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Jan. 12th, 2009

"A well-stocked mind adds interest to the world that comes its way."

- Huston Smith

(quoted in lecture on unit 2, REL 100H SBVC Sp2009, Dr. Jackson)

i needed to dump this somewhere

"We all know that bicycling is a very efficient way to get around, but have you ever wondered just how bicycling measures up to other modes? If you like numbers, here are a few. It takes about 35 food calories to pedal a bicycle a mile. That is about 10 miles to the bowl of rice. Now, one gallon of gas represents 126 Megajoules of fossil energy, or about 30,000 calories. Doing the math, the bike gets the equivalent of 852 miles/gallon. But, what about the energy needed to make your food calories you might ask? I have not looked up rice, but, potatoes require about ¼ of a calorie of fossil fuel to make 1 calorie of food energy. So, if you power your bike commute with potatoes, then that’s like getting 3,400 miles per gallon. However, if you fuel your commute with exotic fare, your efficiency drops considerably. The average food calorie in our diet is about 8 calories of fossil energy per calorie of food energy. Therefore bicycling on the average diet puts you at around 106 mpg. Clearly riding instead of driving lowers your energy consumption, and eating low on the food chain is a huge carbon footprint lever."
This is the main body of an email I sent to a scholarly priest at my church.  It contains some recent thoughts.
This is gonna be very boring for most of you.Collapse )

I love the sound of this.

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus,
Domine Deus Saboath,
pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.

http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Trinitas/Sanctus.html
First, it must be borne in mind that "what we call 'religion' is of much wider prevalence and of much longer standing than is the use of this term, or indeed of any other term, to designate it" (W. C. Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion, 18). The human activities which we identify as religious are unquestionably factual, the experiences which prompt people to behave religiously are as real as any other experiences, and the expressions of those experiences have historically constituted the most significant products of human culture.

So what is 'religion'?Collapse )

Tolstoy on melancholy.

"And yet I could give no reasonable meaning to any actions of my life. And I was surprised that I had not understood this from the very beginning. My state of mind was as if some wicked and stupid jest was being played upon me by some one. One can live only so long as one is intoxicated, drunk with life; but when one grows sober one cannot fail to see that it is all a stupid cheat. What is truest about it is that there is nothing even funny or silly in it; it is cruel and stupid, purely and simply.

"The oriental fable of the traveler surprised in the desert by a wild beast is very old.

"Seeking to save himself from the fierce animal, the traveler jumps into a well with no water in it; but at the bottom of this well he sees a dragon waiting with open mouth to devour him. And the unhappy man, not daring to go out lest he should be the prey of the beast, not daring to jump to the bottom lest he should be devoured by the dragon, clings to the branches of a wild bush which grows out of one of the cracks of the well. His hands weaken, and he feels that he must soon give way to certain fate; but still he clings, and sees two mice, one white, the other black, evenly moving round the bush to which he hangs, and gnawing off its roots.

"The traveler sees this and knows that he must inevitably perish; but while thus hanging he looks about him and finds on the leaves of the bush some drops of honey. These he reaches with his tongue and licks them off with rapture.

"Thus I hang upon the boughs of life, knowing that the inevitable dragon of death is waiting ready to tear me, and I cannot comprehend why I am thus made a martyr. I try to suck the honey which formerly consoled me; but the honey pleases me no longer, and day and night the white mouse and the black mouse gnaw the branch to which I cling. I can see but one thing: the inevitable dragon and the mice- I cannot turn my gaze away from them.

"This is no fable, but the literal incontestable truth which every one may understand. What will be the outcome of what I do to-day? Of what I shall do to-morrow? What will be the outcome of all my life? Why should I live? Why should I do anything? Is there in life any purpose which the inevitable death which awaits me does not undo and destroy?

"These questions are the simplest in the world. From the stupid child to the wisest old man, they are in the soul of every human being. Without an answer to them, it is impossible, as I experienced, for life to go on.

--Leo Tolstoy, quoted in James' Varieties of Religious Experience

Aug. 21st, 2008

Aha!

Now I remember something else I was going to say.

It was about how different worldviews/philosophies/religions try to explain differences of opinion.  It seems that one thing to look for in any worldview is how it accounts for people that have other opinions.  It's always puzzled me WHY people have such different opinions - culture, personal values, disinformation or ignorance, blindly clinging to a view all seem like possible reasons - and different worldviews have different ways to explain this.

I've noticed that some worldviews make up reasons for differing opinions that can only fall into the context of said worldview.  In this way, conclusions about the nature of others' beliefs are reached without actually understanding said beliefs in a ground-up manner.  For example, some Christians will explain away atheism by saying that atheists are "angry at God."  Some people will explain away homosexuality as a deep-set hatred of one's parents or the opposite gender.  Neither of these explanations make sense because they are taking another's views and placing them in the context of one's own views, rather than understanding them on their own terms.

Why do differing worldviews make these explanations?  In the two cases above, I say that the explanations serve to belittle and demean such views.  If a hardcore Christian doesn't want to take atheism seriously as a worldview, then he can simply dismiss it as an emotional problem rather than a reasonable philosophy of life.  And homophobes can feel justified in their sophistry by thinking that the root of homosexuality is anger or fear, though psychological research and merely listening to the stories of gay people proves that this is not the case.

Another example - Richard Dawkins says that people are religious because beliefs such as absolute morality and the afterlife are psychologically satisfying to people, and evolution has evolved us to be religious (intentionally or unintentionally).  This is different - there is ample evidence to suggest this hypothesis is true.  But it's not a reason to dismiss religious beliefs as false per se; William James cautioned against this in his book which I love so dearly.  In fact, I think findings from evolutionary psychology on why people are religious can be very interesting to religious believers as well, and such a theory definitely pokes holes in Plantinga's totally pathetic evolutionary argument against naturalism.  However, Dawkins' argument *IS* a good counter to the argument that religion must be true because so many people believe it, which is not a serious theological contention but a fiction that plenty of lay believers have invented.

So my point here is that any view on why others believe what they do must take into account the facts, rather than try to explain away such differences in terms of one's own worldview with no real evidence.

Aug. 21st, 2008

Haven't done much lately. I spent the weekend with Spencer and his family at their cabin at Lake Tahoe (advantage of having rich friends) and OMG his family is nuts. His dad is seriously uptight and anal-retentive and his mom is like Paul. They have this crazy Australian Shepherd who is the loudest, most annoying creature I have ever met. Seriously, our two Siamese cats put together are not as loud and annoying as this dog.

Me: Good morning!
Dog: RUF RUF RUF RUF RUF!!!!!

Me: *stands up or just turns head*
Dog: RUF RUF RUF RUF RUF!!!!!

And everyone but Spencer's mom hates this dog. They want to get it trained to be better-behaved but Spencer's mom won't allow it. Urgh.

Tuesday I fixed this old bike I bought for $5 at a garage sale. It's at least 35 years old and has this odd style of gear shifting; they're like these little pedals on the frame of the bike and you adjust them to change gears. Anyway, I spent the whole day just changing the derailleur and the tires. I could ride it even though the rear brakes need to be hooked up.
Last night I took another look at it and the rear tire was flat. DId I poke a hole in it while putting the tire on? It seems so.

I saw Angela yesterday. For a while I was worried that we were drifting apart, but we had some very good conversation, and I gave her a friendship journal to start on. This has been one of my summer goals; after getting sick of talking to people on email and facebook, I decided I'd write old-fashioned letters to my friends. So I bought some journals to hold these letters. I've already started them with Dani and Cynthia.

I have more transitory thoughts all the time, but tend to forget them, so I can't write them down. This is sad; flickering thoughts that come and go don't add up to or progress towards anything much.

Belief-O-Matic results

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Theravada Buddhism (92%)
3. Secular Humanism (89%)
4. Liberal Quakers (82%)
5. Mahayana Buddhism (73%)
6. Neo-Pagan (71%)
7. Taoism (67%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (66%)
9. New Age (62%)
10. Nontheist (61%)
11. Jainism (57%)
12. Reform Judaism (51%)
13. Sikhism (51%)
14. Hinduism (44%)
15. Orthodox Quaker (44%)
16. Scientology (44%)
17. New Thought (42%)
18. Bahá'í Faith (39%)
19. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (37%)
20. Orthodox Judaism (24%)
21. Islam (22%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (22%)
23. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (20%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (18%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (13%)
26. Roman Catholic (13%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (10%)

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/76/story_7665_1.html