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Posted: 01 March 2007 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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And I think the real meaning of waking up and saying “today I will not kill” is not simply in that you also said it yesterday.

Some Christian practice seems to say “today I will wake up and recognize that somebody paid the debt I was born owing”. It’s a symmetry-breaking act, for sure. But then, so is assuming the debt from birth. In fact, Christian dogma is so full of symmetry-breaking acts and conditions, depending on the fundamental asymmetry that God is God and you are you.

To return to what Joad seems to be saying (over and over, because nobody seems to be listening) is that it is a faith in the notion that humans are not simply ravenous beasts that Christianity is trying to sell. It is a faith that we can achieve blessedness that fails to distinguish it from a passle of other religions. It is the symmetry breaking act of placing your faith in Jesus that promises to make you into something different. What is unique (and uniquely crazy to my way of thinking) is that Christianity proposes that you actually are different thereafter.

Because, on the face of it, people continue to do the same sorts of things they did before, except that now they are doing it as “redeemed” beings.

What Joad seems to be saying is that if you wake up each day knowing what a ravenous beast you are, then the choice of saying “today I will not kill” is actually a meaningful one.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 04:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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What is unique (and uniquely crazy to my way of thinking) is that Christianity proposes that you actually are different thereafter.

Because, on the face of it, people continue to do the same sorts of things they did before, except that now they are doing it as “redeemed” beings.

Excellent point. I’m sure Jesus would agree about the last part.  However, many lives have been dramatically improved, so what you have said is not universally true.

It has been said that a person will not change unless the pain of the status quo is greater than the pain of change.  This is true but not complete, at least from the Christian perspective.  The idea is the old life is very painful, yet in addition to this, the motivation for growing into the likeness of Christ is not just avoidance of pain and not just that the new life is intrinsically meaningful and rewarding, but that it is pleasing to God whom you love.  When I encounter believers who are stuggling with the problem that their lives are not changed by their faith, I don’t tell them they need more faith, rather I tell them that in my experience, obedience is its own reward.  The bible teaches that loving God means obeying his commandments, and these are founded on love of God and love of others, with the implication that one is included in the world of those who are loved unconditionally.  This is the framework of understanding which opens the door to the changes you have noted are lacking in so many people.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]However, many lives have been dramatically improved

Don’t worry, I read what you wrote in the second paragraph which amplified this point.

If a personal testimony that one’s life has been improved is any guide, then there is still something to be discussed. What the form of that discussion will be, I cannot guess.

The fact that something makes you feel good has no bearing in and of itself on whether or not it is true. Unless, of course, you identify “feeling good” with “the truth”. That is a personal choice which should be open to anyone. I would be hypocritical not to say, sometimes, “Works for me”.

If chosen, it implies having to listen to me remind such a person that it was a personal choice. The bearing on the truth is hanging in the air. It could be that people can define the truth differently, but I won’t have it so devalued. I prefer to stick with the concept of choice, which, despite all my other ranting, is meaningful.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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The fact that something makes you feel good has no bearing in and of itself on whether or not it is true. Unless, of course, you identify “feeling good” with “the truth”.

Agreed.  Indeed, the Christian view is that feelings are fickle, too dependent on personal circumstances.  Rather, sometimes doing what is “right” involves sacrifices that don’t feel good at all.  Feeling good is not the primary issue, but it is a consideration.  That is, as it is risky to presume the prime directive is to feel good, so also is it risky to presume that suffering is somehow noble in itself and one should seek it out.  As John Piper describes in his book “the dangerous duty of delight”, our drive to feel good is a good thing in itself because it drives us toward what truly satisfies it, i.e. enjoyment of God.  The problem comes when one tries to meet that need with something other than God.  This is one aspect of what Christians mean by the term “fallen”.

As for truth and feelings, it seems we identify the right thing to do only in the context of what we believe to be true.  Earlier I put it this way “do I believe it because it is true, or is it true because I believe it?”  In an attempt to answer myself, I say “faith makes truth real”.  I don’t mean to suggest that faith makes truth, but rather that whatever truth is out there only becomes real to someone after they believe it.  The deeper question is how one becomes aware of such truth, and what it means to believe it.

This has implications for the scientific “truths” we believe, including such truths as how our theories will be modified or overturned completely by new observations that cannot be explained by the current ideas.  For example, will this idea about the evolution of scientific theories itself be modified by observations that do not fit with that notion?  Could it be that some theories never will be modified or overturned, even if new observations cannot be explained by them?  While science is well founded in our experiences and observations, it is also a mental abstraction that depends on how we think about how we think.

This relates to your comment about choice, with which I concur.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]. . .
Agreed.  Indeed, the Christian view is that feelings are fickle, too dependent on personal circumstances.  Rather, sometimes doing what is “right” involves sacrifices that don’t feel good at all.  Feeling good is not the primary issue, but it is a consideration.  That is, as it is risky to presume the prime directive is to feel good, so also is it risky to presume that suffering is somehow noble in itself and one should seek it out.  As John Piper describes in his book “the dangerous duty of delight”, our drive to feel good is a good thing in itself because it drives us toward what truly satisfies it, i.e. enjoyment of God.  The problem comes when one tries to meet that need with something other than God.  This is one aspect of what Christians mean by the term “fallen”.
. . .

Parable, chasing after good feelings could be said to be axiomatic toward achieving what satisfies our drive to feel good. Our feelings indeed constantly direct us, both in healthy and beneficial ways, if we’ve been taught to understand how such a thing can be achieved, and in detrimental and criminal ways if we lack such education/upbringing.

When European leaders and businessmen enslaved Africans, various Asians and American Indians, such leaders no doubt felt good when they succeeded in their various horrific missions. Would you agree with me that they’re feelings of good cheer were at least partly enabled by their superstitious systems of belief that informed them that certain people were not actually “people,” but rather, savages?

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Posted: 01 March 2007 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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..chasing after good feelings could be said to be axiomatic toward achieving what satisfies our drive to feel good.

That’s not what I was getting at.  CS Lewis said “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”  In the Christian view, our desires for goodness, justice, etc, are put their by God as a means by which we may recognize, find and take pleasure in him. 

Our feelings indeed constantly direct us, both in healthy and beneficial ways, if we’ve been taught to understand how such a thing can be achieved, and in detrimental and criminal ways if we lack such education/upbringing.

This is perhaps another way of saying what I said:

The problem comes when one tries to meet that need with something other than God. This is one aspect of what Christians mean by the term “fallen”.

You asked:

Would you agree with me that they’re feelings… were at least partly enabled by their ....belief that informed them that certain people were not actually “people,” but rather, savages?

Yes indeed.  As I said in another post…

...notions of personhood are either relative or absolute, and these are almost always mutually exclusive and deeply held moral convictions. Yet, history repeatedly shows that relativism regarding personhood can lead to dehumanization, which by definition, distinguishes an “us” from a “them”. This distinction has always preceded killing on grand scales… Ironically, it is the perpetrators of genocide who are dehumanized, not their victims, by the self-induced alienation from humanity needed to perpetuate the psychological distinction between themselves and their victims.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]That’s not what I was getting at.  CS Lewis said “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”  In the Christian view, our desires for goodness, justice, etc, are put their by God as a means by which we may recognize, find and take pleasure in him.

And there, you see, is the perfect crystallization of the difference between you and me, sir. If I, on the other hand, find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, rather than fly off into Lewis’ transports of grandiosity, I hold tightly on to that desire, embrace it fully, and come to realize that the desire in itself is all I could ever want of it. I could weep for wanting it, but having its object would be far worse. How can I be more fully human than in that recognition?

The psychoanalytic schools have terms for Lewis’ response. Freud, most of whose analyses I don’t find much insight in, might call it infantile.

My purpose is hardly to mock the desire, which we all have in common, but the particular formations one achieves in making one’s Father figure responsible for everything, and thereby seeking parental succor from that ultimate Father figure on and on, even into adult life.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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I could weep for wanting it (a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy), but having its object would be far worse.

I think Lewis was referring to desires for peace, truth, justice, love, etc.  With regard to those desires, I don’t see why having them “would be far worse.”

What kinds of desires were you thinking of, i.e. desires which no experience in the world can satisfy?

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Posted: 01 March 2007 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]

I could weep for wanting it (a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy), but having its object would be far worse.

I think Lewis was referring to desires for peace, truth, justice, love, etc.  With regard to those desires, I don’t see why having them “would be far worse.”

What kinds of desires were you thinking of, i.e. desires which no experience in the world can satisfy?

S.C., if the above two posts amounts to an important argument, and I think they do, you’ve won it because your opponent (up to now, at least) can do nothing more than weakly refute your emotion. The substance of what you say stands.

Parable, please tell us about how S.C. is in substantial error.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]

I could weep for wanting it (a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy), but having its object would be far worse.

I think Lewis was referring to desires for peace, truth, justice, love, etc.  With regard to those desires, I don’t see why having them “would be far worse.”

What kinds of desires were you thinking of, i.e. desires which no experience in the world can satisfy?

If peace is only an absence of war, I don’t think it is beyond human reach. Perfect peace, an utter absence of turmoil of any kind… maybe you would like that, but I would not, being the obstreperous type. As for truth, since I’m a scientist first and foremost, if perfect truth were discovered, we’d all be out of work. Hmm. Perfect justice? Ah, yes. To go back a few pages, this involves figuring out what it is we deserve. Ouch. How tedious, turning us all into accountants of what we deserve. Like I said, what you get is what you get. You may not think it much, but I do. But rather than choose the trivial solution of deserving the absolute worst and depending on grace and mercy to pick up the pieces… let’s just not go there.

Something that everyone in the world would find delightful strikes me as a fine example of the unattainable. How any human being would presume to define such a thing for everyone else is beyond me. You have to mock up a deity in order to define something that everyone will love… worship. Yes, love. That’s what it is. That object, the desire for which I embrace, but the achievement of which I am happy to be without. Imperfection in that department has always proven most satisfactory. I do not believe I can explain this to you if you do not already understand. I would be a poor atheist indeed to be out there searching for perfection in that department.

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Posted: 01 March 2007 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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S.C., if the above two posts amounts to an important argument, and I think they do, you’ve won it because your opponent (up to now, at least) can do nothing more than weakly refute your emotion. The substance of what you say stands.

Parable, please tell us about how S.C. is in substantial error.

Forgive me, but I must have missed something.  What do you see as the substance of SC’s position?

Also, I never said SC was in substantial error.  I just asked

What kinds of desires were you thinking of, i.e. desires which no experience in the world can satisfy?

which SC answered in the next post, but I still don’t understand why having that

would be far worse.

.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 01:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]. . .  CS Lewis said “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”  In the Christian view, our desires for goodness, justice, etc, are put their by God as a means by which we may recognize, find and take pleasure in him.

Sorry for being less than clear, Parable. What I was getting at is that C.S. Lewis, who back when I was 20 years old seemed like a brilliant analyst of humanity’s desires and needs, now seems to me really quite silly. “The most probable explanation. . . .”?

No. The most probable explanation for any thought, idea or desire that occurs within a person is not that we are enduring some kind of training procedure for the next, nonphysical realm of existence for us to enjoy. I’m obviously adding words to Lewis’ statement, filling in the gaps out of my memory of his more prominent messages, but whatever he meant by the words you quoted, they make absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. Mental realms can be explained without evoking arbitrary guesses. Freud failed miserably in my opinion, but even he, as Salt Creek states, understood more than Lewis. In my opinion.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 01:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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Since I do not even wish to have the remotest risk of being in substantial error with respect to Parable’s definitions and standards for argument, and since I so enjoy putting Parable in a matchbox like a moth, out of which he always so deftly flies whenever I open it to take a look at him… :D

[quote author=“Parable”]

I could weep for wanting it (a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy), but having its object would be far worse.

I think Lewis was referring to desires for peace, truth, justice, love, etc.  With regard to those desires, I don’t see why having them “would be far worse.”

What kinds of desires were you thinking of, i.e. desires which no experience in the world can satisfy?

I dealt with what Parable thinks Lewis was referring to in a previous post. If I could have these in this life, I would not be in the presence of a desire which no experience in this life could satisfy.

Let’s break the preceding down into two parts. First, let’s deal with Lewis’ ethereal “desire which no experience in the world can satisfy”. I do not want to have this “satisfying” experience, since it will mean that I am no longer in the world (of experience that can satisfy it). That means I’m dead, bub. I will be dead someday, but I do not want to die simply to have an experience that satisfies the desire which no experience in this world can satisfy. Yep.

That’s a mouthful, I know, but I’m just feeling my way along here, in Plato’s cave, or wherever the heck it is I find myself.

I can understand why Parable might wonder why having this desire satisfied would be “far worse” than the state in which I find myself, which sometimes weeps with that desire. Weeping in the presence of the inarticulate longing is a central part of my spiritual practice. This second part attempts to deal with my basis for considering it worse, let alone “far worse”, to have this desire satisfied.

The obstruction in the thought process that Parable is experiencing is somewhat like the situation of vapor-lock in a fuel line, due to some of the more ethereal aspects of Christianity, the sort of gentle breezes that the Lewises and Chestertons of the world waft in on.

The airy-fairy aspects of Christianity, though few and far between, are not entirely absent. Most of Christianity seems to deal with the grim business of recognizing and dealing with sinfulness and with pondering the excruciating sacrifice of Jesus, along with the more palatable aspects of the Beatitudes and so on. Anyway, all that seems to me to have little enough to do with satisfying the desire which no experience on earth can satisfy. Except, of course, in that crude, pedestrian, definitional, tautological sense that “salvation” offers.

The perfect world in which all men are brothers (or rather treat each other as if) is not of this earth, and, although striving for it is fine, and is something I wish I did a little better sometimes, it is the striving and not the having that makes life worth living for me. I will not presume to speak for others here, but I see in the fine words of many atheists here a similar sort of sentiment. I will not have a living Christian judge my efforts in attaining these things, and I certainly will not be subect to his proxying for his God in judging me.

Edit: Ah, I see that while I was cogitating this lengthy stream of BS, that homunculus came along and presented it much more concisely. Well done, h!

[quote author=“homunculus”]The most probable explanation for any thought, idea or desire that occurs within a person is not that we are enduring some kind of training procedure for the next, nonphysical realm of existence for us to enjoy.

Freaking brilliant, my man!

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Posted: 02 March 2007 02:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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The most probable explanation for any thought, idea or desire that occurs within a person is not that we are enduring some kind of training procedure for the next, nonphysical realm of existence for us to enjoy. I’m obviously adding words to Lewis’ statement, filling in the gaps out of my memory of his more prominent messages, but whatever he meant by the words you quoted, they make absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. Mental realms can be explained without evoking arbitrary guesses.

Regarding mental realms, I have always wondered about why humans have imagination.  It has been said “nothing that has been accomplished that wasn’t imagined first.”  There seems to be some correspondence with what we can think about and what is possible or real.  I’m not suggesting that every fantasy has such a correspondence, but clearly it is true for at least some of our ideas.  There are even worldviews that include the idea that our awareness is what creates things, which I can understand but not really relate to.  If you know anything about Lewis’ life, you know he experienced his share of hardship, suffering, sorrow and loss.  It seems natural to me that our longing for a life free of those burdens is inspired by the possibility of a world in which life is different.  While Lewis’ idea has often been interpreted to mean he believes in an afterlife, another way to understand what he is saying is as a vision for what may be possible in the present life, here and now.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 02:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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If I could have these in this life, I would not be in the presence of a desire which no experience in this life could satisfy.

Obviously. 

...I do not want to have this “satisfying” experience…

So your approach is to not have these desires, yes?  If so, do you hold that the object of such desire remains, or do you hold they are not possible?

Weeping in the presence of the inarticulate longing is a central part of my spiritual practice.

Me too.  Jesus wept.  We’re in good company.

...it is the striving and not the having that makes life worth living for me.

The thrill is not in the kill, but in the heat of the chase. (name that tune!)

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