How can the spirtiualism that Sam advocates actually serve as a subsititue for actual faith in God and an afterlife? How can it offer much more than a temporary high?
Sam seems not to beleive in an afterlife. I do, but I fear Sam is right. How can spirtuality offer consolation if there is no hereafter?
Qualities and experiences that Harris refers to as “spirituality” are called different things by different people. I prefer not to use “spirituality” when referring to my own experiences, but that’s just me. Mind states can be altered in numerous and sundry ways, and many of the ancient Eastern thinkers named them variously. Since Sam Harris presumably does research in some area of cognitive science, he apparently is trying to refine these traditions, shaping theory and experiment with modern technological tools such as computer imaging techniques.
This work is not temporary, unless our species ends up killing itself off soon. Many writers on this forum feel strongly that religionists, if left unchecked, are dangerous enough to inadvertently bring everything to a close, making Harris’ work temporary indeed.
Tad, you are right that a lot of what passes for ‘spirituality’ is just a temporary high. Many of us who have been involved in ‘spiritual’ groups started out on drugs, and it shows.
homunculus, how about a better word?
I’ll start with ‘contemplation’ see where we go with this…there is a kind of contemplation which invites open silence. In open silence it is seen that life never was separate from death, not for one moment. No fantasy, no mythology, no ideology, no authority can come close to a glimpse of this basic fact of our being. This is not a substitute for religion, this IS religion. It is neither rational nor irrational. It takes place in a different dimension of experience, one which we all share…but mostly ignore.
Dan Dennett defined what I call spirituality much better than I can:
…What these people have realized is one of the best secrets of life: let your self go. If you can approach the world’s complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only just scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could heretofore only imagine, and your own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things. Keeping that awestruck vision of the world ready to hand while dealing with the demands of daily living is no easy exercise, but it is definitely worth the effort, for if you can stay centered and engaged, you will find the hard choices easier, the right words will come to you when you need them, and you will indeed be a better person. That, I propose, is the secret to spirituality, and it has nothing at all to do with believing in an immortal soul, or in anything supernatural.
-Daniel C. Dennett
“Breaking the Spell”
To me, the major tragedy of religion is that it invariably takes one’s focus out of the here and now. Trouble is, like it or not, we live in the here and now, and this is all we get. Enjoy it!
It’s a tough thing for me to relate, but at 16 I am completely at peace with death. I’m just not worried about it anymore. Sure, I don’t want to die, and especially not anytime soon (I want to live until at least 80, and with coming medical advancements, I doubt this is unreasonable); but I would never want to live forever.
This is the main reason why I’m not sad about the fact that some day I will inevitably die: once you realize that there is no soul, no actual thing that separates you from the rest of the universe, you eventually realize that nothing will change when you die. Everything will be completely the same. The universe will continue to go and go and go. And you—well what are “you”? The “you” feeling is just a delusion, a thing of perception, a misconception of the mind. When “you” die, “you” will cease to exist, yes. But there was no real you in the first place. All the bits of matter that make up your body will continue to exist, everything you’ve ever encountered will continue to exist, there just won’t be a feeling of self. If this seems sad, then consider that there won’t be a sense of self to be sad anymore. You’ll be in perfect bliss, perfect happiness. Both infinitely ignorant and infinitely knowledgeable at the same time.
And that’s what I call peace.
Just my two cents about the whole dying thing.
Anyways, why are you so worried about “the hereafter”? Aren’t you happy, and amazed, to have any life at all? Think of all the great things that happen in life. Some terrible things do occur, of course, but we couldn’t have great things without terrible ones to compare them with. Life is only as good as you make it, optimism never hurts. Why worry so much about the next life when the only life you know of is this one? Aren’t you worried that you’ll waste the only life you get?
I think that saying that secular spirituality is just a temporary high is off a bit. Temporary? Well that’s what life is! But that’s because your life is an infinitely short period of transformed perception. The only reason you think that life being temporary is a problem is because you have a bias for your preconceptions about afterlives. If I postulated that we all have had beforelives but forgot them, and the idea grew, in two thousand years we might have people debating over whether this life is meaningless, because we’ve already lived our “real” lives. People would be worried that this life was just the epilogue in our journey, just as you think that this life might just be a prologue.
I don’t see how you can experience “happiness” or “bliss,” once you’re dead, if there is no conscious thought. Atheist Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, describes a character’s death in which he experiences a moment of pure joy before dissipating into the oneness of the universe. This is proabably the best he could do to make oblivion seem appealing. But nothingness is still nothingness.
When I die, I’ll miss out on a lot of things. I want see what innovations lie in the future. When humans beign to colonize space, I won’t be there. The human story of exploration and discovery will continue, and I won’t be there. I may or may not live to see the first cloned mammoth or thylacine. I’ll proabaly live to see how society recieves the first human clones and the ensuing controversy. But there is much more I will never see.
The one thing good about oblivion is that it’s preferable to the Christian hell. But that’s about it.
This is from the back of a Normal Bob Smith ‘anti-tract’:
If you are in need of more answers or feel alone and want someone there who will always care for you and love you… then join the fuckin’ club. You’re a grown adult for God’s sake! Grow up and deal with it like the rest of us do. Tomorrow’s another day! Going through shit is how you learn stuff. Christ, I thought this was common knowledge! What the fuck?”
I like to keep a couple in my pocket in case I meet up with a sidewalk evangelist or a Jehova’s Witness knocks on my door.
IMO, worrying about an ‘afterlife’ or diety is a waste of time. Focus on enjoying your life, allow other people to enjoy their lives, and leave the world a better place when you die. How can that be wrong?
“Fools, with damnation as your destiny,
sentenced to fuel the eternal first of hell,
How long will you still pray for Omar’s pardon,
nudging his mercy from the Merciful?
Though pearls in praise of God I never strung,
though dust of sin lies clotted on my brow,
Yet I will not despair of mercy,
When did Omar ever claim that One was Two.”
(Graves - Shah translation)
“You’re born at point A,
you die at point B.
Kick maximum @ss.”
As trite as it sounds, and as bat-nuts crazy as the man is, these words have inspired me.
(“Stranglehold” is a killer tune as well)
I also recently heard somebody quote Satre in saying:
“Death is the wall I cannot see beyond.”
and I have to agree with his sentiment. I have read nothing of Satre though. I’ll have to work on that (any suggestions/recommendations?)
I don’t see any evidence for persistence of “self” after death. Sucks, but seems to be so.
It won’t be bliss, it won’t be anything. It will be the same thing as when Samuel Pepys kept his diary and London endured one of the last outbreaks of plague and the Great Fire. Interesting times, but you weren’t around to see them - and you didn’t care.
The run-up to death may be quite horrid, but once you get there, you’ll be safely in oblivion.
I don’t really think the run-up to death would be quite horrid at all. I have no fear of death, but indeed I regreat not being able to see the changes that shall come.
People didn’t usually care about not seing changes because 50 years ago it was not as clear (or as truthfull) that the world will be so different in a few centuries (or even decades) to come.
Search for ‘Technological singularity’ in wikipedia. If that came to be (wich I think is unlikelly but not at all unreasonable), I would definetelly want to see that (well maybe I will, it’s not that far)
[quote author=“Tad Trenton’s Ghost”]I don’t see how you can experience “happiness” or “bliss,” once you’re dead, if there is no conscious thought. ...
...But there is much more I will never see.
The one thing good about oblivion is that it’s preferable to the Christian hell. But that’s about it.
The greatest problem about fear of death or nothingness or what have you is that, ultimately, we simply cannot know what will happen to our conscious mind when the physical vehicle for that mind ceases to function. To me, that means that worrying about it, pontificating about it or any amount of energy spent on theorizing about it is time taken away from living the greatest possible existence of which we ARE conscious. Since we don’t, can’t and won’t know what happens after death, attempting to cross that bridge before you get to it is utterly pointless, and in fact, counter productive. Because while worrying about that, you’re not really living. You’re worrying about dying.
It seems that living for anything but the now is an exercise in futility.
[quote author=“Petrucio”]I don’t really think the run-up to death would be quite horrid at all.
I’m guessing you have not seen a lot of death, American style.