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Heaven and Nature - Comments

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 1 by God fearing Atheist

I read the words but the meaning escaped me. Did he have anything to say?

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 18:52:00 UTC | #425433

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 2 by Nunbeliever

Its “circle of life” is really a cycle of mortality. And the human societies that hew closest to the natural order aren’t the shining Edens of James Cameron’s fond imaginings. They’re places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short.


Good article! I think the VERY large phenomenon often referred to as "new age" is something that often seems to slip through our fingers when we are criticising religion. Beliefs that the nature would be a peacful and harmonious place if it were not for us humans destroying everything or, that mysterious "energies" are floating around in the universe just waiting to be revealed to us through transcendental meditation or similar rituals.

The problem is that, when carefully examined, these believes are as nutty as any of the more traditional religious believes. But, it is trendy and HIP to believe in these things. You can't practically be a serious artist today if you are not "one with your inner energies" or something similar. Of course they call themselves atheists. they do not want to be affiliated with the old and boring religions. NO, they want new nutty things to believe in.

I'm sorry to say, I do not really think superstition is any less frequent today than a hundred years ago. It just changes shape. Of course few people in the western world believe in the "evil eye" or that mean spirits cause diseases. But, still quite many believe that crystals, homeopathy, transcendental meditation, etcetc can heal them, help them achieve "higher" forms of consciousness, give spiritual guidance or whatever....

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 19:03:00 UTC | #425437

mitch_486's Avatar Comment 3 by mitch_486

wrapped around a deeply felt religious message.


I haven't seen the movie, but Aliens stone each other as well?

......shame

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 19:04:00 UTC | #425438

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 4 by Dr. Strangegod

God fearing Atheist - Read it again. Carefully. Nunbeliever seems to have gotten it. This was the passage that made it worth submitting to RD.net.

Indeed, it represents a form of religion that even atheists can support. Richard Dawkins has called pantheism “a sexed-up atheism.” (He means that as a compliment.) Sam Harris concluded his polemic “The End of Faith” by rhapsodizing about the mystical experiences available from immersion in “the roiling mystery of the world.” Citing Albert Einstein’s expression of religious awe at the “beauty and sublimity” of the universe, Dawkins allows, “In this sense I too am religious.”
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: While I'm happy Douthat took the opportunity to suck readers into a point about the prevalence of New Age "nature mysticism" in American culture by making reference to a recent popular film, he may not have actually seen the film. I say this because James Cameron and his screenwriters made sure that Sigourney Weaver says at one point, when faced with skepticism about the existence of the Na'Vi's earth goddess Eywa, that there is something "physical and biological" about Eywa and that the connectedness of the planet Pandora is not just a superstition. This is made explicit when they show that the Na'Vi repeatedly intertwine something like nerve endings (from their ponytails) with those of other creatures and trees. When they communicate with Eywa or their ancestors, they do so physically, by way of a biological system that Weaver's character is trying to figure out. This I think adds a little twist to Douthat's point; while the ideas are based in New Age-like nature mysticism, they are only validated by a physical reality that is being pursued by a scientist.

Standing in the blizzard outside the theater, I mentioned to my friend that if we could somehow physically intertwine our brains with the trees, we'd probably be less likely to cut them down into toilet paper too. But we can't, so we do.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 19:28:00 UTC | #425445

mitch_486's Avatar Comment 5 by mitch_486

*Guilty of skimming the article...

Thanks for highlighting, Lucas.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 19:41:00 UTC | #425452

blakjack's Avatar Comment 6 by blakjack

Quote:Richard Dawkins has called pantheism “a sexed-up atheism.”

I am certainly happy with the general concepts of Pantheism so from that perspective, I am not a true Atheist. But I detest all and every conventional religion (“God decreed that ...etc, etc” Fill in the blank as required). These conventional faiths are frankly embarrassing jokes; I can actually feel sorry for their adherents who might well be incapable of deeper philosophical thought.

So although I reject religion, I do not entirely reject the concept that some force – god if you like – set up the rules that govern the universe. I suppose I could be described by the clumsy word “Areligionist” as being more appropriate than Atheist. I suspect that many people label themselves Atheist for want of a more accurately descriptive term.

Jack

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 20:26:00 UTC | #425464

George Jelliss's Avatar Comment 7 by George Jelliss

"Lucas" comments: "Weaver says at one point, when faced with skepticism about the existence of the Na'Vi's earth goddess Eywa, that there is something "physical and biological" about Eywa and that the connectedness of the planet Pandora is not just a superstition. This is made explicit when they show that the Na'Vi repeatedly intertwine something like nerve endings (from their ponytails) with those of other creatures and trees. When they communicate with Eywa or their ancestors, they do so physically, by way of a biological system that Weaver's character is trying to figure out"

This is very similar to the plot of Alan Dean Foster's "Midworld" published as long ago as 1975. This is about a planet on which all the life-forms are "emfoled".

This is not really a form of pantheism but more like Gaia, or pagan nature-worship.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 20:55:00 UTC | #425473

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 8 by mordacious1

I think we have to be careful when we use the word "pantheism" by itself without a modifier. Most "New Agers", for example, I would consider classical pantheists, not the naturalistic pantheism of Spinoza. The first being theistic and the latter not being theistic.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 20:57:00 UTC | #425476

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 9 by prolibertas

blakjack: "So although I reject religion, I do not entirely reject the concept that some force – god if you like – set up the rules that govern the universe. I suppose I could be described by the clumsy word “Areligionist” as being more appropriate than Atheist. I suspect that many people label themselves Atheist for want of a more accurately descriptive term".

What you just described here is probably Deism. I see no need for that hypothesis myself, but I don't particularly mind it (my only gripe is with those who claim to know what God's will is, and who want to impose it on others). But atheism and pantheism aren't necessarily mutually exclusive; one can be both.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:00:00 UTC | #425477

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 10 by prolibertas

About the article, I think whoever wrote it equivocated a bit too much between the new-agey pantheism of people like Deepak Chopra and the scientific pantheism of Spinoza and Einstein. These two pantheisms are as different as night and day; one is naturalistic and one is supernaturalistic.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:07:00 UTC | #425480

Rikitiki13's Avatar Comment 11 by Rikitiki13

re: #444061 - George Jelliss:
"This is very similar to the plot of Alan Dean Foster's "Midworld" published as long ago as 1975."
(off-topic, I know)
I do wonder then if Cameron will get sued like he did for ripping-off Harlan Ellison with 'The Terminator'£ Will be interesting to see.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:16:00 UTC | #425484

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 12 by Nunbeliever

To blakjack:

I usually do not define myself as an atheist. Not in my everyday life. Simply, because my non-belief in superstition has no direct implications for how I live my life or what decisions I make. As Sam Harris use to point out most of us instinctively realize a term like "a-astrologer" is absurd. So why is not a term like "atheist" as preposterous?

Hence, it's absurd that we are forced into defining us in relation to beliefs that we consider ludicrous. If a person asks you whether you believe in god or not he/she is presupposing that it is a question worth answering in first place.

With this said, I definately have to define myself as an atheist if confronted. The position that you hold (if I got it right) seems to be at best meaningless and at worst misleading. Yes, of course no rational atheist can proove that no gods exist. Proof belongs to the world of mathematics. That does naturally NOT mean that we live in a totally relativistic world where any hypothesis is as good as the other. I guess for example you would not honestly reflect on the existence of fairies or lepracauhns. So why do you leave room for some diffusely defined concept of some force (god if you like)? As said earlier. I think that is at best a meaningless position. At worst a way of trying to sneak in the supernatural under the banner of atheism.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:22:00 UTC | #425487

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 13 by Dr. Strangegod

George Jelliss - Gaia belief and other pagan nature worship cults are indeed examples of pantheism. From wiki: "the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent God and that the Universe (Nature) and God are equivalent." But mordacious and prolibertas are right to caution a distinction between pagan pantheism and modern philosophical pantheism.

Rikitiki13 - There has been some discussion in that direction given that the basic plot of Avatar is an awful lot like Poul Anderson's 1957 novella "Call Me Joe." But there are good arguments as to why that's not plagiarism but rather just versions of common themes. And remember as awesome as Ellison is, he is an overly litigious ass.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:29:00 UTC | #425491

Sciros's Avatar Comment 14 by Sciros

Rikitiki13, you think that's bad, you should watch Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992). Avatar really reminded me of it. Even though I watched Avatar in all of its mouth-watering IMAX 3D glory. It was a fun experience, like watching a great video game cutscene, complete with insanely shallow done-before-and-done-better story and non-characters and a cartoony villain. To say that it rips off Ferngully and Dune is an understatement, but it was good fun.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:31:00 UTC | #425492

flying goose's Avatar Comment 15 by flying goose

Never under estimate the power of the Force.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zzs-OvfG8tE

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:37:00 UTC | #425494

Sciros's Avatar Comment 16 by Sciros

Do those who saw the movie agree with Douthat that it is an epic crass capitalistic excess deeply felt gospel apologetic blockbuster to end all blockbusters?
It's epic. It's crass. It's "capitalistic excess" if you consider its budget. It's a "blockbuster." I don't know about the gospel and apologetic stuff. The Eywa thing reminded me more than anything of the Lifestream concept in Final Fantasy VII. It's damn near the same thing. The movie is painfully unoriginal. But! It looks so sweet, and James Horner copy-pasted all the nice bits from his Titanic, Mighty Joe Young, and Enemy at the Gates soundtracks so it sounds good too. It's a treat for the senses, just not for your brain. So, if you want to see it at all, see it in IMAX 3D because that's the only way it'll really work its magic. But it'll definitely work some magic. Oh and it's a bit long so keep that in mind.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:49:00 UTC | #425497

Mbee's Avatar Comment 17 by Mbee

I also do not describe myself as an atheist in public as it shuts down conversation with the religious. By saying I am agnostic it tends to lead into more discussions about life, god etc. The religious may even think they have a chance at convincing me that their specific belief is the 'correct' one!

Even Richard says he is a 6.5 on a 7.0 scale to being an atheist. Doesn't that mean he is actually agnostic. If you are not 100% believing in some god or other, then isn't agnostic the best answer. I think most atheists will also say that if some evidence is found they are willing to look at it and validate what it is and see if it provides anything new as far as supporting a god as creator.

I'm going to go along with what we know today and learn in the future. So far I see no evidence of a god or any other supreme being. The universe just exists with us in it. We can continue searching but I doubt that in my lifetime there will be a definitive answer as to how it came to be. At least evolution provides a method for how life has changed on Earth. I hope that we will soon have evidence of how life actually came to be - no gods needed.

So here's wishing all at RD.net a Happy Solstice and good luck for the next orbit around the sun!

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:52:00 UTC | #425499

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 18 by Nunbeliever

To Sciros:

COME ON!! Yes, it was most certainly not a movie that will impress an anthropologist. There were some really stupid turns in the plot, and yes the villains were a a bit cartoonish. But to say the story was "insanely shallow" is just a sign of obvious lack of perspective.

"Plan 9 from outer space", "Ben & Arthur" or perhaps "Disaster Movie" all have insanely shallow stories. "Avatar" does not. I HATE (sorry dislike) when people ALWAYS (sorry again, most of the time) have to use superlatives when criticising movies. I'm quite sure we would get the message even without your exaggerations. Thank you. A more balanced approach would certainly be in your favour.


EDIT: well, this was a bit beside the point. But anyway :-)

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 22:00:00 UTC | #425505

Rikitiki13's Avatar Comment 19 by Rikitiki13

I'm thinking, "It's a rental" (for me) - one I'll watch on a large-screen HDTV, true, but rental nonetheless. An un-original, long-winded story deserves bathroom and munchie breaks - not my support to make it a block-buster.
(Yeah, Ellison's awesome - and litigious)

Oh, and thank you ALL for the birthday wishes! - re: Solstice.
(yes, today is my B-day!!)

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 22:01:00 UTC | #425507

Sciros's Avatar Comment 20 by Sciros

COME ON!! Yes, it was most certainly not a movie that will impress an anthropologist. There were some really stupid turns in the plot, and yes the villains were a a bit cartoonish. But to say the story was "insanely shallow" is just a sign of obvious lack of perspective.
Man I don't know... I've seen Dune, Dances with Wolves, Last Samurai, Last of the Mohicans, Ferngully, Pocahontas, etc. and I basically figured out the "story" as soon as the movie got started. There's just not much to it, and it's been better done before. Maybe "shallow" is the wrong word, after all if I replace all the character names in Life is Beautiful and re-release it, it'll be just as "deep."

I don't have to use superlatives when criticizing movies, but you have to admit, if any movie is begging for superlatives, it's Avatar ^_^

Anyway there's enough praise of the film to be found within 1 second of searching (google "avatar review") so I figured I'd throw some hate out there for good measure. I liked the film, I'm listening to the copy-and-paste soundtrack of James Horner as I type this (I like his tastes, just not his effort haha), and I was staring at the screen all giddy for a solid 60 minutes of the film. I walked away from it plenty satisfied.

But watching people read "into" it is about as silly in my opinion as seeing them do it with a Final Fantasy game.

Oh I'm also the harshest movie critic you'll ever meet ^^

Happy Birthday, Rikitiki13! But I do recommend seeing Avatar in a theater in 3D, IMAX if you can. To me the movie's not really about the story, which is weird but yeah.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 22:15:00 UTC | #425510

ridelo's Avatar Comment 21 by ridelo

Reread Chapter 5 of TGD "The Roots of Religion" and you will be cured of any theism, even pantheism, I say. Al least, it worked for me. But escape the Xmas cargo cult, alas I cannot.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 22:33:00 UTC | #425518

flying goose's Avatar Comment 22 by flying goose

ridelo, strangely enough I wasn't cured, explaining religion does not explain it away as Pascal Boyer once said.

In fact pantheism seems quite a nice haven for the religiously minded, who nevertheless find the personal God out there, rather difficult to believe in.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 22:40:00 UTC | #425519

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 23 by justinesaracen

I think we overlook the fact that blockbuster movies, like grand operas, are "Gesamtkunstwerke", that is, a complex combination of plot, acting, camera work, sound, special effects, careful cutting, etc. A movie can be satisfying if only a few of those categories are good. What impresses me least in films are special effects. I look for good story and good film techniques. But one man's pudding is another man's umm..well you know what mean. It sounds like there are enough goodies in this film to be worth the ten bucks it costs nowadays -- not counting the dinner out you always want to combine with it. I live in Brussels, but if it comes to a theater here, I'll see it for sure.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 22:49:00 UTC | #425522

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

Comment #444111 by flying goose

ridelo, strangely enough I wasn't cured, explaining religion does not explain it away as Pascal Boyer once said.


I strongly feel that it does. Once you know how a plane flies through the sky, it does remove the need for thousands of angels to keep the machine up in the air.

Explaining religion does not remove the need to believe in it for many, but I have no doubts that it does explain it away. How could it not?

In fact pantheism seems quite a nice haven for the religiously minded, who nevertheless find the personal God out there, rather difficult to believe in.


I think that pantheism is much more difficult to believe in than a personal God, because it has no meaning. That the universe and God are somehow the same thing is just stringing words together for emotional effect. I can appreciate that there is an emotional effect, but that does not mean it makes sense.

I do have a problem for pantheism being a haven for disillusioned theists because it still allows them to talk about certain principles, such as morality and purpose, being "built in" to reality.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 23:07:00 UTC | #425526

flying goose's Avatar Comment 25 by flying goose

Steve

I take your points one by one.

I have no doubts that it does explain it away. How could it not?


That's not what I had in my mind. Religion is very much here, it has not been explained away yet.

Religion in some ways is a state of mind, a way of being. These things are more difficult to change. It is far easier to change the object 'worshipped' rather than the need to 'worship/ stand in awe etc .
I do have a problem for pantheism being a haven for disillusioned theists because it still allows them to talk about certain principles, such as morality and purpose, being "built in" to reality.


I agree there but I don't think it does so necessarily.

Morality arises from our reflection upon our condition, that should always be evolving as our understanding of the nature of things evolves.

I would argue that even theistic religion can and does do that. Witness the election of homosexual bishops in the US.

You could say that pantheism is a form of 'High Church' atheism. Atheism with smells and bells, a bit a ritual thrown in with a celebration of the 'Stations of the Sun'.

Not everyone is a 'puritan'. That's not an accusation BTW

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 23:27:00 UTC | #425529

Rikitiki13's Avatar Comment 26 by Rikitiki13

Sciros - if you like James Horner (I do: have soundtracks of his), get hold of the "Rocketeer" soundtrack (my fave!) - unfortunately out-of-print and may be hard to come by. Done before he became 'known' with "Titanic". (And turn it up LOUD!) ;-)

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 23:27:00 UTC | #425530

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 27 by Nunbeliever

Sciros:

Anyway there's enough praise of the film to be found within 1 second of searching (google "avatar review") so I figured I'd throw some hate out there for good measure.


Haha... Well, I guess you have a point there ;-)


esuther:
What impresses me least in films are special effects. I look for good story and good film techniques.


Don't we all? Well, at least people older than 15... In this case though I think the movie would be worth seeing only for it's very tasteful but breathtaking special effects. I really liked that the 3D effects weren't the kind of "in your face" effects one has grown used to, but more subtile and tasty. James Cameron is definately not the best director to portrait sensitive characters, but I can't say that his movies lacks visual imagination.

Ok, but all this has exactly NOTHING to do with atheism or reason ;-)

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 00:04:00 UTC | #425536

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

Comment #444122 by flying goose

Thank you for your answers.

I see theistic religion as a formalised lack of humility.

My views on this have changed over the years.

A few years ago I would have asked:

"How can people know what reality really is?"

That question changed to:

"How can a species of ape that is a basically a close relative of a chimpanzee know what reality is?"

Now, I ask:

"How can a certain patterns of processing in a few pounds of fatty neural tissue know what reality is?"

We surely have to be deeply humble, and realise that we barely know our own thoughts, so how can we possibly claim to know anything about the "mind" of a creator and its purposes?

I would argue that even theistic religion can and does do that. Witness the election of homosexual bishops in the US.


No, theistic religion really doesn't do that. People do it, while struggling against the moral and philosophical handicaps of theistic religion.

You could say that pantheism is a form of 'High Church' atheism. Atheism with smells and bells, a bit a ritual thrown a celebration of the 'Stations of the Sun'.


Pantheism is theism homeopathy. It is an insistence that if you dilute God so that not one particle of his personality is still present, that somehow the universe still has a memory of divinity. I think it is even more ridiculous than theism.

Not everyone is a 'puritan'. That's not an accusation BTW


I would not take it as an accusation :)

The thing is, that I see pantheism and deism as the barely glowing embers of an almost-extinguished theism, along with its prejudices and absurdities. Give those embers just a bit of the oxygen of publicity, and they will flare up into something bad.

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 00:07:00 UTC | #425537

Rikitiki13's Avatar Comment 29 by Rikitiki13

"The thing is, that I see pantheism and deism as the barely glowing embers of an almost-extinguished theism, along with its prejudices and absurdities. Give those embers just a bit of the oxygen of publicity, and they will flare up into something bad."

Hmm, nicely put -
Yep, might not take a whole lot to go from burning sage ('smudging') to 'purify' a room to more outlandish (and bad) practices.
Woo-into-Voodoo as it were.

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 00:29:00 UTC | #425540

flying goose's Avatar Comment 30 by flying goose

Steve thanks for your response.

'Formalised lack of humility' agreed, especially in its dogmatic form.

How can a certain patterns of processing in a few pounds of fatty neural tissue know what reality is?
agreed again.

I don't think pantheism is diluted theism. I suppose it can be.

The stars tonight are incredible, when I look at them I find myself in the same state that certain music brings me to, or the fact of considering someone's life, newly deceased and the effect of that life.

I am moved to be contemplative by all of that.

The problem is that the only thing which provides me with a context for that is religion. I will grant its great imperfections. But its there.

100,000 pagans celebrated the mid winter yesterday.

Many I suspect are closet atheists. The reason they are not 'out' is not because of fear, paganism gives them a context for their creativity they would not find else where.

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 00:31:00 UTC | #425541