Friday, March 4, 2011

Ask Loren

Mr. Justin commented on the previous post. Comments have a word limit. I do not like these. Here is his comment and my obtuse response...

"[What you value is] Significance then. Besides that you could choose from:
Security, Variety, Love/Connection
Growth, or Contribution. Try to find at least one more that resonates with you.

Despite what you've said about athiesm being motivating, I'm convinced that a more eternal perspective has greater potential for generating motivation. It, at least, adds more weight to those last two factors in the list above.

I'm about to make a sweeping generatization here, but I get the impression that those who consciously adapt atheism have a pessimism overshadowing everything that they do (especially if they once held a religious/spiritual view), that isn't helpful for motivation. Any motivation they have seems to be self-focused.

If you can somehow get a motive that extends beyond yourself, that is bigger than yourself, and is constructive... then it's likely that your motivation will be stronger and more satisfying."

Are you going all Tony Robbins on me or is it Covey? I can't remember who's material that is. Genuine moment: thanks for the advice though. Anyways, I'm not sure about the accuracy of your conclusion. How many ex-mormon atheists do you really know? Sure there are a few bloggers that I link to here, but I'm not sure that any of them agree with my, shall we say, unique perspective about the world. All I see is good people trying to do the best they can with what they have. These are blogs though, you can't read too much into them. Besides I haven't come out officially until this very moment, but here goes, I am no longer atheist, more of a zen nihilist really, sometimes a chaos magician, but always pessimistic.

Some psychological research (see Happiness, the thinking person's guide) indicates that we all develop a default point of happiness that we naturally gravitate to in spite of external circumstances. If you're a curmudgeon before you win the lottery, chances are you'll still be a curmudgeon after you win (this is not to say that you can't change, just that change is very hard and takes a long time). I was an emo before I left the church, make no mistake about it, and surprisingly I'm still an emo from time to time now. So with this in mind, extrapolating from my writings the general outlook of an entire cross-section of the population is probably unwise.

I like to think that the sky is falling (time for me to throw out some stereotyping blankets now). This should be familiar territory for any self-respecting millennially minded individual. The sky has been falling for the last 2000 years or so. In fact the world is fallen already, governed by "principalities powers and the rulers of darkness." I mean it is very easy to argue that a Christian world view is excessively negative and unnecessarily cynical about human nature. I have heard the assertion that without a law giver there can be no law. On this point I agree. The law like most things is made up. However, this does not require that any and every godless heathen on the flying spaghetti monster's green earth begin raping and pillaging on the assumption that god is dead. Atheists are probably the most under represented minority group in prisons the world over (heard it from Sam Harris). The idea that the only thing holding our (assumed) depraved natural tendencies from bursting forth and fucking everyone up is the knowledge that some divine despot is spying on our every move is just sad(stole this from Dawkins).

Let's not focus on whose god can beat up whoever's non-god though or vice versa. That has proven unproductive thus far. You assert that an eternal perspective motivates better than an atheist view point. This says nothing of the truth of claim of said perspective. For some I have no doubt that it is a great motivating factor. Fine. There's an old saying: when a man knows he's going to be hanged in a fortnight, it focuses his mind wonderfully. Perhaps death in the end is what invests life with meaning. I win again. Just kidding. I have no problem with what gets you or anyone else out of bed in the morning. To me though, it looks like you're making an argument from utility (I'm a fan of this argument). This world view works the best for me so this is how I will be. However when people start making universal truth claims about metaphysical ideas/entities that are essentially unprovable, well each to their own...

We've both lived in the world on different sides of the faith (in a god) spectrum and have ultimately come to different conclusions. I think the world would be a far less interesting place if we all thought the same way. I'm not saying this is the final word and please don't engage me in friendly debate anymore. As usual I'm not sure exactly what it is that I'm saying. I think though, that we agree on one thing: you have to find a world view that motivates you to live well. Otherwise what's the point? The world is a big, crazy, scary, exciting place and we're all just trying to make sense of it. As long as I can find ways to keep growing, extending and transcending myself, then I'll be a happy camper. I just have a funny way of expressing that happiness. Remember Eeyore was a person too. There's room in the forest for all of god's ;) creatures.


Justin said...

Deadlines are motivators. As long as a deadline is percieved as having significant consequences after it has arrived. The more emotionally intense and the more vivid those percieved consequences are, the stonger the deadline's motivating power.

Death is a deadline. A Particulary significant one, as long as one willing to give it some attention.

The perceived consequences after this deadline depend largely on the individuals creativity. However, most people will be able to come up with more potential consequences if they adopt a 'life after death' view. That is certainly the case with me.

And beyond the other things that I know to be true, this reason of motivation is a pretty good one to believe in life after death.

For the athiest death is a final deadline for direct action. For the other type, death is (should be) a significant milestone, but by no means final.

Here's how I see it:
The longer the term and the wider the scope one believes his actions are going have consequence... the more deeply rooted the motivations will be. The more deeply rooted those motivations are, the more likely they are to stay in tact through hard times.

With so many things torn apart, with so many things inevitably left unfinished, it's hard me to see how an 'non-life after deather' view can be more fulfilling and motivating than a 'life-after deathers's.

The previous post wasn't necessarilly directed at you Loren, but it was certainly inspired by some of the posts on this blog.

I look forward to understanding your zen nihilist thing. Or whatever shape and label it takes on.

All the best in sustaining your motivation.

Anonymous said...

To quote the great wordsmith, Paul McCartney... Live and let die

Whether you adapt an eternal perspective or inhabit the realm of Zen nihilism, at the end of the day the only person who can live your life is you. Maybe there is a divine omniscient being, maybe there's nothing but the dictates of your own conscience, maybe it's all just empty space... does it really matter anyway?

I can appreciate both perspectives - truly - having at one time or other inhabited both. However, don't you think there's something inherently arrogant about trying to convince someone to your way of thinking when you can't, or try not to see the validity of theirs?

I think there are some great teachings in the church but the one size fits all approach doesn't fit and one needs to make their own way. The idea of eternal life is beautiful and certainly comforting and in these times of uncertainty and trial and I commend you Justin for your convictions.

Personally, I find aspects of the church sterile - but then that's just me. It doesn't necessarily negate my belief in a higher power, it's just doesn't necessarily conform to the idea of a higher power as put forth by the church. If you had to label it, then I'm probably more in line with Baha'i with elements of Shinto, Hinduism and Buddhism thrown in for good measure

That said, I don't see why a non-life after death perspective should be confined to the realm of fear and doubt. If anything, many find it very freeing and liberating - if there's just this life, then why not live it to the full? Why deny yourself experiences now because you live in fear that you somehow won't earn enough brownie points to do everything you want in the next life? When really,there is no certainty? I could get into a grand discussion about the historical implications of Christianity and politics but that's really an entirely different kettle of fish.

How very limiting are man's ideas of God sometimes.

If anything, as we've all lived on different sides of the religious divide, then just let everyone do as they're doing. The church does not have a monopoly on goodness, but nor is it without merit and despite the tone of my response, I admire both of you for your courage in following your own paths.


Justin said...

Motivation is a topic than Loren and I have been discussing on and off for quite a few years. The first post was intended to be about motivation rather than who's right and who's wrong.

Am I trying to convince Loren that my worldview is right? Or am I trying to provoke him to explore his perspectives more thoroughly?

I would say more of the later.

Part of the thrill of such discussion is that I explore my own perspecitives more thoroughly.

I do not really expect him to change his beliefs toward my own, but I do try to meet him half way in his opinions or counteract anything I disagree with.

Loren said...

Thanks for your input peeps. I'll be honest, a little part of me wants to convince others that I'm right, at least more right than a certain portion of the religious folk out there. The part of me that I want to be the big part of me though, really wants to live and let live. Despite my conflicting desires, I think it's definitely good to talk about these issues. I mean it's the most important thing in the world to most people. What's this life for? Why something instead of nothing? We will probably never know. Embracing the mystery is all part of the fun.