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Anger, how to deal with it?
Posted: 10 November 2006 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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I agree with Stephen Hawking that the universe that has no bounderies, no beginnings or endings, and no center. An existense that has no beginning or end but instead there are multiple beginnings and endings within existence.  The universe exists because even if nothing existed, nothing is still something.  Whatever behavior matter/energy is doing there is a dependent arising to that current behavior.  If nothing existed there would have to be something that was causing that “nothing” to exist.  That’s why there always is, was, and will be something.  Everything we see in the universe has a dependent arising from something else and this idea seems to get fuzzy as we move into quantum arisings.  I believe that we can find a thread of knowledge that mirrors reality.  It’s not dogmatic to claim that I can be confident in this thread of reality when evidence and reasonableness supports this finding.  To me knowledge is a vaccuum or infinite not finite.  The laws of physics are a description of how the current something behaves.  The something that exists right now will not exist tomorrow, likewise, the way matter/energy behaves today may change with time.  That’s one thing that seems we can count on is change. People’s perceptions will change with time.  As long as the perceptions that are closer to mirroring reality are more profitable for a persons survival and wellbeing than those dogmatic beliefs that mirror people’s wishes how they want the universe to be we will continue to build ideas that become a clearer picture of reality than before.  Indeed, the last couple hundred of years much mud has been cleaned off of the mirror, but for many people, they still have much cleaning(

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Posted: 11 November 2006 02:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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TA wrote:
I know all about the Christian perspective.  Christians, however, do not know (or want to know, for the most part) about my perspective.  It might shake their faith, or make them realize they’ve been wrong all these years.  You can’t converse with people who don’t want to hear you.  They want to talk to you, certainly.  They just don’t want to listen to you.

I’m interested in your perspective. Were there any big turning points on your journey from christianity to atheism or was it a gradual process or both?

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Posted: 11 November 2006 03:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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Salt Creek wrote:
What is the meaning of “open, honest dialog” from your perspective, jmisloski?


By open, honest dialog, I mean that I’m taking the initiative to suspend my opinions, to proceed into the discussion believing I don’t know everything and to act on the belief that I can learn from you. It is an honest attempt to hear and understand what you know. I’m not interested in spouting dogma. I would be glad to answer a question you might have but I’m more interested in listening with an open mind to what you know, what you’ve experienced and what you believe.

If you want me to go away until I’ve read a book, tell me which one to go read. If telling me how full of crap I am best represents what you believe then tell me how full of crap I am. I’m not going to argue with you about that. Tell me something I don’t already know.

I think that is what I meant by open and honest. I apologize for prefering that it happen in a friendly context. I can handle a hostile context if you honestly believe that is the best way to explore truth.

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Posted: 11 November 2006 09:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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I don’t mind sharing with you why I gave up Christianity and did not pick up another religion in its place despite the fact that I have what I believe Sartre referred to as a “god shaped hole” in my heart. 

It wasn’t really because of the books I read on science, or other religions.  Nor was it because of any particular issue with the church’s interpretation of the teachings of Christ.  Their conflict with science I wrote off to my lack of understanding of the multi-faceted nature of truth.  I never felt that a literalist interpretation of the bible was worthy of response other than to send people to Karen Armstrong’s books A History of God or the Battle for God.  I also agree that the idea of a personal god could never survive Auschwitz, no matter what kind of logic you apply.  I am deeply concerned over the merging of church and state in the U.S. but that was not my reason either.  No the last straw was far more utilitarian than any of those.

I began to see all these people who had gone to church their whole lives faithfully, that espoused believe in their church’s doctrine regarding the afterlife, and they were absolutely terrified of their own death.  At first I attributed this to the individuals themselves but then I had to ask myself if I was just as terrified of my own mortality.  The answer unfortunately came back that “Yes I was”.

The next logical question then was, if the central point of religion is to help us deal with death, should I continuing practicing christianity in the hope that one day before I actually faced my death, I would find some comfort, or should I try to find a different solution? When I realized that so many people around me, many of whom seemed more devoted than I, did not receive this gift, even with many more years of practice, I decided that it was time to start looking for a different solution to the problem of death.

Despite my love of science and rational thought I am also a spiritual person.  I think it is an interesting observation that many professed atheists may in actual fact be people like me who feel spurned by the church of our fathers.  Almost like Lucifier in the islamic tradition whom God cast from heaven for refusing to bow to man because he had promised to bow to none but God himself.  Maybe many atheists are unlike Richard Dawkins and truly are strangers in a strange land.

In any case I think this story has a happy ending.  I too like Sam have found solace, if not perfect enlightenment in buddhist teachings.  Even though I struggle with the idea of death I see a light in the distance.

Buddhism doesn’t insist I foresake the scientific method.  In fact it has adopted its practice of on-going self correction.

It allows me to find my own path and meaning rather than insisting there is one, and only one path to take to salvation.

It pursues happiness through compassion in a spirit not dissimilar to that of Christ.

Its leaders do not claim absolute certainty which Mr Harris has correctly identified as a major cause for concern in a world where absolutes sooner than later yield absurd answers. “Absolutes are for Siths”. Obi Wan (I’m going with the assumption that quotes from pop culture are less inflammatory than the ones from holy books for most people.)   

And finally it is helping me deal with my fear in a rational way. 

Which brings me to why I actually wrote tonight.  I too struggle with anger at the lack of control I have over things that happen in the world.  But I realize that at the base of my anger is my own fear.  Instead of becoming focused on what is wrong with the world I try to deal with my own fear by facing it for what it is, and then letting it go.  If people stop reacting to their fear by ignoring it, or asking god to deal with it for them, then the world would be a safer place for all of us. 

Buddhism I think offers some practical exercises in dealing with fear.  I am no expert but these have helped me. 

Contemplate your own death and the death of those you care about.  Learn to accept the impermanance of all things including yourself.  I do not believe there is another way to achieve true compassion.

Cultivate a sense of gratitude.  Take time to remember what we do have and how beautiful and precious each moment is.  Go for a walk and find something beautiful where before you saw only an object, or even something “ugly”.

Try to see for a few moments the people with which you are angry how their families and friends must see them.  They see them under different circumstances but that image is no less real than what you see. Both perspectives are projections based on who the observer is, not an objective reality. 

Communicate in a loving manner, even when you disagree with someone.  (including these forums.) Another’s pain and joy, is our pain and joy.

I don’t mean to be offensive but most suffering has a narcissistic element to it.  I know my suffering does.  My ego inflates the importance of my own pain but because it masks itself as concern for others I indulge those feelings without guilt.  This is self deception and an obstacle to my being truly compassionate.  Recognizing our own ego’s role in our suffering is essential in moving beyond our fear and anger.   

I found these exercises in a book called the Lost Art of Compassion by Lorne Ladner, a practicing psychologist who uses Buddhist thought and exercises in his practice.  Further explanation as to why we are susceptible to depression also appears in The Parardox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.  A fascinating little book about the rise of depression and a general decline in “happiness” in the western world despite unprecedented financial freedom and personal choice.  It only inadvertently contains Buddhist ideas.

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Posted: 12 November 2006 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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[quote author=“jmisloski”]Hey guys,

I hope my thoughts are constructive


Yeah, they were;  however, everyone (agnostic, believer, atheist) seems to be skirting the real problem here.  Fear of death.  Just think about it for a long while.  If it weren’t for fear of death, there would be no religion and there would be no anti-religion.  So somehow, if we can get past the fear of dying and know that it will be all right if we don’t continue to live after death…etc, then we can take it from there.  Seems simple to me.  smile

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Posted: 12 November 2006 05:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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[quote author=“Daedalus II”]Contemplate your own death and the death of those you care about.  Learn to accept the impermanance of all things including yourself.  I do not believe there is another way to achieve true compassion.

This strikes me as blindingly true, and I can’t understand why so many believers seem to think that the result of such acceptance is just the reverse. 

I don’t mean to be offensive but most suffering has a narcissistic element to it.  I know my suffering does.  My ego inflates the importance of my own pain but because it masks itself as concern for others I indulge those feelings without guilt.  This is self deception and an obstacle to my being truly compassionate.  Recognizing our own ego’s role in our suffering is essential in moving beyond our fear and anger.

I think this is true also and it’s something I am still having trouble with.  There is some distorted thinking there but I haven’t put my finger on it yet.

<adding more books to the reading list>

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Posted: 12 November 2006 07:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Thanks for the response Daedalus II… and the others. I didn’t see anything offensive in your comment about our suffering having narcissistic elements. I would agree.

If there is anything we all share in common it is the fact that all of us will die. I’m interested to know if others (TA, Salt Creek, Mike) would agree that the “dealing with death” issue was a part of becoming nontheistic? It makes sense since the afterlife is such a big part most/all religions. Jesus is big on afterlife issues. Even Buddhism offers an explanation of after life.

Do most atheists believe we cease to exsist when we die? Or is there a diversity of opinion within that worldview. I haven’t seen much discussion on that.

I agree with you about the fear of death being huge. The church I serve is next to a cemetery that includes a funeral home. Because many ministers/pastors/priests won’t do funerals for people who weren’t a member of their congregation and because many people die who weren’t in a church (less than 10% of the population in my city doesn’t attend a church on any given weekend) and because the church I serve makes me available to families like that, I do lots of funerals for people who were for the most part areligious. I deal with death constantly so I’m interested in what any of you think about it.

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Posted: 12 November 2006 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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TA wrote:
I’m sure you’re finding it unexpected to see that Atheists are kind people (my favorite T-shirt says “Friendly Neighborhood Atheist” on it).  We believe we only have this life to live, so we try to be nice to everyone while we’re in it. 

TA,
It is not unexpected to find that Atheists are kind. It turns out that everybody I’ve ever known, regardless of their beliefs, has the capacity for kindness when they don’t feel threatened, condemned or judged. Kindness is wired into all of us. I’m still thankful for yours.

So I’d like to take advantage of your kindness. I noticed you mentioned that you are a programmer. Everytime I do anything on this site I get a “Runtime Error” window. It says:

Line: 1077 (line number changes)
Error: “sIFR” is undefined

Can that be fixed easily or do I just need to live with continually hitting “no” to participate in this discussion? If asking you for technical help is really cheap, ignore this request and I won’t ask again.

jmisloski

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Posted: 12 November 2006 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“jmisloski”]
TA,
It is not unexpected to find that Atheists are kind. It turns out that everybody I’ve ever known, regardless of their beliefs, has the capacity for kindness when they don’t feel threatened, condemned or judged. Kindness is wired into all of us. I’m still thankful for yours.

So I’d like to take advantage of your kindness. I noticed you mentioned that you are a programmer. Everytime I do anything on this site I get a “Runtime Error” window. It says:

Line: 1077 (line number changes)
Error: “sIFR” is undefined

Can that be fixed easily or do I just need to live with continually hitting “no” to participate in this discussion? If asking you for technical help is really cheap, ignore this request and I won’t ask again.

jmisloski

:D

There are two solutions (that I know of) for this problem.  You can go to http://www.mozilla.com and download the Firefox browser (which is what I use instead of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer).  Or, if you really prefer your IE Internet browser, do the following:

From your IE browser, click on the Tools menu option, then choose Internet Options.  From the window that opens up, click on the tab that says Advanced. There will be a box in that list of stuff that says something similar to “Display a notification about every script error.”  Uncheck that box, then click OK.  You should then stop receiving that error message.

That should solve the problem, but if not I’ll research it further for you.

I’m mulling over the conversation topic (though we’ve seemed to somewhat stray from the OP’s title) and will post a reply later today.

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Posted: 13 November 2006 12:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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[quote author=“Daedalus II”]
I don’t mean to be offensive but most suffering has a narcissistic element to it.  I know my suffering does.  My ego inflates the importance of my own pain but because it masks itself as concern for others I indulge those feelings without guilt.  This is self deception and an obstacle to my being truly compassionate.  Recognizing our own ego’s role in our suffering is essential in moving beyond our fear and anger.   

This hits a bull’s-eye. I know a lot of the anger tied up in this issue involves remembering how hard it was for anyone trying to talk me  out of my dug-in position. And I know that position had a lot to do with fear and ego, not with any sense of certainty, so anytime I see someone whipping out the same feeble arguments I once leaned on, it’s like facing myself. . . and wanting to slap myself silly :?.

I’m not sure we (or many of us, at least) can get where we’re going without passing through certain transitions, and right now that entails not only releasing long pent-up resentments (wasted years, damaged trust, feeling of foolishness, the nakedness you feel after throwing away your own security blanket), but also the building of skills, getting a crash education in the world we’ve stepped into. There’s no question that it feels strange to be on this side of the debate, so learning how to handle that is a necessary step. Just tonight I found myself being shouted down by a dogmatic person (I don’t even know exactly how I got myself into it, really; it wasn’t about religion), and I realized I had no idea how to deal with that level of anger—not mine, but someone else’s. So I just backed off, told her she was right, right, right absolutely 1000% right about everything :D. . . But even that angered her, because she didn’t know how to come down from her stance after her ‘opponent’ backed off. It was sort of funny, because I found myself more puzzled than upset by her. It was definitely upsetting, though. Unexpected confrontations always are.

Learning how to do it calmly and in such a way as to encourage rather than shut down conversation, is definitely a combination of natural talent,  acquired skill, and detaching the ego. I don’t know where I’ll end up in that respect, but know that I have a very long way to go. Must exorcise my snarkiness before I can be considered a useful spokesperson for life beyond religion. I have to remember that the conversations that have tended to sway me, and which gave me room to think and explore safely, always involved a calm and patient conversation partner. They weren’t married to the idea of convincing me of anything. I think that’s crucial.


Thank you for the good and useful thoughts, Daedalus (builder of labyrinths? fashioner of wings? SG-1 Battlecruiser :D?), I enjoyed reading them. Welcome to the forum.


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Posted: 13 November 2006 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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TA wrote

I’m mulling over the conversation topic (though we’ve seemed to somewhat stray from the OP’s title) and will post a reply later today.

Thank you TA! Both options worked perfectly. If there is anything I can do to return the favor let me know.

I am looking forward to your reply and yet I also feel like I have pulled the topic away from what Mike originally intended this thread to be…

so Mike… if you’re still reading… if you would like me to take my questions to a new thread, just say the word. You started this one and you get to tell me what to do.

This has been really great so far. I agree with Mia…there is so much wrapped in that one paragraph that Daedalus II wrote. Mia - it sounds like you have recently dropped out of a religious tradition. If that is the case are you interested in telling the story?

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Posted: 13 November 2006 03:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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[quote author=“j misloski”]Mia - it sounds like you have recently dropped out of a religious tradition. If that is the case are you interested in telling the story?

hi j,

There’s a thread of deconversion stories at:

http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1578

Several people submitted their stories there, and I’d encourage anyone else to add their own to the thread. Feel free to ignore the format we started with, if it doesn’t suit you—those particular questions might feel too limiting. Just tell us every little thing about ‘losing your religion’. Or maybe you never got caught up in one? Those are always interesting, too. Whatever your deal, post it! wink


In brief, j—and I think this is true for a lot of people—my beliefs fell away by degrees, but the last remnants of it were probably the most tenacious. Fear-based ideas, mostly (and Hell in particular), as opposed to anything that was actually contributing positively. And again, probably like with many other people here, certain world events forced me to take a hard look. Once that started, it gained momentum, but there were plenty of brief dead-stops along the way. The fear again. I think you’ll find it’s a reoccuring theme.


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Posted: 13 November 2006 05:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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[quote author=“Mia”]I’m not sure we (or many of us, at least) can get where we’re going without passing through certain transitions, and right now that entails not only releasing long pent-up resentments (wasted years, damaged trust, feeling of foolishness, the nakedness you feel after throwing away your own security blanket),

As I’ve said before, I have a diagnosis of chronic, severe, recurring major depression which does not respond to treatment - except DBT.  One thing DBT asks me is how I can allow myself to feel better without seeming like an idiot for having been depressed for so long.

In other words, how attached am I to feeling sad?  To feeling sad for other people?  To what degree is my selfportrait of “Margaret” tied up with “Margaret is grieving”?

My problem with feeling joyful has also been an instant reminder to self: “Okay, but don’t forget, this won’t last.”  It was surprisingly hard to give that up too, even though I know it is completely ineffective in preparing oneself for loss and ruins the present as well.

Mentally suffering on behalf of others is also absurd.  What a waste of energy.  To some degree it’s impossible to stop and you wouldn’t want to.  But turn it into indignation and that can get you moving towards actually helping someone.

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Posted: 13 November 2006 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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To what degree is my selfportrait of “Margaret” tied up with “Margaret is grieving”?

Don’t know if the allusion was on purpose but like many truths it can be found in poetry

‘Spring and Fall, to a Young Child’

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

  —Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Posted: 13 November 2006 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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‘Spring and Fall, to a Young Child’

Oh, Hopkins. He is as beautful as a bicycle.

What does an airplane owe to a bicycle?

Lies

By Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God’s in his heaven
and all’s well with the world is wrong.
The young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.

[ Edited: 13 November 2006 05:23 AM by ]
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