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Posted by: Eric K ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 08:20AM

Perhaps others have found this site: https://onlysky.media I ran into it recently. If you are religious, you may want to skip this.

The article discusses the meaning of life. Some excerpts:

"... they themselves need divine intervention to have a meaningful life.

A startling implication

This admission is so startling, so profound, so damning, that it should be accompanied by a metaphysical Miranda warning. A person seeing themselves as bereft of meaning unless it is given to them is baffling to me. Denying one’s agency or self-directed purpose or potential for those things doesn’t make me angry, it makes me sad. The profound irony of these exchanges is how far removed they are from reality. I have met atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and Satanists who believe life is bereft of intrinsic meaning, but they always roll up their sleeves and start their own meaning-making process. People who are intentionally nonreligious are among the most driven, caring, and compassionate people I know. Atheists particularly are active in public debate, in community-building, and in ensuring legal recognition for religious minorities. They are overrepresented in the top echelons of science, literature, and philosophy.

Asserting that God is necessary for life meaning is like saying a camel is necessary for water-skiing.

But all of this secular meaning-making is apparently for naught. When irreligious people do report sources of meaning, a bizarre rebuttal is offered: The listed sources of meaning are dismissed outright because they are not from a sacred source."

The site also has a recent article entitled 'Why Mormons confuse scrutiny and mockery for persecution'. https://onlysky.media/ccassidy/why-mormons-confuse-scrutiny-and-mockery-for-persecution/

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 10:57AM

Damn I love fine writing crashing into fine thinking. Thanks a million Erik K.

Reminds me of one of the greatest lies of all that the religiosos like to fall back on when they are losing an argument: "There are no atheists in fox holes." Wanna bet?


Like the article says, you will often find the atheists doing the most heavy lifting.


And, I wish professing a belief in god wasn't tied directly to the ability to win an office. You can't get elected without that which exacerbates the current situation. Waving a bible has served many an agnostic/atheist well seems to me.

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Posted by: blindguy ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 11:09AM

I've just read the piece on current "Mormon persecution". While I agree with the thesis, I think it's safe to say that many religious leaders, including Mormon leaders, really want to build an empire and do not want their dirty laundry to be aired in public in case that dirty laundry stops people from converting to their way of thinking and giving them money cart blanche (which nowadays are really the same thing).

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 11:13AM

Exposing the truth is now falls under persecution. As long as you have the religious right in power, why not?

Offending someone by saying the truth will soon be at the very least a misdemeanor crime I suspect on it's way to being a felony.

One can only hope that the younger generation of "nones" when it comes to religion realize their power and take it?

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Posted by: Rubicon ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 01:29PM

Persecution is a form of hate. It's different than making fun of someone because you think they are stupid. When you have a stadium full of people yelling "Fuck the Mormons!" in unison I would say that leans over to the persecution side. Even in our loose society "Fuck" is a pretty harsh word. Fuck used in certain ways implies you wish harm would happen to a person or a certain group.

It's much different than pointing your finger, laughing and saying you're stupid. Saying "Fuck You!" is a harsh way of telling someone you hate them or even wish harm on them.

As far as religious societies or secular societies go I'm not really seeing the secular side of things being much of an improvement at all. I mean Seattle is very secular. The place has gone downhill hard in the past 20 years. It's not the place I lived in 30 years ago. So I don't see the big improvement from people jumping out of the religion boat.

If anything. I think both sides need a scape goat to blame their failures and problems on.

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 01:40PM

Thanks for that site. It's new to me. I'll enjoy browsing around there.

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Posted by: bradley ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 01:41PM

"The listed sources of meaning are dismissed outright because they are not from a sacred source."

The Bible is a primitive Internet. Whatever you read online must be true.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 02:20PM

We are social creatures in my opinion. What meaning in life is outside of this fact?

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 02:29PM

Eric K Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Asserting that God is necessary for life meaning
> is like saying a camel is necessary for
> water-skiing.

You mean I didn't need to buy the camel? My heavens, I hope there's still time for Amazon to cancel the order. . .

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 03:38PM

"... they themselves need divine intervention to have a meaningful life.

A startling implication

This admission is so startling, so profound, so damning, that it should be accompanied by a metaphysical Miranda warning.

COMMENT: Yes, and so false! I know of no religious person who would say that 'divine intervention' is necessary for a meaningful life. Like the rest of us, religious people acknowledge and embrace secular meaning in the form of life itself, family, community, education, etc. For most of those claiming to be religious, "God" and religion generally, offers a metaphysical extension of meaning that compliments (but does not displace) the meaning grounded in humanistic intuitions. Are there extreme counterexamples? Probably. But the broad brush painted here is little more than anti-religion polemics based upon a false premise.
________________________________________

"A person seeing themselves as bereft of meaning unless it is given to them is baffling to me. Denying one’s agency or self-directed purpose or potential for those things doesn’t make me angry, it makes me sad."

COMMENT: Again, a straw man generated by a website (and contributing authors) that clearly does not understand meaning within the context of a religious worldview. (Not to mention the baseless claim that the origin of religion comes from evolutionary psychology.)
__________________________________________

"The profound irony of these exchanges is how far removed they are from reality. I have met atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and Satanists who believe life is bereft of intrinsic meaning, but they always roll up their sleeves and start their own meaning-making process.

COMMENT: So what? The fact that atheists, etc. can adopt a secular meaning to their lives, while dismissing metaphysical meaning, does not suggest or imply that religious people cannot adopt a secular meaning to their lives while maintaining a religious worldview that also includes metaphysical meaning.
_______________________________________

People who are intentionally nonreligious are among the most driven, caring, and compassionate people I know. Atheists particularly are active in public debate, in community-building, and in ensuring legal recognition for religious minorities. They are overrepresented in the top echelons of science, literature, and philosophy.

COMMENT: I doubt that many religious people would deny that atheists have humanistic values and act upon them-- although they would likely be unimpressed by any claimed "overrepresentation" of atheists in science, literature, and philosophy, which is entirely beside the point, even if true.

Finally, there are many websites and other resources that advocate for theism within the context of rational science and philosophy. As a corollary to your suggestion: "If you are religious, you may want to skip this," If you are an atheist, you may want to "skip" such resources.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 20, 2022 03:52PM

We are more alike than different.

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 09:10PM

>I know of no religious person who would say that 'divine intervention' is necessary for a meaningful life.

Really?

I don't think I have ever been to F&T meeting where somebody didn't get up and describe the wonderful divine intervention event that recently blessed their life. And while I probably didn't hear this in every single F&T meeting, it was a common refrain: "I don't know what I would do if I didn't have The Gospel™ in my life."

To me that sounds pretty close to "Mormonism is what gives my life meaning."

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 01:01PM

>I know of no religious person who would say that 'divine intervention' is necessary for a meaningful life.

Really?

I don't think I have ever been to F&T meeting where somebody didn't get up and describe the wonderful divine intervention event that recently blessed their life. And while I probably didn't hear this in every single F&T meeting, it was a common refrain: "I don't know what I would do if I didn't have The Gospel™ in my life."

To me that sounds pretty close to "Mormonism is what gives my life meaning."

COMMENT: In the context of a F&T meeting, metaphysical meaning is, of course, the order of the day--that is what religion is all about. On the other hand, when F&T meeting is over, and Mormons then go about their everyday activities, intuitive secular meaning takes hold. That is, they model their lives in accordance with the standard ordinary secular values, like freedom, justice, fairness, family, education, etc, none of which are dependent upon any metaphysical context.

Thus, just like ex-Mormons, if a Mormon were to suddenly lose faith in all that was *metaphysically* meaningful as provided by Mormonism, they would not succumb to a *totally* meaningless life. For this reason, divine intervention (religion) is not necessary for a meaningful life--even for Mormons, but only arguably necessary for a metaphysically meaningful life.

In short, the premise, "... they themselves need divine intervention to have a meaningful life." is patently false, as I stated.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 01:11PM

I know lots of people who need divine intervention to have meaning in their lives.

I don't know about their prayers, their scripture reading, their personal revelations but I know they consider these necessary in their lives to feel that they have a purpose.

But am I supposed to think of them as liars because most of their time is spent in secular activities? Nope.

Do they have to tell me that just a belief in God gives them hope enough to want to continue existing? Nope.

You discount and discredit the hopes in beliefs wholesale. That brush you wield doesn't do you much credit.

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Posted by: Soft Machine ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 01:19PM


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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 02:20PM

"I know lots of people who need divine intervention to have meaning in their lives.

I don't know about their prayers, their scripture reading, their personal revelations but I know they consider these necessary in their lives to feel that they have a purpose.

But am I supposed to think of them as liars because most of their time is spent in secular activities? Nope."

COMMENT: Religious people do tie "meaning of life" questions to metaphysical, religious beliefs. In some psychological sense they claim to "need' this metaphysical meaning. But by clinging to religion, do they then disavow common secular values, and secular meaning? No.

The reason I know (or suspect) this is because, first in their daily lives, and notwithstanding their religious beliefs, they routinely apply intuitive secular values to their decision-making. In other words, they are not constantly asking themselves the rhetorical question, "What would Jesus do?" which, of course, is entirely empty and unhelpful. Instead, they just make intuitive judgments of value, and make decisions accordingly, just like the rest of us do.

Second, do you know of ANY ex-Mormon who became morally disabled after rejecting Mormonism? Did they all of a sudden not know how to make moral and value judgments? Certainly, their broad perspective shifted, but their secular, intuitive values remained essentially undisturbed.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 03:25PM

Yes, I know a couple of exmormons who were confronted with deciding things they never had to before and figure out what moral judgements they needed to make. It is a thing and it isn't black and white like you are putting it. They don't lose all moral evaluations and go all amoral.

This site is here to help them. They loved the plan of salvation. It gave them meaning and purpose. The thought that the divine was intervening on their behalf gave them strength to do so many callings and things that they didn't think they could.

They gave up their meaning in life. They had to reevaluate their morals. They had reasons to live.

I was suicidal. Without the divine inclined to help me with my family why keep living.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 01:15PM

Many exmormons don't lose faith wholesale.

Also, the metaphysical vacuum left when a hour in divine intervention leaves didn't make a person a zombie without a reason to live. What a gross oversimplification.

People can live and do well without hope. Reasons to live abound. Meaning in life is more complicated.

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Posted by: squirrely ( )
Date: September 21, 2022 11:08PM

I really enjoyed the Adjacent Possible by Stewart Kaufmann.

He says our lives not only have meaning, but what we do shapes the future. He does not beleive the Biosphere can be simplifed and understood only in terms of pure physics.

Anyway, its a good alternate prespective.

https://www.edge.org/conversation/stuart_a_kauffman-the-adjacent-possible

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 01:38PM

From this link:

“For the better part of a year and a half, I've been keeping a notebook about what I call autonomous agents. An autonomous agent is something that can act on its own behalf in an environment. Indeed, all free-living organisms are autonomous agents. Normally, when we think about a bacterium swimming upstream in a glucose gradient, we say that the bacterium is going to get food. That is to say, we talk about the bacterium teleologically, as if it were acting on its own behalf in an environment. It is stunning that the universe has brought about things that can act in this way. How in the world has that happened?”

COMMENT: Of course, at the apex of this “autonomous agent” phenomena is the thoughts and free (autonomous) actions of human beings. In short, Kauffman wonders how all his cognitive complexity could have arisen-—from physical, biological and evolutionary principles alone. Kauffman says it could not and proceeds to provide a detailed description of the nature of emergent complexity in the biosphere in terms of the 'adjacent possible' and the natural creativity of the universe.
_______________________________________

“All of this says to me that my tentative definition of an autonomous agent is a fruitful one, because it's led to all of these questions. I think I'm opening new scientific doors. . . . We don't have any answers to these questions; I'm not sure how to get answers. This leaves me appalled by my efforts, but the fact that I'm asking what I think are fruitful questions is why I'm happy with what I'm doing.”

COMMENT: What is unique about Kauffman is that here is an eminent evolutionary biologist who is claiming, with mathematical rigor that evolution cannot be the whole story with respect to biological complexity. Thus, he is sympathetic to the questions and concerns of intelligent design theorists, although he denies that a supernatural agent is involved. Instead, he believes that within nature there are laws that explain the creative processes in the universe, the nature, mechanistic character, and origin of which are completely unknown and mysterious. This is where Kauffman gets the title for his 2008 book *Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason and Religion.*

Here are a few quotes from this book, with a brief comment:

“Teleological language has long been a contentious issue among scientists and philosophers, many of whom consider it unscientific. I strongly disagree. Agency is emergent and real, but not reducible to physics, I shall argue, because biology is not reducible to physics. The biosphere, I will argue is laden with agency, value, and meaning. Human life, which is certainly laden with agency, value, and meaning, inherits these qualities from the biosphere of which it is a part.” {Kauffman 2008:12}

COMMENT: The limited scope of the autonomous agency of lower forms of ‘life’ (e.g., bacterium) is one thing. The massive scope of the autonomous agency of conscious, human beings is another. Explaining such agency within the parameters of natural law while admitting that it is beyond physics and reductionism, is a monumental challenge indeed.
______________________________________________

“In the new scientific worldview I'm describing, we live in an emergent universe of ceaseless creativity in which life, agency, meaning, consciousness and ethics . . . have emerged. Our entire historical development as a species, our diverse cultures, and our embedded historicity, have been self-consistent, co-constructing, evolving, emergent, and unpredictable. Our histories, inventions, ideas, and actions are also parts of the creative universe.” {Kauffman 2008:231}

COMMENT: Kauffman thinks that this ‘creative universe’ is part and partial of the laws of the universe, which laws transcend the laws of physics, and are unknown except through its effects. He is getting dangerously close to theology here, where emphatic denial of the possibility of a personal God starts to sound like just lip service to his materialistic colleagues.
___________________________________________

“From the perspective of this book, conscious awareness, moral responsibility for act undertaken, and fully human agency are all ontologically real, for their evolutionary emergence cannot be reduced to or derived from physics alone. . . . In Chapter 6, I discussed the emergence in the universe of agency, and with it, values, meaning, doing, action, and purpose. We have seen that biology cannot be reduced to physics. Agency, an expression of life, cannot, therefore, be reduced to physics. . . .{Kauffman 2008:263}

COMMENT: If values, meaning, doing, etc. cannot be reduced to physics, they also cannot be reduced to biology or neuroscience. So, then, what can they be reduced to? According to Kauffman, they cannot be reduced to anything at all, they are just ‘emergent’ properties of a creative universe. This sounds like theology, not science.
______________________________________________

"In this view, much of what we have sought from a supernatural God is the natural behavior of the emergent creativity in the universe. If one image can suffice, think that all that has happened for 3.8 billion years on our planet, to the best of our knowledge, is that the sun has shed light upon the Earth, and some other sources of free energy have been available, and all that lives around you has come into existence, all on its own. I find it impossible to realize this and not be stunned with reverence." {Kauffman 2008:282}

COMMENT: There is no justification for religious reverence in natural processes—unless such processes are illusive to human science and take on a transcendent character. The “all on its own” assumption rings hollow in the face of such transcendent mystery.
_______________________________________________

"Then there is the brute fact that we humans (at least) are conscious. We have experiences. We do not understand consciousness yet. There is no doubt that it is real in humans and presumably among many animals. No one knows the basis of it. I will advance a scientifically improbable, but possible, and philosophically interesting hypothesis about consciousness that is, ultimately testable. Whatever its source, consciousness is emergent and a real feature of the universe. {Kauffman 2008:4}

COMMENT: There is no substantive theory or hypothesis about consciousness in this book, beyond the claim that it is an emergent property of the creative forces in the universe. It is hard to know just what such a theory would be like absent known materialist science.
________________________________________

“We live in a universe, biosphere, and human culture that are not only emergent but radically creative. We live in a world whose unfoldings we often cannot prevision, prestate, or predict -- a world of explosive creativity on all sides. This is a central part of the new scientific worldview."

"Let me pause to explain just how radical this view is. My claim is not simply that we lack sufficient knowledge or wisdom to predict the future evolution of the biosphere, economy, or human culture. It is that these things are *inherently* beyond prediction. Not even the most powerful computer imaginable can make a compact description in advance of the regularities of theses processes. There is no such description before hand. Thus the very concept of a natural law is inadequate for much of reality.”Science itself is more limited by the un-prestatable, unpredictable creativity in the universe than we have realized, and, in any case, science is not the only path to knowledge and understanding. . . . [S]cience cannot explain the intricate, context-dependent, creative, situated aspects of much of human action and invention, or the historicity that embraces and partially defines us. These, however, are just the domains of the humanities, from art and literature to history and law. Truth abides here, too." {Kauffman 2008:7-8}{Kauffman 2008:5-6}

COMMENT: Yes, once we abandon scientific materialism, and invoke the transcendent, mysterious creativity of the universe, we get art, literature, human values, morality, etc. for free, just as the religious get these things from the transcendent, mysterious, and creativity of God. What is the difference beyond simply the denial of a personal God as the explanation of such creativity?
________________________________________________

“The use of the word *God* is open to angry misinterpretations, for we have reserved this word in the Abrahamic tradition to refer to the Creator God. How dare we use the word *God* to stand for the natural creativity in the universe? Yet I say yes, we can and should choose to do so, knowing full well that we make this choice. No other human symbol carries the power of the symbol, God. No other symbol carries millennia of awe and reverence. . . . God is our name for the creativity in nature. Indeed, this potent symbol can help orient us in our lives. Using the word *God* to mean the creativity in nature can help bring to us the awe and reverence that creativity deserves.” {Kauffman 2008:284}

COMMENT: Okay, if it makes you feel better—i.e. more religious—go ahead and use it.

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: September 21, 2022 11:51PM

I am of the opinion that we can each give life a personal meaning and so there have been, are, and will be, a near infinite number of meanings given.

And while some never come up with their own unique meanings, those who come up with new meanings on a regular basis far outnumber those who are just followers.

You know what I mean?

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 11:56AM

It is impossible in my opinion to have a uniform understanding of an individual's meaning in life. It is like believing in Mormonism to believe people can live unique and genetically as well as experientially different lives yet have a form of collective consciousness meaning in life.

An ant's meaning in life expressed by millions of monkeys typing different random letters on typewriters.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/22/2022 11:57AM by Elder Berry.

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 09:28PM

Delightful article. I'm going with "bees are smarter than we think." :)

Along that line, a lecture on the classic paper "What is it like to be a bat?" by Thomas Nagel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaZbCctlll4

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 01:21PM

Along that line, a lecture on the classic paper "What is it like to be a bat?" by Thomas Nagel.

COMMENT: This clip by Jeffrey Kaplan seems to have been taken directly from Paul Churchland's book, Matter and Consciousness. To illustrate, consider this quote from the Churchland book, which is essentially identical to the point made by Kaplan in the last 2-3 minutes:

"Suppose we possess a detailed scientific theory of the nature and operations of a marvelous nonphysical substance called ectoplasm, a substance that constitutes the mind of any conscious creature, humans and bats included. This ectoplasmic science may tell us how the bat's sensory system and ectoplasmic cognitive activity actually succeed in their echo-locating task -- that is, it may provide an explanation of how this non-physical system works -- by even *complete* knowledge of the ectoplasmic details will fail to tell you what it is like, phenomenologically, *for the bat.* That *subjective* reality is apparently beyond the reach of the ectoplasmic sciences as well!"

The point is that although reductive materialism cannot explain the knowledge obtained by subjective experience (whether by humans or bats), neither can Cartesian substance dualism.

For me that conclusion is questionable. However, even assuming that this point is true, Nagel's point (and others making the same point) still remains true; which is that consciousness implies *another* form of reality beyond the physical--even if we don't know what that reality is, including whether it is ultimately some sort of non-physical *substance*.

You might notice the connection here with mathematical knowledge and reality, and the realist-nominalist debate. This is why Roger Penrose subscribes to an ontology that expressly includes (1) The physical realm; (2) The mental realm; and (3) the mathematical (platonic) realm. (Penrose, *Road to Reality*, Chapter 1) Although the nature of the realities of (2) and (3) are a complete mystery, and non-physical, the existence of such realities can hardly be denied.

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Posted by: Chicken N. Backpacks ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 12:28PM

I'm digging a ditch in mud that keeps filling the ditch back in, I have 4 children, although my wife has given birth 7 times, she has a mysterious hacking cough, the guy digging next to me just collapsed and died, and the landowner rides up on his fine horse and and orders me to drag the body out, so even though my hands are cracked and bleeding I haul the corpse up and lay it on the side of the road.

But someday......some day, I will be in Paradise. So I need to keep going and believeing.

That's what the local priest tells me.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 12:31PM

He can make you a king in heaven with his holy powers.

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 01:38PM

Exactly. Why is anyone selling life insurance when selling After Life Insurance is much more lucrative?

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 01:56PM

I had to laugh at one of the Readers' Comments to the OP link, which is representative of the logic of the linked article:

"Natural selection seems to have had little interest in humans holding true beliefs---except when erroneous beliefs had immediate deleterious effects, as when someone thought a bear was a boulder and died for the error, or when someone thought an iced-over lake was solid enough to walk upon and it wasn't. So, real-world assessments in life and death situations need truth. But natural selection didn't care about errors in fantasy-making religious mythos. Natural selection permitted such errors because the errors were adaptive in that the errors helped the community to cohere around a given narrative. Can we admit that there could be life-enhancing false beliefs?"

COMMENT: This type of ludicrous evolutionary thinking is ubiquitous on websites (and within the writings of Harvard psychologists) that are hell-bent on promoting anti-religion rhetoric at the cost of facts, knowledge and reason. According to such websites, everything one dislikes about religion and the religious can be explained by invoking an ad hoc Darwinist adaptionist paradigm that portrays atheism as 'rational' and religion as 'irrational.' Thus, here we get the nonsensical conclusion:

"But natural selection didn't care about errors in fantasy-making religious mythos. Natural selection permitted such errors because the errors were adaptive in that the errors helped the community to cohere around a given narrative."

COMMENT: In the first place, natural selection does not "care" about anything. Moreover, in general it operates to favor a *biological* trait that serves survival and reproduction of a species, or group (not the individual) that has such a trait.

Psychological traits--such as beliefs--are much more complicated personal mental structures. As such, religious 'group think' is not explained by biological evolution or Darwinism--unless such mental belief structures can be explicitly correlated with some common biological trait (brain state?) that uniquely instantiates such beliefs and induces the claim selection effect. Religious beliefs cannot be so explained; at least not so far. As such, invoking natural selection to explain them is, well ... pseudoscientific.

Finally, consider what is arguably the most prominent religious belief that interfaces with personal and group religious actions, and that would seem to correlate with an evolutionary selection effect: the belief in life after death. Here, life for the religious believer is continuous at physical death, and people having such a belief would presumably be less concerned about physical death than their non-religious counterparts. As such, they would naturally be less concerned with issues related to physical survival. (Think, e.g., of Jim Jones and Jonestown) From an evolutionary point of view, such beliefs would obviously be disfavored because it is physical survival that evolution is all about promoting! Thus, we would expect that such 'life after death' beliefs would tend to diminish in the population, rather than increase. Correspondingly, one would think that religious faith in general would also tend to decrease in the population, and not increase or remain stable. (People who live their lives unconcerned about death will statistically be less likely to survive death, than those who meticulously take all precautions offered by science (like taking recommended vaccines) in order to avoid death.

Consider also, the religious believer's commitment to prayer as a healing power; or the belief that a death is predestined by God. Would you expect a survival advantage from such beliefs and practices; particularly when it comes at cost of undermining health care?

So, from an evolutionary point of view, after centuries of civilization, one would think that religion would have been all but purged from the population. This means that evolutionary psychologists must now dig deeper into evolutionary fantasyland in order to 'explain' religion through wild 'just so' stories of adaptationism.

So, when evolutionary psychologists tell us that evolution somehow favors the 'absurd' beliefs of religion, they are grasping at evolutionary straws to explain a social phenomenon that has little to do with evolution and biology.

Alternatively, and in general, we might propose that religious faith and religious affiliation arise from (1) an assessment of facts about the world; (2) an assessment of one's personal experiences; (3) one's willingness to engage in metaphysical speculations; and (4) one's response to life's existential uncertainties; and finally, (5) one's values. I would argue that atheism is explained in exactly the same way, with a wide range of varying balances of the above within individuals. Of course, group affiliations and religious power structures complicate matters even more, further removing religion from simplistic Darwinian, psychological, or social scientific explanations.

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Posted by: dogbloggernli ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 03:37PM

Henry Bemis Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> COMMENT: In the first place, natural selection
> does not "care" about anything. Moreover, in
> general it operates to favor a *biological* trait
> that serves survival and reproduction of a
> species, or group (not the individual) that has
> such a trait.
>
> Psychological traits--such as beliefs--are much
> more complicated personal mental structures. As
> such, religious 'group think' is not explained by
> biological evolution or Darwinism--unless such
> mental belief structures can be explicitly
> correlated with some common biological trait
> (brain state?) that uniquely instantiates such
> beliefs and induces the claim selection effect.
> Religious beliefs cannot be so explained; at least
> not so far. As such, invoking natural selection
> to explain them is, well ... pseudoscientific.

I disagree. The evidential support for evolution is physical evidence. Cultural and mental traits don't leave the kinds of physical evidence we can detect, but such behaviors are strongly linked to genetic code. So you can't dismiss them as you do above. Clearly much animal behavior is heritable. But the behavioral specifics often don't leave much if any physical evidence behind.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 04:11PM

+1

Henry argues that there is no evidence and that that non-existent evidence must be read as supporting his position.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 05:00PM

"Cultural and mental traits don't leave the kinds of physical evidence we can detect, but such behaviors are strongly linked to genetic code."

COMMENT: Give me one example where a mental trait, like belief in God, has been identified with a specific genetic marker in the same way that certain physical traits can be. In other words, where if you have the genetic marker you necessarily have the mental trait, and if you don't have the marker, you don't have the trait. You first have to identify the mental trait with a specific physical brain state, which itself is highly problematic. "Strongly linked"-- whatever that is supposed to mean -- does not establish either neural or genetic causation.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 22, 2022 05:27PM

That's stupid on several scores.

First, complex traits rarely stem from "a specific genetic marker." They usually arise from the interaction of many markers, often in conjunction with environmental factors. Scientists cannot ascribe intelligence, athletic ability, most cancers, or most mental illness to single markers yet all of those are highly hereditary. By insisting on "a specific genetic marker" you create a standard that is ridiculously high.

Second, you deny that certain evidence exists. In many cases the facts from which you avert your eyes do exist, but assuming aruendo that you are correct in this instance it is still fallacious to read non-existent evidence as supporting your preferred conclusion.

Third, "strongly linked" means highly correlated--you know, like genetic characteristics and many forms of cancer or physical height or intelligence. Here again you propose principles contrary to the basis of all sorts of scientific fields, including medicine. Virtually all pharmaceuticals are administered not on the basis of "specific genetic markers" but because of high correlations between symptoms and positive outcomes. That's why very few medicines work on all patients. But they work on most, because of the correlations, so they are administered.

In your little world the absence of evidence proves the existence of free will and no one should be given anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, or chemotherapy because the mechanisms of action are not linked to "a specific genetic marker."

But I guess they didn't teach you probability and correlation in your undergraduate program in microbiology.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 02:01PM

That's stupid on several scores.

COMMENT: Well, I suppose you should know, being a geneticist, or whatever you are.
_______________________________________

"First, complex traits rarely stem from "a specific genetic marker." They usually arise from the interaction of many markers, often in conjunction with environmental factors."

COMMENT: Although the above is generally true, as I stated, there are numerous cases where more simple physical traits are tied to a specifically identified gene(s). This gives geneticists confidence that physical traits are causally linked to the genetic code--irrespective of developmental and environmental contributions to such traits, or the complexities of genetic interactions.

This is not the case with mental traits, such as beliefs, thoughts, or even perceptions. Mental properties supervene (if at all) on the physical properties of the brain, not the genetic code, which in the first place is nowhere near complex enough to handle all of the complexities and nuances of mental life. That is why there cannot be a "God gene" or any other kind of 'belief gene' that causally correlates with the genetic code in the same way that physical traits do. There is no gene, or set of genes, that causally produces beliefs, or other intentional mental states, such that if a person has such genes, they have such beliefs, and if they don't, they don't.

The genetic code--coupled with developmental and environmental factors produces the neuronal physical structures of the brain, not the mental states that may arise from the brain upon input from the environment. At best, mental life supervenes on *these* neural structures, but certainly not on the genetic code.
____________________________________________

The rest of your response reminds me of the statement by, RC Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon J. Kamin, in their book, *Not on Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature:

"Critics of biological determinism are like members of a fire brigade, constantly being called out in the middle of the night to put out the latest conflagration, always responding to immediate emergencies, but never with the leisure to draw up plans for a truly fireproof building. Now it is IQ and race, now criminal genes, now the biological inferiority of women, now the genetic fixity of human nature. All of these deterministic fires need to be doused with the cold water of reason before the entire intellectual neighborhood is in flames. "

The position you apparently hold is a form of genetic determinism that ludicrously attempts to reduce mental states to the genetic code, a proposition that no geneticist or biologist would accept.

Now, back to the original point of my post, evolutionary psychology is a form of biological determinism as applied to the mind. Usually, this determinism is allegedly rooted in the brain. If you add a genetic component to this nonsense, it makes the logic even worse.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 03:40PM

I'll try to make this simple, Henry, like the first week of a constitutional law class.


----------------
> COMMENT: Well, I suppose you should know, being a
> geneticist, or whatever you are.

I have no qualifications of any sort. My arguments rise or fall on their own merits. That's one of the differences between you and me: I claim no qualifications while you have repeatedly boasted of qualifications you do not have.


---------------------
> COMMENT: Although the above is generally true, as
> I stated,

You said nothing of the kind. You demanded "a specific genetic marker" for belief in God. You thereby denied that religiosity could arise from a cluster of genes, which was my counterpoint. Now you try to usurp my position.


---------------
> there are numerous cases where more
> simple physical traits are tied to a specifically
> identified gene(s).

Irrelevant by your own lights. You have already conceded that religiosity is not such a "simple . . . trait."


------------
> This is not the case with mental traits, such as
> beliefs, thoughts, or even perceptions. Mental
> properties supervene (if at all) on the physical
> properties of the brain, not the genetic code,
> which in the first place is nowhere near complex
> enough to handle all of the complexities and
> nuances of mental life.

Correct me if I am wrong, but does this not mean that there cannot be "a specific genetic marker" for belief in God? Because if that is your present claim, you have just acknowledged that your demand for "a specific marker" was mere fatuity.


-------------------
> That is why there cannot
> be a "God gene" or any other kind of 'belief gene'
> that causally correlates with the genetic code in
> the same way that physical traits do.

Wait--what? Are you saying that mental characteristics like intelligence and temperament are *not* influenced by genes the same way that physical characteristics are?

Because that is patently false. Clusters of genes predispose an individual to a certain height range, for example, and environmental factors like nutrition influence the precise outcome. The same thing is true of intelligence, temperament, predisposition for mental illnesses, and religiosity. You simply cannot strip the "genetics" out of "epigenetics."


----------------------
> There is no
> gene, or set of genes, that causally produces
> beliefs, or other intentional mental states, such
> that if a person has such genes, they have such
> beliefs, and if they don't, they don't.

That is a huge leap of non-scientific faith. You have conceded that there is no specific gene that codes for religiosity, but you have offered no evidence that religiosity does not arise from the interaction of multiple genes. You cannot logically make that leap. In fact, your assertion is scientifically risible, for the genetic component of religiosity has been proved numerous times by twin studies and other research.

Furthermore, no one has claimed that genetics program for a belief in God. The argument by everyone else is that genes code for the propensity to believe, which is again established fact. What you do is present two successive strawman propositions: first, that there is no single gene that causes belief in God and, when we refused to play that silly game, secondarily that there is no set of genes that causes belief in God--which no one has alleged.

The truth is that genes predispose people to varying degrees of religiosity. That religiosity can be quelled or amplified by environmental factors, and it can manifest as belief in God or belief in non-theistic faiths or it can show up in religious-like political movements.

Again, no one has asserted that genes cause a belief in God.


----------------
> The genetic code--coupled with developmental and
> environmental factors produces the neuronal
> physical structures of the brain, not the mental
> states that may arise from the brain upon input
> from the environment. At best, mental life
> supervenes on *these* neural structures, but
> certainly not on the genetic code.

"Supervenes?" Yes, that works. Mental life stems from genetics in often surprising ways. But that is what dogblogger and I have been saying from the start. Here you adopt our position but claim it as your own.


---------------
> The position you apparently hold is a form of
> genetic determinism that ludicrously attempts to
> reduce mental states to the genetic code, a
> proposition that no geneticist or biologist would
> accept.

There you go again: strawman. I never said any of that, nor do I believe it. What I said, and what dogblogger said, was that genes influence the mental and behavioral characteristics of individuals and that the propensity to believe is an epigenetic phenomenon.

The rest is the clothing you would like to foist upon us so we can serve as your strawman. But I refuse to wear your clothes because I look silly in lederhosen.


--------------
> Now, back to the original point of my post,
> evolutionary psychology is a form of biological
> determinism as applied to the mind. Usually, this
> determinism is allegedly rooted in the brain. If
> you add a genetic component to this nonsense, it
> makes the logic even worse.

No one has advocated "biological determinism." That's your hobbyhorse and you insist that everyone else ride on it so you can then try to knock them off.

But no one is playing your game.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 10:11AM

I have no more patience to address each of your bogus arguments, as I have done so already, many times. However, let’s take a look at your final falsehood, which is patently ridiculous. I offer this not for your benefit, or in hopes you will be persuaded, but so others who might be more open to modern scientific thought, will not be misled by your profound ignorance.
______________________________________________________

LW: "No one has advocated 'biological determinism.' That's your hobbyhorse and you insist that everyone else ride on it so you can then try to knock them off."

COMMENT: You may have heard of Francis Crick, but if not, you might want to do your standard Wiki search. In any event, one of the most famous quotes of Crick, and of cognitive neuroscience generally, is found in the first paragraph in his book, *The Astonishing Hypothesis,* which I have quoted many times, but which you continually fail to grasp. There he says:

‘The Astonishing Hypothesis is that "You," your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.’ {Crick 1994:1}

This statement represents what is universally known as the ‘central dogma of cognitive neuroscience. Moreover, as you hopefully can see (but I will not hold my breath), it is a classic statement of determinism, while denying genuine free will. Remember, the brain is viewed in neuroscience as a biological, computational, system based upon units of neurons and their deterministic interactions.

Of course, Crick knows something about genetics, and he further notes that the brain is itself a product of genetic development, which again, is an entirely deterministic process. Crick says:

“The nervous systems of all mammals, from mice to men, are built according to the same general plan, although they can differ greatly in size . . . and also in proportions of the various parts. . . I shall not consider them further here. . . . It suffices to say that genes (and the epigenetic processes they control during development) appear to lay down the broad structure of the nervous system, but that experience is needed to tune up and refine the many details of its structure: this is often a continuing process throughout life.” {Crick 1994:81}

In short, human beings are totally deterministic creatures from their genetic endowment through their brain dynamics, as deterministically dictated by environmental input that together deterministically dictate behavior. Human free will has nothing to do with it. Ergo, determinism!

This brings us back to another quote by evolutionary biologist, Richard Lewontin, from “Not in Our Genes.”

“Biological determinists ask, in essence, Why are individuals as they are? Why do they do what they do? And they answer that human lives and actions are inevitable consequences of the biochemical properties of the cells that make up the individual; and these characteristics are in turn uniquely determined by the constituents of the genes possessed by each individual. Ultimately, all human behavior -- hence all human society -- is governed by a chain of determinants that runs from the gene to the individual to the sum of behaviors of all individuals.” {Lewontin et al. 1984:6}

So, you see, according to science, there is a deterministic chain running from one's genetic endowment through neurological development to deterministic behavior, all as subject to physical, environmental influences that together deterministically trigger all human behavior. This is the broad view of Crick's astonishing hypothesis, which he endorses wholeheartedly.

Now, Crick also has something to say to you, and others like you, who blindly think they can preserve genuine free will in the context of this biological determinism, by cavalierly announcing some inane, and false, humanist preserving platitude, such as 'No one has advocated "biological determinism."':

“Many educated people, especially in the Western world, also share the belief that the soul is a metaphor and that there is no personal life either before conception or after death. They may call themselves atheists, agnostics, humanists, or just lapsed believers, but they all deny the major claims of the traditional religions. Yet this does not mean that they normally think of themselves in a radically different way. The old habits of thought die hard. A man may, in religious terms, be an unbeliever but psychologically he may continue to think of himself in much the same way as a believer does, at least for everyday matters. We need, therefore, to state the idea in stronger terms. The scientific belief is that our minds--the behavior of our brains--can be explained by the interactions of nerve cells (and other cells) and the molecules associated with them.” {Crick 1994:7}

In other words, it is common for unthinking atheists and agnostics to embrace the sciences of genetics and neuroscience, without understanding their deterministic implications. They think they can preserve human free will, morality, and humanistic values in some secular fashion without logical inconsistency. As Crick says, ‘Old habits of thought die hard.’ This is especially the case when finding a secular "meaning of life" is deemed important within a context of cognitive neuroscience.

So, as you can hopefully see, my "hobbyhorse," as you call it, is motivated by a rather extensive knowledge of the relevant science. And your claim to the contrary is motivated by woeful ignorance. Yet, I am the one that is "stupid."

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 01:06PM

The ever-sameness of these exchanges feels even more dreary -and stupid- the less I peruse this site. There isn’t fire brigade enough, Henry, to douse this inferno. Alas.

Your exchange brought this to mind:

“Ignorance is not simply the absence of knowledge, obscurantism does not result from a dearth of light, bad taste is not merely a lack of good taste, stupidity is not a simple want of intelligence: all these are fiercely active forces, that angrily assert themselves on every occasion; they tolerate no challenge to their omnipresent rule.”

—“The Empire of Ugliness”-
—Simon Leys—

Cheers to you, Henry, and better luck with your quixotic hose. For my part, rather than this iPad, I should have picked up my volume of The Hall of Uselessness.



Incidentally, on the theme of the original thread:

“Everyone knows the usefulness of what is useful, but few know the usefulness of what is useless.”

—Zhuang Zi—

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 01:15PM

And you, Human, have never read Zhuang Zi. Yet you pontificate on it the same way you do Nietzsche.

I must congratulate you on how very many philosophers you do not understand.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 03:05PM

Thanks, Human.
_________________________________

"The ever-sameness of these exchanges feels even more dreary -and stupid- the less I peruse this site. There isn’t fire brigade enough, Henry, to douse this inferno. Alas.

COMMENT: Ah, yes. Round and round we go, and where it stops nobody knows. (But it may be today!) My motivation in keeping my firehose handy is the (no doubt misplaced) belief that my contributions here (whether ultimately right or wrong) might help at least some exMos avoid the worldview distortions that occur when one assumes after Mormonism that everything theological is per se irrational, and therefore to be summarily dismissed, while everything 'scientific' is per se rational and therefore to be summarily embraced. This is a natural exMo worldview evolution that is implicitly often demonstrated on RfM. (As you know.)

A person who has rightly rejected Mormonism often thinks they are extending their 'critical thinking skills" by selectively reading a 'scientific' book or two, or by viewing confirming websites, that reinforce their anti-Mormon emotions. They think that just be reading such books, and agreeing with their content, they are engaging in critical thinking. They then become automatically impressed, incorporating such ideas into their worldview, while unconsciously being unwilling or unable to actually assess such sources critically.

Obviously, I am not talking about everyone here, but this is an oft repeated theme. Those who *do* know better generally remain silent--like in a gospel doctrine class--if the alternative is to side with a renegade like me who dares to question the materialist, anti-religion, status quo.

Oh well, lecture over. For what it's worth, hearing from you occasionally is refreshing in an environment that otherwise appears universally hostile.

All the best,
HB

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 03:28PM

Henry Bemis Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> They think
> that just be reading such books, and agreeing with
> their content, they are engaging in critical
> thinking.

Ironic, that. For it is you who are wedded to a handful of outdated books; insist on attacking Crick as if he were a participant in this thread; claim to understand things like con law about which you are manifestly clueless; and, when pressed to come up with an additional source of authority, boast about degrees you do not in fact have.

Is that "critical thinking?" Sure. Every bit as good as Human citing the Zapian of Zhuangzi, thinking it is authentic Neipian and unaware in any case that the couplet is not about the meaning of life.

Two peas in a sadly desiccated pod. . .

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 01:20PM

Henry Bemis Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> LW: "No one has advocated 'biological
> determinism.' That's your hobbyhorse and you
> insist that everyone else ride on it so you can
> then try to knock them off."
>
> COMMENT: You may have heard of Francis Crick. . .

You prove my point. I said no one in this thread has advocated biological determinism and you reply by attacking Francis Crick who--correct me if I am wrong--has never posted on RfM.

As I wrote above, you are attempting to "foist upon us . . . your strawman."



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/24/2022 01:25PM by Lot's Wife.

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Posted by: Cauda ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 06:08AM

Meaning of life.. the search can be like an addiction to belong to something.

Something to focus on in life (attention).
Relationships (sharing a view on reality with other people)
Every question have an answer (no worries)

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Posted by: blackcoatsdaughter ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 08:12AM

I was definitely one of those who felt really secure in knowing the meaning of life when I was Mormon. It's both better and not so great losing that, you know?

Back then, I didn't have to examine the truth too hard, I just needed to DO to WORK towards the goal. Someone else "up there" could see farther than me and knew me so intimately that they understood what I needed, what I had to wait for, and it made me feel secure no matter what happened. I did occasionally feel anxiety about suffering and tribulations, because Mormonism mixes in prosperity gospel crap, so, if you're not doing well, it's not simply "God saw ahead and thinks you need this period of struggle" it's that + "you are doing something/not doing enough and god is unhappy with you." So, really, it is like the cognitive dissonance of the supposed peace you're supposed to feel about receiving the "gift" of the Atonement. Like, sure, you're supposed to feel relief for being forgiven, yet you're being told constantly that you need to be forgiven. So, the meaning of life thing was constantly plagued with the shame and anxiety of "not making it/not earning it".

Then once you start examining theism and assigned meaning, you start to challenge what you're told you want. I don't want the Mormon heavenly existence. I don't want to worship a being who never talked to me yet punished me constantly for not living up to their vague expectations. I also take issue with the parental perspective of deity, like, "You think you want this right now but I know that's just not right for you, especially at this time." Like....are my mistakes mine to make or not? If you're going to be so passive aggressively involved as to leave me clueless about you knowing so much better yet deny me things because you do know better... Is there free agency or not? What is the point? I reject being your puppet. And from this perspective, they might as well not exist because without more direct communication, I haven't learned anything.

It's scary coming up with your own meaning, finding purpose for yourself. But that's also better because it's more personal, I'm more aware, more intune with what I really want out of life. And it's not set in stone. I can change it whenever I want and however often I want. I don't have to sink 30 years into a plan that someone else gave to me because I was told that was the only reason I was made....and for some reason, I owe backtaxes of devotion now.

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 10:10AM

"I don't have to sink 30 years into a plan that someone else gave to me because I was told that was the only reason I was made....and for some reason, I owe backtaxes of devotion now."

You exist. In civilization that isn't enough.

Many people have sunk entire long lives in other people's plans. I would hesitate to judge them.

Love the back taxes of devotion analogy. For some reason death bed devotion is discounted but makes more sense to me. Jesus paid the last workers in the vineyard the same wage.

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Posted by: blindguy ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 12:14PM

Elder Berry wrote in part:

"Jesus paid the last workers in the vineyard the same wage."

I remember listening to a Catholic homily devoted to that parable when I was much younger. That Said, a lot of people, both Catholic and Protestant, miss it--it contradicts other beleifs they hold.

Edit to correct the quote from EB--I put in an unrelated website.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/24/2022 02:37PM by blindguy.

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Posted by: Soft Machine ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 01:33PM

I think that the idea of a "meaningful" life is impossible to standardize. What has given meaning to my life was changing countries and cultures from the UK to France, and building a family :-), but I don't consider it a model or blueprint for anyone else because circumstances, goals and people all vary ;-)

Some people need religion; I don't, but that doesn't mean I despise those people, as a principle but also in practice because I have several friends who would count themselves among them. In France, luckily for me, it's considered rather rude to talk about religion, thus avoiding many difficulties ;-).

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: September 23, 2022 02:31PM

If we consider ourselves raw material like some type of ore that could become a spoon or a gun or even a bridge, then you can turn yourself into whatever you want and your purpose will follow so long as you don't let anyone else smelt you.

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 12:01PM

"He who smelt it, dealt it..."

--Genesis 2:13

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: September 24, 2022 12:33PM

Hahaha. But, isn't that supposed to be "dealtith?" Did you flunk the Joseph Smith School of Making Up Scriptures or something?

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