Tag Archives: religion

Texas Tropics – a novel

I  just self-published my first novel.  It is a genre blender: a mystery adventure with a lot of mysticism, philosophy, religion and history mixed in. It can be obtained through Amazon books at the following link: Texas Tropics.  I am focusing on such writing these days and have created another site for those interested in that endeavor (as opposed to subject matter normally expected on this site), markcrathbun.wordpress.com.

The Will To Believe

William James observed that ultimately philosophy does not shape needs and wants.   Rather, needs and wants mold philosophy.  Some consider this idea counter-intuitive.  Others demean it as a convenient justification against common notions of morality.  Detractors of James argue that philosophy exists only to keep needs and wants focused in the right direction.  The argument is not without merit.  At the same time it begs the question, who determines the right direction?  It appears to be a dismissal of the view that individuals are capable of exercising free will.  It assumes people are intrinsically incapable of deciding for themselves what the right direction or correct purpose is in life. It also assumes that the proponents of a given philosophy know better.  When that attitude prevails control of thought and behavior can be considered not only acceptable but necessary.

When philosophy (religious or secular) is considered senior to free will, all manner of control mechanism comes with it, both covert and overt.  It is inevitable.  It is evident in religion and in secular circles.  The anti-religious set is not immune.  It too follows philosophies, whether organized, acknowledged, denied or not.  As much as many secular humanists like to denigrate religionists as a form of thought police, they can be just as authoritarian and intolerant as those they sharply criticize.  Sometimes they are not so easy to identify.  That is because they have adopted the language of logic and science to assume the high ground of reason from which to rail against  intuitive-based mysticism and mythology attendant to religion.  All the while, much of their ‘science’ is firmly grounded in beliefs (see e.g.,  Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’). Ironically, one of the earliest and clearest observations of that kettle-pot legerdemain was detailed in William James’ 1896 essay “The Will To Believe.”

I think James’ observation  about what drives philosophy was insightful.  It seems that at the end of the day, one traffics in reason ( including secularism), mysticism (including religion) or a combination of both as one’s needs and wants (free will) dictate.


False Prophets

Any teacher or prophet who does not genuinely wish, encourage and enable students or adherents to ultimately learn and discover beyond what he has to impart is really no teacher or prophet at all.

False teachers and prophets use the learning process as a means to control or enslave rather than to empower or free.

No matter how eloquent or compelling a teacher or prophet may appear to be, whether he is leading one to heaven, purgatory, perdition or ignorance can be predicted by applying this simple standard.

New York Times Says God Is Alive

Well, that may be an over-statement.  But, a column in the Sunday edition of the New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof may also be a good sign of how the times are changing, Learning to Respect Religion.  Kristof notes that atheists and scientists seem to be increasingly  recognizing the good that religion has done in the evolution of humanity across the centuries.

A little detour is in order to explain why I view Kristof’s column so positively.

Philosopher Ken Wilber treats the differentiation of the fields of art, morals (religion), and science as the foundation that ushered in the age of enlightenment in his thought-provoking book A Brief History of Everything.  He reminds us that until a few hundred years ago religion made advances in science and art a dangerous proposition.  But, he brings the conversation up to the present and suggests a further positive step in our evolution.  That is, a trend toward more integration of art, morals, and science.  That is not to say regression back to the days where one got burned at the stake for looking through a telescope and reporting what he saw.  Instead, Wilbur is talking about understanding and integrating the spirit into art and science, integrating advances in rational thought into art and study of the spirit, and integrating aesthetics in religion and science.

Another good read along these lines is Scott M. Tyson’s The Unobservable Universe.  Tyson is a scientist that began to tread on the province of the spirit, through pushing the envelope of science.  He contends his ventures resulted in him being treated much as scientists of the Middle Ages might be treated by the Catholic Church. Except it is the scientific community treating a trailblazer like that in the present.

Incidentally, I highly recommend A Brief History.  It was critical in unchaining me mentally and spiritually from an adult life spent in a religion that was Medieval in its super individuation from advances in art and science and morality and the evolution of civilization as a whole.

Whether the New York Times thinks God is alive or dead, that there is a trend toward integrating art, religion and science in my view is a very heartening sign.

By the by, notwithstanding Elton John’s lyrics in his wonderful song Levonthe New York Times never did declare that God was dead.  Refs:

John T Elson, Time magazine editor who asked “is God dead?”

Wiki answers