neural buddhism?

There is a lot I could say on David Brooks’ op-ed this morning and Matthew’s response to it.  But I don’t have all the time in the world, so I’ll be fairly short and focus only on specific points.

To Brooks:  If hard-core materialism (as he claims) and its tip of the spear New Atheism is not going to be the main combatant to traditional religious faith, then the alternative he lays out is soft-core materialism (as it were, wink wink). i.e. It’s still materialism.  It’s a sexier, subtler version thereof I suppose, but the same basic critique remains:  is Consciousness fundamentally real (by whatever definition of real we agree upon)?

Also, Brooks has linked up a number of things which are not necessarily related (e.g. Haidt and Newberg neither of whom so far as I know are Buddhists, neural or otherwise).  And the term neural Buddhism, like the Holy Roman Empire, is arguably neither Buddhist nor neural.  I understand what he’s getting at and it’s an op-ed column and he’s no consciousness science-religion philosopher or religious studies scholar, but that term is more obscuring than clarifying imo.

In response to Matthew:

Contrasting the The Bible as Literature and Neural Buddhism (so-called) is comparing apples and iPods.   The proper comparisons are between the contemplative paths in Buddhism and Christianity one of the one hand–from both the inside (say mystics themselves in dialog) and the “outside” if you like as in Newberg–and The Bible as Literature and the Buddhist Canon as Literature on the other.

e.g. The stories within the Buddhist tradition like The Buddha’s birth from his mother’s side, his father sheltering the princely boy by hiding him from disease and death and his eventual encounters with those realities, and the stories of his temptations (as compared to Jesus’).

One interesting overlap between these two cross-religious categories (literature and mysticism) is in both traditions the contemplatives read the traditional stories of their religion and argue that the stories contain hidden mystical meanings not apparent to the common everyday reading/reader.

e.g. As regarding The Buddha born from his mother’s side and Jesus’ Virgin Birth both (according to this reading) are understood as Divine Beings who have entered Time and Space–represented by the respective mothers’ wombs–in an alternate fashion than the commonplace (i.e. sinful/unenlightened) manner symbolizing a union (and therefore salvation) of the Transcendent and the Immanent.

But that reading is not available–and the actual experience from which it arises–through Big Church, Bible as Literature (only), Brain Neural Mystical Studies, or Neo-Darwinian evolutionary psychology applied to religion and morality.

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Published in: on May 13, 2008 at 5:01 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Religion-Science | Tags: evolutionary psychology, Jonathan Haidt, morality |   As an addendum to yesterday’s post re: David Brooks’ column about what I called (tongue in cheek) soft-core materialism, this […]


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