        > Of course it is a banal truism that "morality can exist without religion".
                        > Everyone knows that. The trouble is, morality without religion is morality
                        > without sanctions. One might have a theoretical objection to doing x, y, or
                        > z -- one can label these acts as "immoral" in one's mind -- but actually
                        > doing x, y, or z will no longer result in shame and fear. In that sense,
                        > without religion "everything is permitted".

                        Without religion everything is permitted?

                        There are many avenues for enforcement or retaliation that are
                        open in social systems with no concept of "god", & plenty of evidence of
                        fear as a useful anticipatory assessment system for non-human organisms
                        whose theology remains unknown to us.

                        And shame is a useful affect which motivates a member of a social species
                        to avoid situations that will be percieved by others as a violation of
                        socially-accepted norms.

                        Karen Norberg
                      • Rich Faussette
                        ... Yudkowsky wrote: If I sacrifice my life in what I deem to be a good cause, I will do so knowing that I will blink out forever without any
                        Message 11 of 22 , Aug 22, 2003
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                          --- In evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com, "Eliezer S.
                          Yudkowsky" <sentience@p...> wrote:

                          If I sacrifice my life in what I deem to be a good cause, I will do
                          so knowing that I will blink out forever without any hope of reward.
                          That is what it means to be an atheist.

                          ==========

                          That's also what it might mean to be a Jew or a Buddhist for that
                          matter. It is wrong to assume that all believers believe in "heaven."
                          I'm sure many have given their lives without any real belief in an
                          after life but a belief in the system of justice their religion
                          provides.
                          Your assumption implies (only implies) atheists are heroic and
                          religionists cowards. Augustine was not converted to Catholicism due
                          to a miracle. He converted when he saw the Bishop of Milan
                          excommunicate Theodoric for massacring 7,000 people. That's power not
                          metaphysics.
                          If the true nature of Jesus' earliest Christianity is gnosticism as
                          scholars like Elaine Pagels suggests from studying the nag hammadi
                          texts then the earliest Christians did not believe in an afterlife
                          but in a transformation in which you died to yourself and rose to God
                          in this life not in the next. This is also nirvana and devekut.
                          The Kabbalists say much of the torah is written in allegory. Jesus
                          spoke in parables. Zen masters speak in koans. It is easy to forget
                          the core religious philosophy and just receive the surface allegory.
                          In fact the surface allegory is there for those who cannot apprehend
                          the core philosophy of the religion, but even the surface allegory is
                          sufficient to motivate behavior toward religion's life sustaining
                          laws (as Jeremy Bowman mentioned)laws that are designed to work for
                          us in this life, not in the next. When you enter a dark age with a
                          dearth of perceptive minds, the surface allegory survives, still
                          motivating the masses toward life sustaining behaviors (Lev. 18) but
                          the core philosophy, the hidden level of the religious allegories are
                          neglected. This is a serious issue for Christianity.


                          rich faussette
                        • John A. Johnson
                          ... I question whether prosocial behavior requires fear of divine retribution. Before there were gods, I am confident that plenty of prosocial behavior
                          Message 12 of 22 , Aug 23, 2003
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                            On Fri, 22 Aug 2003 14:26:36 +0100, Jeremy Bowman wrote:

                            >John A. Johnson wrote:
                            >
                            > > I truly wish that those who claim
                            > > that a-theism (the absence of
                            > > belief in gods) contributes to
                            > > greater slaughter than theism
                            > > would at least speculate on a
                            > > mechanism by which this could
                            > > be possible.
                            >
                            >-- A person who knows that there is no God is in possession of dangerous
                            >information, because with that information his behaviour is liable to
                            >become "unbridled". The most striking thing about Stalin et al was not
                            >their "lust for power", or their hatred of particular ethnic groups --
                            >nothing new there -- but the "unbridled" quality of their behaviour.
                            >
                            >Of course it is a banal truism that "morality can exist without religion".
                            >Everyone knows that. The trouble is, morality without religion is morality
                            >without sanctions. One might have a theoretical objection to doing x, y, or
                            >z -- one can label these acts as "immoral" in one's mind -- but actually
                            >doing x, y, or z will no longer result in shame and fear. In that sense,
                            >without religion "everything is permitted".

                            I question whether prosocial behavior requires fear of divine retribution.
                            Before there were gods, I am confident that plenty of prosocial behavior
                            occurred among hominids, and that this prosocial behavior was motivated by
                            both negative moral emotions such as shame and positive moral emotions such
                            as empathy. Social cooperation has been so crucial to our survival that it
                            is reasonable to assume that multiple mechanisms evolved to encourage
                            cooperation. Hogan, Emler, and I discuss some possible mechanisms and refer
                            to supporting empirical research in our contribution to Bill Damon's 1978
                            series on child development. Here's the Reader's Digest version.

                            Our three-phase model builds upon Durkheim's analysis of moral development.
                            The first phase of moral development, which we call rule-attunement, is
                            based upon a child's desire to receive affection from and avoid punishment
                            from parents. A good attachment relationship between caretaker and child
                            encourages positive attitudes toward rules and authority, which later
                            translates into conventional religious morality. [Harsh, strict,
                            religiosity in parents can also inspire outward conformity based on fear,
                            but resentment and other negative feelings undermine prosociality.]

                            The second phase, which we call social sensitivity, is based on that
                            natural concern, sympathy, and empathy that children feel toward each
                            other. Most young children become visibly upset when they see another child
                            suffering. Positive play experiences involving complementary roles
                            reinforce these naturally cooperative tendencies. Research shows that
                            adults with extreme contempt for rules and authority will still behave in a
                            largely prosocial manner if their level of social sensitivity is high
                            enough. Although they don't care about pleasing ersatz parents (including
                            gods), they do care about their fellow human beings. I would argue that
                            social sensitivity is the most important determinant of prosocial behavior.

                            From the standpoint of character, it is the sociopath, who feels nothing
                            for others, who causes the most social problems, not the irreverent
                            individual who says "Question authority."

                            From the standpoint of context, ethologists have noted that one of the
                            problems with the advancement of technologies for killing is that we no
                            longer have to look people in the eyes when we shoot or bomb them. There is
                            no opportunity to see the other person's appeasement gestures that would
                            trigger sympathy toward the person.

                            The third phase, which we call autonomy, is based upon the emerging
                            awareness in adolescence that leads to the consideration of philosophical
                            questions and consideration of principles for living. [And in some cases
                            even leads to a career in philosophy. ;-)] Like rule-attunement and social
                            sensitivity from the first two phases, the achievement of autonomy is a
                            matter of degree. However, whereas most people achieve a substantial degree
                            of rule-attunement and/or social sensitivity, we believe that most people
                            (including ourselves) achieve very little true autonomy. We regard
                            principled, rational behavior to be a relatively rare occurrence in the
                            world. Unlike Kohlberg and his kind, who emphasize reasoning as the basis
                            of morality, we believe that most moral behavior is a function of the passions.

                            >Nor am I saying that atheism is all bad. But we do regard ourselves as
                            >having a uniquely uncorrupted world view, and that worries me.

                            Atheists who believe that they have a uniquely uncorrupted world view are
                            self-deceived and lacking in autonomy. They are correct about only one
                            thing: There are no gods. At least no gods as described so far in history.

                            >Furthermore,
                            >we mustn't suppose that because we atheists have a "scientific" attitude,
                            >we are somehow immune to pseudo-science and moral claptrap. Atheists of the
                            >Soviet Union believed in "dialectical materialism" and followed Lysenko.

                            Right on. We can only try to be as self-vigilant as possible.

                            >Most of the atheists I know seem to believe morality is based on "human
                            >rights", entities as occult as any religion's God or gods.

                            I agree that "human rights" are just as imaginary as spirits and that most
                            people (including atheists) have failed to realize this. But that is a
                            topic for another discussion.

                            Always glad to hear your ideas,
                            John


                            -----------------------------------
                            John A. Johnson (j5j@...) http://www.personal.psu.edu/~j5j/
                            Penn State is not responsible for my behavior.
                            "Atheism makes no effort to encourage or profit from ignorance,
                            poverty or irrationality; religion strives for them, and thrives
                            on them." Ned Latham
                          • Fiona McPherson
                            ... I ve been surprised that, among the various responses to this message, noone seems to have thought it worth commenting on this little gem. While religion
                            Message 13 of 22 , Aug 23, 2003
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                              > "Man is a religious animal", as Burke said, and those of us who live
                              > without religion adopt a lifestyle that is in an important sense
                              > "unnatural". We evolved with the natural moral inhibitions that go with
                              > religious observance.

                              I've been surprised that, among the various responses to this message, noone
                              seems to have thought it worth commenting on this little gem. While religion
                              may well be a natural consequence of human cognitive processes (as
                              superstition is a "natural" consequence of our need to find meaningful
                              patterns), and certain moral inhibitions may well have developed for sound
                              evolutionary reasons (e.g., the incest taboo), nevertheless, none of that
                              means that we "evolved with the natural moral inhibitions that go with
                              religious observance". I do not believe that moral inhibitions have anything
                              to do with religious observance in an evolutionary sense. While morality and
                              religion may go hand in hand in recent human history, this is surely
                              something that has developed for social reasons over the millenia. There is
                              no a priori reason for religion to involve morality.

                              Fiona

                              Dr Fiona McPherson
                              The Memory Key
                              For information about memory and memory improvement
                              <http://www.memory-key.com>

                              TO SUBSCRIBE to my FREE newsletter, email:
                              <mailto:admin@...>
                            • Steven Ravett Brown
                              Fiona McPherson8/24/03 6:31 AM ... Well, I for one haven t responded because the comment is so obviously untrue and poorly conceived that I didn t think it
                              Message 14 of 22 , Aug 24, 2003
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                                Fiona McPherson8/24/03 6:31 AM

                                >
                                >> "Man is a religious animal", as Burke said, and those of us who live
                                >> without religion adopt a lifestyle that is in an important sense
                                >> "unnatural". We evolved with the natural moral inhibitions that go with
                                >> religious observance.
                                >
                                > I've been surprised that, among the various responses to this message, noone
                                > seems to have thought it worth commenting on this little gem. While religion
                                > may well be a natural consequence of human cognitive processes (as
                                > superstition is a "natural" consequence of our need to find meaningful
                                > patterns), and certain moral inhibitions may well have developed for sound
                                > evolutionary reasons (e.g., the incest taboo), nevertheless, none of that
                                > means that we "evolved with the natural moral inhibitions that go with
                                > religious observance". I do not believe that moral inhibitions have anything
                                > to do with religious observance in an evolutionary sense. While morality and
                                > religion may go hand in hand in recent human history, this is surely
                                > something that has developed for social reasons over the millenia. There is
                                > no a priori reason for religion to involve morality.
                                >
                                > Fiona
                                >
                                > Dr Fiona McPherson
                                > The Memory Key
                                > For information about memory and memory improvement
                                > <http://www.memory-key.com>
                                >

                                Well, I for one haven't responded because the comment is so obviously untrue
                                and poorly conceived that I didn't think it worth commenting on, despite its
                                clear anti-rationalist bias. Anyone who could imagine that morality consists
                                of the carrot-and-stick animal training analogues (yes, I am referring to
                                "be good, go to heaven"; "be bad, go to hell") which the major religions
                                substitute for rational reflection has, indeed, no conception of morality.
                                And if they maintain that this must be the basis of morality, then they are,
                                in addition, not aware of numerous surveys demonstrating that as people
                                become more educated, and as one's standing in the scientific community (as
                                measured by publications, awards, etc.) increases, the percentage of
                                atheists increases. Are those thousands amoral? Asserting that is beyond
                                absurdity. What is sad is that this degree of rational reflection seems (and
                                one can hope this is merely an artifact of particular cultures, and thus can
                                increase) confined to such a small group.



                                Steven Ravett Brown
                                srbrown@...
                              • Jeremy Bowman
                                ... -- If it developed for social reasons, so that at first it was merely part of human nurture , then over the course of many generations it would inevitably
                                Message 15 of 22 , Aug 24, 2003
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                                  Fiona McPherson writes:

                                  > While morality and religion may
                                  > go hand in hand in recent human
                                  > history, this is surely something
                                  > that has developed for social
                                  > reasons over the millenia.

                                  -- If it developed for social reasons, so that at first it was merely part
                                  of human "nurture", then over the course of many generations it would
                                  inevitably get "hard-wired", and so become part of human "nature".

                                  (Matt Ridley applies a similar argument to mental differences between the
                                  sexes. If many generations ago men and women differed only in "nurture", as
                                  traditional "social scientists" tell us they differ now, then over the
                                  course of time sex differences are bound to become innate. In fact, surely
                                  they have become innate already?)

                                  I would have thought that if any recognisable sort of human behaviour is
                                  found in all societies then it is likely to have innate causes. The
                                  widespread observance of religious ritual is universal, is it not?

                                  I'd guess that strictly enforced legal codes are a more recent development
                                  than religious ritual. Where external sanctions are absent or unreliable,
                                  "internal" sanctions such as shame and anxiety step into the breach. Ritual
                                  seems to act as an outward sign of the sincerity of one's determination to
                                  comply with the "rules", and where the rules are embedded in ritual, I
                                  think failure to comply gives rise to a sense of having broken a taboo.

                                  By the way, I can't help feeling that quite a lot of resistance to my
                                  speculations has to do with our old friend the naturalistic fallacy. The
                                  naturalistic fallacy is the mistake of thinking that if something is
                                  natural, it must be good. Transposing that, we get the fallacy of thinking
                                  that if something is bad, it must be unnatural. Most of us agree that
                                  religious belief is intellectually bad, as it involves false belief,
                                  superstition, irrational fears, etc. It does not follow that such things
                                  cannot be an innate part of human nature.

                                  Jeremy Bowman

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                                • Andrew Brown
                                  On Sunday, August 24, 2003, at 10:39:21 AM, Steven Ravett Brown wrote: SRB Anyone who could imagine that morality consists SRB of the carrot-and-stick animal
                                  Message 16 of 22 , Aug 25, 2003
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                                    On Sunday, August 24, 2003, at 10:39:21 AM, Steven Ravett Brown wrote:

                                    SRB> Anyone who could imagine that morality consists
                                    SRB> of the carrot-and-stick animal training analogues (yes, I am referring to
                                    SRB> "be good, go to heaven"; "be bad, go to hell") which the major religions
                                    SRB> substitute for rational reflection has, indeed, no conception of morality.

                                    Anyone who thinks that the morality of major religions consists in
                                    practice of carrot-and-stick animal training analogues doesn't know
                                    anything about how religions actually work.



                                    --

                                    Andrew Brown
                                    Phone +44 (0)1799-516812
                                    Fax +44 (0)1799-500726
                                    What I do: http://www.darwinwars.com
                                  • Steven Ravett Brown
                                    Andrew Brown8/25/03 1:11 PM ... What a delightfully informative response this is! What I said, as was carefully not quoted, was: Well, I for one haven t
                                    Message 17 of 22 , Aug 25, 2003
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                                      Andrew Brown8/25/03 1:11 PM

                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > On Sunday, August 24, 2003, at 10:39:21 AM, Steven Ravett Brown wrote:
                                      >
                                      > SRB> Anyone who could imagine that morality consists
                                      > SRB> of the carrot-and-stick animal training analogues (yes, I am referring to
                                      > SRB> "be good, go to heaven"; "be bad, go to hell") which the major religions
                                      > SRB> substitute for rational reflection has, indeed, no conception of
                                      > morality.
                                      >
                                      > Anyone who thinks that the morality of major religions consists in
                                      > practice of carrot-and-stick animal training analogues doesn't know
                                      > anything about how religions actually work.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > --
                                      >
                                      > Andrew Brown
                                      > Phone +44 (0)1799-516812
                                      > Fax +44 (0)1799-500726
                                      > What I do: http://www.darwinwars.com
                                      >
                                      >

                                      What a delightfully informative response this is! What I said, as was
                                      carefully not quoted, was:

                                      Well, I for one haven't responded because the comment is so obviously untrue
                                      and poorly conceived that I didn't think it worth commenting on, despite its
                                      clear anti-rationalist bias. Anyone who could imagine that morality consists
                                      of the carrot-and-stick animal training analogues (yes, I am referring to
                                      "be good, go to heaven"; "be bad, go to hell") which the major religions
                                      substitute for rational reflection has, indeed, no conception of morality.
                                      And if they maintain that this must be the basis of morality, then they are,
                                      in addition, not aware of numerous surveys demonstrating that as people
                                      become more educated, and as one's standing in the scientific community (as
                                      measured by publications, awards, etc.) increases, the percentage of
                                      atheists increases. Are those thousands amoral? Asserting that is beyond
                                      absurdity. What is sad is that this degree of rational reflection seems (and
                                      one can hope this is merely an artifact of particular cultures, and thus can
                                      increase) confined to such a small group.


                                      What then *is* the "religious" conception of morality, which is "natural" to
                                      us, which you seem be supporting, Dr. Brown? So far as I am aware, not only
                                      are very clear conceptions of heaven and hell present in virtually all the
                                      varieties of Christianity, Muslim, Hindu, and indeed many Buddhist sects,
                                      but these conceptions are actively employed to threaten, bully, and
                                      condition their adherents into obeying the religious authorities. Must I go
                                      to television evangelists, to pamphlets, to the huge variety of sermons in
                                      these religions and pull quotes to be convincing? I submit that anyone with
                                      a functioning TV can check my assertions easily.


                                      Steven Ravett Brown
                                      srbrown@...
                                    • Rich Faussette
                                      ... wrote:; ...as one s standing in the scientific community (as measured by publications, awards, etc.) increases, the percentage of atheists increases. Are
                                      Message 18 of 22 , Aug 25, 2003
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                                        --- In evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com, Steven Ravett Brown
                                        wrote:;
                                        "...as one's standing in the scientific community (as measured by
                                        publications, awards, etc.) increases, the percentage of atheists
                                        increases. Are those thousands amoral? Asserting that is beyond
                                        absurdity. What is sad is that this degree of rational reflection
                                        seems (and one can hope this is merely an artifact of particular
                                        cultures, and thus can increase) confined to such a small group.

                                        Steven Ravett Brown
                                        srbrown@r...

                                        Sad but true...
                                        I would suggest that if the small groups of elites achieve their
                                        superior rationality and don't find a way of inculcating morals into
                                        the great masses beneath them who are not as intellectually gifted,
                                        then they are not amoral but immoral. Most ancient religious texts
                                        are written on two levels, one for the "elite" and one for the
                                        masses. It is only 21st century elitists who would take away the
                                        surface allegory and leave the irrational highly emotive masses with
                                        nothing at all!


                                        Joseph Campbell in Myths To Live By:


                                        "For not only has it always been the way of multitudes to interpret
                                        their own symbols literally; but such literally read symbolic forms
                                        have always been -- and still are, in fact -- the supports of their
                                        civilizations, the supports of their moral orders, their cohesion,
                                        vitality, and creative powers. With the loss of them there follows
                                        uncertainty, and with uncertainty, disequilibrium, since life, as
                                        both Nietzsche and Ibsen knew, requires life supporting illusions;
                                        and where these have been dispelled there is nothing secure to hold
                                        on to, no moral law, nothing firm. We have seen what has happened
                                        for example, to primitive communities unsettled by the white man's
                                        civilization. With their old taboos discredited, they immediately go
                                        to pieces, disintegrate and become resorts of vice and disease.
                                        Today the same thing is happening to us. With our
                                        own mythologically founded taboos unsettled by our own modern
                                        sciences, there is everywhere in the civilized world a rapidly rising
                                        incidence of vice and crime, mental disorders, suicides and drug
                                        addictions, shattered homes, impudent children, violence, murder and
                                        despair. These are facts; I am not inventing them. They give point to
                                        the cries of preachers for repentance, conversion, and return to the
                                        old religion."


                                        rich faussette
                                      • Ian Pitchford
                                        From: Alypius Skinner has sought an anthropologist to find out whether religions help the state enforce morality by threat
                                        Message 19 of 22 , Aug 25, 2003
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                                          From: <Michael.Barnes@...>

                                          Alypius Skinner has sought an anthropologist to find out whether
                                          religions help the state enforce morality by threat of punishment or
                                          promise of reward. As a sometime historian of religion, I can offer a few
                                          ideas. As often is the case, it depends on which religions are in question.
                                          The religion of primitive (hunter-gatherer) peoples usually tells
                                          tribespeople to be wary of spirits, who may steal children's soul or cause
                                          harm to the living out of envy. But these spirits usually care little or
                                          nothing for moral or tribal rules.
                                          In polytheistic cultures of the past, the gods often enforced their
                                          rules with punishment and / or reward. These ideas sometimes carried over
                                          into monotheistic versions of the tradition. Westerners will be most
                                          familiar with this style today in those who use ancient stories of the
                                          Hebrews as a basis for claiming that God acts this way also -- 9/11 or AIDS
                                          as divine punishments for our sinful culture.
                                          Around 500 BCE or so in China, India, Greece, Persia, and the Jewis
                                          Diaspora, a more universalist and humane set of norms appeared -- the love
                                          your neighbor as yourself style of norms. But many people everywhere have
                                          a difficult time grasping this sort of morality as genuine morality.
                                          (Lawrence Kohlberg and James Rest have a reasonable explanation for this, I
                                          believe, but that would be another story).
                                          Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi made a comment to this list some time ago that
                                          provides some interesting relevant empirical information. The U.S. is
                                          perhaps the most religious of all Western nations. Many European nations
                                          are decidely unreligious by comparison. Yet the rate of homicides and
                                          violence is far higher in the U.S. than in Europe. U.S. religiousness does
                                          not seem to be helping.
                                          Perhaps -- to speculate -- the kind of fundamentalist
                                          (quasi-polytheist) religion with a God who does violence to offenders may
                                          promote a model of a kind of "morality" that breeds rather than decreases
                                          violent responses to problems. A few weeks ago the New York Times had a
                                          Magazine story on Finland's gentle prisons. After decades of a more
                                          repressive and punitive system, Finland set up homey prisons, where guards
                                          were taught to treat prisoners with respect. The crime rate went down and
                                          violence in the prisons decreased, the story said. Maybe the U.S. needs
                                          fewer repressive and punitive attitudes towards morality in order to get
                                          more of a humane kind of it. But that is speculation too, at this point.
                                          Mike
                                          Michael H. Barnes, Ph.D Professor, Religious Studies
                                          University of Dayton. Dayton, OH 45469-1530
                                          http://homepages.udayton.edu/~barnes
                                        • Rich Faussette
                                          ... wrote: What then *is* the religious conception of morality, which is natural to us, which you seem be supporting, Dr. Brown? So far as I
                                          Message 20 of 22 , Aug 25, 2003
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                                            --- In evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com, Steven Ravett Brown
                                            <srbrown@c...> wrote:

                                            What then *is* the "religious" conception of morality, which
                                            is "natural" to us, which you seem be supporting, Dr. Brown? So far
                                            as I am aware, not only are very clear conceptions of heaven and hell
                                            present in virtually all the varieties of Christianity, Muslim,
                                            Hindu, and indeed many Buddhist sects, but these conceptions are
                                            actively employed to threaten, bully, and condition their adherents
                                            into obeying the religious authorities. Must I go to television
                                            evangelists, to pamphlets, to the huge variety of sermons in
                                            these religions and pull quotes to be convincing? I submit that
                                            anyone with a functioning TV can check my assertions easily.

                                            Steven Ravett Brown

                                            =========
                                            Let's not forget that you are using TV Bible Belt evangelists
                                            speaking to farmers to make a general statement about 4 major
                                            religions, each of which has its roots in the Indus Valley, not in
                                            the central agricultural United States. You also left Judaism out.

                                            The textbook definition of heaven from the Catholic Encyclopedia
                                            "In heaven, however, no creature will stand between God and the soul.
                                            He himself will be the immediate object of its vision. Scripture and
                                            theology tell us that the blessed see God face to face."

                                            Simply, hell is the absence of God - heaven is the presence of God

                                            There is no difference between that definition and seeing the
                                            shekinah "eye to eye," reaching devekut (communion with God) -(both
                                            in Scholem's Messianic Idea in Judaism) or reaching enlightenment
                                            which in Suzuki's Zen Buddhism is called The Practice of the Presence
                                            of God.(p.20)

                                            "The "religious" conception of morality, which is "natural" to us,"
                                            is personal and genetic survival (Lev. 18). No metaphysics there,
                                            just biology.

                                            Artists' renderings of heaven/hell should be ignored...

                                            Sorry for intruding in your response to Mr. Brown, but it's really
                                            unproductive to refer to the religion of the masses when talking
                                            about religion. Talk about the religion the masters teach, not the
                                            religion that keeps the ignorant from killing one another.

                                            rich faussette
                                          • Andrew Brown
                                            On Monday, August 25, 2003, at 1:55:08 PM, Steven Ravett Brown wrote: SRB What a delightfully informative response this is! What I said, as was SRB carefully
                                            Message 21 of 22 , Aug 26, 2003
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                                              On Monday, August 25, 2003, at 1:55:08 PM, Steven Ravett Brown wrote:

                                              SRB> What a delightfully informative response this is! What I said, as was
                                              SRB> carefully not quoted, was:

                                              You weren't just quoted, you were cut and pasted. I only cut and
                                              pasted the bit that I disagreed with, out of general courtesy to the
                                              list, which has seen quite enough wrangles on the subject of religon
                                              and where I have frequently if fruitlessly resolved to keep my mouth
                                              shut. But it's too late for that now.

                                              The thing to which I objected, and which you have helpfully reposted,
                                              was the assertion that within 'the major religions' 'rational
                                              reflection' about morality has been replaced by a carrot-and-stick
                                              animal-training model based round the afterlife. Here it is again.

                                              SRB> Anyone who could imagine that morality consists
                                              SRB> of the carrot-and-stick animal training analogues (yes, I am referring to
                                              SRB> "be good, go to heaven"; "be bad, go to hell") which the major religions
                                              SRB> substitute for rational reflection has, indeed, no conception of morality.

                                              I don't disagree with you for a moment that if that were the case, it
                                              would be deeply immoral. But I don't think it is the way that people
                                              actually reason within major religions -- even in the USA, if they
                                              really believed that hell were as real as cancer, and heaven as real
                                              as $100,000,000, people would behave very differently.

                                              I know that heaven and hell is to some extent the official story. But
                                              there is no particular reason to believe the 'official' or socially
                                              acceptable reasons people give for their own conduct. The more closely
                                              one examines the actual behaviour and beliefs of religious observers,
                                              the less well they fit with the professions of their faith. The actual
                                              standards they observe are not the ones they profess to observe. To
                                              judge from their outward rhetoric, neither Catholics nor Conservative
                                              evangelicals have wavered in the least in their beliefs in a just god
                                              who will punish the wicked and reward the righteous over the last
                                              hundred years. Nor have they changed their definition of
                                              righteousness: it is what the bible, and the unchanging teaching of
                                              the church, has shown to them. But if you judge by statistics, you'll
                                              find that their actual sexual practices, their use of contraception,
                                              and their propensity for divorce, have changed pretty much exactly in
                                              lin eiwht the society around them. I think that's pretty solid
                                              evidence that their real moral reasoning has nothing to do with their
                                              ostensible, public arguments.

                                              What's more, I think that that has to be the case. The trouble with a
                                              lot of the atheism and humanism on this list is that it's not
                                              sufficiently radical. There's an unspoken assumption that there was
                                              once a time before religion, when human nature was one way, and then
                                              this terrible "religon" thing came along, and delivered us into the
                                              hands of the televangelists. But that has to be nonsense form a
                                              Darwinian point of view. Our ideas of morality arise from our nature
                                              as social beings. they are the result of quite unconscious intuitions,
                                              as well as of expeiences. Widespread, popular, successful religions
                                              can't go against the grain of human nature. What is distinctively
                                              religous about morality is not the way that people act towards each
                                              other. It is the stories they tell each other, and themselves, about
                                              these actions. though the stories do of course affect the way they see
                                              the world, they can't entirely reshape it. If I want to understand the
                                              roots of people's actual moral behaviour,I expect Herb Gintis will be
                                              more knowledgeable than the Pope. (of course, there's an enormous
                                              amount of tacit, practical knowledge locked up in an institution like
                                              the Church. But it doesn't hang well together with the theory)


                                              SRB> What then *is* the "religious" conception of morality, which is "natural" to
                                              SRB> us, which you seem be supporting, Dr. Brown? So far as I am aware, not only
                                              SRB> are very clear conceptions of heaven and hell present in virtually all the
                                              SRB> varieties of Christianity, Muslim, Hindu, and indeed many Buddhist sects,
                                              SRB> but these conceptions are actively employed to threaten, bully, and
                                              SRB> condition their adherents into obeying the religious authorities.

                                              The quesiton is not whether these concepts can be found. Any worthwhile
                                              religion has a huge repetoire of possible behaviours it can enjoin on
                                              its followers. If you want to use a biological analogy, it encodes for
                                              a huge range of facultative responses, all of which may be aposite in
                                              different circumstances. The question is whether they are in fact
                                              activated, and when they matter. I don't deny that religious
                                              authorities use coercion from time to time. Why shouldn't they? all
                                              other human authorities do. And it may suit both parties in such a
                                              transaction to claim that they coercing, or being coerced, for
                                              metpahysical or religous reasons, to do with the afterlife, or what
                                              the spirits want. But I think you'll find, when you examine particular
                                              cases, that the really effective interventions appear when purely
                                              spiritual sanctions are backed up by measurable, material ones, even
                                              if this is only the disapproval of your neighbours.


                                              SRB> Must I go to television evangelists, to pamphlets, to the huge
                                              SRB> variety of sermons in these religions and pull quotes to be
                                              SRB> convincing? I submit that anyone with a functioning TV can check
                                              SRB> my assertions easily.

                                              YOu are, if I may say so, falling into the characteristic error of
                                              American atheists, of supposing that what you see on television
                                              represents something essential about religion. This is like supposing
                                              that the English language shows up the essential features of all
                                              languages. YOu just don't know what these essential features are until
                                              you know languages or religions, which seem to have nothing whatever
                                              in common with the starting point.

                                              To return to the distinction between cancer and hell on the one hand,
                                              and fame, welath, and heaven on the other. If you were to read in the
                                              newspapers of a woman who, diagnosed with cancer, refused treatment on
                                              the ground that she wanted to hurry home to God, you -- and we, and
                                              the doctors, would think her slightly cracked, and certainly not
                                              normally religious. Evangelical Christians, or devout jews, seem to
                                              have founded most of the hospitals in the USA. The idea that God might
                                              want us to suffer from cancer, and will redeem our purified souls,
                                              retreats pretty much in lockstep with the advance of medical knowledge
                                              (except among the poor, who can't afford medical treatment).



                                              --

                                              Andrew Brown
                                              Phone +44 (0)1799-516812
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                                              What I do: http://www.darwinwars.com
                                            • Steven D'Aprano
                                              ... Don t you feel that you are being horribly elitist to assume that the irrational highly emotive masses are incapable of understanding anything but the
                                              Message 22 of 22 , Aug 31, 2003
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                                                On Tue, 26 Aug 2003 03:35 am, Rich Faussette wrote:

                                                > I would suggest that if the small groups of elites achieve their
                                                > superior rationality and don't find a way of inculcating morals into
                                                > the great masses beneath them who are not as intellectually gifted,
                                                > then they are not amoral but immoral. Most ancient religious texts
                                                > are written on two levels, one for the "elite" and one for the
                                                > masses. It is only 21st century elitists who would take away the
                                                > surface allegory and leave the irrational highly emotive masses with
                                                > nothing at all!

                                                Don't you feel that you are being horribly elitist to assume that the
                                                "irrational highly emotive masses" are incapable of understanding
                                                anything but the surface allegory?

                                                > Joseph Campbell in Myths To Live By:
                                                >
                                                >
                                                > "For not only has it always been the way of multitudes to interpret
                                                > their own symbols literally; but such literally read symbolic forms
                                                > have always been -- and still are, in fact -- the supports of their
                                                > civilizations, the supports of their moral orders, their cohesion,
                                                > vitality, and creative powers. With the loss of them there follows
                                                > uncertainty, and with uncertainty, disequilibrium, since life, as
                                                > both Nietzsche and Ibsen knew, requires life supporting illusions;
                                                > and where these have been dispelled there is nothing secure to hold
                                                > on to, no moral law, nothing firm. We have seen what has happened
                                                > for example, to primitive communities unsettled by the white man's
                                                > civilization. With their old taboos discredited, they immediately go
                                                > to pieces, disintegrate and become resorts of vice and disease.

                                                Is Campbell correct about "primitive communities unsettled by the white
                                                man's civilization"?


                                                > Today the same thing is happening to us. With our
                                                > own mythologically founded taboos unsettled by our own modern
                                                > sciences, there is everywhere in the civilized world a rapidly rising
                                                > incidence of vice and crime, mental disorders, suicides and drug
                                                > addictions, shattered homes, impudent children, violence, murder and
                                                > despair. These are facts; I am not inventing them.

                                                But are they the facts? Is society and civilization decaying around us
                                                thanks to science?


                                                --
                                                Steven D'Aprano
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