(Dis)Proving the Necessity of God

Matthew pointed me to this article by Dennis Prager on the need for belief in God (and by God he means a conflation of the Biblical Hebraic god with the Deistic god of the US Framers).

Now as a religious person myself I find this line of argument he takes up so counterproductive to the defense of faith. It’s full of so many partial truths overblown, no truths, it’s a mess.

This will be long as he makes numerous point each of which requires rebuttal, but the overall way of stating my general disagreement with Prager’s view is: 1) it unnecessarily drives a wedge between Judeo-Christians and secular individuals in America as well as Judeo-Christians and believers of other religions who are upstanding American citizens 2)it rightly condemns moral relativism but incorrectly asserts without God (and his God in particular) moral relativism is the inevitable end result. (more…)

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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.

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

Meanwhile in Lhasa

Prayers for peace.

Chinese security forces were reportedly surrounding three monasteries outside Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, on Thursday after hundreds of monks took to the streets this week in what are believed to be the largest Tibetan protests against Chinese rule in two decades.

The turmoil in Lhasa occurred at a politically delicate time for China, which is facing increasing criticism over its human rights record as it prepares to play host to the Olympic Games in August and is seeking to appear harmonious to the outside world.

Update I:  Violence is spreading.

Published in: on March 13, 2008 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Light at the Edge of the World

Beautiful film of the Tibetan Buddhist community in exile (Nepal, India).  Somewhat lessened by the annoying (to me) guide Wade Davis and his Boomer lefty-ism, but that aside, deeply wondrous.

(To be fair to Davis, here he is in much better form on his main research, the less of cultures and languages worldwide at TED).

Published in: on January 19, 2008 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dali Lama On Changing Rules (Possibly) for Succession

It would be too hard to find a boy in Tibet and sneak him out (again), I fear.

clipped from www.time.com

“If the Tibetan people want to keep the Dalai Lama system, one of the possibilities I have been considering with my aides is to select the next Dalai Lama while I’m alive,” he told the Sankei Shimbun in an interview published November 21st. That could mean either some kind of democratic election among senior Buddhist monks or a personal selection by the current Dalai Lama himself, who is the 14th of the line. For 13 successive incarnations, monks have fanned out across Tibet with relics of the deceased Dalai Lama to try and find his next incarnation — a boy who recognized the objects and thus signaled that the Dalai’s soul had passed into a new earthly envelope.

  blog it
Published in: on November 21, 2007 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sam Harris’ Buddhism

C4, the man on all things New Atheist, with this quotation from Sam Harris’ End of Faith (although to be fair as C4 and Harris point out New Atheist doesn’t really work for him per se)

“Attentive readers will have noticed that I have been very hard on religions of faith–Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and even Hinduism–and have not said much that is derogatory of Buddhism. This is not an accident. While Buddhism has also been a source of ignorance and occasional violence, it is not a religion of faith, or a religion at all, in the Western sense. There are millions of Buddhists who do not seem to know this, and they can be found in temples throughout Southeast Asia, and even the West praying to Buddha as though he were a numinous incarnation of Santa Claus. This distortion of the tradition notwithstanding, it remains true that the esoteric teachings of Buddhism offer the most complete methodology we have for discovering the intrinsic freedom of consciousness, unencumbered by any dogma. It is no exaggeration to say that meetings between the Dalai Lama and Christian ecclesiastics to mutually honor their religious traditions are like meetings between physicists from Cambridge and the Bushmen of Kalahari to mutually honor their respective understandings of the physical universe. This is not to say that Tibetan Buddhists are not saddled with certain dogmas (so are physicists) or that the Bushmen could not have formed some conception of the atom. Any person familiar with both literatures will know that the Bible does not contain a discernible fraction of the precises spiritual instructions that can be found in the Buddhist canon. Though there is much in Buddhism that I do not pretend to understand–as well as much that seems deeply implausible–it would be intellectually dishonest not to acknowledge its preeminence as a system of spiritual instructions.”

Now, there’s a lot here, some intelligent, some less than.

The first point is that the comparison is not between say the description of meditation practices in the Buddhist Canon and the Bible.  Particularly say the New Testament for the Christian Bible.

The comparison would be between the handbooks of Buddhist meditation and the Christian mystical corpus that does in fact describe the practice, the reality/recognition/clues of mysticism, and possible illusions-pitfalls on the path.   Examples:  Dionysius’ Mystical TheologyThe Cloud of UnknowingGregory Palamas’ Triads.   St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila’s Inner Castle.  Etc. etc.

Not to mention say an Eckhart who goes toe to toe with Padmashambhava, Hui Neng, Vivekananda.

To take a prosaic example, the letters of St. Paul.  They are written to Christian communities about the problems they are having.  They are pastoral letters not meditative manuals.  Harris is comparing apples and oranges.  Compare the apples and apples, or else how am I supposed to take this guy that seriously? (more…)

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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