Saturday, May 02, 2009

Or they could become Buddhists...

Charles M. Blow at the NY Times op-ed opines:

[A] study entitled “Faith in Flux” issued this week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life questioned nearly 3,000 people and found that most children raised unaffiliated with a religion later chose to join one. Indoctrination be damned. By contrast, only 4 percent of those raised Catholic and 7 percent of those raised Protestant later became unaffiliated...

...Most said that they first joined a religion because their spiritual needs were not being met. And the most-cited reason for settling on their current religion was that they simply enjoyed the services and style of worship.

For these newly converted, the nonreligious shtick didn’t stick. There was still a void, and communities of the faithful helped fill it.

While science, logic and reason are on the side of the nonreligious, the cold, hard facts are just so cold and hard. Yes, the evidence for evolution is irrefutable. Yes, there is a plethora of Biblical contradictions. Yes, there is mounting evidence from neuroscientists that suggests that God may be a product of the mind. Yes, yes, yes. But when is the choir going to sing? And when is the picnic? And is my child going to get a part in the holiday play?

As the nonreligious movement picks up steam, it needs do a better job of appealing to the ethereal part of our human exceptionalism — that wondrous, precious part where logic and reason hold little purchase, where love and compassion reign. It’s the part that fears loneliness, craves companionship and needs affirmation and fellowship.

I agree much with that last sentence, although (of course) as a Buddhist I suspect he takes "human exceptionalism" way too far. Humans are exceptional, no doubt about it, but we could learn a few tricks from bonobos should understand the exceptionalism of this whole ecosystem in which we inhabit.

I am awed by the arguments of many of the "new atheists," in the sense that they posit a world which is more precious and rare than perhaps even we Buddhists imagine, but I have to go with Blow here: you need a community; you need to step back even from scientfic wonder and need a matrix, a place from which to grow, at least insofar as our social evolution has taken place over the past few thousands of years.

Luckily you can do it without much of the trappings and baggage of many religions, including but not limited to monotheism.

But Blow's hyperlink to the brain stuff needs comment too: humans evidently find it beneficial to have the sense of self and other dissolved from time to time. Sure, it's possible or even likely it's all in the brain, but with the mind of Thusness I might be able to help you and others as well as myself (but if I call it Big Mind I might get sued).

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