Posted by: fullandbye | May 17, 2007

various

Loft bed is well underway. Hopefully it all fits together after it is all fabricated.

Working for a web company is drastically different than working for an environmental NGO. I am enjoying myself though.

Other things going well. Look forward to hanging out with some people over the next few weeks if time permits.

Lost in thought this afternoon about the notion of god and worship. Increasingly I am identifying as an atheist. I am finding it pretty much impossibly to believe in any sort of personal god. But as an atheist, I remain deeply enchanted in certain concepts that seem to fall outside the strictly material. This is to say that I believe strongly in beauty, love, trust, and the elegance of nature. But rather than invoke a god to explain all this and worship or pray to the sort of god who could appreciate (let alone comprehend) my appreciation for the world which I inhabit, I think it is better to just worship through living. If the most godly things I can imagine is not god himself, but the human ability to appreciate beauty, love, trust, and nature, then is the best form of worship to live my life in full reverence and embrace of all these things? This is a concept I feel deserves fuller contempation than I am capable of right now.

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Responses

  1. Lovely final paragraph, Raz. Worth talking about.

  2. I would love to have a conversation with you about that form of humanism at some point. I’ve been having very similar thoughts recently, too. Not in the context of godliness or worship, but in the realization that it is exactly the arbitrariness of our values that gives them the importance they have to me. The decision (though I realize that this is more hardwired into our brains than the word implies) to create for ourselves something to care about, that is an act with more power than to following a world where some ideas have shiny gold stars already on them. Rather like you said, it then becomes a celebration of life and humanity.

  3. Taking that one step farther, I see many peoples’ religious disposition as arising from, and feeding, a perverse obsession based in the fear of death (Cf. Ernest Becker’s work). I guess this is intuitive to a lot of people, but understanding the mechanics is immensely revealing of, like, everything we do.
    If you do believe in a creator god, the best way to honor it is clearly to take what it has given you as a gift and embrace it fully. But even that has to be abandoned, because the universe surely wasn’t a gift /to us/, or if it was, it’s unhealthy to think of it that way.
    I don’t see how believing in beauty, love, trust, etc., weaken a materialist view of the world, if that’s what you’re implying.

  4. Interesting final paragraph. I have been thinging along those lines lately as well, but from a different perspective: what makes us want to live, to move, what makes us happy and complete. Religions seems to be what moves many people and what gives them hope, etc. But I found that for me it is people and nature and the beauty, love, trust, etc. that I find in them. I am tempted to wax poetic on that topic, but shall pass the oportunity and instead note that those things make me fell complete, hopefull, magical (if it does not seem too far fetched).

  5. I think “worship through living” was the original plan in Eden, so you’re in excellent company, but you know that. Fancy a pomegranate?
    There’s something suspicious in the slippage between your reverence for the object, be it beauty, love, trust, or elegance, and your reverence for reverence itself. Especially when it seems to issue from this sort of fort-da game– as it were, multiplying and then dividing by a nonexistent God, which, as with zero, produces an arbitrary result or none at all. The world’s full of a lot of things: some we hug, some we bury. I don’t particularly see how a counterfactual God helps in deciding which is which or how being in love with our faculties is supposed to affect their deployment.
    What’s strangest to me here though is that to be “outside of the strictly material” seems to be conflated here with divinity. — Whaddaya mean, “material”?
    I feel like a religious person ought to chime in here and mention that (a) there aren’t really any guarantees that belief in God is a good way to secure our received or innate ethical beliefs (Abraham leaps to mind, as does the fate of Korah’s horde) and that (b) belief in God isn’t a very good way to secure our theoretical commitments, either (God is often depicted as delighting in paradox, as confounding the shrewd, and as breaking physical laws). So I think that even a rather pious orthodox Christian or Jew might say that you’re quite right not to look to God for explicit authorization of worldly practices or concepts, that for God to do so would be something remarkable, namely revelation in law and in prophecy. In particular, faith in this God would be prima facie independent of longstanding philosophical debates between, say, materialists and idealists. The upside: the suspicion that we’re nothing but dying animals doesn’t have to shake your faith; the downside: this God seems pretty distant.
    An atheist might say that theistic explanations are really no explanation at all, to demonstrate that statements about God’s will, plan, or doings in creation are simply the wrong order of explanation, that they are empty and nonsensical. I’d hate to have to prove that God doesn’t will Mercury on its course, but I sure wouldn’t wait around for God to tell me what Mercury’ll do next, and the question “what exactly does God want Mercury to do?” seems to have a physical answer. Likewise, I don’t think I could prove that love or beauty are divine or that they’re made of atoms (is there a good argument for physicalism nowadays, or just a prejudice of the times?), but neither way would really move toward answering the questions that I have about aesthetics or about love between people.
    Old Franz Rosenzweig called this “the place where negative theology and atheism shake hands.” Which is all well and good, but–
    1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord (as much) desire in burnt offerings and peace-offerings, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than a peace-offering; to hearken (is better) than the fat of rams.
    –then there are passages like the above, suggesting that God doesn’t need your reverence, though he does at times demand it. Do you think that beauty, the faculties of aesthetic appreciation, love, the faculties of recogition of love, etc. demand your reverence? Need it? Recognize it?
    -j

  6. “then there are passages like the above, suggesting that God doesn’t need your reverence, though he does at times demand it. Do you think that beauty, the faculties of aesthetic appreciation, love, the faculties of recogition of love, etc. demand your reverence? Need it? Recognize it?”
    I guess the difference is that god might demand my reverence, but I cannot fathom a god enough to offer it in any meaningful manner.
    I do not think that beauty, love, nature etc. demand my reference. But they command it, and this difference is profound.

  7. Are you using “command” to say something like “evoke” or “cause”, as in the usages “commanding presence”, “commands my attention”, or something else? I can see differences of connotation between “demand” and “command”, the former suggests a lack that is somehow rectified by your action, maybe an “or else”. I see a couple of differences, but not the profundity or relevance.
    The verse from Shmuel wasn’t just to show that reverence isn’t the only thing that a God might want, but rather to suggest that it’s something that might be offered excessively in order to avoid other demands, like drowning a lover in compliments in order to avoid a difficult conversation. A lot of the old prophets mention this as well, that God will spurn prayer and sacrifice in light of the iniquities of his chosen, I was too lazy to find verses for this, it would have been clearer. It seems to me that for the pantheist, this problem of hypocritical, empty piety looms all the larger. How do you avoid it?


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