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  1. (Originally posted 10/04; my replies indented)

    I’ve been reading your October Firestarter and one thing caught my interest. I’m wondering about this quote in particular:

    “What then with the millions we have sent to hell if these norms were not valid?”

    You found it arrogant, which on first blush I found arrogant as well, but I’m wondering if the context of the priest’s comment might have been a different one.

    Certainly to say ‘What about all the people we sent to hell based on these norms?’ would imply that the person is thinking that they actually sent people to hell based on those norms. But what if the context was subtly different? What if instead he meant that people were sent to hell because they followed those norms rather than did not obey those norms? Which is to say, what if because of those teachings, people who followed them were sent to hell? It casts the phrase in a somewhat sadder light, rather than one of pure arrogance.

    However, me being who I am, I do not know the original context and the priest was probably bemoaning the fact that they had consigned so many people to hell already because of these norms, how would it look if we changed our mind?

    That’s a good point — your ‘twist’ on the potential context of the quote is not one I’d thought of. However, while it makes the priest’s statement somewhat more emotively tragic for the priest, I’m not sure it doesn’t still contain the seeds of breathtaking clerical arrogance.

    In effect, what the statement would seem to indicate is a belief that their god is so simple-minded that it can’t figure out on its own whether or not someone should be sent to hell or not — and so the clergy is necessary to somehow rubber-stamp approval on a soul so ‘god’ knows it’s bound for heaven.

    Is that not also incredible arrogance, even if of another sort?

    Oh, on that I fully agree. Moreover I can’t picture any deity giving that kind of power to fallible, temporal mortals, which is why I find the doctrine of excommunication so additionally baffling.

    Hear, hear.

  2. The Firestarters are generally more interesting to provide feedback on than the reviews. Most of the reviews are, “Well, yeah, it’s a book review.” As usual, you’ll probably need to have this and the article open to make sense of it, as I’m going to make commentary as I read.

    • One year anniversary: Wow, has it really been that long?

      Yeppers! Been an awful lot of fun. ;)

    • Birthday: Happy birthday, in advance. =)

      Thank you! ;)

    • Thank you: You’re welcome!

    It’s very good that you’ve got a definition for religiosity there.

    Hold on, I have to go read this again from the top. I’m not sure I understood it. From the comments at the bottom, it’s clear that I’m missing something (this does not surprise me. I often have little understanding of “spiritual” things).

    Okay. The section on Religiosity is perfectly clear and makes the problems with any organized group of power-wielders clear, be they religions or governments. Now to read the second half again.

    You asked, “Do I have a fluffy New Age definition?” Do you think you do or not? “…searching for the divine, the inner Light, the Oneness…” that could sound kind of New Agey to me, but not excessively so.

    It’s hard for me to describe the beginning of a new cult, within its excessively-rigid home culture, without sounding judgmental. Sorry, this is as good as I get.;)

    Of course, I may not actually understand the concept of what’s being discussed here. I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience like you describe. I’m not sure I even fully understand what it is that is being described. I’ve heard a lot of people in a lot of places describe similar things, and have only wound up feeling somewhat lost and confused. The words make sense, but the feeling they’re trying to convey eludes me.

    Having read it again, it makes as much sense as I think it will. You are clear in what you’ve found and what you believe and what you’re trying to say. I don’t think I completely grasp what you’re saying, and my missing an important referent to it is not your fault. I don’t know how to correct this, and occasionally it worries me. Usually I don’t think about it.

  3. (Originally posted 8/04; my replies indented)

    My searching has at least found a home base (I don’t think I’ll ever stop searching though; it’s more of a journey than a destination). A bit more than five years ago I joined a Unitarian-Universalist church locally. The heritage is Christian, but the Unitarians broke free hundreds of years ago because they don’t believe in the divinity of Christ and Universalists because they don’t believe in Hell.

    So we are “heretics” in both the religious and original (think for yourself) senses of the word. American UU’s (the two churches joined forces early in the 1960’s) are somewhat more eclectic than our European counterparts (adding elements of many other spiritual traditions), but the main philosophy is still “think for yourself.” I describe it as “dogma-free” religion!

    Okay, that makes sense. I always wondered where the UU’s came from, but it was one of those “someday when I have time I’ll try researching it” kinda things, you know? Thanks for teaching me something new! ;)

    I think one of the main issues in most religions isn’t that they are “organized” but that they have become a major part of an important world culture and thus have evolved into a “power player” so to speak. Most, if not all, religions started out as spiritual teachings, but morphed into some other beast as they gained more and more power.

    The first priority of any powerful entity is to stay powerful, even if it means betraying inherent principles. (There may be a few exceptions out there, but not many.) And those who are most invested in keeping power are the most opposed to independent thought and allowing “others” (usually women & minorities) to have any power.

    Hm. I’ve obviously not sufficiently clarified the nature of “organized” in the Firestarter article, then, since that’s the most major part of it. Once the religion (or whatever institution) becomes part of the status quo, it’s invested itself in helping maintain that status quo — even if its original charter was to stop or change the status quo!

    One comment I have to make is about your phrase “speculative framework designed to assign responsibility for their lives to anyone but themselves.” I agree, in principle, with what you are saying, though in my experience there is a very fine line in there somewhere between that and “everything in your life is your responsibility.” It has taken me too many years to learn to let go of issues that I have no control over and be able to trust that I’ll be able to handle whatever comes. (And believe me, I’m still learning…)

    Well, you do realize you’ve in effect disqualified yourself from your own argument, right? Here, let me walk through it and make sure I’ve got this right… ;)

    A) If you believe everything in your life is your responsibility, then you have to take ownership of it.

    However, B) if you believe there are some issues you have no control over, you cannot logically believe everything in your life is your responsibility, and you cannot take ownership of those issues you cannot control.

    Therefore, C) you would seem to believe some of the things in your life are your responsibility, and some of them are uncontrollable by you and thus beyond your responsibility.

    This being the case, D) you don’t have to worry about falling into the category of those who believe in a “speculative framework designed to assign responsibility for their lives to anyone but themselves” because you do take responsibility for those things in your life which you feel you can control!

    How’s that for a pseudo-logical exercise? Did it make sense or is it just silly? ;)

    It is sad that so many people seem not to want to think for themselves… Simply too much effort? Or one of my pet peeves: too turned off of thinking from school experiences that often punish original thinking and are designed to foster conformity and acceptance of “one right answer” given to them by an authority figure…

    I admit, I’m always freshly horrified when I find someone who’s willingly — sometimes even gladly — handed over their precious free will to someone else. It’s hard for me to believe anyone would be emotional sheep enough to do that, you know?

    Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of respect for those who think “free will” equates to “right to be an asshole” either, but at least they’re trying to think for themselves, even if only clumsily. Maybe they’ll get better, but I doubt the emotional sheep will grow up, alas.

    I can’t personally speak to the issue with school experiences, though, for two reasons. First, I’m sick to death of whiney people who have deliberately stayed emotional children, who wander around bleating about how their miserable lives aren’t their fault — because they’re the “victims” of the public school system!

    Yeah, riiiiight. If that’s the case, how come they’ve not lifted a finger in the decades since then to improve themselves?

    Second, from what I can tell, study after study shows the absolute best indicator of high grades and a good educational experience isn’t anything to do with how rich or organized or suburban or whatever the school system is. The best predicator is, quite simply: parental involvement.

    My parents were keenly involved in my education (sometimes to my dismay ;), and made sure I had access to the best education they could find for me. So my educational experience was really good, despite the huge variety of schools I was enrolled in through my life.

    Here’s a quote I think you’ll like, though, about education and stifling original thinking:

    “By the time the average person finishes college he or she will have taken over 2,600 tests, quizzes, and exams. The ‘right answer’ approach becomes deeply ingrained in our thinking. This may be fine for some mathematical problems, where there is in fact only one right answer.

    The difficulty is that most of life isn’t that way. Life is ambiguous; there are many right answers — all depending on what you are looking for. But when we think that there is only one right answer, we’ll stop looking as soon as we find one.”

    Roger von Oech, A Whack On the Side Of The Head

    Regarding education, I was fortunate, I guess — somewhere along the line I was infected with the insidious meme of enjoyment of learning. Heck, let’s admit it freely — I love learning cool new things! ;)

    I will have to add those books to my (ever expanding) reading list. They sound very interesting…

    Cool! I always love encouraging folks to read fascinating and thought-provoking books! ;)

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