Foundations?

Discussion in 'Politics and Society' started by Operacast, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Social cultures tend to work better when a significant portion of individuals act altruistically from time to time. As one who views evolution as a proven fact, I find it significant that a number of peer-reviewed evolutionary biologists, D. S. Wilson, E. Wilson et al, now show us that for all sentient species, those herds -- or flocks, or prides or whatever -- with a significant portion of altruistic behavior among their members tend to last longer.

    Anyone can act altruistic enough if they harken to their finer instincts. An atheist can be just as altruistic as, less altruistic than, or more altruistic than a theist. The distinction lies elsewhere: All the counter-cultural atheist pioneers who have actually introduced/pioneered atheism in uniformly theistic cultures, and who have coupled some counter-cultural social ethic with their pioneering non-belief, seem to fall into a similar pattern. To wit, whether it's Brihaspati in ancient India, Critias or Diagoras in ancient Greece, or Meslier in pre-revolutionary France, their pioneering social ethic seems always aimed at getting back at someone rather than elevating all to an equal level. By contrast, all pioneering counter-cultural takes on deity seem aimed at an equally counter-cultural (for their time) degree of social consideration for all regardless of how society may pigeon-hole various groups.

    This doesn't mean that all atheists are thoughtless and all theists selfless. After all, there have been cruel theists like Gregory IX and Torquemada and humanitarian atheists like Bertrand Russell. So theists and atheists are both equally thoughtless/selfless as a group. Instead, the pattern in the previous paragraph suggests that the initial self-started inception of a thoughtless resentful social ethic seems somehow tied symbiotically to an initial skepticism towards the notion of the divine, while the initial self-started inception of a selfless egalitarian social ethic seems somehow tied symbiotically to an initial sense of the divine. It is ironic that it's frequently the case that these connections can get reversed among followers, with lockstep followers of the once-new theistic creed sometimes becoming among the most thoughtless and resentful of all, and those who see a logic in the pioneers for atheism sometimes developing an egalitarian outlook towards all in society, an outlook consistently at odds with those less thoughtful social types who are always, not just sometimes, the introducers of atheism in their cultures.

    Having been both an atheist and a liberal activist for equal rights for most of my adult life, my reading of the original texts relating to the earliest atheist pioneers and their uniformly resentful social outlook gave me a nasty shock. I felt it was hypocritical of me to be an equal-rights activist but to dispense with the chief historical and philosophical foundation of the liberal point of view once I had taken the trouble to read up on what that historical/philosophical foundation was: That philosophical foundation views each of us as having a spark of God in us; and therefore, in viewing all as our brethren, we are naturally responding to the sanctity of each human being as an abiding carrier of the same divinity that makes us all equal.

    Now plenty of us can still be quite altruistic and be wholly atheists and be sincere in both. I just personally prefer to know where, historically/philosophically, my own ideas that we all are each other's brethren ultimately derive. Having made that discovery through pretty intense and thorough reading, frankly, I realized I had to choose between my atheism and my equal-rights activism. I chose the latter, largely because of D. S. Wilson, E. Wilson, etc., whose rigorous scientific conclusions seemed to point to some degree of altruism being intrinsic to the social health and stability of any sentient species.

    If altruism is as socially healthy and essential and evidently as natural as seeing, as these modern researchers seem to show, it seemed unwise on my part to abandon it. That meant, then, that in staying true to the new scientific view of altruism as a fixed social imperative and an intrinsic adaptational necessity for all sentient species' survival, I had to therefore take the notion of the divine seriously too, once I saw the millennia-long symbiotic relationship between that human notion and the human notion that altruism is central to being a complete sentient being. The symbiotic relationship between the two notions throughout human history suggests that either both notions are founded on delusions or neither one is. Since the notion that altruism is central to survival seems confirmed by the latest scientific research, that now places the notion of the divine in an entirely new light.

    I still don't take any one religion all that seriously, because religions are institutional and not based on personal experience/enlightenment. But the outlook of individual pioneers like Moses, Buddha, Socrates or Christ are based on personal experience/enlightenment and therefore worth more respect than the self-serving mumbo-jumbo of many a monk and priest. I'm comfortable with my choice as being an entirely logical one for me. That doesn't make others who are still both atheists and equal-rights activists at all hypocritical. Their equal-rights activism is still just as sincere as ever. By analogy, one can use one's eyes just as well to see things clearly, regardless of whether or not one knows the full intricacies of various aspects of the retina, the cornea, or the iris, and the full mechanisms by which these components allow us to see. I simply choose to learn all that instead and to make logical choices once learned. Others needn't do that. And they don't lose their integrity by not doing that -- nor do they see any more poorly by not knowing the mechanics of seeing.

    Conservative atheists have made a very straightforward choice, one borne out by thousands of years of human thought. They conclude there is nothing divine at all, and so each human being can fend for her/himself, with no moral or philosophical claim on humanity as a whole for her/his assistance. Logically, I cannot fault that, even though it does not reflect the interdependent ethic that largely skeptic scientists like D. S. Wilson, E. Wilson, etc., seem to show works better for the stability and longevity of any sentient community.

    The culture as a whole should be altruistic, in my opinion, given the sobering findings of the scientific researchers that I cite above; and that means that if the government is to reflect that culture -- and I feel that any truly representative government should reflect its culture -- then the government should be prepared to act altruistically as a last resort given some special emergency (like a tsunami, a severe depression, etc.). That also means that in an altruistic culture, more lives will be saved if the culture as a whole has already encouraged a degree of citizen giving beforehand so the government can then act more effectively once/if some catastrophe hits. It's only prudent for the government to have an emergency fund available if, and when, and maybe.

    Thoughts?

    Operacast
     
  2. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    Our ability to understand that our individual egos are transient and unimportant is impaired by the bias in our information sources: we get a visual field and an auditory field all centered around ourselves, and while we can internally model the minds of others we cannot directly perceive them. So, we think of our ego as the center of the universe, of all other beings as distinctly secondary to us, and take it for granted that our ego is important. We can understand on an intellectual level that this is so, but that does not readily penetrate to the visceral level. The function of religion is (or should be: of course many religious varieties are dysfunctional) to get us out of our egos, make us understand in the heart not just the head that our petty selves are really insignificant. Often the best that can be accomplished is to "trade the little ego for a big one" (this is not my own phrase; some Buddhist teacher said it but I can't remember which, maybe Tai Situ Rinpoche): that is, one identifies with some large group or institution, subordinating one's individuality to that larger entity, but still treating that entity as an "ego" which excludes everyone and everything outside. This still accomplishes the purpose, if the "big ego" encompasses the whole of the society which is all that most people encounter, although of course it leads to (often frankly genocidal) warfare against non-members of the society; and this defeats the purpose of making society function smoothly, if the "big ego" is just one of several "big egos" competing for the allegiance of members of the society.
     
  3. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Well put. Thank you! If I may ==========>

    ==============> Are you sure you did not mean to write here "that this is not so"? I think that may make this clearer?

    Keenly looking forward to others' follow-ups!

    Best,

    Operacast
     
  4. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    Indeed. Thanks for the catch.
     

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