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Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday


I saw a great bumper sticker today:

Don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church.

Powerful people often bend the rules, so if someone is a rule-breaker could they be perceived as powerful?

Here’s no surprise: beliefs which we imagine to be rational are bound up in all kinds of other stuff. Political stances, for example, correlate with various personality features. One major review in 2003 looked at 38 different studies, containing data on 20,000 participants, and found that overall, political conservatism was associated with things like death anxiety, fear of threat and loss, intolerance of uncertainty, a lack of openness to experience, and a need for order, structure, and closure.



Hey Norm, that existential angst link was a good one, but the text you copied wasn't the point of the essay. After reading the entire thing, I couldn't help but wonder if you were trying to make his point by demonstrating your own confirmation bias.

Nothing so nefarious, just copying the first paragraph of the piece, something I often to do.

re:"political conservatism was associated with things like death anxiety, fear of threat and loss, intolerance of uncertainty, a lack of openness to experience, and a need for order, structure, and closure."

My all time favorite helpful saying, used whenever I open a valve or screw or bottle cap, is "Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosy" Works most every time. I can see that it might as well apply to political conservatism.

Yeah... I'm gonna steal that.

Just don't try it with an australian screw.

'Cause water circles the drain in the other direction down under?

No, thier right wingers are sexually promiscuous.

re: out of body and near death experiences:

| He’s also a secular Buddhist...

i think that's the first time i've seen that particular combination of words used to describe a person. what does it mean?

i understand that buddhism doesn't necessarily involve any belief in the supernatural or an afterlife, although it usually does. but, assuming a "buddhist" doesn't believe in these things, how could s/he be considered "secular", given that buddhism is, by all definitional accounts, a religion, no matter how you look at at it?

maybe, if it weren't for the extensive and detailed rituals practiced by various forms of buddhism you might be able to call it a "philosophy". is this what is meant here- someone who considers themselves a buddhist while denying any and all supernatural or ritualistic aspects of religion?

buddhists, unlike jews, for instance, are not an ethnic group or a nation or even a cohesive "culture". if they are not practitioners or believers in a religion, what are they? how can one be a "secular buddhist?

genuinely curious.

I think you answered your own question. A secular Buddhist would be someone who follows the philosophical tenets of Buddhism but rejects the supernatural claims that some of its followers espouse.

Buddha would be an example of this.

If you are interested you can read what they have to say about themselves here:

Apologies - you need to go here: and click on the link.

thanks, mr. sareus, i remain confused. it seems to me that ANY religion could be stripped of it's core principles and carefully cherry picked to create a working philosophy of life acceptable to any atheist. what i don't understand is how this resultant philosophy could still fall under the category, in any meaningful way of the religion in question.

it's fair enough to call oneself an atheist strongly influenced by buddhist thought. it is unfair, and untrue, in my opinion, to do so while claiming to be a buddhist. and the same goes for any other religion.

I find any discussion of Buddhism confusing. As for Siddhattha Gotama Buddha himself, who knows what his actual teachings were, because (according to Wiki):

Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.

And then there are the various branches and schools of Buddhism. The schools of Buddhism I usually read about are Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, but there are others such as Nichiren buddhism, Shinnyo-en and others. So any discussion of Buddhism would have to refer to the particular school or branch, much like Christianity refers to many different religions all believing in the teachings of Christ.

I am also confused what is the precise definition of a religion.
I ran across this defintion:

"a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny",

But this seems to be more the definition of a theist.

Then I found this footnote on Wiki:

While religion is difficult to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who simply called it a "cultural system" (Clifford Geertz, Religion as a Cultural System, 1973). A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." (Talal Asad, The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category,

In the current discussion here, there needs to be a distinction between secularism and religion and atheism. If these terms are not defined, and if they are used interchangeably, then any ensuing discussion will be even more confusing.

Apparently Some people regard Buddhism as a religion, some a set of spiritual teachings and practices, while still others consider Buddhism a collection of inspired philosophies.

And yet, some people regard religion as a collection of inspired philosophies, so....

there needs to be a distinction between secularism and religion and atheism

oops, I meant a distinction between a secularist and an atheist.

so it seems you agree that my confusion with the term is justified? and, by extension my mystification at people's (atheists, rationalists) seemingly casual acceptance of the very idea of a "secular buddhist?

after all the people commenting here over the years who argued so strenuously that a secular jew is a contradiction in terms, in spite of my constant and probably tedious objections, and the overwhelming weight of evidence definitional and otherwise, somebody casually says "yeah, i'm a secular buddhist" and no one except you and me seem to think this more than a bit odd? purely oxymoronic, to be truly frank? but ok with the readers here, like, hey, what the heck, semantics, etc.? buddha, who for sure believed in an afterlife ( reincarnation), purely supernatual concepts like karma and a whole host of things untested and unproven by science is now, according to red, an example of a secularist.

kagemeister thinks only "some" buddhists hold supernatural and/or completely uproven beliefs.

pedantsareus (bless his cotton socks) sends me to websites that speak very seriously about what it means to be a secualar buddhist which, oddly enough, involve rejecting almost all of the most interesting- and fundamental- stuff.

it's like saying hey, i think catcher in the rye is the greatest book ever and i strive to live my life by it. except i can't really relate to holden's views on authority or the prevelance of fakery in the world, and oh yeah- i don't actually read the book anymore because profanity offends me. but other than this, i am SO down with my man caufield, i try to emulate everything about him i don't find distatesful.

am i getting through? it's not just cherry picking. it's the removal of the actual heart and viscera of what is UNIVERSALLY considered a religion and claiming the lifeless corpse as your own.

as a long time commenter here, how would you explain this striking disparity?

I cannot explain the disparity.

There are different beliefs within the different branches of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation, but other Buddhists believe that the ancient writings have been misinterpreted, and that reincarnation is a symbolic notion and should not be interpreted literally. And yet many xtians and jews claim that many notions in the Bible are just symbolic. And because Buddha never wrote anything (remember his teachings come down from word of mouth and 400 years later others began to write down what he supposedly said. This is the same as with Jesus. Others wrote down what Jesus supposedly said years after he died).

If people here are this forgiving re Buddhism, I should think that they would be equally comfortable being as forgiving re some xtians and Jews who take the teachings of the Old and New Testaments symbolically and not literally.

As for 'secularist', all that word means as far as I understand is that religion should be separate from government. So someone could be very religious, and yet still believe that their religious beliefs should not be mixed in with governmental policy.

Apparently kagemeister isn't going to clear up what he meant vis-à-vis secularism. I doubt that anyone else will offer up any new ideas along the lines of thought developed on this thread. As usually occurs, the conversation that you and I have at the end of many threads will just disappear into oblivion.

I am also confused what is the precise definition of a religion.

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..."

So religion is akin to pornography? You know it when you see it?

So is this pornography?

Why or why not? Your answer is that you know it when you see it? Are you serious?

If it is, it's really lousy porn.

I was trying to make a funny.

i thought it was a real sexy painting.

"pornography", as far as i know, is a legal term containing a negative judgement. or at least a term containing a negative judgement. asking if this painting is "pornography" is basically asking if you, personally, the viewer, find it offensive and think perhaps it should be legally forbidden in some way. the term "religion" does not have these connotations- at least, not yet in the u.s.a. it did in soviet russia, if that's where you want to go with this funny.

maybe i should have addressed that last to joann.

And here I was taking this conversation seriously.

It's interesting how difficult it is to define certain concepts and yet we debate before we even agree to the definition of words in which the precise definition of said word is rather complex or perhaps simply not well known.

Andyo, On another thread you indicate that you appreciate some of the 'string theories', even though String Theory is not even a 'string hypothesis', but rather a 'string supposition' at best. I don't see all that much difference between Intelligent Design and String 'Theory'. They are both interesting concepts to consider, but neither is falsifiable, and thus cannot be subject to any testing of their veracity.

The difference is that ID doesn't explain anything (and I disagree that it's interesting at all). What it attempts to "explain" is already perfectly explained by evolution.

This is what I've come to understand about strings/M-theory:

String theory is a scientific hypothesis (even critics admit that it's a hypothesis, albeit when they're criticizing the "theory" part of string theory), in the sense that it explains things that actually need explaining. Like what happens when quantum mechanics and general relativity meet. It attempts a theory of quantum gravity, which normally is not needed cause gravity is too weak at quantum levels, and the classical world doesn't behave according to quantum theory, but Newtonian mechanics, and according to general relativity at "relativistic" levels.

It is needed though, when probing very extreme (very small and very massive/energetic) scenarios like the beginning of the universe and whatever happens in the center of a black hole. Hawking proposed some sort of "singularity" in this instance, where laws of physics broke. Quantum gravity theories attempt to patch this incongruity and solves the problem of singularities.

Fundamentally, it is falsifiable, the main problem being that technologically we're not there yet to falsify it. Hence the attention the LHC gets from string theorists, and the deep disappointment which the Superconducting Supercollider's (which was to be more powerful) cancellation brought to the field.

BTW, my previous comment was not without a point, which was that the definition of religion (and porn) many times is just subjective. For example, you know how when someone does something horrible because of their religion, apologists are quick to point out that it is not "real" religion? Religion, to me, is just some dogma. People will quibble over what's "true" religion, but fundamentally, it's all dogma, isn't it?

the 4 (or5) elements, phlogiston, astrology, bloodletting, spontaneous generation, eugenics and racial theories, the idea that the sun orbited the earth and alchemy were once scientific dogmas.

but modern science doesn't have any of THOSE, of course, thanks to the purges. :)

What was scientific (as in proper scientific, meaning evidence-based thinking) about any of those dogmas? Hmm, is this poisoning the well, or straw man?

Science as it is now didn't start full-force until, arguably, Galileo, or even later. Those things attempted to explain stuff anyway, when no better explanation existed. Both the methods and theories of science are much better now than they were 100 years ago, and 100 years ago much better than they were 1000 years ago, don't you think?

andyo, you are much too reasonable to be any fun arguing with. but i'll take a shot cuz i'm into extreme sports:

"Both the methods and theories of science are much better now than they were 100 years ago, and 100 years ago much better than they were 1000 years ago, don't you think?"

define "better". and i mean in context. show me how our modern understanding of astronomy is more useful to us (which is what i think you mean by "better", correct me if i'm wrong) than the ancients understanding of "astrology". if i'm correct, all you'll be able to say is that astrology was somehow "incorrect" and led people to flawed decisions. but you won't be able to show how modern astronomy, no matter how "correct", leads people to making better choices. and if you try to do so, i can show you how modern astronomy and it's implications regarding mankind's place in the universe actually leads to a broadly suicidal tendency in global society itself, although this would take a much longer discussion than this forum allows us.

i think you know me well enough by now to see that i'm not arguing for astrology. and i'm not denying the advances of science. i am saying that what people think about the world affects what kind of people they are, and that the ancients were adversely affected by BELIEF in their scientific dogmas, and insofar as we moderns BELIEVE in modern versions of such dogmas they are equally adversely affected, and (as i think you will agree) that belief and dogma are bad for science, and bad for people.


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