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Tuesday, June 2. 2009
Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.
C.S. Lewis (h/t, Dr. Bob)
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completely off topic, but ran across this and thought between the Conservative angle and the Dartmouth tie in you might find this interesting:
CS Lewis and Spinoza seem to have much the same vision, that the human mind will be devoted to this thought, either in worship or rebellion, and that this is manifest, so is it the manifestation.
No one more boorish than an atheist who has turned to religion. They feel the need to speak profound profundities with no clue of what they're talking about.
Buddy, I have no idea what you mean, but I reckon I must be out of the loop because I don't spend a lot of time devoted to whatever thought CS Lewis and Spinoza had. Come to think on it, could you rewrite that on about a seventh-grade level so I can grok it?
I'm pissed-off now with this post and Dr. Bliss's blathering, but really, I should be happy because the political detritus that has clogged our minds for months now was making me want to shoot baby rabbits. I have two warrens in my back yard. Is that like, you know, the 'rebellion' manifestation coming to life?
it ain't profound, meta --it's just an observation that something that has preoccupied mankind his entire history is real on that account alone. It's a minimalist, non-anthro God, which exists as a thing that always either leads or drives fundamental behaviors in mysterious ways and is called "God" because it has to have a name or else it can't be coped with. Or, grammatically better, coped with else be it can't.
Some would say, it's in the breach that the proof is found. Individuals in a God-fearing society can thrive in much the same way that a non-vaccinated person in a vaccinated society can --because of the mass effect.
But societies that reject the behavior that it feels is too-godlike and/or not enough man-like run into problems with hatred and vengeances and bitterness and eventually all sorts pf pathologies, even to disease and suicide.
anyhoo, this is all just general observation.
Examine the old aphorism, "cleanliness is next to Godliness".
We know there can be no connection between the two, right, but spritual, behavioral, ethical, physical cleanliness leads to long prosperous happy societies.
The problem is knowing what is 'clean'.
Is 'clean' "clean enough" or is it "as clean as possible"?
Does "clean enough" mean that efforts at achieving greater cleanliness than 'clean-enough' become...unclean? i think, yes, probably, because it's boundless demand breeds rebellion, and rebellion breeds like rabbits.
last thought (ha, as if these are thoughts), it the thing is real, then itb will 'be' even in so-called secular contexts, Ergo, there should be a stand-in word for 'God'. This one is easy --what is cleanliness next to? bingo, there you have it. God is a people's survival mechanism. Because a people will have one, and it will have a name. Currently we often use 'happy' and 'healthy' and such.
All righty. Thank ye, Buddy. I'm much better now. I enjoyed the labyrinthian journey down the florid verbal jungle of your mind. If I say lying down in Kansas or Montana and staring up into the dark sky filled with so many stars you have the feeling their power may pull you up to become one of them, is that what you were talking about? That thing where we can't describe the universe because we have nothing to compare it to overwhelms and puts us in our place. Is that the same thing? Can an atheist feel that pull and gentle letdown of place?
By the way, I awkwardly worded my comment above. I was not referring to you with the profound profundities. I was referring to Lewis who was a very clever chap. You had me read Spinoza a time before, and I recall thinking he was covering ground, but it was okay with me.
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are....
"when you wish upon a star,
makes no difference who you are...."
"staring up into the dark sky filled with so many stars you have the feeling their power may pull you up to become one of them, is that what you were talking about?"
That's the angel in you talking. The animal wouldn't notice. The stars and the sky are not from whence comes the beauty, else they'd be beautiful to a stone or a mule. The beauty is yours, it comes from you, somehow you can see something in the thing that isn't in the thing you see. Miracle!
My own spiritual or faith journey has been somewhat like Mr. Lewis's. I was agnostic more from laziness than any firmly held beliefs or doubts. I think I was always kind of Deist behind my apparent apathy. I became a devout Deist during a time of trouble in my own life. Mr. Lewis returned to the Church of his own youth but I haven't.
I believe in God because the Universe itself had to come from somewhere or something. Past Prime Cause, things get more difficult. I attend a Christian church but the traditional interpretation of Jesus as paying our debt has never worked for me.
Humans clearly have a spiritual inclination so that we find life and the universe to be awe-inspiring. That inclination has thrived best -- has done the most good, as far as I can see -- in the Judaeo-Christian traditions. The Judaeo-Christian tradition includes much of ancient Greece and ancient Rome.
Geoff: "I believe in God because the Universe itself had to come from somewhere or something."
Okay, let's for one second follow that logic. Now where did God come from? The traditional answer is "He just is and has always been here."
Now, how did this explain anything? It's "more complex" -- which by the CSL quote presumably is "better." As an aside, I've noticed, in general: the simpler the better. This goes for almost anything.
I believe in the Prime Cause because that's actually simpler than "everything from nothing". I use the term God because my impression of Prime Cause is that it/he/she has created a universe of beauty and good things. I know there is much terrible in the Universe and I can't explain God's origin -- I must acknowledge God's infinite character as a mystery. I can only wonder why there even is a Universe that I can perceive. I believe the science of evolution; I see in it (as a matter of belief and not science) the will or the design of Prime Cause. If you like the term Providence (as George Washington and Abe Lincoln did), I can go along.
Lewis's statement seems pretty straightforward to me. But as I have read and reread that passage several times over the years , perhaps I no longer have eyes to see its obscurity.
It's either from Miracles or Mere Christianity, BTW.
Can you break the statement down into comprehensive syntax with special emphasis on the "should"?
Look, let's simplify all this.
Mother Nature does all this wild and crazy stuff, has forever, since time began, and will foreveruntil the end of time, but will never have the slightest inkling of doing it.
Along comes you, a brief flicker of light and heat in the frozen vasty, and you CAN have that inkling.
Whatever gave you that, from wherever that came, that place or power or event is what you will want to call God (or not want to call God, or call not-god, whatever, depending, but, god or God will be in it).
Wouldn't it be easier to just go with "it's always been here" or even "I don't know" than "spooky invisible guy made it" ?
What I mean here is: the concept isn't really giving us anything. It explains question 1, but then opens up a million new questions. IMO, it makes more sense to just leave the "why and where" blank. Otherwise, we just grow Occam's beard.
"...the concept isn't really giving us anything." Sure it is. It's giving those who 'know' the 'why and where' a supreme sense of superiority. Oh, and license to hate those who don't agree with them. Those are the people who can't stand at the ocean's edge on a lonely beach and look out over the vast water and feel the horizon wrap itself around them and whisper in the susurrus of the wind and sea: "You really are one grain of sand. Make the most of it."
"I don't know" sure passes the credibility test, for sure.
Going back to the post; "If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning." can be as minimal as that, the mere act of regarding, in order to decide whether or not it has meaning, gives it meaning --has already by then given it the meaning of being the source of the question of meaning --the mystery of mysteries.
The original question then at that point has already faded off into semantics.
Who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong and who made the f'n turtles?
The turtles made the turtles, of course. As to the "ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong"... well, I don't understand that. Just like I don't understand Lewis's quote. I wonder if there is something missing in it... as it seems to equate the physical with the spiritual. Not a good analogy in my opinion, given the subject under discussion.
Here's the entire quotation:
"If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning."
C. S. Lewis
I checked several sites and nowhere did I find the 'atheism' preface to the incomplete quotation in the post. If someone can find the atheism preface in the true context of the entire quotation, fine. If not, then someone added it and used only half of Lewis' quotation for their own purposes. That's pretty lame and illegal....
On the other hand, most of the Lewis quotations I slogged through to find this one were worse than lame. A Christian apologist with an H. L. Mencken cynicism. Too bad he seems to have lost his creativity once he was able to squeak out the words "god is god" and then spend the rest of his life pampering his guilt by telling others what they need to know to live a good life.
As for Spork's suggestion that we all say "I don't know.", that might give us all a good vacation from the hate this subject engenders. What if we did know? What if all of a sudden all the mysteries became known... known without a doubt from anyone? There would go wonderment and curiosity and for sure, a lot of opining by philosophers and religious leaders and regular know-it-alls. The true loss would be the wonderment and curiosity about our incomprehensible universe. But why worry about meaning? Our entry and exit to this life are not our choice, and that makes us all the same. We strut and fret our hour upon the stage and then are heard no more. You can be full of sound and fury, or you can signify nothing. There is your meaning: You get to choose how to live.
"Wisdom implies knowing what you are, knowing your place in the world, being able to take the wide view, with a due sense of proportion." Sophocles
Interesting information on the fullness of that quotation, Meta. I wonder why someone would do such a thing?
And great take on 'what if we did know'. And that is it, isn't it... (we) get to choose how to live. I sometimes think that that is too much freedom for some people to handle.
I still don't understand Lewis, even with that full quotation. His analogy is mixing apples and oranges in my mind, the physical and the spiritual.
"There would go wonderment and curiosity and for sure, a lot of opining by philosophers and religious leaders". Egads, woman! You mean they would all have to go out and get real jobs? Have you any idea what that would do to the Universe's GDP? Come to think of it, neither do I.
Thanks for the full quote. Certainly makes more sense completed and in its own context. I liked Lewis as long as I didn't take him too seriously. It's been quite some time since I read him, however, so my recollection is quite vague. Interesting you metion Mencken, with whom I'm much more cynically in sync, though he pushes my limits also. Oh that some GOPers would heed Sophocle's advice.
Anyone here read "God's Debris"?
I'll check out that book on Amazon. I have a hard time staying with Mencken, too. I've read biographical sketches of both Lewis and Mencken, and the similarities of character are striking. Mencken was an atheist as was Lewis until one of those dorm room epiphanies after a kegger when his friends convinced him he'd never be invited to the soirees if he didn't become a Christian. But they still ended up as cynical bastards driven to pontificate on how others ought to live. My mind pictures them as bloated slugs burping out phrases with little thought behind the words other than to get the pressure off their guts.