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May 05, 2007

Re: Serenity

Bruce Baugh comments:

Y'know, a non-trivial number of believers don't get anything like simple serenity from their faith. Experiences that people find make most sense interpreted as encounters with the numinous are often scary, weird, and troubling. Jonah tried to run as far from an assigned mission as he could, and went through a lot of misery, and didn't have fun when he finally did surrender and fulfill his calling. Jesus shouted in agony at his crucifixion and died without any obvious answers coming in, and his disciples ended up martyred. Philip Dick was unusually articulate about his years of struggle to make sense of his experiences in early 1974, but in the years I was active in one church or another, I ran into quite a few members who were going through something very similar with a less elaborate verbal apparatus.

For that matter, thoroughly flaunted religiosity of the evangelical or fundamentalist style seems not to bring much comfort to many of the most prominent flaunters, from Aimee Semple Macpherson to Ted Haggard.

May 5, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

"died without any obvious answers coming in"

look, what did he expect, talking in Aramaic, for god's sake?

If you want an answer, you've got to go with one of the approved languages:
English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Bork Bork Bork.

Sometimes Esperanto, though God is better at reading it than speaking it.

Posted by: deva | May 5, 2007 5:35:08 PM

Serenity NOW!

Posted by: Petey | May 5, 2007 5:47:08 PM

Look it's only been 130 years since Nietzsche assassinated god from the grassy knoll. That's a very short amount of time.

We're living in an odd era between the death of the god of abraham and the birth of whatever new god is to come. It's hard on folks.

Only idiots can believe in god these days. But only idiots don't accept that they thirst for religion. Until the new god is born, everyone, be they religious or atheist, is going to be in this odd limbo.

Posted by: Petey | May 5, 2007 6:03:42 PM

We're living in an odd era between the death of the god of abraham and the birth of whatever new god is to come.

Maybe. That's what people have been saying for a long time in various ways, and yet God still appears to be very much alive. I think reports of the death of God and the Second Coming have both been exaggerated over the centuries.

Only idiots can believe in god these days.

Sure, whatever.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 5, 2007 6:20:29 PM

Seems like there are too many gods (Hebrew, Christian - in several varieties, Islamic, Hindu, etc.). And they seem to be fighting all the time, so no wonder serenity isn't prevalent.

Maybe the greeks had it right: a whole pantheon, with somewhat distinct but often overlapping roles, jealous of their power, and fighting and schemeing all the time. Just don't intermarry or hook up with one, for trouble will ensue for sure. But they didn't have youtube or talking heads blogging - or blogging at all, for our amusement. Or the WWF for the take-downs, for that matter.

Dark Chocolate is serenity.

More here

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 5, 2007 6:42:11 PM

Anyone else read the title, then experience abrupt disappointment when they started reading the text of the post, because it wasn't about the movie Serenity, or the short-lived Firefly TV series?

Posted by: RT | May 5, 2007 7:04:51 PM

"Seems like there are too many gods (Hebrew, Christian - in several varieties, Islamic"

All three of those religions worship the same god - the god of abraham.

Folks worshiping the god of abraham total close to 4 billion souls. He is the god of people across most of the Earth's surface.

Paul of Tarsus is the leading candidate for the most influential person in human history since he was responsible for the ingenuous marketing campaign that transformed the god of abraham from the god of a small sect to the dominant god on the planet.

The god of abraham was born circa 1200 BC. He died at the hand of Nietzsche in 1882. Neighbors said the god of abraham was a quiet man.

Posted by: Petey | May 5, 2007 7:07:56 PM

Petey, you're going to get in lots of trouble by saying that Israel's God is the same as Pat Robertson's God and Osama bin Laden's God (or Mitt Romney's God either).

Forget the theology, focus on the reality of what people, and especially their leaders, have said or done or will say or do. We can't have a holy war (WWIV) if Our God is on the same side as Their god, can we?

Besides, Islam's god is named Allah, Isreal's god is named something like Yahweh (thereby proving that and neither of those had a son that he ordained should be crucified to save humanity (or whatever).

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 5, 2007 7:22:41 PM

"Petey, you're going to get in lots of trouble by saying that Israel's God is the same as Pat Robertson's God and Osama bin Laden's God (or Mitt Romney's God either)."

Both Pat Robertson and Osama bin Laden would agree with my contention without the slightest hesitation. They both are quite aware that they worship the god of abraham.

Atheists would do well do familiarize themselves with basic Abrahamic theology. It's fascinating stuff, as well as being the spiritual lingua franca of the majority of their fellow humans.

Posted by: Petey | May 5, 2007 7:49:31 PM

One additional and interesting note:

Understandably, given the bizarrely tribal nature of the god of abraham, Christians insist on genealogies that show Jesus to be a direct descendent of Abraham, and Muslims insist on genealogies that show Mohammed to be a direct descendent of Abraham.

Posted by: Petey | May 5, 2007 8:08:08 PM

Christians insist on genealogies that show Jesus to be a direct descendent of Abraham

The weird thing is, they don't. Instead, two of the four Evangelists produce genealogies purporting to show that Joseph, Mary's husband, was a direct descendant of Abraham. Those two Evangelists, Matthew and Luke, both make it clear that the Holy Spirit, not Joseph, was the father of Jesus. And no Christian sect today AFAIK claims Joseph was the father of Jesus.

So you've got these two complicated (and conflicting in multiple places) genealogies, proving that this theological bystander was a direct descendant of Abraham. It makes no sense at all, but there it is.

Posted by: RT | May 5, 2007 8:23:09 PM

"So you've got these two complicated ... genealogies, proving that this theological bystander was a direct descendant of Abraham."

Huh. That is weird.

I learn something new every day.

Posted by: Petey | May 5, 2007 8:42:25 PM

it's because they are looking for an external god

Posted by: akaison | May 5, 2007 9:47:28 PM

Only idiots can believe in god these days.

Whether you agreee or disagree, one must admit that this poster is certainly not mainstream. He is the fringe.

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 5, 2007 10:33:36 PM

"Whether you agreee or disagree, one must admit that this poster is certainly not mainstream. He is the fringe."

No doubt.

There are plenty of topics where in polling the public comes down 90/10 and I'm with the 10.

I'm a radical lefty fringer trying to implement my vision of the world through mainstream politics.

Posted by: Petey | May 5, 2007 11:00:44 PM

There are plenty of topics where in polling the public comes down 90/10 and I'm with the 10.

And then you went and pissed off another 7 or 8 percent that doesn't accept that they thirst for religion. Where's your post-Abraham God when you need her, huh?

Posted by: Consumatopia | May 6, 2007 12:23:59 AM

"Atheists would do well [t]o familiarize themselves with basic Abrahamic theology."

I would think many atheists, esp. 'first generation' ones, are in fact pretty familiar with basic Abrahamic theology, at least - indeed, sometimes in greater depth and range than the average theist - I do agree that it's fascinating. (Apatheists - ie, folks who think the whole issue is pointless and irrelevant - probably less so). Indeed, while it presumably varies between and within countries, cultures and sects, the average garden-variety Abrahamic believer - at least thinking of U.S. Christians, anyway - seems to know very little - in a official, formal and sophisticated sense, at least - about their own belief system. (Specific bits may be very well known, often out of context). In fact, I've heard - will try to dig up refs - that in actual practice most folks tend to revert to a kind of vague and general baseline theism.

Back to the OP, though, having had a mystical experience that, if I was religious I would probably view as an encounter with the numinous (as opposed to a temporal lobe burp), I'm another one who found it rather disturbing. I mean, an overpowering sense of transcendental oneness where - well, language fails, as with all good mystical experiences, but we can go with - I imagined I heard everything singing, or more specifically, heard each thing as a song, with all of those countless songs combining to make up a - well, the obvious words nevertheless fall short - it sounds all fun and exciting, but really, it's more like, ok, now what? Kinda like walking around in a comfortably dim room, only to suddenly get a flashlight full in the eyes for a bit. And that's with viewing it as a neurological thingy that at best serves as a kind of poetic metaphor for existence, rather than an actual external perception.

Although this probably has a lot to do with character traits - plenty of folks would find such an experience deeply meaningful and fulfilling; it's very typical that I complain about it. What can I say? I like my meaning with a little m, and even then generally taken in slowly and sideways. {shrugs}

Posted by: Dan S. | May 6, 2007 12:50:41 AM

God still appears to be very much alive.

The Muslim god, yes - the Christian god, not so much. This is kind of counterintuitive because Christianity is by far the most popular religion in the world. But it has ceased to really be a driving force behind our culture. Christianity used to be the foundation for art, philosophy, politics, and even science. But this hasn't been the case for a long time. Christianity in the US and Europe is quickly becoming wholly nominal.


This point is really driven home by comparison with Islam. For better or for worse, the Islamic god is the raison d'etre of their culture in a way that makes the Christian god look about as relevant as Zeus.


(BTW, I realize that Muslims and Christians are said to worship the 'same' god, in that they both think they are pointing to the same guy. But they obviously have much different conceptions of god.)

Posted by: Jason | May 6, 2007 1:44:18 AM

"Christianity used to be the foundation for art, philosophy, politics, and even science. But this hasn't been the case for a long time ... This point is really driven home by comparison with Islam."

The god of abraham is dead everywhere. They just haven't gotten the word yet in the Islamic world.

As Nietzsche wrote:

God is Dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.

It took a few hundred years after Rome discovered the god of abraham for the Islamic world to get the word. It seems that it may also take the Islamic world a few hundred years to get word of his death.

"I realize that Muslims and Christians are said to worship the 'same' god, in that they both think they are pointing to the same guy. But they obviously have much different conceptions of god."

It's not some technicality that Jews/Christians/Muslims think they're all worshiping the god of abraham. It really is the same dude. Check out his MySpace page. Long flowing white beard, white robe, and Birkenstocks. Grew up as a young god somewhere around current day Basra. Bizarrely tribal in multiple ways. Abraham was his best buddy, and he's like the mafia in protecting "the family". Got a serious jealousy and temper problem.

Jews/Christians/Muslims really do have incredibly similar conceptions of who god is, what his meaning is, and how to acknowledge him. The differences between them are all really quite minor when compared to the vast gulf between them and non-Abrahamic religion.

They really are sects of the same schtick, applauding the same comedian.

Dude just happens to be dead now. Nice guy. Had a wonderful run. Died after a long sickness.

Posted by: Petey | May 6, 2007 2:33:47 AM

Jason, Christianity is far from having ceased to be a driving force. You exaggerate.

Petey, your own schtick isn't getting funnier with the repetition.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 6, 2007 3:24:39 AM

Besides, although my limited knowledge of Nietszche is showing, wasn't Nietszche referring to the death of God in the sense that people no longer believe in the more magical components (e.g. angels, demons, and the like) of God, not that God no longer exists? Does anybody have any idea of how many people believe that Jesus' body was physically resurrected?

Posted by: jmack | May 6, 2007 7:48:24 AM

See, I never saw Firefly, but I saw the movie. Which season of Buffy or Angel is it comparable to?

Posted by: profbacon | May 6, 2007 8:06:24 AM

"Besides, although my limited knowledge of Nietszche is showing, wasn't Nietszche referring to the death of God in the sense that people no longer believe in the more magical components (e.g. angels, demons, and the like) of God, not that God no longer exists?"

Nope. No metaphor involved or weasel-words involved. The god of abraham is dead as a doornail. An extended mourning period continues. This is why black is always in fashion.

Nietszche writes:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Dude's pushing up daisies as we speak - a bit of a comedown in god's job description,

But he really did have a great run. He was god for more than half of human history. His flock stretched across the planet to become the largest flock in existence.

-----

I differ from the atheistic zealots in thinking that this is a bad thing, and eagerly awaiting the birth of the new religion. The atheistic zealots say good riddance to go, and would prefer to worship Paris Hilton, which strikes me as piss-poor theology.

Posted by: Petey | May 6, 2007 8:42:47 AM

Petey, I think you might be taking Nietszche too literally here. He is referring to the idea that the self-evident morality that accompanies belief in God can no longer hold, not the literal death of God. He is referring to the "death of God" as the unquestioned basis for moral behavior--not the idea that God is pushing up daisies. What I should have said earlier is that I see Nietszche references to the "death of God" as part of a recognition of the increase of reason and the decline of the belief in magic. People's conceptions of the magical nature of God have changed dramatically from early Christians until now; this calls into question the foundation of faith in God in the first place, which leads to a questioning of the foundation of moral beliefs as well. Nietszche uses this concept to ask the question, "without God, why be moral?" He seems to think that pursuit of the answer to this question is important.

Posted by: jmack | May 6, 2007 11:35:04 AM

Nietszche uses this concept to ask the question, "without God, why be moral?" He seems to think that pursuit of the answer to this question is important.

I think this entlightenmentalizes Nietzsche to a significant degree. He's not asking "why?", he's asking "how?" He's not asking the dumb question that Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins seem to think is interesting - if no god is punishing us, why should we be moral? He's asking, given that moral systems don't have a transcendent god as underpinning, how are we supposed to live?

Given that the liberal enlightenment god does not survive the liberal enlightenment, and given that there is no pure origin of human morality that can underlie our morality, Nietzsche was looking for a new way to be moral - a transvaluation of values.

Petey's tongue-in-cheek notion of the wait for a new god is a pretty good reading of Nietzsche.

Posted by: DivGuy | May 6, 2007 12:40:47 PM

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