10 Reasons Freethinkers Can Look Forward to a Bright 2014

2014Days may be dark right now—after all, as the memes proclaim, axial tilt is the reason for the season. But things are looking bright for those who would like to see humanity more grounded in science and reason. If you are a nontheist in the mood for a party, here are ten reasons to celebrate.

1. Coming out atheist is up and coming. In May of 2013, after a deadly tornado destroyed her home, young mother Rebecca Vitsmun gave an unexpected answer when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked whether she thanked the Lord for her decision to flee. Vitsmun tells the story in a sometimes tearful interview with Seth Andrews, host of The Thinking Atheist. “I had this moment in which I realized you either lie or tell the truth, and I-I’m not a liar.” In that moment, Vitsmun outed herself not only to a national media audience but also to her Christian parents and friends.

Vitsmun’s situation was extraordinary, but candor about nonbelief is becoming more and more commonplace. From Hollywood celebs to ordinary high school students, skeptics are opening up about their beliefs and values—or simply declining to lie when asked. A quick-read book, Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist, offers tips for those who are contemplating when, where, and how best to come out.

2. The cutting edge of freethought is less cutting and edgy. In generations past, coming out as an atheist required a devil-may-care attitude. The social and even financial costs were so high that most admitted atheists were also unflinching social activists, people who had a high degree of zeal and high tolerance for conflict. Most were also white males who were comparatively safe taking on the religious establishment. Until recently, then, atheism was virtually synonymous with anti-theism, and even today people complain that pioneers of the New Atheist movement like Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and the late great Hitchens are unnecessarily antagonistic.

But thanks in part to their courage and flame-throwing, a new generation is emerging, one that sees atheism not as an end point, but as a beginning. Alain de Botton’s TED talk and book, Atheism 2.0, simply posits the nonexistence of God and then goes on to discuss what humanity can glean from the rubble of old supernaturalist traditions. Many younger people are casting aside labels and adopting what fits from religious holidays and traditions, in the same way that they mix and match cultural, racial or sexual identity. As boundaries soften, more women, Hispanics, and Blacks are joining or even leading the conversations.

3. Biblical sexuality is getting binned. Finally. In the last part of December, marriage equality became law in two more states: New Mexico and—drumroll—Utah! Even more exciting is the fact that legal changes can barely keep up with shifting attitudes about queer sexuality. Things are changing when it comes to straight sex, too, and not in keeping with biblical priorities. Perhaps the most consistent sexual theme in the Bible is that a woman’s consent is not needed or even preferred before sex. By demanding an end to rape culture, today’s young women and men are making the Bible writers look as if they were members of a tribal, Iron Age culture in which women were property like livestock and children—to be traded, sold, and won in battle. Small wonder the culture warriors have ramped up their fight against contraception and abortion. Imagine if, on top of everything else, all women got access to expensive top-tier contraceptives and the power to end ill-conceived childbearing. The words, you’re fucked, might lose their meaning.

4. Recovering believers are reclaiming their lives. Most nontheists are former believers, which means that many carry old psychological baggage from childhood beliefs or some post-childhood cycle of conversion and deconversion. While many former believers slip out of religion unscathed, some do not, and believers in recovery now have a name, reclaimers.  A small but growing number of cognitive scientists are exploring the relationship between religion and mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders and panic. For example, Marlene Winell, a California consultant who works full time with recovering fundamentalists, has brought attention to a pattern she calls Religious Trauma Syndrome. Dr. Darrel Ray has created a matching service for secular clients and therapists, while Kathleen Taylor at Oxford has raised the question of whether religious fundamentalism itself may one day be treatable.

5. Communities are coming together. When two British comedians, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, launched a “sort-of church” for nontheists last January, their Sunday Assembly got media attention around the world. By December, they were on a 40 day tour of 40 cities from Auckland to Portland helping local groups launch assemblies of their own.

Their quirky effort is part of a much broader movement among non-theists who are exploring how to build communities that provide mutual assistance, outlets for wonder and delight, rituals to mark holidays, and organized volunteering. Some, like the Sunday Assembly or Jerry DeWitt’s Community Mission Chapel, deliberately draw on the structure of the traditional church service, with music and a brief lecture followed by tea or coffee. Others, like Seattle Atheists, use social media to organize a broad array of lectures, community service opportunities and recreation. Harvard’s Humanist Community opened doors on a new Humanist Hub for both students and locals on December 8. Even clergy who have lost their faith are banding together for mutual support and friendship.

6. Secular giving is growing. In times of crisis, faith communities often step in to provide emergency assistance or to help those who are most poor and desperate. Proselytizing aside, churches are able to provide real service because they have both the will and the necessary infrastructure. Increasingly, atheists and humanists are saying, we need to do the same. Since 2010, the Foundation Beyond Belief has given away almost 1.5 million raised from nontheists who can give as little as $5/month, and is now turning attention to building a corps of humanist volunteers,  which is also a focus of the Harvard community.  In July, the Foundation Beyond Belief will host their first conference, Humanism at Work.

7. The Religious Right is licking wounds. Bets are still out on whether the Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptists are retreating or simply rebranding, but either one is good for people who care about science, reason, compassion, or the common good. What’s clear is that the two most powerful hierarchies in the Religious Right have realized that they can’t simply seize the reins of power and remake secular institutions along theological lines. Pope Francis has given a mixture of signals on how much evidence and compassion will guide church priorities—mostly along the lines of yes if you’re poor, no if you’re female or gay. Russell Moore, new head of the Southern Baptist Convention, has warned that Baptists shouldn’t be “mascots for any political faction.” The takeaway for all of us? Fearful, authoritarian conservatives have been smacked back in their patriarchal power plays, and they know it. Shining a light on cruelty bigotry and ignorance works.

8. Texas is evolving! The State of Texas is such a large textbook market that Texas standards can influence content across the nation. This means that a handful of well-placed wing nuts in Texas can reshape the next generation’s understanding of science or history. Thanks to the hard work of the Texas Freedom Network and young activists, public school texts in Texas will be teaching biological science rather than creationism. This fall, reviewers appointed by the Texas Board of Education pushed to include creationism in the texts, but publishers pushed back.  Acceptance of evolution is growing across the country, and as Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Ultimately, the review panel itself rejected creationist arguments. Now that’s evolution!

9. Millennials are booting religion out of the public square. When it comes to separation of church and state, young people are teaming up with established players like the Freedom From Religion Foundation for some real wins. Many of the most hopeful, inspiring freethought stories of 2013 had young protagonists, and we can expect more of the same moving forward. Zack Kopplin was still in high school when he took on the state of Louisiana over creationism in schools. Now he is a full time science advocate and columnist for the Guardian. “Evil little thing” Jessica Ahlquist, whose lawsuit forced removal of a prayer banner at her high school in 2012, has continued a path of secular activism. Inspiring stories of other young church-state activists can be found here.

10. Young freethinkers are also leading on fairness, curiosity and wonder. The list goes on. Young adults who grew up isolated in abusive homeschooling situations have created a network, Homeschoolers Anonymous, so that they can lend each other support and fight for change. When a Catholic school in Bellevue, Washington fired a gay vice principal, hundreds of students walked out chanting, “Change the church.” Their protest was picked up by students at other schools and Catholic alumni.

A new documentary movie with a Millennial production crew, The Unbelievers, has been described as a rock concert love-fest between biologist Richard Dawkins and physicist Larry Krause and their fan base of science lovers. For freethinkers who want to find secular inspiration rather than to join a fight for rights and reason, young photographer Chris Johnson has created a coffee table book that challenges readers to grab hold of this one precious life: A Better Life—100 Atheists Speak Out About Joy and Meaning in a World Without GodEven independent of Johnson’s project, the title says it all.

Together, these small changes add up to real progress for science and reason. According to a recent Harris poll, belief in gods, miracles, souls and heaven and hell are down by close to 1% a year over the last eight years, while recognition of evolution is up.  Better yet, From Matures to Baby Boomers to Gen X to Echo Boomers, each generation surveyed reports a lower level of religious supernaturalism than the generation that came before. Let’s drink to that!

———-

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Subscribe to her articles at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Related:
An Atheist Photographer Takes a Trip that Changes His Life
London’s “Atheist Church” Goes All Out to Celebrate Its First Holiday Season
Right Wing Finally Notices That Women Vote–Maybe.
Religion May Not Survive the Internet

About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Christianity in the Public Square, Musings & Rants: Christianity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to 10 Reasons Freethinkers Can Look Forward to a Bright 2014

  1. Yeah, Valerie, I’ll drink to it all! (And I still participate in a Christian church – a very progressive and “outside the box” one, though traditional in outward appearance and general structure). So a point related to your list, a possible #11, might be that some churches are finally creating positively life affirming, science honoring curriculums for both children and adults that do not presume traditional theism. And I don’t mean just the Unitarian Universalist church. One creator of such a curriculum, “A Joyful Path”, for kids, is actually a “parachurch” organization, Progressive Christianity.org. A pair of pastors from the Phoenix area have been developing the “Live the Questions” series for a few years, and continue to expand it. So these efforts involve a few different denominations.

    And I can’t resist also adding a plug (#12?) for what I personally am involved some in and passionate about: continuing the development of a “theology” which is in harmony with the best of processes and facts of science and philosophy (cosmology, ethics, civilization, etc.). I know to some skeptics or atheists, any “logy” (study) that includes “theos” (g/God) in any way, can’t be compatible with science. But to some of us, it all depends on how you define “God” (or god). The main point, for us “Process theology” people and related folks who may not use that term, is that if the proper methodology of science is extended out into a completely naturalistic/materialistic explanation of “everything”, we’ve gone too far – cut off our nose to spite our face. We then unnecessarily run up against the intuition of probably the strong majority, religious or not, which senses something “beyond” ourselves and our atoms, but which needn’t be subsumed under religion either.

    We don’t hear too much about Process philosophy or theology, partly because it can be complicated stuff, on certain levels. At least we don’t in outward terms or popular organizations, widely-read writers, etc. But the approach was basically kicked off by some of the most brilliant of early-to-mid 20th century scientists and spiritual visionaries, such as A.N. Whitehead and Telihard de Chardin (not directly connected in their efforts)… both committed to science AND to “religion” (or maybe better, “spirituality aside from or despite religion”). There are many more similar people, lovers of both science and theology, as I am, contributing my small piece via my blog. We are working from the conceptual foundation laid by these two and other less-known, and earlier or current thinkers/authors. This work “filters down” to us through things like the new and much-improved curriculums mentioned above and many books, videos, etc.

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  2. Those are both great points. Thank you!

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  3. mriana says:

    Great article, Valerie and I’m glad Fundamngelicals are licking their wounds. While those who are Reclaimers, that great for them and I’m happy for them, but I’ve never considered myself a Reclaimer because I wasn’t allowed to claim what I felt, what I actually believe, and who I really am. I was denied it, even shut down before I even had a chance to really explore and claim, so I’m claiming it now that I’ve left religion, making me, what I consider a Claimer. I’m claiming my love, awe, and wonder concerning nature, animals, and the universe, as well as humanism, which I was denied as a child and even shut down the moment I tried to express it. I think that is why I don’t feel the label “Reclaimer” fits me and refuse to use that label. It’s fine for those who actually are reclaiming something, but for me, if you never had a chance or allowed to claim something, what is there to reclaim?

    Instead, I use what I claim for myself, because it’s who I am. I claim humanism. I’m a humanist who leans towards having a “spiritual” almost pantheistic relationship with animals, nature, and the universe, or spiritual humanism. I think what is missing are those recovering from religious trauma who were denied claiming what was theirs- such as my relationship with other animals and nature, for example. Animals, nature, and even the universe can give one just as much awe and wonder as all the neurological stimulating things (such as music, lit candles, rituals, etc) found in a religious worship service. Even Neil de Grasse Tyson pointed this out in a video on YouTube titled, but the uploader, The Greatest Sermon Ever, which I dearly love, because Tyson says what I’ve always felt, but wasn’t allow to say and what have you as a child. I think claiming what was denied and snatched away from you before you could claim it, yet you knew was out there, even a part of who you are, is also part of recovering from religious trauma and abuse. Claiming every numinous feeling in relationship to the universe that you were denied to begin with, because such things are sins and not Xian, is much like Tyson states in his “Greatest Sermon Ever”. It’s one thing, IMO, that a person can grab on to and say, “MINE!” and hold on to themselves for dear life, once they have it. Because it truly is and no one should ever shut a child down and not allow her to explore her feelings, her views, her thoughts, etc., esp when right at the point of developing self or ego, as Freud would call it (or is it the superego? Whatever), because we truly are children of the earth.

    If you read my book, there was a story about me, when I was young, unable to articulate what I meant, but I used words that I knew, pointing to one of my pets, telling my mother, “There’s God” and she got bent and went on a rant about what I said, without asking me any questions to figure out what I actually meant. Then when I was a teen, reading in my room something about humanism, feeling like it was me, I had it snatched from my hands without warning, and told it was not Xian, never to see it again. Every time I was about to claim something as mine, I was denied it and didn’t get to claim it until after I left religion. There was nothing to reclaim because I wasn’t allowed to claim it it in the first place and I think that group is what is missing- those who started to find themselves and what they believe, but were shut down before they ever had that chance to claim it.

    Thus, IMO, there are Reclaimers and Claimers. I consider Claimers as those who started their journey early, but were shut down before they even had the chance to explore anything about themselves, yet they still had an inkling, even though it was snatched from them before they ever had the chance to claim whatever it was they were about to claim for themselves. You can’t reclaim something you were denied in the first place.

    Sorry for the long rant, but I think, while Reclaimers fits some individuals, who are recovering from religion, there are some individuals who need to claim what they were denied and not allowed to claim it, whatever it is, be it humanism or something else, before leaving, grabbing it by the horns, standing on their own two feet, and say, “This is me. This is who I am. I am a humanist, a nature lover, one who is related to other animals, connected to the earth and universe… I am star dust turned into this thinking human being.” or whatever it is they feel and believe, not taking on titles handed to them by someone else, just as Xianity was handed, in many cases forced on them, without even given an opportunity to figure out and explore who and what they are, what they feel and believe, even know, deep down about themselves, but were denied, even snatched from them, every opportunity to claim it.

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  4. P Yew says:

    I wish I shared your optimism. Progress can’t come fast enough for me.

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  5. Pingback: RNS sites Atheism's 10 defining moments in 2013 | DigitalFreethought: The Blog!

  6. MeisterEckhart says:

    Just one question: can a free thinker also believe in God, or would that be unacceptable?

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    • mriana says:

      While others may (and often do) disagree with me, I say if you’re thinking runs something like retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong’s (or even former Anglican priest Anthony Freeman, Fr. Tom Harper or Don Cupitt’s), concerning God, religion, etc., then yes. I would accept you as a freethinker because this line of thinking is purely independent of the Church. It is your own thinking. I may not always agree with that line of thinking, but for the most part, I call it freethinking. Anthony Freeman was once a priest in the Church of England, but was ex-communicated for his book “God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism”, due to taking the words “there is no God” out of context, the charge was heresy. Fr. John Shelby Spong, who I consider a personal mentor and is still working as a priest in the Episcopal Church U.S. invited him to serve in the States as a priest. Freeman declined, but they remain good friends to this day. Spong himself, who I’ve corresponded with a few times, was once brought to the Episcopal court for potential heresy (I think that’s what it was) and the outcome of that was his book “Here I Stand”. He wrote a new Theses, much like Martin Luther, only he has 12 http://www.adherents.com/largecom/epis_12theses.html , and even declared that there is no hell, that it’s a human concept used by the Church to control people, keeping them from growing up on national TV. Don Cupitt, a former Anglican minister, also has written many books related to Christian humanism, one being After God, and with Spong and others help they created a group and website, named after Cupitt’s book “Sea of Faith” http://www.sofn.org.uk/ and Spong created a similar sight for the U.S.. Both are humanistic. Fr. Tom Harper, wrote The Pagan Christ and does many speeches, one with Idea City included him saying, “Religion is mythology misunderstood. Let me repeat that again. Religion is mythology misunderstood.” Below is Spong’s interview discussing religion in the guilt producing control business, but as I said, not everyone agrees with me. Regardless, I truly feel that if you think similarly to what they do, you are definitely a freethinker, because you are thinking for yourself about various religious dogmas and deciding what you believe independently from the Church. In fact, Spong gave me the courage to claim my own humanism, via a letter, “Mriana, Humanism is not anti-Christian or anti-God. It is through the human that we experience the Holy the Other. The Divine is the ultimate depth of the human.” I really appreciated his words, even though I cannot believe in a historical Christ, as presented in the Bible, or even any human concept of a deity. To me, the “Divine”, as Spong uses the word, is nature, humans, other animals, the earth, the universe, but I do not call any of those things a god or gods. I am, however, part of the earth and the universe, as Neil deGrasse Tyson phrases it.

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      • MeisterEckhart says:

        Many thanks for your kind reply.
        I must admit I was bracing for some kind of offensive rant: sadly, that is what one usually gets from atheists when talking about the possibility that God (whatever the meaning we attach to this concept), in fact, might exist. So I am glad to acknowledge that you seem to be a real free thinker and I hope many, many persons on this planet are as well, atheists or “believers” in any “truth” or whatever they choose to be.
        I consider myself to be a free thinker on every level. Being knowledgeable about Philosophy, Theology and history of religions, I always make the effort of separating wheat from the chaff and, to put it bluntly, I don’t give a s..t about what any authority says I ought to believe.
        Nonetheless, through purely rational reasoning, with the use of free thought (keeping in mind that no one can be completely free from any conditioning), I have come to the conclusion that the most logical explanation for the world we live in is indeed the pre-existence of some sort of power, a mind or being, with the attributes usually ascribed to the word God. Explaining why would really be too much for the space of a post.
        I am always open to suggestions from atheists about why I am wrong and why no such being is necessary, with one important caveat: don’t come to me requesting “proof” of the existence of God, because that request alone would mean I am speaking with someone who has not understood the substance of the issue. There simply can’t be any proof in favor of or against the existence of God based on our experience of the world we live in, because God, should he (let’s use the masculine of the Mediterranean monotheistic tradition) exist, would necessarily be “outside” of this world, not in it. So no proof can be searched, no science can be applied: all we can use in our endeavour is our brain and our thought. Preferably free.

        P.S. From what you say, I gather your world view could be considered to be a pantheistic one. Am I right?

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      • mriana says:

        You’re very welcome and I consider myself a humanist, with some pantheistic and Taoistic leanings or AKA Spiritual Humanist. Just as you do not want anyone to ask for proof of your concept of a deity, I do not like it when someone imposes their world view on me, not even other atheists. I have my own views and concepts and questions to explore, define, and refine over time. I can accept a Xian, or anyone else, who speaks in terms of non-realism ( http://www.doncupitt.com/realism/aboutnonrealism.html ) easier than I can a Xian, or other world view, who speaks in terms of “God is real and you better believe it.” While I do not believe in any religious concept of a deity, I cannot rule out that there might be something to the universe itself, but because it loses something in the course of the human language, I refuse to label it, adopting the Taoist sayings, “The Tao which can be named is not the Tao” and “Those you speak, don’t know. Those who know, don’t speak.” This last of course is an influence from my older son who calls himself a Tao Buddhist and I have learned, over the course of a lifetime, that my feelings towards nature and all are much the same as those who come out of a church service high on their god concept, but to speak of it, not only loses something with words, but it only gets me chastised by both the religious and non-religious, unless they also have a great appreciation for nature and understand the neuro-chemistry of the brain or other related science. However, while science has no conclusive answers to these numinous feelings associated with the universe in which to label “God”, just vague possibilities and the human language has no words for it, except neurological and alike, I prefer to take the agnostic atheist position (atheist in that the human concept doesn’t exist and agnostic in that we might find something within/part of the universe one day) until there are words to describe it and scientific backing. I also think, that whatever it is, if it exists, it is neither he nor she, because the universe is full of male and female (Yin and Yang) and some even androgynous. Thus, I do think science and reason can be applied to the question “Is there a god?” More often than not, one must ask questions such as “What does God need with a Star Ship?” or more down to earth- “Why do you say God is a “He” when everything within the universe is male and/or female?” and “Why would it be external to everything, when even the human heart and brain is internal and the human him/herself is also internal? Why not all encompassing?” If you ask questions far enough, you eventually end up getting into quantum physics, with each layer of every human concept falling apart and there is no rational reason to accept any human concept of a potential deity, leaving it impossible to say, with 100% certainty either way, except that the human concept of deity is a scientific impossibility. On a Dawkin’s philosophical scale, with 1 being absolute certainty there is a god and 10 absolute certainty there is no god, I’d say I’m between a 7 and a 8, depending on the concept being thrown out, which can go as high as 10, if said deity sounds like the Wizard of Oz.

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  7. mriana says:

    There doesn’t seem to be an edit button, but I wanted to add that I grew up in the Church of God (Anderson Indian) and Free Methodist evangelical Fundamentalist traditions. When I left home, I became an Episcopalian, but then left religion following my own path, because I could not longer believe in any god of religion. This is why I am very familiar with the views of Spong et al. They are part of my path out of religion.

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  8. MeisterEckhart says:

    Just to clarify: I don’t believe that God is confined to some place outside the universe and that we cannot know anything about him (it still comes natural to me to use the masculine form, even if I am well aware we are not talking about a male, nor a female for that matter).
    That would be silly. I firmly believe we can feel his presence and we can “know” he exists, but there’s certainly no way to “prove” it. And you are absolutely right when you say that there’s no reason at all he should be external to everything, quite the opposite. The great Medieval mystic from whom I’ve stolen my nickname expresses it very emphatically, stating that “God is more intimate to your being than you yourself are”.
    But please don’t say that the human concept of deity is a scientific impossibility. It all depends on what concept we choose out of the many available. And what can science teach us about our soul, for instance? Absolutely nothing, because there aren’t any scientific tools or methods to study something outside the realm of our five senses, and that’s a huge limitation if you ask me. Bad scientists just don’t get that there’s more to our world than what science can investigate. This is a very thick-headed and ignorant (and arrogant) way of imposing the scientific view on every subject, when it’s all too blatant that science cannot explain everything. Fortunately there are a lot of skillful thinkers among scientists as well: go read what those ones have to say about the impossibility of the scientific method (science is a method, by the way, not a truth or a belief) to explain everything.
    Richard Dawkins, I am afraid, is a resounding example of a scientist “who just doesn’t get it”. He might be a good scientist in his field, but he has abundantly demonstrated that he is completely incompetent when it comes to philosophical thinking. I suspect the reason for that is pure and simple prejudice. I urge you to get to know thinkers of higher value, for the sake of your own knowledge.
    To conclude, I find it quite funny that you mention quantum physics as an argument against the existence of some form of deity: I have always been convinced that, if anything, it was a solid argument against our very unflexible and deterministic view of the world. Something’s gotta give, seems to me.

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    • mriana says:

      When I said “human concepts of a deity” I meant established religious and mythical concepts of the past and present, and not arguing against or for concepts made by the individual outside the Patriarchal controlling institution. I know the concepts of the established religions past and present, thus what I was arguing against, as well as arguing against attempting to label whatever concept one may have with a specific gender, when everything else is either male, female, or both. On the other hand, how do you know that what you feel and define as god is nothing more than neurology in your brain being triggered by external stimuli, such as sound, sight, or more specifically music, candles, ritual, or even nature, the universe, a human, or another animal?

      However, when it comes to such discussion on matters of science and the existence of a soul, a scene in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “Measure of Man” often comes to mind, esp when humans are not the only sentient beings on the planet or possibly even in the universe. I don’t know if Gene wrote the script for that episode or not, but I do know he was still alive during the second season of TNG. The words were said by JAG officer Phillipa Louvis as she made a ruling concerning Data, words that I feel can also be applied to other animals (our distant relatives) treated as though they are not sentient, possessing no feelings, compassion, or comprehension of death (which they do, even scientifically), and looked upon as objects for which we can do as we please, without any freedoms, even to the point of extinction by the hands of humans. Those words were:

      “It sits there looking at me, and I don’t know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I’m neither competent nor qualified to answer those. I’ve got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes [but so are we]. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We have all been dancing around the basic issue. Does Data have a soul? I don’t know that he has. I don’t know that I have. But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.”

      IMHO, arguments concerning the soul is much like the mind/body argument. I see them as one, for you cannot separate the mind/brain from the body or the body from the mind/brain and what affects the body often affects the mind and vice versa. I don’t think you can separate the sun from the solar system and still have a functioning solar system, any more than you can remove a person brain and have functioning body, much less thoughts and since we are all star dust (see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s video above), then we must return to the earth/universe, just as everything returns to the universe after a sun goes nova/supernova. Others see the mind as separate from the body. Whatever the mind is to them, it doesn’t seem to be brain functioning, but where do the thoughts go once you separate the mind from the body? Where does the spark of life go, once the brain shuts down like a computer after the motherboard is shot and the hard drive fried? What is that spark of life, if its not the electro-chemistry in the brain? Honestly, I don’t know what a soul is or even if any of us (including other animals) have one, but if its that spark of life, then neurological science can explain it. If that’s not it, then I guess that’s something one must figure out what best satisfies their questions about it, because I cannot argue for or against possessing something when I don’t know what it is.

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    • mriana says:

      Sorry, that question “On the other hand, how do you know that what you feel and define as god is nothing more than neurology in your brain being triggered by external stimuli, such as sound, sight, or more specifically music, candles, ritual, or even nature, the universe, a human, or another animal?” should have said “isn’t anything more than” after “what you feel and define…” Apologies if that read oddly.

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  9. MeisterEckhart says:

    I am afraid I have to interrupt this interesting conversation for the time being. I am leaving for my yearly 10 day-retreat in silence and solitude, thanks to the hospitality of a seclusion cloister in the hill country of Umbria (I am Italian, living in Italy). No phones, TV, radio, newspapers, computers or internet allowed. Just books and one’s own thoughts. Should you still be around in a couple weeks, I would gladly resume our discussion, as you raise some matters that deserve an appropriate examination and a thourough reply on my part.

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