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I'm a rather unusual atheist (at least on this platform), since I not only do not hate religions - I'm positively fascinated by them: On the one hand religions seem to be absurd, but on the other hand they are an integral feature of human nature, like music or language. And like almost all features of human life and culture, they have their bright and their dark aspects. I refuse to put on blinkers to see only one side.

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Regarding Religion: A Few Thoughts. All of the thousands of religions and religious beliefs over ...
Matias comments on Jan 2, 2019:
A hodgepodge of true, dubious and false statements.
Othodox church on verge of schism between Ukraine and Moscow. [msn.com] Proof, if any was ...
Matias comments on Jan 2, 2019:
Well... *everything* (arts, economy, sport....) is tied to politics, given that Homo sapiens is a "political animal"
The goodness of people depends on the intentions of their brains and not on their religion or ...
Matias comments on Jan 2, 2019:
The "intentions of their brains" ? - And where do these intentions come from? Out of thin air? Are they based on random fluctuations in the quantum field?
My favorite short description of Humanism. "Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science...
Matias comments on Jan 2, 2019:
Many atheists now sailing under the flag of „humanism“ do not realize that "humanism" is only the continuation of Christianity by other means. Since Feuerbach and Freud we know that the gods are merely projections of the human mind, and that we worship ourselves in the image of "gods". Durkheim applied this to society: In the form of religions, the collectives, the societies celebrate themselves and thus secure their cohesion. The humanist ideology renounces all this traditional religious hullabaloo; it does not take the detour via the gods, but here humans worship themselves unabashedly by inventing a special "dignity" that sets us apart from the rest of nature. This „dignity“ is nowhere to be found in nature, it is a fiction, just like Zeus or Vishnu are fictions. Atheists are ready to acknowledge that these gods are figments of imagination, but they fail to realize that the same holds true for the intellectual core of humanism.
The religious unaffiliated are the fastest growing groups in North America and Europe. Considering ...
Matias comments on Dec 31, 2018:
I do not think that religious dogma and violence are the worst dangers of the present and near future. People living in 2100 or 2200 will not blame us for our religiosity, but for our obvious failure to stop the ongoing environmental disaster. Religion is not responsible for this mess
Human’s really are insignificant.
Matias comments on Dec 31, 2018:
Insignificant to whom? You always need a point or frame of reference. We are insignificant to aliens in distant galaxies, but we are a very significant species on *this* planet. The future of countless other species depends on us!
Latin can be pretty interesting. Here is a legendary story from an old Smith and Thompson Latin ...
Matias comments on Dec 31, 2018:
I always wonder why someone should learn latin today, unless he or she wants to study history or any other subject where this language is required. But for ordinary people ...? I would call it a wasted effort. In the time you learn all these words, conjugations and declinations... you can learn Spanish or French, and this is really useful knowledge
I'm curious...what are your thoughts on motivation and the human brain? I've been reading that ...
Matias comments on Dec 31, 2018:
If you really want to change a bad habit, the best thing is to take other people on board - people whose opinion is important to you! - so that they know what you want to change, so that they can encourage you, can praise you if you succeed and blame you if you fail. If you are your only judge, it is easy to find excuses for keeping a bad habit.
Many people like to argue or debate about god and religion, but I like the idea expressed here. ...
Matias comments on Dec 30, 2018:
A seed needs the right soil to grow. You cannot plant an idea in the brain or mind of somebody who is not prepared to receive it. It always takes a prepared mind, but most minds are not prepared to receive a seed that does not fit into their preconceptions.
The Best Optical Illusions and What They Reveal About Our Brains | Visual Learning Center by Visme
Matias comments on Dec 30, 2018:
I always liked optical illusions like these, because they show how our brain actively (!) creates our picture of the world (which does not mean that the brain creates the world, as so-called Radical Constructivists claim)
Indoctrinate, more like brainwashing
Matias comments on Dec 27, 2018:
We are not "born atheists". It is certainly true that babies are born without any specific religious faith, but does that make them "born atheists"? I do not think so. Firstly: Not every being that does not belief in God is an atheist. Nobody would argue that insects or sharks or mice are atheists, although none of them believes in God. I'd say that we can only say "A is an atheist" if A is (in principle) able to grasp intellectually the concept of "God" and then decides not to subscribe to this concept. Secondly: If we can say anything about babies and their relationship to religion, it is analogue to babies and their relationship to language. Babies cannot speak, but that does not mean that they are "a-lingual". Just the contrary: babies are born with a brain that is *prepared* to learn any language quite effortlessly. Therefore although infants cannot (yet) speak they are "born speakers"; all they need is sufficient linguistic input. The same can be said - mutatis mutandis - about babies and belief (religious or not). They do not (yet) hold any belief, but they are *born believers*, as they are equipped with cognitive mechanisms to acquire any belief effortlessly. No toddler or child will ever come up spontaneously with the idea of the Christian god or the idea of karma or reincarnation, but s/he will adopt these beliefs easily because evolution prepared the human brain to *expect and adopt* beliefs like these. For comparison: Evolution did *not* prepare human brains to learn how to write or to read or to do math, which is why it takes many years of intensive training to master these skills. Given that Homo sapiens is a cultural animal, and given that culture (in addition to artifacts and knowledge about the natural world) also consists of fictions, tales, belief systems, imagined orders etc... , it is absolutely necessary that babies acquire and adopt the beliefs of their specific culture as effortlessly as their language. The "gullibility" of toddlers and children is not a bug, it is a feature, the very characteristic trait that enables culture to exist and to be reproduced. It is this trait that makes us human.
The Brain's Autopilot Mechanism Steers Consciousness - Scientific American
Matias comments on Dec 27, 2018:
Excellent article! I am a great fan of this theory of the predictive unconsciousness since I read "Making up the mind" by Chris Frith. Unfortunately Freud's erroneous concepts are still very popular, not only among the lay folks, but even among professionals of mental health
A great Peterson interview. I like it when Jordan gets righteous: [youtube.com]
Matias comments on Dec 27, 2018:
When an alpha male feels that his dominance is threatened by someone with less status, he has to lash out ... whether it is a male baboon or a male homo sapiens And Jordan P. is a kind of "Jesus" for all would-be alphas: the incarnation of maleness, to be emulated
All tonight we solemnly celebrate the birth of the man that truly changed humanity in the most ...
Matias comments on Dec 25, 2018:
He certainly changed science like few have done so before or after him, but I would not say that he changed *humanity*
I always want to be kind to everyone, and I try so hard to be open minded and not judge others, but ...
Matias comments on Dec 23, 2018:
Some people are viscerally anti-religion, others are viscerally anti-atheist. We should try to listen more to the brain in the head than to the brain in our guts
What transformed me to becoming nonreligious was distinguishing between myth and reality. I have...
Matias comments on Dec 23, 2018:
Another contra: Life has no other meaning except the one you give to it. Once you become aware of this mental trick (that you are trying to pull yourself out of the muck), life becomes meaningless (in the sense of: ultimate meaning)
Yes, there is a war between science and religion
Matias comments on Dec 23, 2018:
All you deduce from the facts is that religion and science are different "games", just as American Football and soccer are played according to different rules. Does that mean that football and soccer are "at war"? Both compete for audiences and money from sponsors, but some people like both, some athletes practice both sports, just as there are many religious scientists. (BTW the verse from Hebrews above “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” is a rather misleading translation. The word "evidence" in the King James version has not the contemporary meaning)
The Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' Theory of Socio-Economic Unfairness.
Matias comments on Dec 23, 2018:
That is neither a theory nor is any unfairness involved.
"There are no people anywhere who don’t have some mental illness. It all depends on where you set ...
Matias comments on Dec 22, 2018:
Most people *are* mentally well most of the time. That is not a myth. If most people were mentally ill most of the time, our species would have gone extinct long ago. But humans have survived epidemics and wars, they have populated the whole planet, from the desert to the arctic and all these feats can only be accomplished by people with a fairly functioning brain.
Your greatest journey.
Matias comments on Dec 20, 2018:
The more we explore the "within", the more we realize that it is void. Then the journey is over Shunyata
"Therefore, if you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum, break up modern society's merely ...
Matias comments on Dec 2, 2018:
Stripped of its pseudo-intellectual veneer that's plain BS , because in real life this is more or less what happens in any failed state, where people are no longer ruled by an evil bureaucracy but by self-ruling clans, tribes, warlords and militias, like, say, in Syria or Afghanistan or the DR of Kongo or Somalia. Good luck
Capitalism . . .
Matias comments on Dec 1, 2018:
The logic behind this slogan is flawed. If war is an industry, it does not follow that *every* industry is leading to war. Japan has been a capitalist country full of industries for the last six decades, and a totally peaceful country.
And , together , we will .
Matias comments on Nov 30, 2018:
If a "new world" was possible, the kind of world idealists and utopians have been dreaming of, this world would have been created by well-minded people long ago. So - why did all efforts fail? (And do not forget: some of these efforts not only failed but turned the "new world" into a real nightmare.)
It's been a huge privileged that we exist, being able to communicate about our existence and our ...
Matias comments on Nov 30, 2018:
We are not only able to communicate about our existence and our place in the cosmos, but also to wonder what is it all about? Given that our existence is pointless, the result of chance and necessity, I do not consider it to be a "privilege"
Conclusions and not beliefs.
Matias comments on Nov 29, 2018:
Every valid conclusion rests on premises that are believed to be true. Therefore even atheism is a sort of belief, or it is based on premises that are believed.
A young parent once asked me about how to raise an agnostic child. “Easy,” I said. “Do ...
Matias comments on Nov 29, 2018:
When it comes to beliefs, many people say that children should choose their own beliefs. Everything else would be "indoctrination". But children usually do not "choose" to believe in something, they pick up, or soak up, or get infected with the beliefs of people they trust. Their brains are hard-wired to adopt beliefs like they are hard-wired to adopt a language (or two or three) If it is not the belief of their parents they adopt then it is the belief of their peers or teachers. By the time children will have reached mental and cognitive adulthood and become fully rational beings, they already possess a stock of cherished beliefs, and they usually will *not*use their reason to sieve and winnow their beliefs but to *defend* those beliefs they identify with. Beliefs come first; reason comes later, and it often acts more like a lawyer than a scientist.
I really wish that religious fanaticism was listed in the DSM. Or maybe it is and I just don't know...
Matias comments on Nov 28, 2018:
Why only *religious* fanaticism? Any kind of fanaticism, whether it is religious or political or whatever is detrimental to personal and societal wellbeing. And how to define it? Is for example a devout believer who thinks that homosexuality is a sin and that sinners are going to hell after death a *fanatic*?
Beware of unintended consequences.
Matias comments on Nov 21, 2018:
The bubonic plague hit Europe in 1348 and it even spread in parts of the world where cats where well respected. By the way rats are rarely killed by our domestic cats (rats are too big)
Why must so many choose ignorance when knowledge is so readly available? This confusses me very ...
Matias comments on Nov 20, 2018:
Ignorance (for example about the fact that life is meaningless) can be bliss and knowledge (for example that your loved ones are gone forever) can be painful.
Fastest Growing Religion is "None" [startribune.com]
Matias comments on Nov 13, 2018:
I was not aware that 'none' is a *religion*... Whenever somebody on this site claims that atheism is a kind of religion too (I do not think so), they are in for a rough ride
Believing without evidence is always morally wrong | Aeon Ideas
Matias comments on Nov 8, 2018:
REALLY? We all believe many things without any evidence (if you mean *scientific* evidence) We believe that bills and coins have a value; that Belgium exists; that laws apply; that there are human rights; that Emmanuel Macron is *Le Président de la République française* .... And the only 'evidence' we have for these beliefs: that other people believe it too (and there are documents written by those other people)
FAITH is GREAT! It keeps a person SUFFERING peacefully, patiently and BLESSEDLY awaiting DEATH and a...
Matias comments on Nov 5, 2018:
Well put. Faith is a powerful anodyne and placebo. And given that there is no 'hereafter' , those who took that pill will never realize that their bliss was based on imagination!
The Atheist Atrocities Fallacy – Hitler, Stalin & Pol Pot
Matias comments on Nov 4, 2018:
Much more common - at least on this site and other non-religious platforms - is what one could call the 'theist atrocities fallacy: to claim that religion is the most important cause of violence.
Capitalists Love Fascism... [counterpunch.org]
Matias comments on Nov 4, 2018:
What capitalists need above anything else: stability and security. If this is provided by democratic states, like during the 30 'golden years of democratic capitalism' in the West after WW II (the French still call those 3 decades *les trente glorieuses*), or by a pseudo-communist regime like in China, or by a right-wing government like in Chile under Pinochet... capitalism does not need a special form of government to flourish, it needs laws protecting private property and it needs sturdy law enforcement as well as a stable environment. Because it can adapt to so many environments, capitalism is so successful and tough
Religion for some is a kind of addiction. They start with normal prayers, church going etc., later ...
Matias comments on Nov 3, 2018:
I doubt that any psychiatrist would call religious faith per se an addiction disorder. We must not forget that almost *anything* can be turned into an addiction if something in the brain goes awry: food, sex, gaming, TV, sport, internet, work... And if someone is a moderate believer and than turns into a fanatic, I would not call that "addiction", just radicalisation. Again this can happen with lots of things: you start as a someone who does not eat red meat (because it is unhealthy), then you become a vegetarian then a vegan, and finally you turn into a kind of terrorist attacking butchers and pig farmers... Or in politics, or art... The road to fanaticism is open for anybody, whether they are religious or not.
Categorizing Americans' Religious Typology Groups
Matias comments on Nov 2, 2018:
Thank you for this interesting link. IMO the new typology is quite useful, especially in the middle section ("somewhat religious"). Of course more fine-graining would be nice, but I think that most people can identify with some of the types. In my case, I am "solidly secular", because I do not hold any religious beliefs (even if I am not opposed to religions per se)
We are born to die,sounds so wrong, does that mean we die to live?
Matias comments on Nov 2, 2018:
My favorite theory why we age and die is the so-called "disposable soma theory" (soma means 'body' in Greek). Like a disposable razor that serves its purpose for a while until it gets blunt and then is thrown on the garbage, all bodies are born to survive, then reproduce, in some species like ours to raise the offspring, and after this "mission" has been fulfilled, they wither and die.
Why?
Matias comments on Nov 2, 2018:
There is a way out of this conundrum about God and Evil: The "Chain of Being" as in the philosophy of Plotin. "God" - according to this philosophy - is just what we might call the highest order of the *Chain of Being*, the lower orders are all necessary manifestations of Being, and what we call "evil" is a necessary feature of the lowest order ( i.e. "matter") Therefore, what we call "good" and "evil" are just necessary (!) features of the lower levels of Being / Reality itself, no God could abolish evil, because God does not "exist" outside Reality but is "part" of it. The problem of "theodicy" only exists if people treat God as an independent actor outside of Being, like a man building a model railroad in his basement. See also : "Philosophia perennis" or "Perennial philosophy" in Wikipedia
The alt-right misreads Nietzsche. But they aren't the only ones
Matias comments on Nov 2, 2018:
Nietzsche's work has so many aspects and facets that everybody can find in his books some sentences to support their agenda. The Nazis did not "misinterpret" Nietzsche, they just selected those aspects that suited them. But those aspects *are* in Nietzsche's work, even if they are contradicted by other aspects. Nietzsche was not a systematic thinker, to put it mildly
Nick Beams outlines the contemporary relevance of Karl Marx, 200 years since his birth - YouTube
Matias comments on Nov 2, 2018:
Marx is largely obsolete because these classes which are the agents of societal change in his work no longer exist. And even if they still existed, people nowadays no longer gather in communities according to their economic interests (much of the "working class" vote for Republicans, who cater to the interests of the rich), but they come together in *cultural* neo-communities, aka "cultural tribes", like the Tea Party or the LGBTQ community. The motto "It's the economy, stupid" is no longer valid. Today it is "It's culture, stupid!"
RIP Kepler. Your 9.5 years contributed so much knowledge. [sciencenews.org]
Matias comments on Nov 2, 2018:
"much knowledge"? Is there any *useful* knowledge we owe to Kepler? Something that may be of any interest to people like me, outside the community of astronomy guy?
Is crime natural?
Matias comments on Nov 1, 2018:
If the underlying dichotomy is nature / culture, crime is cultural. It is natural for animals to kill other animals, but that "killing" is a crime it takes moral rules or law to become "sin" or "crime". And even among humans, not all killings are criminal: if somebody tries to me or my family and I kill him first, in many cultures this is not considered to be a crime but legitimate self-defense. Therefore it always takes a cultural frame to turn an act into a "crime"
Who wants to talk about Plato? The Essenes are a reference to Plato's Theory of Forms or Essences. ...
Matias comments on Nov 1, 2018:
Plato's theory of forms cannot be correct when life is concerned, because we know that all life-forms evolved from different forms, whereas the 'eidos' in the philosophy of Plato is immutable and eternal. It does not evolve. The 'idea' of a horse rests the same forever, and all horses that are living or have lived or will be living are copies of this ideal horse in the realm of eternal forms. But that is not how evolution works. If there is one thing that Darwin's idea of evolution rendered obsolete, it is essentialist thinking. There are no "essences".
Stoicism. A friend claims he is a stoic. To him, that means that the only thing he worries about is ...
Matias comments on Nov 1, 2018:
It is funny to see Stoicism reduced to being a section in the self-help industry (a) We should not forget that real Stoicism is based on a genuine *religious* world-view: That there is an unseen transcendent order, the logos, and that the sage should use his/her mind to tap into this divine order, and live according to the logos. The sage has to *serve* the logos; not that the logos is a source that gives my ego its daily boost to improve my self-esteem.
I’m a hardcore materialist, in that I believe there is nothing outside the material world. ...
Matias comments on Nov 1, 2018:
Personally, I no longer use the word "materialist", for the reason that it sounds so much 19th century-like, an era when people were divided into two camp: the idealists or spiritualists and the materialists. But what does it mean to be a "materialist" in a time when physicists are no longer able to tell us what "matter" is in the first place? When "matter" and "energy" are considered to be two sides of the same coin? When "matter" is only five per cent of the known universe, the other 95 per cent being "dark x" ? The closer we look at "matter" the more it seems to vanish into thin air. Maybe the true core of reality has more to do with mathematics than with "matter"? I would call myself a "naturalist", which is to say that there is nothing but "nature" - but nature might be much larger and having more dimensions and aspects than we can conceive. I do not think taht “God” is a handy metaphor for reality, because in the way 99 per cent of those who use this word is means a "supreme, person-like and moral being", and reality neither is person-like nor moral. Thinking and talking of reality as "God" actually is a difficult to overcome obstacle to understanding the true nature of reality. Theistic religions are useful coping strategies for the daily life of billions of people, but they have to be left behind in philosophy (in its original meaning "love of wisdom")
Mark Twain said it first, but I do agree
Matias comments on Oct 31, 2018:
That does not make sense. Being a genius is not like being tall but more like being beautiful: both, a genius and a beauty exist in the eye of the beholder. If nobody considers John or Susan to be a genius, they are not geniuses. It is the other way round: lots of persons considers themselves to be a genius, but nobody else agrees. Are they hidden geniuses? No, cause it takes *other* people to make that judgment.
Commandants I can live by.....
Matias comments on Oct 31, 2018:
I am always eager to improve my English. "Every person has the right to control of their body": is this now considered to be good or even standard English usage?
"Very well written proposal. Clear, concise, powerful. Unique ideas." Followed by, "Grant Not ...
Matias comments on Oct 31, 2018:
I have been told that in the US nowadays *everything* is always "terrific", "great", "awesome", "powerful" and so on.... In school this is called grade inflation. Dumb kids who deserve a "F" get a "B minus" so that they do not suffer any kind of trauma. So maybe your proposal was , well, not really so marvelous, but the panel just wanted to cheer you up and add some cheap sugar to the bitter pill.
What makes a human being valuable?
Matias comments on Oct 30, 2018:
Individuals have no value in themselves. it is always other people who make someone valuable. The downside of this view is that if others deem you to be without value - for whatever reason - you do not have any value. What we call self-esteem is a kind of "socio-meter", it measures how much others value ourselves. Artificially inflated self-esteem may serve as a drug with some short-time effect, but on the long run social reality will prevail: if others do not value me, I do not have any value.
Kinda explains the U.S. these days...
Matias comments on Oct 29, 2018:
That is just the statistics, but what is the explanation for this dire situation? Why is the USA such an outlier when it comes to religion, belief in mumbo jumbo and anti-intellectualism?
Religion is dying in Europe (especially northern Europe it seems). [facebook.com]
Matias comments on Oct 28, 2018:
What we can observe is that mainstream organized religions are on the wane, but most people do not turn into hard-core naturalists but still nurture some kind of quasi-religious belief in "higher beings", in "energies" and "vibrations", and karma or reincarnation, and of course they still believe that after death some "personal essence" will not be destroyed. It is not religion, but it isn't naturalism either. To quit all belief in the supernatural would be too much for most people.
If an omnipresent god existed it would be an atheist because it would have nothing to defer to. ...
Matias comments on Oct 28, 2018:
A Supreme Being would at the same time encompass all possible categories and transcend human-made categories like good/evil, real/fictitious, temporal/eternal... a/theist.
Freethinkers Anthem!
Matias comments on Oct 26, 2018:
And what is to be found "behind the door"? Imagined entities and orders. Strange phenomena defying rational explanations...
"It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material ...
Matias comments on Oct 26, 2018:
Basically Lewontin wants to say that we made (why?) the a priori (!) assumption that we have to adhere only to material causes, but he does not explain what "material" means. Given that physicists are still unable to tell us what "matter" really is, and given that "matter" looks more and more like a spiritual entity, the catch-word "materialism" is of little use.
Can we learn more from ants than imaginary Gods.? Ants taught leaders in ancient times about taxes ...
Matias comments on Oct 26, 2018:
Ants teach us that individuals do not exist. Ants do not have rights or dignity. Ants teach us that only the elite should reproduce. if a worker ant tried to lay eggs of her own, she is killed by her sisters. To sum up: In the world of ants "Brave new World" is not a dystopia but daily reality. Jonathan Haidt wrote that humans are 90 percent chimp and 10 per cent bees. Those 90 per cent chimp in us prevent us from building an ant-like society even if we come to the conclusion that it would be the best and most rational way to live - at least for the whole of society. BTW communists tried to build an ant-like society. It did not work very well (a)
An interesting observation
Matias comments on Oct 26, 2018:
Well... who is "you"? Am "I" just meat plus skeleton?
[EDIT: MISATTRIBUTION: Despite my original assertions, I cannot find a definitive attribution or ...
Matias comments on Oct 26, 2018:
This seems to be a quote. Who said it, when? Generally, this does not apply to our modern Western societies, because everybody can have any kind of information they want to know. The state has not the power to "shield" the truth. BUt people come in tribes and they want to know also pieces of information that fits their preconceptions and prejudices, which are the preconceptions of their tribe and therefore of their own identity (which is the most important thing for "political animals" nowadays). It is a myth that people want to know the truth and that some "elites" or whoever keeps the truth hidden by telling lies.
Doesn't this explain the lack of progress being made in religious and/or political discussions / ...
Matias comments on Oct 25, 2018:
That is certainly one of the most important biases, and we are all more or less guilty of it. But psychologists have by now identified dozens of cognitive biases. Here is a list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
I’ve reached my limit. I’ve always held the door open for women, as I was told this was the ...
Matias comments on Oct 25, 2018:
I would not be surprised if holding doors open for women was considered to be a sign of *sexism* in the US nowadays (a)
Who in history turned out to be right after they died, but were called crazy while they were alive?
Matias comments on Oct 25, 2018:
German geo-scientist **Alfred Wegener**, whose theory of drifting continents (plate tectonics) was ridiculed during his life-time, then largely forgotten and confirmed decades after his premature death (aged 50 while on a expedition on Greenland)
Atheists don’t exist? REALLY? What apologetics is this? Some people need to fact check. ...
Matias comments on Oct 25, 2018:
The title of the article is of course nonsense, but the rest is true. The human brain is hard-wired to believe in "supernatural" things like souls, invisible forces and "attractions". That is why religion is natural, it is the human default, not naturalism and science, which needs a lot of training and effort. Even a guy like Richard Dawkins may have his little private superstitions or beliefs that are not 100 per cent backed by science, but that does not mean that he's no longer an atheist.
“I often think of humankind as a long procession whose beginning and end are out of sight. We the ...
Matias comments on Oct 24, 2018:
Can we really exercise some control over what direction the procession takes? I think that is a nice and edifying illusion. First of all, there is no "we" who could exercise control. Humankind is no "we", because humans all over the world lack a sense of "we". Instead there are a multitude of players and agents, each of them with its own agenda and interests, many of them are on a collision course. And there is a widely unknown force called "path dependency": "we" are on tracks which "we" cannot leave without making a huge collective effort. And because this effort will never be made (due to conflicting agendas), not "we" will shape our future but systemic effects will do this for "us".
What do you think would have happened if feudalism would have been left in tact to evolve...
Matias comments on Oct 24, 2018:
It would look like as in Russia, where we witness a modern version of feudalism: Putin is a kind of tzar, with his buddies as vassals who get their "fiefs" (as governors or mayors in the province, or as bosses of Rosneft or Gazprom or any other company). And if some of them falls out with the tsar, they vanish mysteriously, or are convicted of some trumped up "fiscal fraud"
A concept of a god. This god is in the trees,land,air,water,in everything. Does not write books , ...
Matias comments on Oct 23, 2018:
Why not call it "nature" ? The word "god" has too many connotations and historical meanings. Spinoza's formula was "Deus sive natura", so why not cancel the "deus" and keep "natura"?
The Problem with Moral Convictions
Matias comments on Oct 23, 2018:
Sorry, but I have learned not to open pdf documents from unknown sources. Why do you not give us the gist of the argument?
Do you agree that all forms of religion should be banished from the Earth as a bad case of mental ...
Matias comments on Oct 22, 2018:
1. Some forms of religiosity are mental disorders, but religion as such is *not* (no expert for mental health has ever said so...) 2. Even if religion religion was detrimental to human wellbeing, how can you banish it without resorting to violence and coercion? Are you dreaming of an atheist dictatorship like Stalin's Soviet Union (where religion was banished, only to resurface after the break-down of the regime) ?
I have read classic Taoist texts for many years. The old classics started to feel redundant. Then I ...
Matias comments on Oct 22, 2018:
I wonder how it is possible for a Christian monk like Merton to reconcile the (theistic) Christian creed with (atheist) Taoism. To Christians, God is a "loving father", whereas according to Taoism "heaven and earth do not have any humanity (in the sense of compassion or caring). How is ti possible to make these worldviews compatible?
Quote of the day correction from an earlier post of mine: “Blind belief in authority is the ...
Matias comments on Oct 22, 2018:
Blindly believing authorities is inevitable and necessary. Each of us can only know some things first-hand. For 99 per cent of all things I know, I have to rely on experts and others authorities. I am not a scientist, so I have to believe what physicists, biologists and other authorities tell me. Take a simple fact like "The earth revolves around the sun.". I cannot verify for myself whether it is true or not. The point is to wisely choose the *kind* of authorities you believe.
I believe it's a good practice to base one's worldview, to the extent humanly possible, only on ...
Matias comments on Oct 22, 2018:
On first sight this sounds reasonable. But none of our dominant worldviews (except science!) is based on verifiable facts: neither liberalism, nor humanism, nor capitalism, nor nationalism is based on facts but on basic *assumptions* about mankind and/or the world. Human dignity, human rights, money, laws etc... are not based on facts but on *fiction*, on *shared* fiction. And it won't help us to do more research in order to find the foundational facts . Even if we will know everything there is to know scientifically about homo sapiens, "dignity" or "human rights" or "laws" will not be among those facts. There are basically two kinds of worldviews because there are two "worlds": the world of facts (here science is the only way to obtain reliable truth) and the world of *meaning* where we have to rely on fiction because nature 'out there' has no meaning, but as human beings we cannot live without meaning, so we have to create it ourselves by inventing tales, myths, religions, ideologies...
All religions have a set of beliefs. They believe that there's a God, there's Hell and Heaven, ...
Matias comments on Oct 20, 2018:
If we define "religion" not as "belief in a supernatural order with supernatural entities (the common definition), but as a belief in a superhuman order, there are indeed atheist religions like communism, fascism or humanism. All three believe that there exists an order 'out there' , an order which humans did not *create*, but which can be *discovered*.
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil ...
Matias comments on Oct 20, 2018:
This quote from Weinberg is so famous and keeps popping up again and again ... and it is nonsense. There are very few "good" and "evil" people ("saints" versus psychopaths). Most people are neither evil nor good, they have the *potential* of both sides in their mind, and if they do evil things, that can be for various reasons: greed, lust for power, threatened egotism, a momentary attack of rage or frustration, an ideology, group-pressure ... and dozens of other reasons.
Religion is like chemotherapy, it may solve one problem, but it can cause a million more.
Matias comments on Oct 20, 2018:
If the balance was really so much in the negative, it would have disappeared long ago. Natural selection is quite ruthless and does not care about useless and harmful figments of imagination.
What do you think would be one change in the world that might break the back of most religions?
Matias comments on Oct 20, 2018:
Forget it. Religion will outlast everything because it is rooted in human nature. Other human institutions and achievements of our civilisation are much more likely to disappear: science, democracy, even capitalism... but not religion.
What would you consider "The meaning of life" to be?
Matias comments on Oct 20, 2018:
Your life makes sense or is meaningful if you are able to see yourself as part of or a member of something greater or larger than your own little and fleeting life, provided you consider this larger, bigger X to be meaningful in itself. That bigger X can be almost anything: your family, your job, science, the fight against injustice or gender inequality or poverty ... If you manage to latch onto this larger X you become a character in a meaningful story , which automatically makes your own life meaningful-
No Jesus, no peace
Matias comments on Oct 20, 2018:
The first part of the quote is nonsense because a lot of people have their peace of mind without Jesus. The second part may be true for those who suffered from anxiety , but found their "ataraxia" after they became Christians and started to view Jesus as their personal coach and savior...
Perhaps consciousness continues after physical death. If so, what then? Serious, considered ...
Matias comments on Oct 20, 2018:
If you belief that "consciousness" is an aspect of Being itself, then it continues after death, albeit on a much "lower" level - the level of elements. But in this case it won't be *my* consciousness, so that from *my* perspective the result will be the same: call it "black void", "nothingness", nirvana...
Do you believe that racism and hatred is taught in childhood? Or are some just born with it? Or ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
If racism is taught as most people think, the question arises "Why do parents teach their kids racism?" Answer: Because their parents taught them so. And so on... the whole chain of descent back to Adam and Eve. But who started this nonsense, and why? And why has this nonsense been perpetuated for x millennia? All over the world?
The only reason religion has survived & thrived this long (and ever) is because of its deluded ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
Religion has no privileged access to violence. Why did religions originate in the first place? Because religious beliefs and religious thinking is a natural by-product of human cognition and emotion. Why do we find religions in every known human society (in history)? My favorite answer is the one Michael Shermer (founder of The Skeptics Society) gives in his book "How we believe": "Religion is a social institution that evolved as an integral mechanism of human culture to create and promote myths, to encourage altruism and reciprocal altruism, and to reveal the level of commitment to cooperate and reciprocate among members of a community. That is to say, religion evolved as the social structure that enforced the rules of human interactions before there were such institutions as the state or such concepts as laws and rights. (...) The principal social institution available to facilitate cooperation and goodwill was probably religion. An organized establishment with rules and morals, with a hierarchical structure so necessary for social primates, and with a higher power to enforce the rules and punish their transgressors, religion evolved as the penultimate effort of these pattern-seeking, story-telling, myth-making animals."* (Michael Shermer "How we believe". page 162)
“When you get to my age, and I’m 66 now, you realize that the world is a madhouse and that most ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
John Cleese is rich and famous. So it is easy for him not to bother. But what if you have to juggle with three shitty jobs in order to make ends meet? You simply cannot afford not to bother.
Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner. LAO TZU
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
I adore the work of Lao Tzi, but I tend to disagree on this point. Only people suffering from Autism spectrum disorder do not care what other people think. Healthy human beings are a node in a web of human relations , which means that we have to care about the opinions of those people who are relevant for us. 99 out of 100 people who do not care about others are just jerks. The other one may be hermit full of wisdom. But wise hermits are too rare to serve as a role model.
I feel that separation is an illusion. We have individual experiences, but nothing is actually ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
You have to take the right drugs before you can experience the one-ness with all living beings. Thanks to our social brain, we are connected to each other by theory-of-mind, empathy, compassion. Connected but still separated.
Isn't it enough that we create and destroy each other constantly? Do we really need to blame God or ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
People have the urge to blame somebody else when something goes wrong. There is a wonderful book titled "Mistake were made - but not by me". It's all too human, and honestly it is better to blame the Devil for the mess than Jews or Liberals or Blacks or any other human group. The Devil is a rather convenient scape-goat
Do you find it as amazing and sad as I do that our society in general values entertainers (actors & ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
The money somebody earns does not necessarily reflect the esteem a society has for him or her. It is just an effect of supply and demand. Only a few make it to the top in sports and media (just think of all those thousands of would-be movie stars who don't make it and who end up impoverished and destitute), but there are millions of firefighters and nurses. It is simply impossible to pay 100,000 per year to every firefighter!
Do you believe that racism and hatred is taught in childhood? Or are some just born with it? Or ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
You do not have to teach children what psychologists call "ingroup bias": our inbuilt tendency to like "our" folks and tend to look down on and disparage folks who are somewhat different. There are several markers how this "otherness" is perceived: skin color, language, clothes... Just think of all the peoples who call themselves just "the people" or "human beings", which implicitly means that the peoples on the other side of the river or the mountains are not real human beings, but barbarians... Under certain circumstances, this inbuilt in-group bias can become full-blown racism
Please finish this sentence, try to read through the rest of the comments and do your best to come ...
Matias comments on Oct 19, 2018:
...be Utopia.
Why is it that so many humans cannot accept a very simple fact?; that we are as individuals just a ...
Matias comments on Oct 18, 2018:
First of all: that fact flies in the face of our experience as self-conscious beings. We experience ourselves not as a collection of elements but as a whole : My "me" is not coarse-grained but smooth ; my experiences have a *quality* that is not compatible with the idea of me being just a collection of elements, at least not on the phenomenological level. (It is still a mystery how a collection of neurons manages to build a conscious self) Second reason: human beings crave *meaning*, we are story-telling animals and the facts science provide just do not add up to a meaningful story.
We are everything we are, without god. We are everything we can be, everything we want to be. I ...
Matias comments on Oct 18, 2018:
Homo sapiens is an ultrasocial species: You are nothing without the society or community that surrounds you.
Truth, if ever there was truth.
Matias comments on Oct 18, 2018:
The same kind of hypocrisy applies to racists who revere a document that states that "all men are created equal". Bigotry and hypocrisy and double standards are not the privilege of religious folks
Do you remember any day in your life when you didn't tell a lie, at least a white lie? Why do ...
Matias comments on Oct 18, 2018:
When individuals have do deal with other people, they have two main goals: To get along and to get ahead. So you can tell a lie as a kind of social lubricant, or to improve your image in the eyes of other people whose opinion is relevant for you. That's basically what psychologists call "reputation management" Therefore there is always some kind of subtle hidden gain.
Believe me when I say......I think I joined the wrong website group. I am not an agnostic. Anybody ...
Matias comments on Oct 17, 2018:
There is a subreddit where hardcore atheists are among themselves. https://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/ If you do not march in lockstep there you get downvoted until your account is blocked
Computers and deep data can make better decisions than Christian politions.... Lary Page would be ...
Matias comments on Oct 17, 2018:
For the time being, AI and Big data is still quite stupid. Its "intelligence" is extremely limited, like one of those "savants" who excel at *one* thing, but are unable to live without the help of other human beings who organize their daily life.
The proof is in the book.
Matias comments on Oct 16, 2018:
When we look at a map of North America, we can see a country called "Canada". Question: Does "Canada" exist? If no: are all those who talk about Canada just deluded? What about all those poor people who call themselves "Canadians"? - If the answer is yes: What is the *ontological status* of "Canada"? Is it the same as Santa Claus or Spiderman? And what *proof* do we have that "Canada" exists? (Hint: That many people just say so and can testify to its existence is not sufficient proof, because millions of believers claim that their god exists too!)
Very True
Matias comments on Oct 16, 2018:
Prayer has no consequences in the world out there, but it has the same effects as any other good *placebo* - and these effects are *real*, as any medical scientist can confirm
If there is a God, he cannot be both loving and omniscient. Anyone can easily see all the suffering ...
Matias comments on Oct 16, 2018:
Loving and omniscient can do together. But not loving and omnipotent.
Evolution of Religion
Matias comments on Oct 16, 2018:
Quote: "Religions made sense in the face of insufficient knowledge" Again the common misconception that religion is primarily a cognitive affair, an obsolete way to gain knowledge about the world "out there". Much more important is what religions did with - and for - the emotional brain.
Saudi Arabia's Greatest Crimes: [counterpunch.org]
Matias comments on Oct 16, 2018:
That America is and has been best buddies with the Saudis while treating the Iranians as the Empire of Evil is ample proof that politics is made by cynics. It is true that the Iranians destabilize the region in order to become the dominant power of the region, but the SAME applies to the Saudis. The only difference: the Saudis are "our bastards" (because we need their oil? Not the Americans, who are now almost self-sufficient in terms of energy).
I began becoming an atheist when I was quite young. I told no one about it was not coached, coerced,...
Matias comments on Oct 15, 2018:
That's what it always comes down to in the end: Some people think there is evidence for a Supreme Being (its attributes vary...), some see no evidence, some say the jury is still out. Different assumptions lead to different world-views...
What I have always wanted!!
Matias comments on Oct 15, 2018:
If a time machine really existed, would you travel to the future or to the past? I would not enter such a machine for fear of not being able to get back to the time I belong to.
What Religion Gives Us (That Science Can’t) By Stephen T. Asma Mr. Asma is a professor of ...
Matias comments on Oct 15, 2018:
I think I'll buy Asma's book because he really has a point many atheists fail to see. Here's his central argument: "Those of us in the secular world who critique religious responses and strategies with the refrain, “But is it true?” are missing the point. Most religious beliefs are not true. But here’s the crux. The emotional brain doesn’t care. It doesn’t operate on the grounds of true and false. Emotions are not true or false. Even a terrible fear inside a dream is still a terrible fear. This means that the criteria for measuring a healthy theory are not the criteria for measuring a healthy emotion. Unlike a healthy theory, which must correspond with empirical facts, a healthy emotion is one that contributes to neurochemical homeostasis or other affective states that promote biological flourishing."
Eternal being with temporal actions?
Matias comments on Oct 15, 2018:
There is no logical contradiction. Laws of nature are timeless too and nevertheless they act in "our" temporal and ever-changing world

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