• javi2541997
    5.4k
    In the past two months, I have discussed with other members, in different threads, topics where my spirituality was connected with the main topic. I have never been a believer and I think I've shared that I considered myself an atheist. Nonetheless, this has changed. I think I come from an atheist person to an agnostic one. I am not even baptized, my familiar background is outside of religion as well.

    My basic point is that I always have a deep spiritual concern for morality and values.

    My first influence: Kazantzakis. After reading The Last Temptation of Christ and Christ Recrucified, I ended up with a conclusion regarding 'Christian' morals and values: Jesus' humanity can lead to a sense of spirituality where it is acceptable to doubt about what is good or bad; what does exist or not; and the redemption depends on our effort and not in the mercy of God's immutability. Rather than give the beliefs for granted as they appear in the Gospels, I can make my own interpretation. I am aware this view and Kazantzakis' is uncommon.

    This excellent Greek author has the followin quote: You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I...

    Although K was very concerned about the search for spirituality, morality, and values, he was condemned by the Greek Orthodox Church. Yet he ended up in a great free state of mind and awareness, and it remains unclear to me why the Church disapproved of him. Then, I think Kazantzakis was a good example of reaching the so-called Christian values, staying away from Christianity.

    Do you relate to that? To what extent did you experience the same vibe as Kazantzakis?

    Secondly: Because I am conscious. I am currently reading James Joyce's A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, and it appears an interesting passage about 'spiritual pains'. One of them it is called pain of conscience. It is pretty metaphorical, but it says: Just as in dead bodies worms are engendered by putrefaction, so in the souls of the lost there arises a perpetual remorse from the putrefaction of sin.

    I fully believe that my spirit can end up being rotten if I act with bad manners and unethically. Nonetheless, I am not confident enough to define what is a 'sin'. Yet you can agree with me that our spirits are corrupted if we don't act following morality or values (Christian, Ethical, Buddhist, etc...)
    I think everybody is fully aware of this. A person can distinguish if he acts badly or well, even though he can disagree with Christianity or religion itself.

    ... Well, these were my thoughts. I have a deep concern about my spirit and how I shall act, yet religious faith and groups usually tend to make me wonder about a lot of questions rather than give me answers.
    This makes me struggle to understand religion... And myself.

    Do you feel the same?
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    Do you feel the same?javi2541997

    No. I am not spiritual or religious. I'm not always sure what 'spiritual' even means. I ususally understand it as an emotional relationship (connection) humans can have with people, place, memory, beauty, art, the transcendent - pretty much anything.

    Morality and values to me are like a code of conduct that we go along with to varying levels of commitment. I have emotional reactions to behaviours and values which are the product of culture, upbringing and probably evolution (our strength is as a social species after all).

    I read Kazantzakis and while I found his ideas dramatic (existential authenticity versus societal/religious expectations), they had no impact on me personally.

    But I understand that many of us (perhaps you too) grew up in religious cultures which inculcate ways of relating to the world where the spiritual and religious (and even, sometimes, the mystical) jostle for interpretative supremacy. I grew up in a religious tradition (Baptist) but for whatever reason I'm fairly certain I never had a single day of belief in god or anything transcendent. I've never found it necessary to my sense making. That said, I have known a number of very decent religious folk from Aboriginal, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Sikh faiths.

    I don't believe that anyone has access to objective morality - whatever people imagine they are basing their morality upon, they must either interpret god's will or intention (good luck with that) or construct an ethical system based upon theories/values which themselves would seem to be arrived at contingently.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    I'm an anti-supernaturalist. About forty-five years ago, while attending a Jesuit high school, I lost 'my religion'. Since then, for me 'spiritual' means celebrating (i.e. stomping) the blues both ¹aesthetically and ²ethically – ¹never separating joys & sorrows and ²striving to overcome my suffering by reducing the suffering of others. Ergo – to paraphrase Camus – stupidity³ is the only sin without god. :death: :flower:

    ³(i.e. harmful, and incorrigible misuse of judgment or refusal to think)
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    Thank you for your answer, Tom.

    I thought about morality and values as a code of conduct too. I even considered religious values, or the belief in believing in X, as a waste of time because those people were brainwashed by dogmas. Nonetheless, thanks to reading Kazantzakis or Kierkegaard, I came up with a different approach. At least, my aim is to understand these values differently. What I fully have as basic premises are: 1. I am deeply concerned about my spirituality, and I think I shall act ethically, (2) but I do not know what a sin is, how to define 'spirit' or 'ethics'; and why I feel rotten when I lied to a person (for example). Therefore, (3) although spirituality depends on religious beliefs, I tend to be in midterm. I want to act ethically as much as possible, but I don't want to be trapped in religious dogmas.

    My views on this topic could be seen as contradictory, because I feel 'sins' exist, and they make me think about them. But, on the other hand, I am not sure if the Church is the correct authority to say to me whether I act well or badly.

    I don't believe that anyone has access to objective moralityTom Storm

    I agree. I think it is not possible to approach ethics in an objective way, even though they are based on different knowledge branches: Philosophy, Theology, Law, Psychology, etc.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    Thank you for your answer 180!

    It is interesting to see that you actually lost your religion. This means that, at least, you were religious once. Yet you decided to set up a different approach to ethics and values.
    I agree, and I respect your view, but I didn't think about my spirit from an aesthetic perspective... This is a good point. I will think more deeply about this. Maybe that is what I was looking for, but I was blind at this point.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    Do you feel the same?javi2541997

    I think many people are going through this. I declined confirmation in the Christian church, although my family was not religious and neither was my social milieu so that wasn't regarded as being very important. But I came of age in the 60's and Eastern spirituality was in the air, so that became an influence. Although I was dubious about religion, I became sure that enlightenment was real, and had some vivid epiphanies at quite a young age. I was one of the types who read many spiritual books and later in life made earnest efforts to practice sitting meditation. I sometimes think my engagement with meditation has re-activated a kind of latent religious feeling, although I still can't abide church. Nevertheless, all these questions still weigh on me and I continue to pursue them. I feel I have had some genuine conversion experiences along the way, but they don't add up to deliverance as yet.

    Of all those spiritual books I read, some resonated deeply and still stay with me. I have a kind of cross-cultural attitude, I like to think of it as being like 'silk road spirituality' as it involves elements of both Western and Eastern philosophy.

    I don't believe that anyone has access to objective moralityTom Storm

    I don't think morality is an objective matter. What's that Wittgenstein aphorism? 'Ethics is transcendental'. It comes from something deeper than that. The Christian teaching is that conscience is an innate faculty which discerns what is right, and I'm sure there's something in that.

    Overall, I feel the need for what I regard as a cosmic philosophy. That is, human life has cosmic significance - not from the objective viewpoint, which sees us as a kind of cosmic fluke, children of chance. But because rational sentient beings open new horizons of being. The spiritual quest is sometimes said in Eastern lore to be 'realising the true nature' and that is one of the principles that resonates with me.
  • Tomef
    1
    Do you feel the same?javi2541997

    I think certain things are more or less universal. Largely based on experience, behaviours involving misleading, using or abusing other people in some sense tend to lead to either negative feelings or social opprobrium/exclusion, which leads to bad feelings. What those behaviours might be varies perhaps by culture but the fundamental idea is the same, I think, and involves breaches of the ‘golden rule’ that appears in all world religions in one form or another.

    More or less because I think people can flout the ‘rules’ and still come out with a full experience of life, thinking of Foucault maybe or other people I know personally. But in general treating others as we wouldn’t like to be treated ourselves can lead to a sense of burden or of having gone against some fundamental idea of good spiritual behaviour.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    I was raised Roman Catholic, educated for twelve years in strict, working class Catholic schools, served as an altar boy for almost ten years and was an "A" student in religious studies throughout. In the light of church history as I studied it, 'God, the bible & the catechism' stopped making sense to me by the age of 15 and I discovered I had no (emotional) need to trust in / hope for mysteries, miracles or magical beings.

    As for morals, my intuition has always been that suffering is the universal problem for morality just as illness is the universal problem for medicine (I was raised by a single mother who was nurse). Moral norms, or codes, of conduct are customary rules-of-thumb and, while not "objective", they are universal in applicability – I'd more or less worked that out by the end of high school from taking my first philosophy class as a senior in which I became confident of 'the universality of the problem of suffering' from reading both Kǒngzǐ's and Hillel's negative^ versions of "The Golden Rule", and Buddha's "Four Noble Truths", and Epicurus' concept of good: "pleasure as absence of pain". It took several more years of study and lived experience before I understood that, in fact, ethics is naturalistic and therefore objective (though you, @Tom Storm & many others don't buy that). And then I began studying Spinoza ... Well, anyway, my modus vivendi after four decades remains:
    striving to overcome my suffering by reducing the suffering of others180 Proof

    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/philosophy/the-negative-and-positive-version-of-the-golden-rule-t16511.html ^
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    Although I was dubious about religion, I became sure that enlightenment was real, and had some vivid epiphanies at quite a young age.Wayfarer

    I'm aware of Armstrong, that he is author of Materialist Theory of Mind, which has always been anathema to me.Wayfarer

    I find that second quote interesting in light of M. Scott Peck's thinking on stages of spiritual growth from The Different Drum.

    Of Stage III Peck says:

    Skeptic, Individual, questioner, including atheists, agnostics and those scientifically minded who demand a measurable, well researched and logical explanation. Although frequently "nonbelievers," people in Stage III are generally more spiritually developed than many content to remain in Stage II. Although individualistic, they are not the least bit antisocial. To the contrary, they are often deeply involved in and committed to social causes. They make up their own minds about things and are no more likely to believe everything they read in the papers than to believe it is necessary for someone to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior (as opposed to Buddha or Mao or Socrates) in order to be saved. They make loving, intensely dedicated parents. As skeptics they are often scientists, and as such they are again highly submitted to principle. Indeed, what we call the scientific method is a collection of conventions and procedures that have been designed to combat our extraordinary capacity to deceive ourselves in the interest of submission to something higher than our own immediate emotional or intellectual comfort--namely truth. Advanced Stage III men and women are active truth seekers.

    Despite being scientifically minded, in many cases even atheists, they are on a higher spiritual level than Stage II, being a required stage of growth to enter into Stage IV. The churches age old dilemma: how to bring people from Stage II to Stage IV, without allowing them to enter Stage III.

    I'm curious as to your thoughts on Peck's view.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    I thought about morality and values as a code of conduct too. I even considered religious values, or the belief in believing in X, as a waste of time because those people were brainwashed by dogmas. Nonetheless, thanks to reading Kazantzakis or Kierkegaard, I came up with a different approach. At least, my aim is to understand these values differently. What I fully have as basic premises are: 1. I am deeply concerned about my spirituality, and I think I shall act ethically, (2) but I do not know what a sin is, how to define 'spirit' or 'ethics'; and why I feel rotten when I lied to a person (for example). Therefore, (3) although spirituality depends on religious beliefs, I tend to be in midterm. I want to act ethically as much as possible, but I don't want to be trapped in religious dogmas.javi2541997

    I'm not sure I understand your thinking. You seem to be identifying as a nihilist, yet you also seem to be advocating for some fixed idea of morality and spirituality. Perhaps a part of you still believes in God's judgement? Wouldn't it be better not to worry about any of it and just get on with life?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k

    "Spirit" is what motivates action, it drives ambition, will, and determination. Adopting a "code of ethics" which you attempt to force yourself to follow, will only stifle your spirit. So a code of ethics is not what you are looking for. What you need is a way of guiding or directing your spirit so that it can maintain its strength.

    This means that you need to be able to avoid undue restrictions, those which unnecessarily restrain your spirit. The type of restrictions that you appear to be having difficulty understanding are social restrictions, those presented by other people. Social restrictions, people, are much more difficult to understand and predict than natural restrictions like rivers, mountains, darkness, etc., are. Organized forces like law enforcement are relatively easy to predict, because they are organized, so they're easy to avoid. But individual people are more difficult. Some get insulted or offended easily, and may be vindictive. Some may be deceptive and misleading, seeing you as prey. Some are simply unruly. But that brings us in a circle, back to the question of a code of ethics. The code of ethics obviously cannot contain the free-spirited, the unruly.

    My advice would be to look at something like Plato's Republic, how he moves to define "just". It appears to be a matter of doing one's own thing without interfering with others. That allows your spirit to move you freely.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    Of all those spiritual books I read, some resonated deeply and still stay with me. I have a kind of cross-cultural attitude, I like to think of it as being like 'silk road spirituality' as it involves elements of both Western and Eastern philosophy.Wayfarer

    I experienced the same cross-cultural attitude in 2021. I was very focused on how to understand (or put into practice) Western and Eastern thoughts. I read an interesting book: Confucianism and Tokugawa Culture by Nosco, as an intro to my approach. Although it was worthy reading, I felt most of the content remains in the East and I will not have a 100 % experience because I don't live in Japan or Cambodia. I refer to the latter to the fact that it is difficult to find Eastern buildings or communities to put the theory into practice or at least, getting closer. Later on, Kazantzakis appeared in my life, but it is true that I already had Kierkegaard as a background. In the end, these two authors are more suitable for what I find like values or ethics, etc.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    Well, anyway, my modus vivendi after four decades remains:
    striving to overcome my suffering by reducing the suffering of others
    180 Proof

    Ha! Yes, we've explored this a bit over the years. Your ideas are arrived at philosophically, mine are not. I've also adopted a presupposition along the lines of 'we should not cause suffering and we should minimise it'. But I hold this belief intuitively, perhaps because it pleases me aesthetically. If I had to provide rational justification, I would probably say that I dislike suffering, I don't like seeing people suffer, so if I am in a position to not cause suffering or minimise it, I try to do so. I find this satisfying but I am not a zealot about it.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    as I studied it, 'God, the bible & the catechism' stopped making sense to me by the age of 15 and I discovered I had no (emotional) need to trust in / hope for mysteries, miracles or magical beings.180 Proof

    Understood. This happens more usually than we tend to think. When I was a kid, I also felt I didn't need to believe in mysteries or hopes.

    As for morals, my intuition has always been that suffering is the universal problem for morality just like illness is universal problem for medicine (I was raised by a single mother who was nurse).180 Proof

    Interesting. I wonder to what extent Kierkegaard or Dostoviesky inspired you about this.

    Moral norms, or codes, of conduct are customary rules-of-thumb and, while not "objective", they are universal in applicability –180 Proof

    I disagree and this other important point is why I started this thread. The code of conduct is not universally applied. What we think, in the Western world, as norms and values can be very different in the East. The basic notion of how to act accordingly to ethical principles is still blurred.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    Wouldn't it be better not to worry about any of it and just get on with life?Tom Storm

    True. :sweat:

    But this is something I have been experiencing for months. It is not a simple worry that keeps me awake every morning. Sometimes I feel I don't act ethically, but here is when I start to wonder how I can act better. I have already read some books (and threads in this forum) about ethics, and although they are helpful and substantive, I still feel lost. Now, I have a closer approach to Christianity, but only the surface. Yet I am aware that I can sound contradictory about stating that philosophy doesn't fill my ethical notions but religion does, etc. I feel I am trapped in a cage.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    Thanks for your feedback, as you always do, friend.

    Firstly, yes, I am trying to establish a forced code of ethics. This happens because I am not aware what the limit and extension is to our actions. And more precisely, when these actions can affect others. I think we somehow agree in a basic and predictable code of conduct, which is reinforced by the law of each country. But I wasn't referring to generic terms, but something which is left to the free will of each person. For example, and maybe this example sounds stupid: I told my mum I went to study at a bookstore. It was a lie because I actually went to see a woman. I feel bad about this childish attitude for two reasons: 1) I lied to my mother (and this is a terrible sin, although this concept is Christian) and 2) I feel ashamed for nothing. I don't trust myself, and I don't reach this level in my life because I am a well aware that I am not behaving ethically. When I end up in a situation where I need lies to confront people or to avoid limitations, it is when I start to worry. I ask myself: Am I a terrible liar? How can I face the truth and not lie to others?

    My advice would be to look at something like Plato's Republic, how he moves to define "just". It appears to be a matter of doing one's own thing without interfering with others. That allows your spirit to move you freely.Metaphysician Undercover

    Thanks. I guess Plato is always a great philosopher to take into account.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    I still feel lost. Now, I have a closer approach to Christianity, but only the surface. Yet I am aware that I can sound contradictory about stating that philosophy doesn't fill my ethical notions but religion does, etc. I feel I am trapped in a cage.javi2541997

    It sound to me like you need to find...

  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    I also grew up outside of any religious background. I would say my father at least was militantly atheist. However, now I attend a non-denominational church about once a month (too far away now with my son to go each week), have a home church otherwise with another family, and go to a Catholic Church on Wednesdays or holidays (of which Catholics have very, very many).

    I'm of the opinion that many Christians profoundly misunderstand why people can say they are "spiritual" but have essentially zero interest in Christianity. They tend to think the areligious aren't interested in Christianity for very Christian reasons, e.g. shame over past sins. Because of this, evangelism often targets the emotions primarily, and in so doing it misses the mark. The problem for secular people is more often that Christianity is implausible.

    I tend to group the problem into three buckets:

    The Scientism Problem: the problem here is that people often think that "the way science says the world is," is incompatible with the existence of a personal God. There are many manifestations of this problem, but the most important seems to be a belief that science says "free will" is impossible, that all our actions are reducible to how little balls of stuff bounce of each other, and that this in turn is incompatible with religious moral teaching and a personal God.

    The other way this problem manifest itself is in people thinking that what the Bible says about the world is incompatible with science. This problem is made more acute by the prominence of fundamentalists/literalists, who play an outsized role in public perceptions of Christianity. Even if people know the Bible can be read in ways that do not contradict science, they often assume these are ad hoc rationalizations, modern changes to save the religion from contradiction. In reality though, fundementalism is a modern movement, and strict literalism was not the norm during most of Church history.

    The Plurality Problem: is the problem that, if you have many mutually exclusive claims made by various world religions and different sects, it seems unlikely that any of them are due to real divine revelation. Given the principle of indifference and very many different faiths, we should assign a very low probability to each faith. Another issue here is that of extinct religions now widely seen as mere myth (Greek, Egyptian, Norse, etc.). If these religions were mere myth, why wouldn't other ones be the same way, destined for the same fate?

    What are the chances of any one faith or sect getting it right? If the Holy Spirit aids Christians, why do they disagree? Of course, theology addresses precisely this issue. Schism might be seen as a necessary historical process, or as an organic process of differentiation, of different organs within a single body (a body that must learn to rule over itself and become self-moving). But simplicity seems to win out here in the popular imagination, "everyone else has it wrong."

    The Exemplar Problem: a major appeal of Christianity is that it offers the promise of transforming the person — freedom from sin, from being ruled over by instinct, appetites, passions, and circumstance — the possibility of deeper, more loving relationships. And yet many seemingly devote people do not seem to have been remade in this way. Indeed, they might seem downright hateful, impulsive, and mean spirited.

    But if the faith doesn't result in being reborn in this positive way, then its claims about the workings of the Holy Spirit in the individual come into question.


    ---

    I think these questions can be adequately addressed, but they rarely are. Faith is often described as something you either have or don't, a miracle (the influence of Reformed/Calvinist theology). Churches no longer focus much on the process of metanoia, the changing of the mind, the ascetic disciplines that used to be standard in the Church, etc. In trying to make everything "easier," the ascetic, meditative, contemplative, philosophical, and intellectual traditions of Christianity have been pushed to the fringes.

    Christian moral teaching is only going to make sense in the context of a relationship with God. Yet these often get rolled out first, as if it makes any sense for a person raised in a secular environment to feel shame over premarital relations, etc.

    You don't start by understanding though. As Saint Augustine puts it, we have faith so that we might understand.

    Conversion involves metanoia. One wants to know God and the Good, as all men naturally want to know (Aristotle's opening lines). It is wanting to know what is truly good, not just what seems good, or what others say is good, that allows us to transcend current belief, desire, circumstance, and instinct and become truly self determining (Plato). You can't be free if you're just an effect of other causes.

    Christianity is ultimately a religion of freedom. Romans 7 is probably the pound for pound most influential text for the philosophy of free will. There Saint Paul describes how he does what he hates and is ruled over by desire. He is dead in sin, not a biological death, but a death of any true autonomy and personhood. He is only resurrected by Christ, the Logos.

    For man can only be free if he knows why he acts, does what he thinks is good, and can know the true good.

    Metanoia is generally supported by ascetic practice, a sort of exercise to train the rational part of the soul to rule over the spirited and appetitive parts, to be self-determining. Without these, mentoring relationships, etc. you often end up in a situation where newcomers are immediately turned around to witness without feeling like they have understood what they are witnessing to.

    Christians feel uncomfortable engaging with the Scientism Problem and the Plurality Problem. These are generally studiously avoided, rather than grappled with, to the detriment of all involved.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    "Spirit" is what motivates action, it drives ambition, will, and determination. Adopting a "code of ethics" which you attempt to force yourself to follow, will only stifle your spirit. So a code of ethics is not what you are looking for. What you need is a way of guiding or directing your spirit so that it can maintain its strength.

    If you adopt a code of ethics because you believe it is truly good behavior and find yourself unable to do what you think is good, how is that freedom? That seems like the opposite of freedom to me.

    Freedom has to involve an element of being able to enact what one thinks of as the highest good, not simply being free to fulfill desires. The alcoholic who wants to stop drinking but cannot is deeply unfree in a way, their appetites have come to rule over their intellect.

    My advice would be to look at something like Plato's Republic, how he moves to define "just". It appears to be a matter of doing one's own thing without interfering with others. That allows your spirit to move you freely.

    I agree with the recommendation, but I think this is very far from what Plato is saying. Consider the Apology. Socrates stirs the people of Athens on to self-knowledge at great personal risk and to his own detriment. He doesn't avoid conflict to "live and let live," but rather tries to push people towards the good and the just.

    Plato presents Socrates as a new sort of hero, a moral figure to replace the old Homeric heroes. Socrates is a hero precisely because he strives for justice, and it is clear in Plato's political writings that justice and freedom must ultimately be fulfilled at the level of an entire society and that justice is not relativistic. Since men can take away other men's freedom, and since education and training is necessary to gain freedom, society must be organized in a just way for men to become free and self-moving.

    Ethics then is a prerequisite for freedom. The man who can't actualize what he thinks is truly good is limited in some way, as is the man who acts out of ignorance about what is truly good.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    I don't think morality is an objective matter. What's that Wittgenstein aphorism? 'Ethics is transcendental'. It comes from something deeper than that. The Christian teaching is that conscience is an innate faculty which discerns what is right, and I'm sure there's something in that.Wayfarer

    Transcendental ethics would posit that moral truths are not contingent upon individual beliefs, cultural norms, or empirical facts, but rather have a universal and objective reality that transcends human understanding. Any way we can demonstrate that this is the case?
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    The man who can't actualize what he thinks is truly good is limited in some way, as is the man who acts out of ignorance about what is truly good.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Does anyone know what is truly good? I'm assuming you also are putting your hopes on transcendence and Platonic realms?
  • Patterner
    698
    I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday School as a child. Church at times, though not weekly, thank God. I knew the quotes and all that jazz.

    When I was about 10, I saw someone talking about atheism on tv. That was the first time I'd ever heard of it. I just took it for granted that all the stuff I'd been told all my life was established fact. It hadn't occurred to me that others didn't think that. This guy on TV said people only believe in God because they're afraid they'll go to hell for not believing in him. Even then I knew that was not the reason everybody believes. Nevertheless, it made me think about things I'd never thought about before. I knew right then that, if it's not a fact, but belief, then I didn't believe. Nothing resonated with me. I don't feel any of it. Been an atheist since.

    If we need to, I suppose we could define spiritual as having to do with the human spirit. I feel awe for many reasons. Scenes of nature; Bach; just the feeling of being alive. I wonder - a human thing - about many things, like consciousness, and try to learn. As it says in some quotes i recently posted, I strive. Is that spiritual? If so then I'm spiritual. It not, no worries.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    You also grew up in a familiar background outside of religion, but you ended up attending a non-denominational church about once a month. Your personal experience gave me a lot of confidence, because I have been wondering whether I should go to attend a church or not. I obviously had to do it in secret, because I guess my family will get disappointed if they know I am tempting to go to a sacred place. Maybe they will feel they did something bad regarding my elementary education, or what is going on with me. In the end, there is not any other place to worry about these concerns...

    It is interesting how you pointed out that Christian moral teaching is only going to make sense in the context of a relationship with God. I have always had the same thought until I discovered Nontheist Quakers (also known as nontheist Friends). Although it can sound contradictory at first glance, because this group tends to be tangled into Christian Ethics without necessarily believing in a theistic God or Supreme Being, I think their approach is fascinating.

    Their main Web page (https://nontheistfriends.org/) says something very important:
    Some of us understand “God” as a symbol of human values and some of us avoid the concept while accepting it as significant to others. We differ greatly in our religious experience and in the meaning we give religious terms
    .

    I fully agree, and they are, by far, the group I most relate to.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Well, I think you have to conceptualize this in terms of the Plato's vertical conception of reality:

    By calling what we experience with our senses less real than the Forms, Plato is not saying that what we experience with our senses is simply illusion. The “reality” that the Forms have more of is not simply their not being illusions. If that’s not what their extra reality is, what is it? The easiest place to see how one could suppose that something that isn’t an illusion, is nevertheless less real than something else, is in our experience of ourselves.

    In Republic book iv, Plato’s examination of the different "parts of the soul” leads him to the conclusion that only the rational part can integrate the soul into one, and thus make it truly “just.” Here is his description of the effect of a person’s being governed by his rational part, and therefore “just”:

    Justice . . . is concerned with what is truly himself and his own. . . . [The person who is just] binds together [his] parts . . . and from having been many things he becomes entirely one, moderate, and harmonious. Only then does he act. (Republic 443d-e)

    Our interest here (I’ll discuss the “justice” issue later) is that by “binding together his parts” and “becoming entirely one,” this person is “truly himself.” That is, as I put it in earlier chapters, a person who is governed by his rational part is real not merely as a collection of various ingredients or “parts,” but as himself. A person who acts purely out of appetite, without any examination of whether that appetite is for something that will actually be “good,” is enacting his appetite, rather than anything that can appropriately be called “himself.” Likewise for a person who acts purely out of anger, without examining whether the anger is justified by what’s genuinely good. Whereas a person who thinks about these issues before acting “becomes entirely one” and acts, therefore, in a way that expresses something that can appropriately be called “himself.”

    In this way, rational self-governance brings into being an additional kind of reality, which we might describe as more fully real than what was there before, because it integrates those parts in a way that the parts themselves are not integrated. A person who acts “as one,” is more real as himself than a person who merely enacts some part or parts of himself. He is present and functioning as himself, rather than just as a collection of ingredients or inputs.

    We all from time to time experience periods of distraction, absence of mind, or depression, in which we aren’t fully present as ourselves. Considering these periods from a vantage point at which we are fully present and functioning as ourselves, we can see what Plato means by saying that some non-illusory things are more real than other non-illusory things. There are times when we ourselves are more real as ourselves than we are at other times.

    Indeed, we can see nature as a whole as illustrating this issue of how fully integrated and “real as itself ” a being can be. Plants are more integrated than rocks, in that they’re able to process nutrients and reproduce themselves, and thus they’re less at the mercy of their environment. So we could say that plants are more effectively focused on being themselves than rocks are, and in that sense they’re more real as themselves. Rocks may be less vulnerable than plants are, but what’s the use of invulnerability if what’s invulnerable isn’t you?

    Animals, in turn, are more integrated than plants are, in that animals’ senses allow them to learn about their environment and navigate through it in ways that plants can’t. So animals are still more effectively focused on being themselves than plants are, and thus more real as themselves.

    Humans, in turn, can be more effectively focused on being themselves than many animals are, insofar as humans can determine for themselves what’s good, rather than having this be determined for them by their genetic heritage and their environment. Nutrition and reproduction, motility and sensation, and a thinking pursuit of the Good each bring into being a more intensive reality as oneself than is present without them.12

    Now, what all of this has to do with the Forms and their supposedly greater reality than our sense experience is that it’s by virtue of its pursuit of knowledge of what’s really good, that the rational part of the soul distinguishes itself from the soul’s appetites and anger and so forth. The Form of the Good is the embodiment of what’s really good. So pursuing knowledge of the Form of the Good is what enables the rational part of the soul to govern us, and thus makes us fully present, fully real, as ourselves. In this way, the Form of the Good is a precondition of our being fully real, as ourselves.

    But presumably something that’s a precondition of our being fully real must be at least as real as we are when we are fully real. It’s at least as real as we are, because we can’t deny its reality without denying our own functioning as creatures who are guided by it or are trying to be guided by it.13 And since it’s at least as real as we are, it’s more (fully) real than the material things that aren’t guided by it and thus aren’t real as themselves.


    Philosophical Mysticism in Plato, Hegel, and the Present - Robert M. Wallace


    It's not hard to see the similarities here to St. Paul, e.g. Romans 7.

    Hegel expands of this sense of vertical reality in the Logics, showing how true concepts need to unfold from a certain sort of necessity, and the failings of external teleology to truly ground moral teleology. True telos must emerge from within a thing.

    There is a "transcedent" Good, but it isn't a sort of spirit realm sitting to the side of the realm of the senses. The question of knowing what is truly good is not absolute then, particularly in later Platonists. One can know and be led by the good to relative degrees, and be more or less self-determining.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    2k


    I love the Bible but I don't often engage organized religion in person.

    When I was younger I was deeply concerned with morality and ethics and trying to find an objective grounding. As I aged, I found that these religious texts (the Bible, namely) are actually excellent self-help books. "Israel" can be seen as a metaphor for the self, a metaphor for a society, and also of course a history of sorts for the actual Israel. But it's application and relevance is universal.

    As I aged my focus shifted away from impersonal ethics to self-improvement/self-actualization. I didn't read the New Testament until I was around 30 (I was raised Jewish) and I realized that the character of Jesus actually makes us more attractive and helps socialize us regardless of religious connotations. I mostly pay attention to what Jesus says (this is how people like Thomas Jefferson read the Bible AFAIK.) I don't mean to preach heresy but until someone can explain the miracles this will be my approach. In any case, if one is truly able to internalize the beliefs and teachings of Jesus I believe one will be fundamentally transformed and I reached that conclusion with zero Christian education.

    I love the Old Testament as well. The God character gives divine revelation -- knowledge that humans wouldn't be able to glean either through their own reason or experience. Yet one must believe it if one seeks life. Our own thoughts and beliefs can slowly kill us if left to our own devices. The Old Testament is very much a book concerned with life. It is not about the afterlife. I've found some of the dialogues with God to be extremely helpful.

    I believe in God because I have to. It's not a matter of a philosophical proof. I don't hate philosophy (I did major in it after all) but our reason is very limited and impersonal reason often will not help us live well.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    I hadn't a Christian education as well. Although I was born and raised in a Catholic country, my parents never taught religious beliefs and ideas. The Bible (or other sacred texts) has never been in my home. I always attended secular schools, etc. Basically, my parents decided to teach me in this way because it is the correct thing to do, and if I ever decide to believe in something, realizing this belief on my own, without external 'imposing'.
    I have to understand them. They were raised in Franco's Spain, and they (and my grandparents) hadn't any possible choice apart from a Catholic educational system. So, they always thought that being raised without religious stimuli was a synonym of freedom.

    ...Ironically, the youngest person of the generation in my life (me) started to be interested in religious ideas, but it is obvious that I am lost, and I can sound contradictory in my posts.


    I believe in God because I have to.BitconnectCarlos

    The statement is interesting. I guess you consider it as something to obey. Did you impose this belief yourself? I agree with you. Philosophy is a very reliable tool which helps us to understand ourselves and what is around... But it is not the epitome. I often felt lost when I searched for answers regarding ethics and values. Paradoxically, the philosophers who helped me the most, are at the same time theologians, like Kierkegaard.
    I still haven't finished forcing myself to believe in God anyway.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    One element I wonder about a lot is the importance of a creed, as a set of propositions, to establishing practice and ritual.

    Unamuno is interesting in that regard because he is angry with the gap between what is most deeply desired and the place we have to look for it. For Kazantzakis, the Shekinah, or presence of God appears in the crucible of struggle. Israel is the one who wrestles with God. Those different expressions are bound up in propositions declaring the ultimate conditions.

    But a person's life is a complex problem. The limits of explanation touch upon all who would explain. What do creeds or the rejection of them have to do with us?
  • BC
    13.4k
    Do you feel the same?javi2541997

    I'm not spiritual. What I have is a very conflicted relationship with religion, church, and God, who I am fairly certain does not exist.

    I like formal religious ceremony; I like the music of the church; I like the social connection which belonging to a congregation can provide; BUT I don't believe in the creed. The first sentence is tolerable: "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen..." But then it gets into the dicier matter of Jesus' divinity, death, resurrection, and co-existence with God: "For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." And "On the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.".

    Unitarians (something like your non-theistic Quakers) do not believe in the Trinity; there may or may not be God. Jesus was an ordinary man. The Holy Ghost doesn't figure into it at all. No virgin birth, no resurrection, no kingdom. There aren't many unitarians here, but I probably belong more with them than Lutherans or Methodists.

    Aside from theology, millions of contemporary people have had very unpleasant experiences with The Church over homosexuality, divorce, abortion, and various other issues. So have I.

    Former church members who are now "spiritual" are probably trying to preserve a memory of what they once had in their hands. I can understand that. Their children don't have a memory of church membership, and for some or many of their children, "spirituality" will fade out.

    Your situation, Javi, isn't the same as the former church members. Your spirituality appears to be 'de novo'. I wish you every success in developing your own spirituality.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    One element I wonder about a lot is the importance of a creed, as a set of propositions, to establishing practice and ritual.Paine

    I agree. I wasn't thinking of a creed specifically, but now you have explained it, I think this suits what I attempted to explain. I guess some religions (let's say, Christianity, because it is mainly used in the example and the largest by the number of users) set prepositions. Is this similar to a code of conduct? Maybe. But some people would heavily disagree with this point because I read (in some posts) that the Bible is not precisely a book to achieve democratic values, etc.

    Unamuno is interestingPaine

    It is another important thinker regarding this issue, but Spanish philosophers are hardly known by people overall. It cheered me up you actually brought him to this topic. :smile:

    What do creeds or the rejection of them have to do with us?Paine

    Good question. I think they have to do with us, in the sense that ethics and values are subjective. Although those creeds or codes of conduct tend to be objective, a person's life is complex. It is not possible to apply objectively those notions of values in each person equally. It is clear that always leads us to a big debate.
  • javi2541997
    5.4k
    Spirituality is still tangled with religion to me. I can't explain or understand it without any connection with religious creeds. Furthermore, if I extract 'spiritedness' from its creed perspective, it is hardly accepted by philosophers. Most of them see this as a worthless thing. A thing that depends upon religion. I understand your struggle with the Church. I guess all who want to be more critical, and dubious about the set of norms, tend to be against the Church. This is how I was raised. My parents considered the Churches as places where free thinking is not welcomed, and where the fellows are 'fooled' by superstitions and beliefs. Yet I always felt I had a spirit, and I wanted to act following values. Otherwise, I would have felt my 'spirit' was rotten. Philosophy can teach me a lot regarding this, but I discovered that some authors like Kazantzakis or Kierkegaard pointed out interesting views using the Bible...

    Your situation, Javi, isn't the same as the former church members. Your spirituality appears to be 'de novo'BC

    I agree. But this happens to me because I have never had a Christian background in my family. I am not even baptised.

    Jesus was an ordinary man.BC

    This is the 'version' of Jesus I believe in, BC. Not the twisted drawing of the Gospels...

    Unitarians (something like your non-theistic Quakers)BC

    These groups are very interesting. I never get tired of saying they are awesome at trying to understand Christian Ethics separately from believing in God. Amazing.
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