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Any of you who have read my diaries or comments know that I've been somewhat of a militant atheist. Well, as I look at the world I still don't see god there, but...

I just finished reading a book called "Lamb" by Chris Moore,and I thought it would reinforce my whole "laughing at the stupid believers" bit. But, although it was utter nonsense and fiction, it somehow helped me understand more. I've always wanted to believe, but I had no reason to. The old testament is filled with vile shit that god did just for the hell of it, and the gospels don't agree on what or when shit happened. The book, utter fiction, as I said, somehow put me in the place of understanding what it meant to be the so called "son of god" and made him seem more human than the Nicean Council ever could. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am sorry for calling all of the religious kossacks out, and I am more sorry that I didn't understand their perspective. I really urge everyone to read that book. It will seem blasphemous to the Christians and nonsense to the atheists, but it is a worthy read.

I suppose I should provide a short preview before you all go about downloading it illegally:

It tells the story of Levi, who is called Biff, who is Josh's (Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua which translates to Josh evidently). It attempts to fictionalize the events that happened in the missing 30 years of Jesus' life. Yes I know there is the part about the money changers, but no one really has any clue what happened from years 1-30 AD (shut up, I know the dates are mangled and it was really 4 BC or something when he was born).

Turns out Jesus learned Kung Fu and invented Judo. The book was hilarious, and though the author thought it might turn people away from religion, it kind of made me like the protagonist. You know, that Christ fellow. Read it or don't, but I thought it was crazy that a book [the author thought] made fun of religion, kind of helped me understand it.

Edit: the author thought bit, and I my Kindle called it "the lamb" but it is just "lamb"

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Comment Preferences

  •  If you've read it tell me what you think n/t (19+ / 0-)

    “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

    by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 06:48:49 PM PST

    •  I'm halfway through the book right now and it's (7+ / 0-)

      both a hoot and a revelation.  Moore is brilliant, if you haven't read his other stuff, which is mostly the comedic form of magic realism.  

      His jumping off point for the plot, that Jesus was fairly clueless to his mission (albeit certain that he was to fulfill a special role in history), and that therefore he took off, as a youngster, to find the three wise men who made the trek to see him as an infant, hoping they would fill him in as to the particulars of his mission.

      It's a brilliant, knee-slapping read (replete with modern colloquialisms and raunchy sex heaped on pretty good expositions of the worlds great religions of the time) that actually draws you in, rather than puts you at arms length by virtue of its craziness and iconoclasm.  

      I actually found myself cogitating, for the first time, about how the young Jesus would have handled the existential mind-fuck that being born a declared Savior would have visited on him, and how he came up with the the completely off the wall (for the M.E. at the time) religious philosophy that drove the Pharisees to murderous distraction.  

      Highly recommended, and thanks for your semi-confessional, from a fellow wanderer.

      "Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage." - Confucius -/- "Yeah, well, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi

      by nailbender on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:32:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dan Brown's "Lost Symbol" (0+ / 0-)

    is also worth a look, especially at the end of it.  It provides an interesting perspective for us all.

  •  "It attempts to fictionalize..." (4+ / 0-)

    As does the entire Bible.

    What does one call a fictional story based on a fictional story about a person who likely never actually existed?

    "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

    by rfall on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:12:42 PM PST

    •  Josephus said he existed, I'm not saying (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cachola, Nova Land, mama jo, Wee Mama, Timaeus

      he was or wasn't anything, but he did exist.

      Also, there were hundreds of "prophets" running around claiming to be the messiah for the past three hundred years, so there's that.

      “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

      by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:18:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think we know for sure, (5+ / 0-)

        but the task of proving that any particular individual 1st-century Galilean peasant existed would be a tall order.  They didn't keep records the way we keep records.

        There's some dispute about whether or not the passage in Josephus is authentic.

        If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

        by dirkster42 on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:32:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's also a dispute about whether or (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dirkster42, Timaeus

          not a major event of this century happened. The Iranian president says it didn't, so... Should that make it subject to review?

          “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

          by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:41:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The amount of fabrication it would take (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            You know me man, rfall, Wee Mama

            to fake the Holocaust boggles my mind.

            I can kind of see making up a single person along the lines of some mythic patterns, though from the way Paul talks about James, the brother of Jesus, and the context in which he's talking, I'm inclined to accept the historicity of Jesus.  Also, the Talmud never disputes the existence of Jesus when it mentions Christians, and I'd think it would have a good reason to say Jesus didn't exist if it could have made the case.

            If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

            by dirkster42 on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:51:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  well...you're talking about the testimony of (0+ / 0-)

            millions about something that happened to millions in our actual memory.

            In that case, let alone the fact that we're going back 2000 years, you have claimed testimony of a few--the earliest of which shows up 50 or 100 years later....

            It's really apples and oranges.

            •  What was your great grandfather's name (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Timaeus

              It is like a reverse exponential. Less memories are preserved from greater history. I am not claiming that Jesus was the son of God, but merely saying that we are pretty sure a guy named Jesus, who was from Nazareth did exist, and it is possible that he claimed to be the son of God.

              David Koresh also thought he was a messiah though and quite a few people believed him too. Saying it, and having it written doesn't make it true, but I'm pretty sure thata guy named Jesus was building some shit in Israel two thousand years ago.

              “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

              by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:11:32 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't quite understand your reasoning here. (0+ / 0-)

                What do you mean by "less memories are preserved from greater history"?

                "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad
                (-4.50/-6.77)

                by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:27:32 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  The argument here ignores many things, (0+ / 0-)

                most prominently the testimony from mystical experiences of contact with Jesus Christ over 2,000 years, among other things of that sort.

                Secularists who have no knowledge of mystical experience just don't understand that, but people who HAVE had mystical and supernatural experiences DO understand it.

                I feel sorry for the materialists, who are so indignant about the certainty of their position, while being so woefully ignorant of the true state of the world.

                •  None of us has access to another person's (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  HudsonValleyMark

                  subjective experiences. You can't expect someone to be convinced by that. It's possible that similar experiences have happened to some people who have a materialist position, but they have interpreted those experiences differently.

                  "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad
                  (-4.50/-6.77)

                  by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 10:42:38 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  One of the foundations of Christian belief (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Joieau

                    is called the deposit of faith, the collected testimony of believers down through the ages. These are all human beings basically identical to us. The aggregate of the testimony of religious experiences is strong evidence.

                    Materialists reject this out of hand. But that's not really a rational position.

                    •  For basically identical beings (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Timaeus, HudsonValleyMark

                      we sure have a diversity of experiences. One of the things that makes me reluctant to accept this kind of thing, is that while many people have religious experiences, there is a great deal of variation in the nature of those experiences. Some of that variation may correlate with the different environments and cultures people grow up in.

                      It seems unlikely that a person who had little contact with Christianity would have an experience with a being and identify that being as Jesus. I grew up with a religious Jewish education. I have had experiences where I felt I was being spoken to by God, but Jesus didn't enter into the picture. My image of God was what I wanted Him to be. I later attributed this experience to my own mind. Of course, I'm not really sure what caused it, but I'm reluctant to accept an explanation which doesn't make sense to me.

                      "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad
                      (-4.50/-6.77)

                      by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 11:00:36 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Aaron, I wrote a very long response to you, (2+ / 0-)

                        and somehow it vanished as I was posting it.

                        Let me just say that I can tell you're a good man on a good journey and I think you'll get where you need to go.

                        Although I am a fervent believer in Jesus, I'm also a liberal Catholic and I don't think it matters whether you have experience of Jesus, etc.

                        What matters, I think, is mainly humility before God.  ("Help me, please.")  And, as the Jewish and Christian scriptures teach, help your fellow humans.

                        I'll stop there. Hope this one posts.

                        •  I thank you, but (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Timaeus, HudsonValleyMark

                          I have not been a religious Jew, nor have I believed in God, for a long time, and I am comfortable in my non-belief. I respect those who see things differently. I was a bit disturbed by your comment about materialists. I recently had an unproductive argument with an apparent atheist who derided materialism. I have to say, however, that materialism is what makes the most sense to me at this point, despite the arguments I've seen against it. Maybe I'm just stubborn.

                          "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad
                          (-4.50/-6.77)

                          by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 11:31:16 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                  •  What you say is true, (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    niemann

                    but by the same token no one can expect that anyone's subjective experience can be rendered invalid just because direct empirical evidence is not universally shared.

                    We see too many materialists attempting to invalidate the empirical experiences of others just because they don't share it. THAT is entirely invalid and should be recognized as such.

                •  Why do you assume. (0+ / 0-)

                  That happy materialists don't have mystical experience?

      •  well, he might have. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        You know me man, niemann

        neither the historical or archaeological evidence really gives us much to go on.  But there's no compelling reason to think that he didn't exist--at least a person that the New Testament was loosely modeled on.

        •  200 years after the fact of course (0+ / 0-)

          we have to give them something.

          “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

          by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:12:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Some people place the Gospel of Thomas ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... to as early as 60 AD.

            It is things like that text which make me feel pretty certain their was an actual holy man named Jesus wandering around saying some pretty revolutionary things.  

            It is just a collection of Jesus' quotes and sayings -- not claiming him to have been divine or anything, or providing any sort of biographical story for him -- sounding very much like the things that mystics in general, like Buddha, say, have also said.  

            I read them and they sound very much to me like the words of someone who has had genuine mystical experiences and is speaking from them.  I see no reason to doubt that those sayings came from a real individual, and were remembered and written down relatively accurately and relatively soon after his death.

            •  Not to mention the (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              niemann

              postulated 'Q' document, which was kept contemporaneously with Jesus' ministry. And upon which the bulk of the synoptic gospels were based. There was, after all (and according to the record as it exists) at least one professional scribe among Jesus' apostles.

      •  <sigh> (0+ / 0-)

        There isn't a single scribe, historian, or philosopher who was alive during the years that the character Jesus supposedly lived  -  who mentions a solitary word about his existence.  Not one.  Which is curious as the Jews were meticulous record-keepers and the acts of raising the dead or curing leprosy ought to be fairly noteworthy news.

        Josephus wasn't even born until after Jesus' death and his Testamonium Flavianum wasn't written until around 70 years after the events allegedly happened.  Not to mention that the passages mentioning Jesus are widely considered forgeries, especially since Epherias took credit for adding the embellishments in the fourth century.  Why wasn't Josephus ever cited by Christians prior to this?

        Also, if one wants to use the writings of Josephus in order to prove the historicity of Jesus, then they need to square certain passages he wrote such as, "Jesus the supposed Christ, is repetitious upon the tongues of the meek and insincere."

        The historians Seneca, Pliny the Elder, or even Philo Judaeus all fail to mention this character.  And understand that Philo wrote volumes and volumes on the everyday lives of the Jewish people living in that region including the most trivial, mundane minutia imaginable.  One thinks such monumental history as the miracles of a Jesus would at least be noted by the historians of that era.

        "The radical of one century is the conservative of the next.  The radical invents the views.  When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts hem."   -   Mark Twain

      •  Okay, Amy Jill Levine is the Jewish professor (0+ / 0-)

        of New Testament (I know, way cool, and unusual) at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.  I heard her give a lecture at a church (back when I wasted my time with that) and her subject was what in the gospel you can credit and what probably never happened.  

        Someone asked her about the Josephus text, and she said the scholarship concludes that the Josephus (very short) reference to Jesus the C was almost certainly not by Josephus, but stuck  in by a scribe rewriting one of his manuscripts back before the days of printing.  Lots of shit got stuck into texts that way by scribes who thought it would be cool if the text mentioned their favorite subject.

        I too have concluded that Jesus of Nazareth (never "Christ" to me) almost certainly never existed.  Turns out, Nazareth wasn't yet a village in the era local boy J was supposedly raised there.  Nobody assumes Mithra was a real person, and texts composed at least 70 to 90 years after his supposed death are not creditable evidence of his existence.

        And thanks for your diary.

        "Individuals need to know how to judge truth claims objectively; how to be skeptical; how to be avoid gullibility, nincompoopery, fraudulent and counterfeit promises; how to live with ambiguities and uncertainties." Paul Kurtz

        by Tennessee Dave on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 09:32:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  A shitload of fun, actually. No comment as to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      You know me man, rfall, Wee Mama

      whether Jesus existed or not, just a comment that your sig line quotes someone, a Deist in fact, who thought he did, although not as advertized in much of the Gospels.

      "Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage." - Confucius -/- "Yeah, well, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi

      by nailbender on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:37:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  this is incredibly simplistic. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, Timaeus, niemann, SLKRR

      Do you write off all folklore, mythology, legends, oral tradition, as just some silly bunch of nonsense?

      Sure there's fiction in there.  There's fact.  There's metaphor, morality, immorality, law, magic, nonsense, everything.

      The Bible is an incredible piece of literature, author (authors) unknown, that provides a great deal of knowledge of not only the human condition during the Bronze and Iron Ages, but even into today.  It's f*ing important, no matter what you believe, or don't believe.

      When people deride the idea of God or a god as 'spaghetti monsters' or 'sky fairies', they miss so many more significant issues as to be rightly dismissed.

      •  I'm sure there are many "significant issues" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ashaman

        ...in the Bible, as in other religious documents.

        They are, after all, written by men for men, dealing with human issues.

        They are not, none of them, accurate tales of history, or science texts, or blueprints for how to live.

        They are, simply, good writings about human nature, with some useful lessons for life.

        Bottom line, there is no more evidence for God, or gods, or omnipotent, omniscient beings than there is for pink unicorns or spaghetti monsters.

        Which doesn't mean the universe isn't full of wonder, or magical, in that we're here to see it.  But a God or gods are an unnecessary addition in making it so.

        "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

        by rfall on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:51:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  the point of this diary isn't about what's 'true' (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          niemann, SLKRR, Joieau

          or not.  It's about a somewhat more open-minded approach and understanding of things than God vs. No God or Atheism vs. Theism would suggest.  Human scientific discoveries barely scratch the surface of our own reality...let alone reality--if there even is one.  The truth/fiction dichotomy is our own conception--and quite possibly a very simplistic one.

          Who cares if the Bible is written by people? Of course it's written by people...and generally several centuries or even millennia about the events that they're supposed to depict.  But it's far more than just a fictional work.

        •  What we call the Bible (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rfall, Joieau

          was compiled from many different documents composed over centuries by many different authors for different purposes. There are parts which may in fact be somewhat close to actual events. It may not be possible to determine which parts are more historically accurate without other evidence.

          "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad
          (-4.50/-6.77)

          by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:31:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  rfall is just diary hijacking, ignore him. (0+ / 0-)
    •  In this case? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      You know me man

      A good yarn, and a  moral one.

      I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

      by trumpeter on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:05:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  interesting (4+ / 0-)

    I don't know the book, but I get the idea.

    Maybe a bit like The Onion's "God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule." Whether or not one can believe in that God, at least one can like Him.

  •  Another good book (5+ / 0-)

    that makes fun of religion, but will help you grok some is The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs.  

    My mom read the one you reviewed and liked it.  I started Bloodsucking Fiends once, and the first page didn't grab me and I had other things I wanted to get around to.

    If you're curious, here's my take on one of the nastier stories in the Bible.

    If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

    by dirkster42 on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:15:00 PM PST

    •  Have you read John dies at the end (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42

      that book is seriously epic

      “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

      by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:22:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just read through your diary, man (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, hnichols, Wee Mama, Joieau

      I hope you understood the part where I talked about how god was an asshole in the old testament. I stopped being a Christian the first time I actually read the bible.

      “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

      by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:24:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  God can be an asshole in the New Testament, too. (2+ / 0-)

        Revelation pretty much puts the whole OT to shame on that front (though it's trippy enough to get a pass from me).

        If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

        by dirkster42 on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:27:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I stopped believing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        You know me man

        in god when I learned  that the great plan for my salvation was to send his son (Biff's friend) to be killed.  And then if I don't appreciate the gesture I am going to burn in hell per secula seculorum.  No, thank you, don't include me in your sadist schemes.

        I think Jesus is cool, though.  Wonder who his father was.

      •  I didn't. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann

        But then again, my godparents were Jewish, and introduced me to the nature of the collection when I was quite young. Don't think my parents would have approved, but that's what they got for having Jewish best friends.

        I was given to understand that the histories - the chronicles of kings and judges and prophets and wars and such - were kept and interpreted within the context of the people's antagonistic relationship with their deity. Sort of mass self-justification for political expediency and cultural conquest, juxtaposed with the forever-present "Damocles' Sword" of judgment. IOW, the basic narrative of the peoples' history is largely accurate, the deific justifications, warnings, fears, wins and losses are interpretive to the national self-image on the spiritual level.

        ...which allowed me to consider for most of my life the Book of Job to be a favorite. Simplistically portrayed by theme it's entirely ridiculous, yet taken as the poetic masterpiece it really is, the sheer brilliance of its argumentative characterizations is a higher education in rhetoric all by itself. Besides, Job wins in the end, God has to come and defend himself to the pitiful creature and reveals a childishness entirely recognizable to us mere humans. That's certainly a revelation...

  •  Let me see if I understand you. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hnichols, sandblaster

    You're saying that a book that you admit is fictional nonsense has made you more likely to believe that other books of fictional nonsense are really true.  

    Wow, my head hurts from that.  
    And -- all the great books out there that deserve to be read -- I don't think I'll be adding your recommendation to the list.  

    •  No. I'm saying it gave me perspective, and (5+ / 0-)

      although fiction, helped me understand more about how fiction or non-fiction Jesus/Josh felt going through it.

      “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

      by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:26:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  actually, I wondered about your title (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        You know me man

        You can better understand where some religious people come from and still be an atheist or non-believer, right? I wasn't sure what you were getting at there.

      •  That's not what you imply... (0+ / 0-)

        ..with phrases like 'journey from atheism' and comments about apologizing to religionists.  Either you buy the notion that someone named Jesus was a supernatural deity -- or you don't.  

        Just sayin.....

        •  I buy that he existed. I buy the fact that (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dirkster42, bevenro, Wee Mama, Timaeus, niemann

          he claimed to be the messiah. I'm unsure about the miracles and the messiah bit.

          My journey, as described in the title does not say that I am now a believer. It simply states that I don't have a frakking clue. I think that anyone who thinks they do is bonkers.

          “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

          by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:30:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Extraordinary claims... (0+ / 0-)

            ...require extraordinary evidence.

            There is just as much evidence that Jesus is a supernatural messiah-deity as there is that the world sits on the back of a giant invisible turtle as there is that Flying Gnocchi Monster created the universe -- i.e. no evidence at all.    

            If you find 'no evidence' to mean "could be true", there is no limit to the number of evidence-free absurdities your jury is out on.  

            •  What a low-grade comment. (0+ / 0-)

              There is all kinds of evidence that Jesus exists and continues to act in the world. You just have a closed mind and are completely not open to hearing about it.

              Do you know what "mystical experience" means?

        •  er...no. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama, niemann

          please don't promote the (fallacious on so many levels) hyperrationalist argument that belief in things is a True/False proposition.  It isn't.  The diary recognizes that.  A lot of neo-atheists (and, of course, fundamentalists) don't.

        •  It's not either or (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau
          Either you buy the notion that someone named Jesus was a supernatural deity -- or you don't.  

          Once you accept the consensus of professional historians of antiquity that this person existed -- that there was an "historical jesus" -- then you are presented with a dilemma: why did this preacher's message have so much resonance that it, in effect, transformed an empire and changed the course of history.  You don't have to believe he was a magical figure or a god to accept that he had some profound insight that others weren't able to have or articulate -- just as Einstein did.  You can accept that he was a world historical spiritual figure without accepting that he was supernatural.

    •  you've really misunderstood the diarist...nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      You know me man
  •  Actually There's Considerable Gospel Agreement on (6+ / 0-)

    the teachings of Jesus. The subject of my sole diary is a computer word-pattern study that found distinct language patterns in the quotes that aren't found in the surrounding commentary, and it's consistent across the 3 similar Gospels. And they show consistently different teachings and emphases for the 12, for his casual followers, for the mainstream population and for those opposed to him. Real humans act like this. Invented superheroes often don't.

    However, at most that only gives us a teacher, especially since even this study didn't find the teacher's patterns in the miracle tales. Jefferson figured out that much 2 centuries earlier working with a quill pen.

    And there've been many teachers of ethics and justice.

    If we focus on the teachings especially the instructions on how to behave toward others, we're then thrown up against the near universality of faiths claiming him as deity teaching and doing the exact opposite of some or others of his.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 07:31:44 PM PST

  •  I've read Lamb twice now, and agree: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    You know me man, Wee Mama, Timaeus, Joieau
    But, although it was utter nonsense and fiction, it somehow helped me understand more.
  •  Hey dude, hope you are doing well. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    You know me man, Azazello

    I have had a few FB fights over my anti-religion stance lately. Fun fun fun.

    Take care.

    "... the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything" (Glenn Greenwald)

    by ranger995 on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:04:58 PM PST

    •  I'm sober and hating it (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ranger995, Wee Mama, Azazello

      but not as much as I hated shit before, so I guess things are going great. Hope you are well too. Don't let them get you down for being a heathen. We are all but babes in the wood after all.

      “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

      by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:14:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was a rational empiricist. (9+ / 0-)

    If I couldn't detect it with my five senses, it either didn't exist or might as well not exist. I made exceptions for scientific discoveries of unsensible things (germs, atoms, etc.), of course.

    The Old Testament was obviously just another mythology. It is logically inconsistent and contradictory. The early stuff is patently Sumerian. Nothing before King David can be scientifically verified, and most of the other evidence is scant and ambiguous.

    As for the New Testament, well...it comes across like a King Arthur story, or a Superman story, doen't it? It's about a guy with tremendous charisma who commands nature, transmogrifies elements, walks on water and comes back from the dead. Worse, he preaches SUBMISSION; he teaches people to just SHUT UP, LIE DOWN and TAKE IT.

    That wasn't for me.

    Then...something happened. Out of the blue, I found myself chatting with my grandmother one evening. She had been dead for ten years. I saw, smelled and spoke with something that in my world-view should not, could not have existed. There were witnesses, and all of us were sober. It was something that none of us could explain, that science couldn't explain (yet). It left us all mystified. And it left me in an existential quandary.

    Since then, I've been trying to bridge the spiritual and the rational. I haven't had much success, honestly. But I know what I know, so I can't stop trying. I have tried every religion and faith I could find; many of them are unsatifying or "hollow." But Jesus' words somehow ring true. He wasn't about submission. He was about peace. He was about empathy. He was about justice.

    Rationally, I must dismiss much of what the writers of the New Testament say about Jesus. There's simply no way to confirm stories of miracles and such.

    But we can listen to his words, understand his philosophy. Or anyone else's words and philosophy, for that matter. Maybe Mohammed or Buddha ring true for you--or Sun Tse, or Zoroaster or Weird Al.

    My point is that I KNOW there's a "spiritual" aspect to existence that is beyond our current understanding. Those who have encountered it should not be begrudged a desire to pursue an understanding of it.

    I do, however, begrudge those who have a blind obedience to a narrow world-view. So I salute you, man, for having the courage and curiosity to expand yours. Good luck in your journey!

    There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

    by Phil T Duck on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:17:23 PM PST

    •  I don't know if you just blew my mind (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, Timaeus, niemann

      or tried to convince me we were both crazy, but I get it. I find that in my life, everything that happens, does so for a purpose. Even the awful things have led me to where I am. If there is no god, there is still a guiding force in this universe.

      Unless it is all in my head of course and I'm drooling in a mental hospital somewhere.

      “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

      by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:27:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  quite a story. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Timaeus, niemann

      Always mystified me how certain things like that are absolutely true for some, absolutely false for others.

      no skeptic would ever believe your story.  But countless others would.  

      Why on earth is that?

      If you don't mind, can you say a bit more about what happened with your grandmother?  Do you fully believe it was real, or some kind of collective hallucination kind of  thing?

      •  I once saw figures dancing on the walls of my (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann

        dorm room. I'm quite certain that they were there for a reason, but I'm also certain they were not real. The purpose of the prayer and sitting is the prayer and sitting if you catch my drift.

        “The real truth of the matter is that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” -FDR

        by You know me man on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:01:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's the definition of "real" that ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau

          ... isn't as black-and-white as we modern Westerners would like to think:

          I'm quite certain that they were there for a reason, but I'm also certain they were not real.

          By that, I assume you mean you are certain they were not physical and concretely literal.  In our culture it is just accepted as a given that "physical/material" is synonymous with "real."  (And, relatedly, that "not physical/material" equals "not real.")

          I've loved my encounters with shamanistically-based cultures, such as various Indian tribes, because their experience in the world seems so much deeper and richer than ours.  Their response would be, "What do you mean it wasn't real?  It happened, they were there, and it was meaningful to you.  Why do you insult it by saying it wasn't real?"  

          To them there are different types of real -- such as "ordinary reality" and "nonordinary reality" -- and the different types have different rules and ways of interacting with them ... but it's all still real.

          It's occurred to me that one reason some fight so hard to disbelieve and invalidate these kind of odd experiences -- the kind Phil T Duck describes -- is:  

          There are thousands upon thousands of examples of these bizarre experiences, from credible, normal people ... and if even just one of them turns out to really be what it seems to be, then the whole materialistic view of reality is wrong.  

      •  I was between semesters in college. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bevenro, Joieau, niemann

        I was majoring in Philosophy, minoring in Psychology. I was, in my youthfulness, secure in my perception of the world. That is, there were no gods, ghosts, UFOs, ESP or any other kind of fantasy. There was, simply, a bottomless well of human imagination and creativity.

        But I was also a nerd, so my friends and I had a weekly D&D thing going (that's Dungeons & Dragons, for those who don't remember a world without computer games).

        We had played late into the AM, as usual. We were clearing the table when someone called my name from a far corner. We all turned...and there sat my grandmother, nearly ten years dead by this time. But only I knew that. We all immediately recognized the eerie strangeness of what was happening; none of us could speak.

        My grandmother had raised me until she died when I was 13. Yet here she was, standing in a corner of my campus apartment, smiling at us warmly.

        "It's a girl," she said. "Her name is Emily. Don't forget, now."

        Then she was just...gone.

        None of us spoke about it. It was too weird, too inexplicable. There were no words.

        I was more intrigued by her mere presence than by what she had to say. I didn't know any Emilys, had never even met an Emily in my life. I didn't know what my grandmother was talking about. Besides, it was the fact of her appearance that had shattered my rational view of the world. What did it MEAN? How was it possible? I may never know.

        Ten years after this encounter, my wife told me she was pregnant. We learned that it was a girl--the first girl born on my dad's side in 84 years. It was a difficult pregnancy, which turned out to be the only one my wife could ever have. Our daughter was born nearly three months early.

        We named her Emily, of course. The way I saw it, we didn't really have a choice. Not only that, she's turned out to be intellectually gifted--which is a challenge and a responsibility.

        This event was a defining moment of my life. I know it really happened, although I cannot explain it. It did, however, leave me with the conviction that there's MUCH more to life, the universe and everything than we can perceive or imagine. Somehow, souls can survive death. Somehow, they may occasionally come back. I don't know how or why. Hell, none of it makes much sense to me at all, really. But still, I chase clues and ponder evidence, trying to piece together a rational and consistent world-view that includes and explains all my experiences, both mundane and extranormal.

        I'm still searching.

        There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

        by Phil T Duck on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 12:49:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't understand (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not sure what to make of this.  I don't wish to jump to any vitriolic language, and I understand that you hold your experience to be genuine.  But I honestly just don't understand your reasoning, and your position that you used to be a rational empiricist.

          I do appreciate hearing your story, it's interesting to be sure.  But I am curious.  It sounds like you still are a rational empiricist by how you are still looking for an explanation that you can make sense out of.

          But what I don't understand most of all is how you can trust your own memory of such an event enough to know that the event in fact happened in precisely the way you recall.  Although I have not had an event quite like that happen to me, I have indeed experienced similarly 'spooky' or strange things that I just later interpret as being weird perception, or memory tricks.

          Even if they didn't feel that way at the time, and judging certain events as being weird quirks in my normal brain operation, there is good evidence that in many cases, those things can occur, and to the person they occur to, the events feel genuine.

          I see no reason not to judge my own experiences with the spiritual as anything but that.  To do so, would be holding myself to a different standard that I expect of others.

          I don't mean offence, but I explain this, because I would think that a rational empiricist would have similar thoughts about the flexibility of perception and memory as I do.  Given that, could you perhaps explain what was different here?

          Again, I do not wish to offend.  I am simply curious and eager to receive a response.

          •  I am in no way offended. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joieau, niemann

            I've had the same questions myself. I am aware of the fickle and unreliable nature of human memory. However....

            There were five of us present. We were all awake. We all remember the event the same way: the old lady appeared, said a few words, then vanished. I recognized her clearly as my grandmother; none of my friends knew who she was. These are the basic facts of our collective experience--a starting point, if you will.

            Granted, the event had special significance only to me; to my friends, it was just "something weird." A few years later, I reconnected with one of these friends over the internet and asked him about what happened. He said, "You mean that time your grandmother came to visit, but it was, like, really late?" He remembered the old lady paying us a visit; he remembered that she was my grandmother; he remembered that it was unusual, in that it was very late at night. But he had chosen not to remember that she was dead at the time.

            I bet none of us can remember the storyline of that evening's D&D session, but each of us can remember the incident with my grandmother. Peculiar events imprint themselves rather indelibly on human memory, it seems.

            I accept that, over time, my/our memories of the event may have changed. But these facts remain: there were five of us, we all remember the encounter, and we all remember that it was "weird." Even for a rational empiricist, that's a good enough place from which to start.

            There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

            by Phil T Duck on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 07:01:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thanks for the reply (0+ / 0-)

              I find this hard to believe, but I suppose if I had such an experience, with such confirmation from friends, it would feel rather compelling to me as well.

              Although I don't find additional witnesses to be any more compelling for the story from an outsider's perspective, it does make sense at a personal level.  I think many people would probably be shaken in their core philosophical assumptions if they experienced something like that.  Maybe I would too, but I doubt it.

              I have a hard time imagining such a response to an experience like that.  I realise, of course, that not everyone must react to experiences the same as I would, but there's one other factor I neglected to mention in my earlier post that would inform my thinking.

              Just because I don't have a satisfying, mundane, scientific explanation for an event, doesn't mean that there isn't one.  I am exceedingly good at being rather ignorant, and I think I might just have to accept that I might never have a satisfactory explanation for such an event.  Non-repeatable events, after all, are impervious to scientific analysis.

              I don't believe in ghosts, spirits, or the associated things, and I doubt such an experience would make me change my mind.  If I did experience something like that, I probably wouldn't be happy with any attempted explanation.

              Given this, I find it interesting that someone could be in a similar position to me, philosophically, and experience something so strange to make them re-evaluate their position.

              I say this, mostly to hear myself talk, but I hope at least my thoughts are clear.  I have great difficulty understanding this kind of thing.

              Also, I appreciate an understanding of how your story wouldn't serve as good evidence for people outside the group that experienced it.  Or, at least, it seems to me that you understand that.  It seems so rare to encounter someone who holds a philosophical position while understanding its inherent consequences.

              Well, thanks for your time.

              •  Your inquiries and insights (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                niemann

                are valuable to me, and I thank you for them.

                Of course, I have never felt the need to convince anyone of my "truth." I studied philosophy, so I understand that truth is relative (even in the face of facts). One could argue that relative truths are at the core of human discourse and conflict. I only wish that people could sit down and discuss their disparate points of view just as you and I have been doing: no animosity, no malice; only an honest attempt at understanding someone else's perspective.

                Ultimately, the thing that happened, happened to me and me alone. It had meaning and significance only to me, despite the presence of witnesses. Frankly, if it hadn't been for them, I would have attributed the whole thing to tiredness or overactive imagination and carried on with my life.

                My experience, difficult to believe and impossible to verify as it is, simply served to inform me of the possibility of an unseen world--a level of reality that goes largely unnoticed by many of us. And I'm okay that not everyone shares this belief. Hell, my own wife is completely incredulous toward quantum-mechanical strangeness ("That's just crazy! I don't believe that at all!") despite the fact that it's the most-verified theory in the history of science.

                And that's okay. We all have our own experiences, our own stories, our own ways of understanding this crazy world. I have my truth, and you have yours. I suspect that the real Truth lies somewhere in the sum-total of all of them. But we'd have to come together as a species to truly put it all together...and, sadly, I don't see that happening any time soon.

                Thanks again for your input. It means a lot.

                There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

                by Phil T Duck on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 10:43:15 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  In general (0+ / 0-)

                  I tend to think most all people are working towards achieving a better understanding of what is true, and we're all contributing our own knowledge to that goal.  I happen to believe, quite adamantly that science is the best tool we have to do so, because it's self-correcting and objective.  I don't doubt that many self-identified spiritual people believe that as well.

                  The other axiomatic systems supported by philosophically disparate beliefs that do not happen to be 'science', I tend to view as more of a 'ragged edges' kind of experience or knowledge.  Not exactly invalid, but just a different way of looking at things (for the most part).  Their existence tells us something about logic, and the human experience, more than anything else.

                  Well, as long as the person espousing them understands the inherent flaws of such a position.  It also annoys me when non-spiritual people misrepresent science's strengths by trying to assert that science can explain just what happened in stories like yours.  At most, someone can just posit a possible explanation.  However, this tends to not annoy me as much as people outside of a scientific mindset entirely.

                  In any case, I'm rather firmly in the skeptical camp with regards to the supernatural, and I doubt that will change at any point in my life.  But it is interesting to talk with people outside that perspective from time to time.

        •  I found myself pregnant (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gzodik, niemann

          when my hub and I were too young and had too much to do for our separate futures to contemplate. So I'd been planning an abortion. As we were driving along the Indian Nations Turnpike one fine day I mentioned that I'd had a dream the night before. It was a beautiful, shining woman who told me her name was Tasha, and she was our daughter. She told me she needed to be born.

          Then-boyfriend (hub ever since) pulled over and stopped the car, looked very agitated. Said he'd had the same dream that night before. We didn't say much about it, just sat in silence, and eloped a week later against our parents' wishes. So she could be born. And yes, we named her Tasha.

          She is a beautiful, shining woman...

      •  oversimplistic (0+ / 0-)
        no skeptic would ever believe your story.

        No skeptic would ever believe a statement that starts with "no _."

        •  it was meant to be more rhetorical than nuanced.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          niemann

          it's a story that skeptics would have a hard time reconciling with reality.  But at the same time, as another poster said, there are zillions of these types of stories out there.  Which is in itself strange--and why interest in the paranormal persists and remains at the forefront of the human psyche.

          •  in other words (0+ / 0-)
            it was meant to be more rhetorical than nuanced..

            In other words, you're talking out of your ass about how other people interpret these experiences.

          •  I get perpetually frustrated... (0+ / 0-)

            ...with attempts to put my experience and my life into a box in order to engage in rhetorical pie-fights about religion.

            •  what the hell is your problem? (0+ / 0-)

              no one's talking about YOUR life--you showed up, decided to be offended, and jumped into someone else's conversation.

              My take in general tends to be in line with the diarist in that I"m against black and white interpretations of these things---I'm secular, agnostic and Jewish from the perspective of religion.

              As for my comment to the poster--the point is not to claim reality or not, but to draw a dichotomy between the way in which skeptics generally treat paranormal phenomena vs. people who believe in them/have such things happen to them.  It's not insult--it's interest--I don't believe or disbelieve, but I want to know more.

              Interesting how the original poster (and a few others) had a really interesting response and was clearly not offended, but you jump in two one-line comments designed to insult.

              Who's starting the pie fight?  Yup.

              •  Yep pie fight (0+ / 0-)
                As for my comment to the poster--the point is not to claim reality or not, but to draw a dichotomy between the way in which skeptics generally treat paranormal phenomena vs. people who believe in them/have such things happen to them.  It's not insult--it's interest--I don't believe or disbelieve, but I want to know more.

                I find that drawing dichotomies like that generally works against the goals of displaying interest and wanting to know more.

    •  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

      Part of my story is that my dead grandmother came back to me several times.

      Oh yes, we survive death. I know it to be true for sure.

      And I also think I have good reason to believe that the basic Christian message is true.

      The fact that most Christians don't really understand this or follow it is a great mystery and disappointment.

    •  Bless you! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau

      THANK YOU.

      I try to make this point repeatedly in atheistic diaries:  That not all belief comes from religious, theological brainwashing or simple-minded superstition.

      Some people belief because of experience -- experience that has nothing to do with religion.

      I would very likely be an atheist too -- except that I've just had too many damned weird experiences that point otherwise.  Some have been purely subjective, but many have had pretty strong external validation too, and I simply can't deny them.

      Based on my own experiences, I've researched further and discovered many, many other people who have had very similar, or almost identical experiences, with even odd little details corresponding.  And, despite the stereotype, most of these people aren't running around trying to get attention, and show no sign whatsoever of mental instability.  Most of them aren't telling their experiences to other people for fear of seeming "crazy" ... and thus don't know that other people are experiencing the same thing.

      For example, I've met a number of people
      who have also met dead loved ones -- just as solid and real as in life.  (One even left a cup of coffee with a lot of sludgy sugar in the bottom ... just as he did when alive.)

    •  "I KNOW there's a "spiritual" aspect" I agree and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau

      it is SO different from any organized religion's EXPLANATION.

      See I AM documentary.  We are all connected.

      Organized religions SEPARATE anyone who doesn't believe THEIR BS.

      That's the downfall and ignorance of most organized religions and their follower/believers.

      I have peeps in high places;)

      "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

      "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

      by roseeriter on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 02:57:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They all... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann

        well, the great ones, anyway, allude to the same uber-reality. Aldous Huxley called it "The Perennial Philosophy," taking just the commonalities as indications of a broader reality. Religions are human-designed, entirely political institutions in the world, and they are all defined by the biases of who established them and the cultures in which they arose.

        There is no really good reason to think that externalized forms of our collectively agreed-upon(and culturally imposed) reality are all there is in the totality of reality. Hell, physicists now speak about a totality that includes as few as 11 and as many as infinite dimensions. If indeed there are dimensions of reality that we as earth-borne animals have not evolved to perceive for our temporary survival and reproductive functions, then we've no business writing anything off that alludes to 'More'. Nor have we any good excuse to assert as if we knew - when we absolutely don't - that consciousness of some variety does not exist in any or all of them.

    •  Then there must be eternal life (0+ / 0-)

      This is insulting, and I think you intended it this way.

      I do, however, begrudge those who have a blind obedience to a narrow world-view.

      You are welcome to "know" all you want, but I think this backhanded compliment is rude.  

      There is a thing called "The God Helmet."

      You can be hooked up to it, and it stimulates your brain in a way that causes a spiritual experience.  

      However, we know that the "spiritual experience," in this case, is the direct result of the physical stimulus being directed at the brain.  

      So if spirituality can be recreated through physical means, what does that say for spirituality?  

      I think that what we need to do is look for obvious material causes before anything.  

      I am going to guess that you would disagree with the suggestion I make here- that spiritual feelings are a cause of the material mind. If you do, I'd ask you why your opinion is not a narrow opinion.  What is it about your method of "knowing" that is inherently better than that of some other person?  

      There are many things that I have "known" to be true over the years, only to discover later that I was misled and that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation to the contrary.

      I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way, whenever I sleep, it'll be in quotes.

      by otto on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 06:55:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That doesn't prove anything (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann, Joieau
        There is a thing called "The God Helmet."

        You can be hooked up to it, and it stimulates your brain in a way that causes a spiritual experience.  

        There is also a thing called virtual reality goggles.  You can be hooked up to it and it stimulates your brain to think you are walking through a home that is for sale, or inside a video game.

        Just because a machine can simulate an experience doesn't mean that the experience without the machine is not real.  

        Not saying that there are such experiences -- just that your example doesn't prove anything.

      •  Yes, I know of the "God spot" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HamdenRice, niemann

        in the brain, and I am open to the idea that "something" tickled that spot in each of our cerebral cortexes.

        But what was it? Why did it manifest as the same woman to each of us, but was only personally recognized by one of us? The fact that five of us had identical experiences seems to indicate that an objective, external event did actually happen.

        Let me reiterate that I've been searching for answers--both scientific and spiritual--for nearly twenty hears now. The best I've been able to come up with is this: like it or not, believe it or not, our energies (spirits, souls, whatever) are not fully dependent upon our physical existence. In my view, this is no more peculiar than, say, quantum strangeness (EPR nonlocality, etc.).

        I also understand that just because it's weird doesn't necessarily mean that it's supernatural. My own approach is that events like this are both inexplicable and meaningful; I wasn't an instant religious convert by any means. Still, I want answers. And I find some consolation in the fact that people have been looking for the same answers for millennia.

        I doubt we'll ever find the One True Answer (if that even exists). At least, not while we exist in corporeal form.

        There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

        by Phil T Duck on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 08:22:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  To me, after a while ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau

          ... after hearing of so very many people having so very many similar experiences, apparently over thousands of years, this ...

          The best I've been able to come up with is this: like it or not, believe it or not, our energies (spirits, souls, whatever) are not fully dependent upon our physical existence.

          ... at some point just becomes the Occam's Razor explanation --  the simplest, most elegant one.

          If so many experiences sure seem to look like there is an aspect of human consciousness that is independent of physical existence ... that might simply be because there is an aspect of human consciousness that is independent of physical existence.

          The simple explanation at least deserves some respectful attention.

          •  You said one thing (0+ / 0-)

            You seem to have taken it a different way.

            If it is true, as you say, that the same story is repeated over and over and over and over, then the story is one that is well worn into our unconscious minds.  

            So, in order to remain true to Occam's Razor, you would not assume an unknowable cause that is not yet identified.  You would instead come to the conclusion that one room of people who all probably have this previously held idea of spirits revealing themselves to people were most likely led to a similar conclusion by means of THE Power of Suggestion.  

            That is the simplest possible suggestion.  I do some power of suggestion games with audiences, and they often do not realize that they are even giving an incorrect answer.  So they have been fooled by their own experience.

            I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way I'll always be sleeping in quotes.

            by otto on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 02:48:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Completely illogical (0+ / 0-)

              and attempting to apply Occam's razor this way is even more illogical.

              If throughout history people have observed that humans cannot breath under water, you are suggesting, then the most "logical" explanation of our belief that we are unable to breath under water is that inability to breath under water has been worn into our unconscious and is a result of the power of suggestion.

              Actually the most logical explanation is that we actually are unable to breath under water and that fact has been confirmed millions of times.

      •  If spiritual experience (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann

        can be induced by physical means, it means that humanity has an innate, hardwired capacity for spiritual experience that is in fact real as rain.

        •  Yes, it's real (0+ / 0-)

          However, it has a material cause.  

          It's like saying that sadness is real.  Yes, it's real.  And it has a material cause.  Chemical levels and damage to areas of the brain can lead to a completely different set of transcendental experiences.  

          Those are real experiences.  They are taking part due to the physical circumstances.  

          That's the point.  

          I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way I'll always be sleeping in quotes.

          by otto on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 02:44:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, the stimulation (0+ / 0-)

            provided by the helmet is certainly 'real'. Presumably electric or electromagnetic, right? I've read that physical manipulation of the crown chakra area of the brain itself produces much the same effect.

            That biochemical peculiarities and physical lesions affect brain function isn't Big News either, just so you know.

            Yogis, saints and shamans from all over the world have been telling people for millennia that there are specific physical and meditational methodologies and/or biochemical manipulations that can cause spiritual experiences. Even Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. Now that modern science has confirmed this in a number of ways, you're convinced it suddenly becomes NOT real?

            •  Of course it's not news (0+ / 0-)

              It's a demonstration of the fact that transcendental experiences are easily had through intentional material causes.  

              It does not make your inner experiences any less valuable.  That's the main objection to the idea that people have.  

              I am fully aware that the feelings I have are the result of a combination of physical causes.  

              I experience those transcendent feelings in the same way, and to the same depth.

              The only difference is that I choose to not rely on an as yet to be understood cause.  

              Does that mean that science will never discover other material causes of change that we are not yet aware of?  I don't know.  It doesn't rule them out.  

              I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way I'll always be sleeping in quotes.

              by otto on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 04:11:11 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  BTW, did you notice I said that they ARE real? nt (0+ / 0-)

              I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way I'll always be sleeping in quotes.

              by otto on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 04:12:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Actually, "transcendental" (0+ / 0-)

                experiences aren't so easy to come by, though obviously some drugs, techno-helmets and playful surgeons are able to evoke such potentialities from our organic central processor.

                Were the "transcendental" experience entirely universal and everyday common whole groups of humans would never have spent millennia doubting them, would they? Nor would we have a host of modern materialists seizing on the evidence of hardwiring FOR such experience claiming that the fact of hardwiring means the experience can't be real.

                I apologize that I presumed that's the argument your forwarding of this evidence was aimed to be.

                •  transcendent (0+ / 0-)

                  Misused the word.  

                  It describes things like emotions which seem to be a different thing than the physical world.

                  I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way I'll always be sleeping in quotes.

                  by otto on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 07:59:52 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  That human beings (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    niemann, HamdenRice

                    have the equipment to perceive non-ordinary realities seems to be entirely uncontroversial to me. All those yogis, saints and shamans describe it in those sort of terms, in fact.

                    This capacity has served to occasionally remind humanity that our tidy little tabletop of 'stuff' (materialism) and definitions and associations doesn't necessarily contain the totality of reality. No one can claim to know the boundaries of that totality.

                    At one point along evolution's path primates in both the old and new world began to perceive the red wavelength of light and trichromatic vision happened along our family tree. No one would claim that there was no such wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum before some mutant primates were born with retinal cones tuned to that wavelength. Heck, there are other critters who have perceived red since forever, and many plants that have long made spectacular use of it to appeal to those critters for pollination and/or seed distribution.

                    We know there are life forms right here on earth that can directly perceive much more than we can. That's not controversial in the least. Obviously there are people who can directly perceive much more than others. Variation is the spice of evolution. What, exactly, is being perceived during 'transcendental' experiences is not objectively known, but we do know something is being perceived, and now we know that most of us have the physical equipment to perceive it. Not everybody uses it.

                    I am a synesthete, thus a student of consciousness. Have taken courses, followed the quest and participated in researches. I'm fascinated by the crown chakra stimulations that produce out of body experiences. Obviously, there is an innate capacity for consciousness to 'bilocate', or project its perceptual center outside the immediate confines of the body. This tells us something about the nature of consciousness, though nobody's quite sure what. Yet.

                    •  It strikes me as premature (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      otto

                      to assume that these experiences are incompatible with materialism, given that materialists have them as well.  

                      •  Of course it is (0+ / 0-)

                        I find this sort of discussion to be frustrating, because there is nothing I can really say to address the idea of magic.  

                        There is no substantial difference between this notion of the 'spriritual,' and magic.  

                        Although, let's say that someone could prove that they were magic.  My assumption would be that there is some set of physical processes that causes the magic to happen.  Therefore, it isn't magic, because it doesn't actually have a cause that isn't natural.  The cause is simply unknown to us at the moment.  

                        What do you think about this?

                        As soon as something that we think is supernatural is shown to have a natural cause, that thing is no longer supernatural, and instead can be detected through assessment of its natural, physical causes.

                        I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way I'll always be sleeping in quotes.

                        by otto on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 07:52:08 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I think (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Joieau

                          That assuming a material existence can't result in complex spiritual experience strikes me as a failure of imagination. Mostly, I'm a monist because most claims regarding the duality of the universe or human nature have implications that I find to be difficult to support. But mostly I'm of the school of thought that debates about metaphysics tend to distract from living and experiencing.

                        •  ??? (0+ / 0-)

                          How do you define "magic?" This response is dismissive and strangely insulting, and I do not see that your "frustration" excuses it.

                          Once again you allude to the ridiculous assertion that if some spiritual or anomalous phenomenon has a material cause, it cannot be 'real'. And I once again pronounce horsehockey.

                          How shallow a experiential life you must lead. That's sad.

                      •  I haven't said (0+ / 0-)

                        that these experiences are incompatible with materialism. I think you, like otto, are reading-in to my post something that's not there.

                        My only problem with materialism is that too many materialists seem to want to impose their arbitrarily self-limited worldview onto others. Best example is the assumption that anomalous or 'spiritual' experiences cannot be considered "real" if it can be shown that perception/consciousness - operating through our dedicated organ (brain) - play a part in those experiences. That makes no sense to me, because if they are capable of being evoked physically, that should confirm their objective reality.

                        Looks to me like religios and staunch materialists share more cognitive traits than they'd like to admit. And to both I would say that the number of knees that can be forced to bend (and voices forced to swear allegiance) to a given worldview does NOT serve to make any given worldview any more 'true' than it ever was.

                        •  I don't know (0+ / 0-)

                          where you get this:

                          Looks to me like religios and staunch materialists share more cognitive traits than they'd like to admit. And to both I would say that the number of knees that can be forced to bend (and voices forced to swear allegiance) to a given worldview does NOT serve to make any given worldview any more 'true' than it ever was.
                    •  It seems like I'm saying the same thing (0+ / 0-)

                      First, I corrected my unintentional misuse of the word.  The word is 'transcendent.' There is no need for you to continue to use the incorrect word.  

                      I just want to make one point, because there is no point in arguing it further.  It seems like the answer for you is that we don't know things, therefore something is magical.  

                      I think that when we don't know things, that means that we haven't uncovered the material cause of it, yet.  

                      Germ Theory was a crazy idea about tiny, impossible to see, creatures going into the body and making you sick.  We could simply not see the material cause of the illness.  Yet, when we were eventually able to achieve the technology necessary, we were able to see that this was indeed the case.  The illnesses did have a material cause.  

                      If you would like to argue that there is a material cause to the things you're talking about, then the onus is on you to demonstrate that.  If, however, you want to argue that there is no way to determine the material cause, or that there is simply no material cause, then the onus is on you to demonstrate that.  

                      I have shown, and I think you agree, that one can experience the things you're talking about with controlled physical stimulus.  

                      So when I tell my daughter that the reason her Dad has seizures is because of a misfire in the electrical and chemical impulses in my brain, I have to explain to her that there are things we can't see, but which we can detect with the proper tools.  

                      Make the proper tools to detect astroplaning or whatever, and then I can discuss it.  

                      It seems to me like you are trying to say that these things are real, but that you want to ascribe to them some different sort of cause.  

                      I am saying that they are real, and that they have a material cause.  It's very simple.  

                      I have seizures.  When I have seizures, there is a clear material cause of the seizures.  It can be seen in the pattern of electrical impulses being produced by my brain.

                      I am personally not able to detect electrical impulses, but some other animals can.  That does not make the material experience of the animal who can sense those impulses turn into something magical or otherworldly.  

                      The point I make here is simple:  A transcendent feeling is not any less important to an individual if it is caused by the material.  That the amazing thing is that the simple set of physical stimulus can cause these apparently otherworldy emotions and sensations.  We do not need to fabricate a separate reality in order to start to understand the cause of the sublime.

                      The idea that other animals have an ability to perceive different parts of the physical world than we have is not in any way related to spirituality.  

                      It is simply that they have the ability to perceive other parts of the material world.  

                      I can't even begin to argue the woo woo stuff with you.  I will not give out of body experiences any sort of credit.  

                      There is one definite way to prove out of body experiences.  You put some kind of piece of information in a place where only the "traveler" would be able to see it.  When that person can accurately describe that information, then they may have started to prove something.  

                      I want my pajamas to be covered in words from Bartlett's. That way I'll always be sleeping in quotes.

                      by otto on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 07:47:36 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Excuse me? (0+ / 0-)

                        You say:

                        …It seems like the answer for you is that we don't know things, therefore something is magical.

                        You seem to be 'reading-into' my post something that isn't there. I happen to know quite a few magicians very well, and there's not a group on earth less likely to "Believe In Magic." Yet not a single one is so jaded by illusions that they can't perceive and appreciate the magic that is manifest all around us all the time. Reality itself is illusion - "a trick of the light" if you will. Quite the spectacular stage production.

                        If you would like to argue that there is a material cause to the things you're talking about, then the onus is on you to demonstrate that. If, however, you want to argue that there is no way to determine the material cause, or that there is simply no material cause, then the onus is on you to demonstrate that.

                        I don't have to produce anything for you one way or the other, nor do I give a shit what you believe or don't believe. I have stated very simply that we now know that humans have innate capacity to connect with and experience things traditionally labeled "spiritual" in nature, via the phenomenon of consciousness and its PCCs [Physical Correlates] in our brains/bodies. That is entirely uncontroversial and needs no 'proof', even though science hasn't yet settled on any particular postulated PCCs. It is simply accepted that such must exist.

                        The knowledge that we have this capability in no way renders the experience NOT-real, so I don't understand your objection to discussing it. I find it fascinating, but not everyone does. That's fine.

                        It seems to me like you are trying to say that these things are real, but that you want to ascribe them to some different sort of cause.

                        I have said precisely zip about final causation. And don't plan to, since I have no concrete knowledge of final causation. Neither do you or anyone else on this planet, so speculation would be pointless in the context of a DKos diary.

                        I am sorry that you have seizures. My daughter also suffers seizures, traced to a lesion in a specific area of her brain. We can usually tell when she is going to have a seizure because she starts speaking nonsense syllables, but not always. Our dog, however, always knows ahead of time and makes sure she's in a safe position when it does happen. Obviously the dog perceives something we do not, but then, the fact that dogs (and other critters) perceive more than we do is also entirely uncontroversial. I can't imagine why you or anyone else would claim that this sort of brain dysfunction is "supernatural," so I'm not clear on why this is included in your emotional dismissal of what I have posted to this diary.

                        I can't even begin to argue the woo stuff with you. I will not give out of body experiences any sort of credit.

                        Then for goodness' sake, don't. Nobody's insisting you do anything at all, and if your brain can't handle the thought that OOB experiences have been generated by stimulation of a certain area of the brain, don't  trouble yourself. Your 'belief' or 'disbelief' is irrelevant to the data and researches done. I don't consider it "woo," I consider it very interesting neurophysical and cognitive research.

                        It obviously distresses you to discuss these subjects, so I won't bother getting into the phenomenon of synesthesia and what that suggests about consciousness and the way we order our circumscribed collective 'reality'. Or what I - as a synesthete - have surmised through the course of my life about the true nature of perception itself. I am quite used to encountering the existential fear that others are capable of feeling when confronted with things they can't easily explain away.

                        Live long and prosper.

    •  Plse diary this-also check out "Historical Jesus" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, niemann

      There are two different issues I want to respond to.

      First is how to separate the dreck from the message of Christianity.  You seem interested in the actual message of the Jesus figure rather than in the mythology and commentary.

      The most important scholarly book along these lines is a work of historiography called "The Historical Jesus" by Jon Croson.  He uses a very objective form of literary analysis to figure out what the "historical Jesus" said as opposed to commentary.  He uses a statistical/historical method that involves creating a grid of data that bases his conclusions on when the earliest saying were recorded, how much the texts agree and whether there is independent corroboration.  His conclusion is that the original "Jesus sayings" were Zen like aphorisms about feeding the hungry, healing the sick and sharing meals, while subverting "Mediterranean" hieararchy.

      The second point is inexplicable experiences. I'm trying to finish a diary about my experience in Liberia in the early 1980s, living in a village immersed in a culture of Juju powers (ie "voodoo") and spirits.  I completely dismissed this as superstition and degenerated forms of Yoruba religion.

      But then people started demonstrating things to me that blew my mind and that I have never been able rationally to explain.  

      I have to go with some sort of cognitive neurological world view in which what we think of as reality is in fact a narrow band of the underlying physical reality and there are real things and phenomenon that we simply cannot squeeze into what our rational minds are able to process.

      •   I like your cognitive neurological world-view (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HamdenRice, niemann

        idea. I've reached much the same conclusion myself.

        I liken such experiences to the electromagnetic spectrum: we only perceive a small band of the whole spectrum. The vast majority of it goes completely unrecognized by our natural senses. Maybe some day we'll have instruments capable of parsing our "spiritual" experiences, just as spectrometers can parse electromagnetic phenomena.

        There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

        by Phil T Duck on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 08:28:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great analogy - it's like my dog and I (0+ / 0-)

          when we walk in the park and he is sniffing like a bloodhound (even though he's just a golden retriever), I know he is perceiving a completely different world.  In his "mind" he is "seeing" through his nose, "oh, a squirrel ran by here yesterday and a pigeon landed here a while ago, and my best friends Shadow the lab and Cush the pit bull were here and left me a pee message..."

          My dog reminds me every day that I am only experiencing a very small slice of reality.

      •  I always go back to the thought ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, Joieau, HamdenRice

        ... that we have whole brain chunks devoted to non-rational experience (i.e. the "right brain" idea).  

        We have huge portions of our brains devoted to experience that is completely antithetical and abhorrent to science and rationality;  which is subjective, experiential, nonverbal, qualitative rather than quantitative, holistic rather than separating ...

        Why should we have developed whole sections of our brains devoted to "illusory" and "delusional" perception?  Where is the survival value in that?

        Why is the left brain -- the rational, verbal, objective one -- the only one that gets to have any claim to perceiving and understanding reality?

        It just doesn't make sense to me.  It seems like blatant, and dare I say it, irrational bias -- "cognicentrism" as someone once called it.

        I have to guess that there are aspects of reality best explored and understood by non-rational methods, things for which science and rationality are simply the wrong tool -- like using a yardstick to search for something in the dark instead of a flashlight.

        •  Fascinating comment! It's like "idiot savants" (0+ / 0-)

          I guess that term is no longer correct, but autistic people with incomprehensible abilities to calculate numbers or dates.  Somehow damage to the "normal" part of our brain allows other parts of the brain and other kinds of perception to come to the fore.  I remember reading a long time ago an article by a journalist who was taught how to calculate like an idiot savant, and it was non-cognitive, in the sense that it wasn't just adding numerals much more quickly but coming up with answers by using a completely different part of the brain.  

          So parts of the brain "know" math in ways completely differently from the way the conscious brain knows math.

        •  hardly antithetical (0+ / 0-)
          We have huge portions of our brains devoted to experience that is completely antithetical and abhorrent to science and rationality;  which is subjective, experiential, nonverbal, qualitative rather than quantitative, holistic rather than separating ...

          Hardly antithetical, possibly different (although that's not necessarily my experience of it) but not antithetical.

          Why is the left brain -- the rational, verbal, objective one -- the only one that gets to have any claim to perceiving and understanding reality?

          It's not because right-brain/left-brain can be pretty much dismissed as an oversimplification.

          It amuses me that people who set up the highest fences in these discussions are almost always the ones who drop the word "holistic" at the drop of a hat. I use science. I have mystical experiences. I'm a materialistic monist. None of these three conflict with the other.

  •  Chris Moore (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    You know me man

    is a brilliant writer - I highly recommend almost all of his books (except "Fluke" which didn't work for me, and the comic book he did last year which didn't work for him).  And a nice guy.

    If Jesus was the guy in "Lamb", I could believe in him.

    But we have no evidence of that.

    I believe in people.  Except for some of them, who are total douchebags.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:03:10 PM PST

  •  Loved the book, and (4+ / 0-)

    I'm a priest. I don't know any Christians who find it blasphemous, but you have to consider the circles I move in. I know at least one youth group leader who recommends it to their teens; that's how my son found it independently of me.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 09:12:22 PM PST

  •  I've been looking... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    You know me man, Timaeus, Joieau

    ...for something completely different. Usually a spy, thriller, murder mystery type of light reading person but was thinking I need to expand my horizons.

    Thanks for the tip YKMM

    Forever your first and only. hehe

  •  Here's a book for you. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    People call it a mystery,but it's so much more than that: Valley of Bones, by Michael Gruber.

    I'm about the most antireligious sumbitch you ever saw, but this book talked about religion (Catholic Christianity, but also Santeria) in a way that seized and moved me.

    Sin is a vector, you know, not a scalar. It's not a load of sin, it's a velocity, either downhill or up.

    ...the greatness of Christianity being not that it
    provides a supernatural relief from suffering, but a supernatural use for it.

    It's about a modern-day Saint Joan, in Africa, possessed by saint and Satan, and wielding a 1930's Bofors 40 mm automatic cannon...

    Well, it's about a lot of things.

    GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

    by gzodik on Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 02:13:47 AM PST

  •  Lots of arbitrary boundaries in this dicussion (0+ / 0-)

    between atheist and religious and spiritual, mostly for the purpose of engaging in equally arbitrary pie fights.

    •  actually nearly all of the exchanges are positive. (0+ / 0-)

      the whole point of the original post is that the author is moving from one of those dichotomous positions to one that's more open-minded.

      That's why I'm having trouble seeing what you take issue with.

  •  Your recommendation of Lamb ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... so intrigued me that I downloaded and read the free sample from B & N.   Lamb is definitely going on my wish list.  Thank you for recommending the book.

    You might enjoy the diary from yesterday about the Jefferson bible.  I'd find it again and link if I knew how!  Anyway, Thomas Jefferson cut the sections of Jesus's teachings that seemed most true out of several bibles and pasted them into a notebook.  Google Jefferson's bible if you'd like to take a look.    

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