Secular view - The Future of Religion

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby rowboat » Thu May 10, 2012 11:59 pm

Maybe my previous post, to daverupa, wasn't so far off-topic after all.


My only concern is whether this previous post is able to comfort my anecdotes. They remain huddled for the time being but they certainly still require reassurance. I have it on authority to publish that they are now willing to also accept a machine that goes beep. Provided the beeps actually mean something.

:rofl:

One of the differences between science and not-science is that science typically demands 'objective' evidence and dismisses personal experience as 'merely anecdotal', with a heavy emphasis on the 'merely'. But there are whole swathes of subjects in which 'objective' evidence is simply unavailable, starting with what goes on in our minds.


Agreed. Dr David Chalmers in a very interesting and instructive discussion on the hard problem in neuroscience, among other things: http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1187



If science wants to extend its reach to these subjects, it will have to alter its definition of 'evidence', and/or develop the jhana-meter and TSA-wand.


(Calm down, anecdotes. It's not going to happen.)

Until then, science should, logically, admit its ignorance and its inability to investigate these areas - and keep out.
I think I said something like that before, actually.


Stephen Jay Gould. Non overlapping magesteria: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html

And that's the thing. Scientists are not unable to investigate the validity claims about things like jhana (and rebirth...etc.) But as you point out, these are entirely different modes of knowing. So if you want to know something about the physical/material world you can follow the basic injunctions proscribed by empirical science, but if you want to know about jhana (or your previous lives etc.) then there are a completely different set of injunctions to follow. These injunctions are to be found among the teachings of the Buddha and his noble disciples.
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Fri May 11, 2012 2:04 am

The problem with accepting subjective religious experience as valid evidence for objective claims is the inherent contradiction between those experiences - that is to say, they contradict one another and cannot all obtain. Generating examples is easily done.

Rather than crafting Secular Tricorders, however, the approach being examined is to set aside those things which are present in the Suttas but which strongly reflect the religious milieu within which they took shape. It would be nice to have examples of this process in action: I submit, by way of illustration, that the 32 marks of a great man adds not one whit to an understanding of the Dhamma.

To take a hard line on the marks, demanding literalism for example, seems absurd; to ignore it, but only it, seems arbitrary. To suggest a middle ground of it being some manner of a symbolic representation (perhaps solely amongst historical populations for which this model could be skillfully used) might gain traction, but this opens the door for reading rebirth statements in a similar light.

---

The secular approach here is that Dhamma practice can begin and proceed while these things have been set aside because they are inessential; their absence does not infringe on the Dhamma. My signature, below, offers an example of the Buddha doing just this. Rebirth and kamma is at issue, but the agnostic confusion is rendered toothless: the method of arousing gladness is taking joy in the fact that practice of the kammapatha and the brahmaviharas renders one unimpeachable despite uncertainty and perplexity with respect to pre-birth/post-death states and their interaction with kamma. Here, not even "right view with effluents" is supported above other views - it is lumped with three other views, and the whole lot dealt with equivalently.

This strikes me as a robust pedagogical precedent for secular Buddhists.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby danieLion » Fri May 11, 2012 2:20 am

rowboat wrote:And that's the thing. Scientists are not unable to investigate the validity claims about things like jhana (and rebirth...etc.)

This is an instance of what Karl Popper called falsifiability which bodes well for jhana's, e.g., ... validity.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 11, 2012 2:28 am

daverupa wrote:Rather than crafting Secular Tricorders, however, the approach being examined is to set aside those things which are present in the Suttas but which strongly reflect the religious milieu within which they took shape. I

Speaking as a scientist this seems like an extremely odd approach: to throw out points of agreement. I really don't get that argument at all. It seems contrary to the way knowledge develops in almost any field I'm familiar with. It is common for several people to come up with solutions to problems independently at about the same time...

Taken to an extreme, one would discount all teachings on dana and sila, since those are in agreement with most other religious systems at the time...

Since these Secular Buddhists are presumably not complete dunces, perhaps I'm missing something...

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby danieLion » Fri May 11, 2012 2:38 am

daverupa wrote:The problem with accepting subjective religious experience as valid evidence for objective claims is the inherent contradiction between those experiences - that is to say, they contradict one another and cannot all obtain. Generating examples is easily done.

The objective/subjective dichotomy is flimsy, e.g., religious experience in not necessarily either objective or subjective; likewise, objective claims are rarely if ever completely divorced from subjectivity; experience qua experience is neither contradictory nor non-contradictory; modifying "contradiction" with "inherent" only magnifies these difficulties.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 11, 2012 3:26 am

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:Taken to an extreme, one would discount all teachings on dana and sila, since those are in agreement with most other religious systems at the time...

... and the brahma-viharas too...

:console: karuna
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby ground » Fri May 11, 2012 4:50 am

daverupa wrote:Here is a working link: the .pdf

JackV wrote:... Stephen Batchelor has prepared a statement of his view as a "Secular Buddhist" -

http://www.londoninsight.org/images/upl ... uddhist_(2).pdf



I have read this position with interest and I just wanted to see what others make of this.
...


I can fully accept when someone tries to structure his experiences by means of thinking/concepts. I think this is a common approach especially in the context of communication and I feel I can neither criticise nor reject nor affirm the result of such a structuring endeavour.


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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Kim OHara » Fri May 11, 2012 5:48 am

rowboat wrote:
Kim wrote:Until then, science should, logically, admit its ignorance and its inability to investigate these areas - and keep out.
I think I said something like that before, actually.


Stephen Jay Gould. Non overlapping magesteria: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html

And that's the thing. Scientists are not unable to investigate the validity claims about things like jhana (and rebirth...etc.) But as you point out, these are entirely different modes of knowing. So if you want to know something about the physical/material world you can follow the basic injunctions proscribed by empirical science, but if you want to know about jhana (or your previous lives etc.) then there are a completely different set of injunctions to follow. These injunctions are to be found among the teachings of the Buddha and his noble disciples.

Thanks, rowboat.
I knew about NOMA but had never read the source document. (Hey! I have something in common with Gould! :smile: )

But you're misinterpreting me slightly by saying I say "these are entirely different modes of knowing". To me, there is no discontinuity between them but, rather, a spectrum running from knowledge of objectively demonstrable physical fact, to observable but objectively unprovable spiritual experience. I would love to be able to use the critical methods of science right across both 'magisteria'.
It seems to me that Gould has a bit of trouble with the meeting ground of his magisteria - was 'interdigitating' the word he used? - and that the boundaries can not be clearly distinguished. What about altruism, for instance? It is objectively observable in many species (science) and it is essential to morality (religion), so which side of the border is it? Should religion stop talking abut it just because science has discovered it?

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby rowboat » Fri May 11, 2012 6:39 am

Kim O'Hara: Thanks, rowboat.
I knew about NOMA but had never read the source document. (Hey! I have something in common with Gould! )

But you're misinterpreting me slightly by saying I say "these are entirely different modes of knowing". To me, there is no discontinuity between them but, rather, a spectrum running from knowledge of objectively demonstrable physical fact, to observable but objectively unprovable spiritual experience. I would love to be able to use the critical methods of science right across both 'magisteria'.


Thank you for the correction, Kim. I see what you mean.

Kim O'Hara: It seems to me that Gould has a bit of trouble with the meeting ground of his magisteria - was 'interdigitating' the word he used? - and that the boundaries can not be clearly distinguished. What about altruism, for instance? It is objectively observable in many species (science) and it is essential to morality (religion), so which side of the border is it? Should religion stop talking abut it just because science has discovered it?


I like your point about altruism. It reminds me of a "four quadrant model of consciousness" devised by the controversial maverick philosopher Ken Wilber, who has raised these sorts of questions in his paper titled An Integral Theory of Consciousness.

(Here is the paper itself, in case you or anyone else is interested. I have to state quite emphatically that I am not in any way a fan or a proponent of Ken Wilber or his ideas. I think Wilber gets many things wrong and is guilty of the worst sort of narcissism imaginable. Nevertheless, there is much substance here if I remember correctly: http://www.imprint.co.uk/Wilber.htm )
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Mr Man » Fri May 11, 2012 10:29 am

That the term ""Secular Buddhist" has been claimed by a particular camp is, in my opinion, a bit of a shame and rather odd, as it is a misnomer. It seems that certain views or non views are deemed to be "Secular Buddhist" views and it creates a dichotomy where there need not be one. I certainly don't see "Secular Buddhism" as the future of Buddhism although not to acknowledge the consensus viewpoints, of our time, seems to be ostrich like.

That people with an active religious life are nicer than those without - sorry I don't buy it.

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 11, 2012 8:24 pm

I agree, it seems to be a hijacking of the term "secular", which I would have thought would mean "open to a variety of viewpoints.

"Rationalist Buddhism" would, perhaps, be a more accurate name.

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Sam Vara » Fri May 11, 2012 9:04 pm

That the term ""Secular Buddhist" has been claimed by a particular camp is, in my opinion, a bit of a shame and rather odd, as it is a misnomer.


I agree with this. Batchelor's take on Buddhism is not important or wide-ranging enough to merit a title as general in scope as "secular". If it is called anything other than "Stephen Batchelor's view", then we might consider "Anti-realist", "antirepresentationalist" (following Rorty) or maybe even "pragmatic". It is an application of the ideas of Don Cupitt to Buddhism, and little else besides.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Sat May 12, 2012 3:20 am

What of seeing it as a burgeoning Buddhist community among Buddhist communities, all of which comprise the Buddhist tradition?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Kim OHara » Sat May 12, 2012 3:30 am

mikenz66 wrote:I agree, it seems to be a hijacking of the term "secular", which I would have thought would mean "open to a variety of viewpoints.

"Rationalist Buddhism" would, perhaps, be a more accurate name.

:anjali:
Mike

Hi, Mike,
I have to disagree with your understanding of the word 'secular' because my nearest dictionary backs up my memory by saying, "adjective denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis : secular buildings | secular moral theory. Contrasted with sacred."
On the other hand, I agree that "Rationalist Buddhism" would seem a better fit with Batchelor's programme.
But language is tricky. Any word evokes associations, not only of itself but of its opposite. For instance, 'Mahayana' implies 'Hinayana' ... and we are not enthused :tongue:
In the same way, and perhaps more strongly, 'rationalist' implies that unreformed Buddhism is 'irrational', and that's not very nice. Perhaps Batchelor was trying to avoid that implication. 'Secular' only implies that unreformed Buddhism is 'sacred', and there's nothing wrong with that.

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Kim OHara » Sat May 12, 2012 3:34 am

Mr Man wrote:That people with an active religious life are nicer than those without - sorry I don't buy it.

Compared to me, you must meet some very unpleasant religious people or lots and lots of really nice materialists. I don't know whether to feel sorry for you or envy you.

Seriously, if their religion doesn't make people into better people, there must be something wrong with it.
:thinking:

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby ground » Sat May 12, 2012 3:39 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Compared to me, you must meet some very unpleasant religious people or lots and lots of really nice materialists.

So there is only this alternative? Be religious or materialistic?
What if one does not care about these fabricated categories at all?

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Kim OHara » Sat May 12, 2012 6:54 am

ground wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:Compared to me, you must meet some very unpleasant religious people or lots and lots of really nice materialists.

So there is only this alternative? Be religious or materialistic?
What if one does not care about these fabricated categories at all?

Kind regards

Hi, ground,
Religious/materialistic are not the only possibilities but I think they are by far the most common.
As I said in the comment which is attracting a surprising-to-me amount of dissent, "... since the basic morality of all the major religions is 'treat others as you would like them to treat you', that tends to make the world a better place. On the other side you have (mostly) a moral void which tends to default to selfish hedonism if not social Darwinism."

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Mr Man » Sat May 12, 2012 7:42 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:As I said in the comment which is attracting a surprising-to-me amount of dissent, "... since the basic morality of all the major religions is 'treat others as you would like them to treat you', that tends to make the world a better place. On the other side you have (mostly) a moral void which tends to default to selfish hedonism if not social Darwinism."

Kim, but that morality (treat others etc.) is not an exclusive to religion. For example it is present in Confucianism. I would imagine that many non-religious would instinctively apply that principle to there life and also many professed believers would ignore it regularly.

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Mr Man wrote:That people with an active religious life are nicer than those without - sorry I don't buy it.

Compared to me, you must meet some very unpleasant religious people or lots and lots of really nice materialists. I don't know whether to feel sorry for you or envy you.

I think you have come to the wrong conclusion here. :)

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Buckwheat » Sat May 12, 2012 10:04 am

Mr Man wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:As I said in the comment which is attracting a surprising-to-me amount of dissent, "... since the basic morality of all the major religions is 'treat others as you would like them to treat you', that tends to make the world a better place. On the other side you have (mostly) a moral void which tends to default to selfish hedonism if not social Darwinism."

Kim, but that morality (treat others etc.) is not an exclusive to religion. For example it is present in Confucianism. I would imagine that many non-religious would instinctively apply that principle to there life and also many professed believers would ignore it regularly.

How many non-religious types get together in a group once a week (give or take) and discuss ethics, inspiration, and goodwill? This doesn't mean non-religious people can't be ethical, inspired, or full of goodwill, but they are not constantly drilling that into their minds at church or temple every week. I'm inclined to agree with Kim, although I would like to see a scientific study of some sort to support that conclusion.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Coyote » Sat May 12, 2012 1:15 pm

Buckwheat wrote:How many non-religious types get together in a group once a week (give or take) and discuss ethics, inspiration, and goodwill? This doesn't mean non-religious people can't be ethical, inspired, or full of goodwill, but they are not constantly drilling that into their minds at church or temple every week. I'm inclined to agree with Kim, although I would like to see a scientific study of some sort to support that conclusion.


And how likely are non-religious people to abstain from lying, stealing, killing, drinking entirely, rather than take the position that these things in moderation, or if they don't adversely affect others, are OK? At least most religions maintain that it is morally wrong to kill, steal and lie, whereas the non-religious have a variety of views on these actions.
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