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Go to: The Center of all Things

BrainDrain's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by BrainDrain

I find this video to be wonderfully inspiring (even though I don't need to be convinced about any of this; there isn't a creationist bone in my body). Could a religious fundamentalist remain unmoved in their beliefs by this brilliantly concise summary of where we've been and where we are now? Probably, yes, and I find that profoundly difficult to understand.

Wed, 23 May 2012 17:24:16 UTC | #943140

Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

BrainDrain's Avatar Jump to comment 68 by BrainDrain

Well, first of all, we’ll have to accept that your analogy is accurate, and that a “meta-ethical” system must actually support everything else in a bottom-to-top structure. Even so, I think that Richard Dawkins’ (typically blunt and uncompromising) comments have been somewhat misunderstood where all this is concerned. Professor Dawkins has often described—and this is surely obvious to us all—that the processes of nature, including that of natural selection, do not proceed from, or with, any sort of moral awareness. All around the world, at whatever moment you happen to be reading this, countless creatures are being chased, tortured and killed by other animals; neither we nor they would ever dream of describing these acts as murder, inflicted by one animal upon another. As far as we know, we are the only creatures capable of attaching moral considerations to our lives and actions, and this may be a natural, emergent property of consciousness (along with empathy and our intellectual understanding of our own mortality) which requires the human world to place ethical standards upon itself, whilst refraining from imposing such moral judgements on creatures who, unlike us, “don’t know any better”. I think that Professor Dawkins is making a distinction between what caused our moral concerns to appear in our species (that would be natural selection, of course: it has no consciousness, no desire to plan, no vision of an ultimate goal and, consequently, no moral centre whatsoever) and the responsibilities we feel we have as conscious, empathic beings. Our morality may well have been forged by evolution, even though evolution itself is neither “good” nor “bad”. There are countless ways of illustrating these points, but the nub of the matter is that, given the way we understand natural selection to work, factors we would describe as “amoral” might well produce creatures that will come up with morality for themselves. It also must be acknowledged that merely “wishing” we lived in a universe that has meaning, whilst that is surely understandable to us all, does not dictate that the universe actually has one. Instead, if we seek a purpose and meaning to our short-lived existence and simply can’t ignore the overwhelming evidence that our scriptures are, when all is said and done, utterly incapable of describing the reality in which we now exist, we look for inspiration from those around us who don’t believe that there is any divine creator in existence, nor any heavenly reward to invest in, and who, nevertheless, put their time and resources into helping others. Could anything be nobler than someone giving his time, help, perhaps even his or her life for another person in spite of the fact that he or she believes that there will be no afterlife in which to reap the rewards of a life well-lived? I don’t believe that there’s any sense in which morality is “an illusion”. The non-religious among us are evidently as capable of acting morally (and immorally) as those who insist they have the personal vote of confidence from one god or another. The only illusory aspect of morality is to assume that it is an attribute which comes from a divine super-being, rather than a trait which owes its inception to the utter indifference of natural selection.

Tue, 22 May 2012 21:49:22 UTC | #942970

Go to: Missing God

BrainDrain's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by BrainDrain

You don't mention whether or not you live alone. If you do, then you may be noticing a sense of isolation which was once mollified by the presence of an "invisible friend". Losing such a "relationship" is likely to produce a period of grief, however real or unreal the friend actually was. Making contact with others, particularly others who are in a very similar situation, might well fill whatever void you're currently feeling aware of. Ideally, that would entail meeting people who have recently left long-held religious beliefs behind them and are feeling a sense of loss because of that. I've no idea if such groups exist in your area, but there's nothing to prevent you from starting one. Even one or two like-minded people meeting up locally would help while you adjust to your new "reality". There will almost certainly be groups already out there which fit the bill in a more generalised fashion. Also, it's quite likely that the passage of time, new thoughts, ideas and experiences, will provide you with some new insights about yourself, others and the world you're in which will restore your peace of mind. Going back to where you were probably seems very tempting, but how much comfort will you be able to get from something or someone which, from now on, you're going to secretly suspect isn't actually there? It depends on how good you are at convincing yourself of such things, but it's probably best to move forwards rather than backwards.

Wed, 14 Sep 2011 22:49:07 UTC | #870959

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