25 June 2012

Freedom, Faith and Responsibility - Part 1

To glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce.

— Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

Since we're coming up on the month of July, and that reminds me of revolutions, I want to think particularly about the events leading up to the American Revolution. There were people taking the freedom that they believed to be theirs by right and they were using that freedom to write pamphlets.

Today, we are witnessing the largest experiment in democracy that the world has ever seen—the internet. People can comment on just about every news item and if they can’t comment directly, they can save the article on any number of social bookmarking sites. This, is in effect saying to everyone else that this is the news that I think is worth reading.

The problem I have with the democratic, free speech of comments is that many of the comments are irrelevant, degrading to others, disrespectful and some are simply a waste of cyber-ink. But, to take the right to comment away would be worse than if it had never been granted in the first place. So, what is the solution?

Comments are not the only thing. Blogs, “tweets” and status updates on Facebook all share the same pros and cons. It is important to some people to be able to tell the entire world that they just relieved their bowels and are now going out for a night of wild partying. And the next day we get to hear about the hangover!

I know! I don’t have to read these things, but they are there. This is why comments are especially bothersome; one has to read through all the garbage to find one useful or even meaningful comment. People cannot refrain from replying to the first idiot commenter and so the stupidity soon begins to fly and before you know it there are pages and pages of worthless bantering about which President is to be blamed for the color of toilet paper in the bathroom of some backwater gas station. It is asinine and annoying and democratic!

1.     Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th Anniversary Ed. (New York: Continuum, 2000). 87

18 June 2012


Sacred and profane are not mutually exclusive.  If you read sacred literature closely, you will see how it is often the profane that is set aside for destruction, i.e. set aside for the deity.  The meaning of "set aside for destruction" is to "make sacred."

Spirituality and secularism are exclusive.  Or are they?  I have often pondered this question.  I consider myself secular, humanist and atheist, but I also have an aspect to my way of seeing and being that I cannot label anything other than spiritual.  It's not that I believe in fairy tale creatures or deities or ghosts or anything else supernatural.  It is more like a connection to Jung's collective unconscious (a term I find amusing, because to be unconscious is like being, you know, passed-out/fainted/...errr, unconscious).  While I'm not sure how much I hold to this idea, I do have a need to spend time in quiet contemplation, which could be equated to the spiritual practice of meditation -- which I am also interested in.

But, and this is a big-O but, I don't believe that we are genetically spiritual.  Some scientists have found "evidence" of spirituality in the brains of subjects.  I think a good experiment to follow this, is to have atheists go through similar tests, but to use non-spiritual language, images, etc., to see what kind of result they come up with.

No 'God Spot' In Brain, Spirituality Linked To Right Parietal Lobe

“We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

There should also be the caveat here: spirituality does NOT by default mean YOUR specific brand of spirituality.  If there is a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, that does NOT mean there is a basis for a deity.  It is non sequitur to reach such a conclusion from this data.

I believe that people can have a form of, what could be called, spirituality without having recourse to deities or spirits.

I also believe that atheists can hold things as sacred.  What do atheists deem as sacred?  Sacredness usually connotes holiness or has a spiritual aspect, but can it not simply mean "set apart"?  They might hold their families as sacred, their friends, their intellect, even science.  They may hold the quiet beauty of the deep forest, or top of a mountain as sacred: not because it is inhabited by a spiritual being, but because it is a place where they can reach the deepest parts of themselves.

Atheists still have faith, right?  So why not sacredness?

Think about the things you consider sacred/profane; and about your outlook: is it more spiritual or secular?


Merriam Webster's Dictionary: Sacred - 1. a : dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity <a tree sacred to the gods> b : devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose) <a fund sacred to charity>