Bridging a Great Divide

I had a post about morality planned for February but it’s taking longer than I thought to write.  Instead, I’d like to share a video which to me relates very much to morality.

I found the video on one of Eva’s posts and I was very moved by it:

In the video, Naomi Feil, a Jewish woman, makes a connection with a woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s by singing Christian songs.  I think this made an even deeper impact on me given that I know of the aversion to Christianity that exists in the Jewish community.  This was very clear to me growing up in a Jewish home, and I also found it to be true, albeit to a lesser extent, in a more liberal Jewish congregation I attended several years ago.  There’s a lot of history causing that aversion, but happily I believe it is dissipating.

To me this is just one example of someone crossing over the boundaries of religion to make a beautiful connection with another human being.  I have always highly valued all human beings no matter what their beliefs are and my beliefs about ultimate questions have never changed that.  This was one of the things that attracted me to Christianity back in college – I believed that it represented true goodness and that it matched this value that I had within my heart.  That strong value didn’t go away after I left Christianity though, and no matter what my beliefs are about the existence of gods, that value of mine will remain unchanged.  To me this is an important part of what morality is all about.

Afterlife Debate This Week

This Wednesday (May 7th) there will be a debate called “Death is Not Final”.  It will be live streamed from New York City at 6:45pm Eastern Time from this link.

Participants are:

  1. Eben Alexander (For)
  2. Raymond Moody (For)
  3. Sean Carroll (Against)
  4. Steven Novella (Against)

This should be a very interesting debate, given that all of them are either scientists or medical doctors.  I am always open to listening to objective scientific reasons for any point of view even if they differ from my own current beliefs.  This particular topic is one I’d love to listen to because there doesn’t seem to be enough education to the layperson on this topic other than anecdotal stories.  While debates should always be just an introductory starting point to further research they are a great way to see both sides of an issue right away.

Oh, and by the way, I’m still working on that fine-tuning post I mentioned before.  I’m about 75% done with it.  If I don’t complete that post in this lifetime I’ll probably complete it in the next. 😉

Are religious people delusional?

…No.  My first thought when I heard this being said by Richard Carrier a couple of years ago was that it didn’t seem to fit the common usage of the word that I was familiar with (i.e. the colloquial usage of the word “delusional” didn’t seem to fit the vast majority of religious people).

Now Wikipedia is certainly not the source of all things true, but it’s a good start and seems to confirm my thoughts on this.  Here is what I get when looking up “delusional” on wikipedia:

delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.[1] As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulationdogmaillusion, or other effects of perception.

The second sentence says it is distinct from a belief based on dogma, and this is how I have always kind of thought of the word delusional.  I don’t think this is about giving religious people a “break” or being soft in describing them.  I actually think the term is simply not appropriate because for me it conjures up thoughts of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.  Now I don’t want to make this about “my definition is better than yours, nah nah na nah nah”, so I can give some leeway as I usually do when it comes to semantics, but it seems reasonable to suggest that at best it is unclear that the term is appropriate.

What seems even stranger is that the people that want to use the word to describe believers are the very people that want to convince believers that atheism is a better worldview (which is not the point of my blog by the way – and anyone who has read it thoroughly I believe would agree).  I am sure there have been people who have heard this and then gone “oh yeah, you know what, I am delusional – thanks for clearing that up”.  But I’m wondering if insulting people by calling them something that usually conjures up “looney bin” is the right approach for atheists who desire to persuade.

Tempered With Kindness…

I really like this quote from Carl Sagan (it’s from page 298 of “The Demon-Haunted World”). I had read this book with my friend (the pastor) who I mentioned in my very first blog post. It has been a very long time but I pulled the book off the shelves and found the quote – turns out I had put 3 stars on the side of this paragraph so clearly it impacted me by just the same amount then as it does now. You can read more in context at http://mohandasgandhi.tumblr.com/post/2933212857/in-a-life-short-and-uncertain-it-seems-heartless – turns out I had underlined the entire section written on that blog post – no surprise there, since it makes sense that others see the same value to that section of the book. It really is a notable piece.

While I surely don’t always live up to my goals in this particular area, it is definitely one of my goals to treat others who disagree with me with as much kindness as I can. “temper our criticism with kindness” – not an easy task of a balancing act, but if we all were to make an attempt at this kind of balancing act I feel that as humans our path to finding out about reality would be a shorter one, and the journey would be a happier more peaceful one as well.

Mind of a Mute

“In the way that scepticism is sometimes applied to issues of public concern, there is a tendency to belittle, to condescend, to ignore the fact that, deluded or not, supporters of superstition and pseudoscience are human beings with real feelings, who, like the sceptics, are trying to figure out how the world works and what our role in it might be. Their motives are in many cases consonant with science. If their culture has not given them all the tools they need to pursue this great quest, let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.” -Carl Sagan

Whether you’re an atheist, theist, agnostic, or…politician(?), your view does not give you the right to put others down for views of their own. We are not robots. We all have a will of our own. We have the right to choose whatever belief system we want. We…

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