Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Question for Christians

Here's a question for Christians - I'm genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts and I won't take issue with what you say.

Read this short blog post by Christian philosopher Doug Groothuis:

The more we submit to the higher, the more control we have over ourselves, and the more we find our place with that which is equal to us and and with that which is lower. Otherwise, we botch the hierarchy and bring (even more) chaos into this wounded world.

What do you make of it? Do you find it deep, or shallow? Insightful or fatuous? Meaningful or meaningless?

I'll give you my opinion in the comments, eventually, so as not to poison the well too much.

51 comments:

Catherine said...

There does seem to be something universally healing in letting go of control. But frankly, to me your quote has the same ring to it as the AA serenity prayer and I'm not so keen on it myself. On the other hand, I've seen AA work its magic in my own family so I will eternally and thankfully reserve judgment.

The power of letting go of control also reminds me of a time when a Buddhist friend told me I must have done something really bad to someone else in my past life to get the treatment from them I was getting at the time. After my initial surprise at the comment, I found it comforting, oddly enough.

Oh - I don't really consider myself a Christian, but if we get tossed onto sides, that's the one I get.

Anonymous said...

Not a Christian, unfortunately, but want to throw in my two cents.

I've been reading theology for a while, trying out scholarly Christianity. It's been a frustrating experience, with a lot of my reading being exactly like the quote above. Overtly meaningful and deep, but utterly muddy and incomprehensible in content.

Maybe the assumptions that theology tries to prove must be previously accepted for these kind of sentences to make any kind of sense.

Eamon Knight said...

Channeling my former Christian self from ~30 years ago, I find it profound. Nowadays, I find any statement predicated on a hierarchy of being to be meaningless (and frequently, though not invariably, to be a pretext for authoritarian moralism and patriarchalism).

To paraphrase C.S.Lewis: Lovejoy, these people need to read Lovejoy....

PersonalFailure said...

I think that's actually a Turing Test.

Someone failed.

Diogenes said...

Who are the "higher"? Who are the "lower"? By "higher" do you mean the rich and powerful? By "lower" do you mean poor people, Third Worlders, or what?

Is this a Romans 13 reference, or what?

Or are the "lower" animals? So now it's OK to boil lobsters alive, because they're "lower"?

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD said...

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.
Submission is control.

Were Doug Groothuis and George Orwell ever seen in the same room together?

Vladimir Levin said...

I'd say there's something to it. You often see in movies rich and powerful people prostrating themselves before god and acknowledging that their wealth and standing are as nothing before him. It imparts a constant reminder of the importance of humility to one's life. It also imparts stability to society in general, as people are more willing to accept their lot in life if they deem it to be the judgement of a higher power. In purely pragmatic terms, I think there's an argument to be made - but is it genuinely effective? That I doubt. People will always find excuses to do bad things regardless of their purported belief. Sometimes they will even bend their religious beliefs to support and encourage acts of great evil.

manuel "moe" g said...

OK, I was raised Evangelical Lutheran, so I will take a stab.

I am currently an atheist who acknowledges the need in the majority of humans for personal and collective transcendental experiences.

I don't believe in free will, but I think a widespread belief in free will is needed for our current construction of morality to function. I don't believe there is a basis behind morality beyond reproductive success, but I also believe that there is currently more to human morality than mere reproductive success (the excess is explained by historical vagaries).

So I feel I am motivated to take responsible action by a moral foundation I have no control over, even though there is a great deal of my personal morality that can be changed by my own responsible action (only the smallest core moral beliefs are immutable). And none of this requires free will.

Whew! Enough about me. Now I have a basis to break down the good Mister Groothuis statement. (Thank Goodness it is brief, because I have a very low tolerance for this kind of mushy-headed writing.)

Assertion 1: The more we submit to the higher, the more control we have over ourselves

I would tend to agree. For most people, humbly contemplating the transcendental provides the moral motivation for self-control (taking responsibility for one's actions).

Assertion 2: The more we submit to the higher, the more we find our place with that which is equal to us.

I would tend to agree. For most people, humbly contemplating the transcendental provides the moral motivation for appreciating what is morally common between almost all people (my translation of what he might mean by "equal to us").

Assertion 3: The more we submit to the higher, he more we find our place with that which is lower to us.

I would tend to agree. For most people, humbly contemplating the transcendental provides the moral motivation for appreciating what is physiologically and behaviorally common between almost all life forms (my translation of what he might mean by "lower to us")

Assertion 4: By failing to submit to the higher, we botch the hierarchy.

I tend to agree, under protest. I would be hard pressed to supply an example of someone with the capability to meaningfully contemplate the commonality between our human peers and other life forms, but with this someone never have had anything like a humbling transcendental experience. At a certain higher level of human contemplative ability, there would be universal possession of humbling transcendental experiences. But that would be better explained as a human limitation explained by historical vagaries, rather than a logical necessity. Also, this phrasing might lead one to think that submitting to the higher guarantees preservation of harmony with this hierarchy, which is plainly untrue, examining the behavior of many conventional believers.

Assertion 5: By botching the hierarchy, we bring more chaos into this world.

I tend to agree. By failing to meaningfully contemplate the commonality between our human peers and other life forms, we are more capable to to damage to the world.

Conclusion: I would tend to agree with the whole of the statement, but I think Mr. Groothuis overstates the necessity of humbly contemplating the transcendental. Humbly contemplating the transcendental is not sufficient to prevent doing more damage to the world, and people who are living in harmony with the world may in fact do very little humble contemplation of the transcendental.

This is why I hate mushy-headed writing: the large amount of work needed to be done to bring it into the concrete world where one can meaningfully give or deny assent.

I would guess most Christians would be like Mr. Groothuis, and overstate the necessity of humbly contemplating the transcendental.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Utterly idiotic.

It is not without reason that this religion is called slave religion.

Compare, for instancy, the idiocy contained in the sentences you quoted with Kant's definition of enlightenment!

David said...

Couldn't someone submit to the higher but still get relations wrong to those equal or lower in the hierarchy? Suppose, e.g., that he treats equal as inferiors, or submits to equals and those lower in the hierarchy, as well as to the higher?

Miranda said...

Takis' site says: ""Sapere aude" means "dare to know" and, by extension, dare to use your own reason, independently, without the guidance of somebody else, free of external influences even (or, perhaps, especially) when these influences are part of an established "tradition"."

Meanwhile, Takis took this idea from Kant. Nice.

Eamon Knight said...

Oh ghods, I went and browsed that blog. What a load of pompous, sanctimonious drivel pretending to be words of deepest wisdom.

Ty said...

"Meanwhile, Takis took this idea from Kant. Nice."

Meaning?

You always seem like you leave half of your comment unwritten. Is this an attempt to appear profound without actually having anything of value to say?

llane1 said...

The statement is more ambiguous than the average paragraph. "Submit" could mean "acknowledge" on the one hand or "grovel before" on the other. The "higher" could be the Christian God, human knowledge or the mafia boss.

I can go with "considering human knowledge", but I have a tougher time with "groveling before the dictator"

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Ty: Miranda is an old woman, something like of an old-fashioned schoolteacher, who just wants to impose her religion, morality, etc. She usually doesn't make sense. But if you read her comments keeping in mind the picture above, then you can have a laugh. In fact, you'll be looking forward to her comments which, unfortunately, are not that frequent any more.

(Incidentally, I'm surprised she didn't correct my grammatical mistake.)

Miranda said...

Ty, if you had put a little thought into it, you would've realized that I was slamming Takis for ironically claiming how important it is to be an independent thinker, "free of external influences," while taking the idea from Kant.

386sx said...

The more we submit to the higher, the more control we have over ourselves,

That all depends on what the "higher" does when we "submit" to it. If we don't submit to the higher, then does the higher take away control from us? Who knows!! Nobody knows what presuppositions we're supposed to presume in Mr. Groothuis's word salad. Obviously we're supposed to assume a lot, and give it the benefit of the doubt that it is deeply profound somehow. (That, or Mr. Groothuis is out fleecing some flocks again.)

Either way, I somehow remember Mr. Groothuis as being one of yer dumber philosophers. (I don't exactly remember where I've read of him before though.)

Raised catholic said...

It's a dangerous thought. Could this the justification behind the homophobia in the name of religion, or inquisitions, persecutions, wars, ... ?

displayname said...

I'm not Christian, but I'm occasionally religious (Hindu), so I'll comment on what I think this is. [Even though I am sceptical of your claim that you're genuinely interested and will read with an open mind. :P]

On the face of it, it looks like obvious nonsense: how can submitting to something (a vague "the higher" even) lead to more control? What are "that which is lower", and "the hierarchy"? What does it mean at all?

But there is some truth to at least the first part: it does seem true, counterintuitive though it is, that submitting oneself to a "higher purpose" can be liberating and can even give greater control over oneself, in the sense that one is more sure of what the right thing to do is, and it's easier to make oneself follow that path. This is true even independent of religion, see e.g. Dan Dennett's "bumper-sticker" answer to the secret of happiness ("Find something more important than yourself and dedicate your life to it"), whether one's "higher purpose" is God, mathematics, demolishing superstition, or whatever. (See also Barry Schwartz's "paradox of choice" work, showing that most people are happier with less choice.)

So much for everything until the second comma. The rest I've lost patience to understand, but it seems to be related to the idea that the "old world order", where everyone is religious and everyone's place in society is well-defined, is somehow less "chaotic" and easier to become comfortable in. Of course, there are many serious dangers with this worldview, e.g. many/most Christians seem to think there's something wrong with atheists or homosexuals and it even inspires hate in some of them (though I hope not as many as your blog suggests), so I wouldn't recommend adopting it. I'm just pointing out what his readers probably already agree with, and are being reminded of.

But why is he so vague? One possibility is that he is not a clear thinker, and is only thinking vaguely. Another is that being vague makes it more general, and/or that certain emotional experiences are hard to put into words. Another is that his intended audience already shares certain presuppositions which make these words perfectly meaningful to them. Another is that he thinks it's cool or "deep" to be vague.

Conclusion:
(1) These statements are meaningful, at least partly.
(2) I certainly do not find it deep (even if true), and also find it annoyingly vague and imprecise.
(3) Whether it can be called fatuous depends on whether the writer thinks he's being profound, or simply reminding his followers of commonplace truths. (Which one do you assume?)

andrew said...

being a christian, this is the kind of thing that gets thrown around a lot in christian circles. it's essentially the christian version of the paradoxical pronouncements of asceticism. the idea behind this class of statement is that the closer you follow god, the more that your own life, your priorities and the world around you comes into focus. by not following god, you screw those things up and mess up the world even further. the problem of course being that many of the most monumental screw-ups claim that they're following god. probably the author of those lines would say that deep down they're really not, and just kidding themselves, but then again even jesus says that only god knows the heart.

however, the great chain of being references in this particular manifestation do leave it quite opened to be interpreted in other ways. i know more or less where he's going with this (because i've heard such things countless times before) but yes, it's quite fuzzy.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Miranda says:
"Ty, if you had put a little thought into it, you would've realized that I was slamming Takis for ironically claiming how important it is to be an independent thinker, "free of external influences," while taking the idea from Kant."

Wooaoo, 'twas that deep, wasn't it?
(falling down laughing)

I also have a grammatical mistake. I appologize for this.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

andrew:

In other words, this religion requires slave mentality.

Read this.

(No, I am NOT promoting any other religion.)

Eamon Knight said...

Further to what Andrew said: there is this concious paradox in Christian spiritual praxis about giving up one's life to save it (and vice versa), dying in order to live ("If a seed falls to the earth and dies....", and obedience to Christ being true freedom. Depending on one's sympathies (and the implementation), that's either Zen-like or Orwellian.

andrew said...

@takis: you know how fundies will rip on your miserable life and empty godless beliefs--of course without knowing a damn thing about them--and then smile that smug little smile before handing over their chick tract?

and no, the religion itself doesn't require a slave mentality though certain versions of it certainly do. like i said (or at least tried to say), at heart the sentiment is more akin to asceticism. zen-like is precisely the word that i'm looking for, here. the idea, muddily expressed, is the extraneous distractions and temporal desires that we normally associate with the concept of 'self' must be eliminated to find the true self by focusing on the higher reality.

in a favorable light. in an unfavorable light, the statement merely attempts to reinforce the notion of our rather lowly place on the great chain of being blah blah blah submit submit submit.

in the former sense, then, there is a great deal of truth to the sentiment which is hardly an insight unique to christianity. and in the latter sense it's one of the many things wrong with most religious practice.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

andrew:

I'm not sure I can parse your comments. Perhaps they are too deep for me.

As for "slave mentality" I was particularly referring to Christianity, the religion established by St Paul and made official by Constantine.

andrew said...

"I'm not sure I can parse your comments."

well, the first paragraph was an unfavorable comparison between yourself and annoying christian proselytizers--you know, the type who sit down next to you on an airplane and ask if you've found jesus, and talk about how empty your life must be without their particular brand of ... whatever. now, true--rather than trying convert random strangers by trash-talking their current beliefs, you're trying to deconvert random strangers by trash-talking their current beliefs. but ur doin it rong. I mean, come on--at least the annoying christian proselytizers manage to feign concern, and they give you the chick tract for free rather than linking it on amazon and expecting you to go buy it.

as for the rest of my comments, i was merely trying to answer the question posed by the original blog entry. to recap--in my experience with statements of this nature, they mean one or both of two things:

1) something zen-like along the lines of 'eliminate the extraneous and focus on the core to find the true self', or

2) submit.

this particular instance is badly written, and i'm tending to read it more as number 2.

and yes, that's a poop joke.

Gareth McCaughan said...

andrew: In fairness, Russell's book is a few notches above the typical Chick tract in quality and interest and intellectual rigour and so forth. (Though admittedly not so funny.)

386sx said...

this particular instance is badly written, and i'm tending to read it more as number 2.

Mr. Groothuis has added a comment in which he "clarifies" his post a little...

"These were general metaphysical comments inspired by reflections in "A Guide for the Perplexed" by EF Schumacher, although I don't accept much of his philosophy. There is no implication that some humans are higher than others in their essential being!"

So yeah it's definitely a number 2, though we still don't know what he means, and probably never will, but yeah definitely number 2.

David said...

I think it is nonsense.

Miranda said...

Maybe Groothuis had these people in mind, when he was talking about "that which is lower":

"Great ape rights involves a movement to recognize the personhood of and to create legal recognition for bonobos, common chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans (the non-human great apes) as persons."

http://ieet.org/index.php/tpwiki/Great_ape_rights/

Oh, did I say "these people," as in the people who are promoting this wild idea? Oops, I meant to refer to the chimps, gorillas, and orangutans.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Miranda:
I take it this is one of your usual "jokes". Be it as it may though, Groothuis is the typical christian idiot. For him, obviously, animals are meat, and humand are servants of a higher force.

Miranda said...

So, Takis, are you for or against recognizing the personhood of these simians?

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Miranda:

Neither for or against.

Miranda said...

Are you Swiss?
(Another joke...)

Paul said...

I realize the question wasn't directed to me, but the more I think about this statement, the more I disagree.

Now it's trivially true that sometimes you have to "submit" to things beyond your control. I do it all the time, which is why the statement didn't seem obviously wrong at first reading. But it is filled with tacit assumptions.

What evidence is for this "hierarchy"? What does it mean to "botch" it? Is "chaos" a bad thing in and of itself? Is the world "wounded" in the sense of being significantly worse than it might be otherwise? (I think so too, but how could I prove it?) Is the cause of these "wounds" really the failure to accept some alleged natural hierarchy and the chaos that ensues? None of this is self evident.

I'm suspicious of any claims of an intrinsic hierarchy. E.g., if I was really born to be a slave, would you need to keep me in shackles? If I was really born to be a king, would I really need an army to defend my throne? Even if the answer to these questions is "yes", there is ample reason to wonder if the hierarchy is not natural at all but imposed by force.

For what it's worth, I appreciate chaos. If there is a natural hierarchy, repeated challenges to it will not "botch" it in any sense. If on the other hand, the hierarchy is fictitious and unjust, then the chaos is the only hope for anything better.

Mike from Ottawa said...

Well, I'm a Christian and the quote means nothing to much to me. I prefer things more explicit. If I had to explain what the guy's getting at, I'd be reduced to 'Well, it depends. He might mean ..." I'm not a fan of the oracular mode. Taking science and law does that to you.

As to Takis, considering that many folk who are Christians don't display an obvious 'slave mentality', I'd say he's practising the old business of assuming the existence of facts to support his predetermined conclusions. Pretty pathetic performance from someone who obviously wants to think of himself as a rational and free thinker.

The likes of Takis are why I think the accurate name for atheists of the PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne style is 'hostile atheists', since their identifying feature is their hostility. It has the benefit of being demonstrably accurate.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Mike from Ottawa:
Well, being a Christian is a social convention, there is nothing rational or fundamental about it. It's an arbitrary choice, although most people don't even realize it is a choice: they merely follow the convention of their neighbours or forebearers.

You concluded wrong that I am an atheist. Also, you made a mistake in calling me hostile. If you prove to me that your religion is unambiguously true/better than the religion of, say, Bin Laden, I'll adopt it.

andrew said...

"Miranda is an old woman, something like of an old-fashioned schoolteacher, who just wants to impose her religion, morality, etc."

"In other words, [your] religion requires slave mentality."

"I'm not sure I can parse your comments. Perhaps they are too deep for me.

As for "slave mentality" I was particularly referring to [your religion], the religion established by St Paul and made official by Constantine."

"Well, being a Christian is a social convention, there is nothing rational or fundamental about it."

"If you prove to me that your religion is unambiguously true/better than the religion of, say, Bin Laden"

"you made a mistake in calling me hostile."

lmfao

David said...

Andrew,

Takis complained,

"you made a mistake in calling me hostile"

I agree, hostile is the wrong word. "Dumb" is a better word. Most of his comments you enumerate were tired old arguments he parroted such as the "religion established by St. Paul" canard. I've seen more intelligent arguments against religion from sixth graders.

Takis,

"If you prove to me that your religion is unambiguously true/better than the religion of, say, Bin Laden, I'll adopt it."

No, you wouldn't.

Mike from Ottawa said...

"I agree, hostile is the wrong word. "Dumb" is a better word."

Can't he be both? Takis apparently is playing some silly sort of game here instead of discussing the topic in good faith. No pun. Feh to him or her.

BTW, I'm not out to prove to anyone that my religion is true. Can't be done. While folk might think me a fool for believing, I'd be a bigger fool if I thought I had proof. I've got too much doubt to be quite that foolish.

jason said...

I think it's safe for Jeffrey to tell us what he makes of Groothuis' words now, without skewing the results. Comments haven't even really addressed the topic for a couple of days now.

The commenters so far have done a pretty good job of laying out the possible interpretations of this intentionally vague religious talk. I agree that it has a fairly benign interpretation which can be found in many traditions--maybe even Stoicism. But coming from Groothuis, whose Jehovah god wears trousers and Old Spice and shows his divine authority, sovereignty, and holiness by putting the various "-ites" of the Old Testament to the sword, I doubt the benign interpretation was the intended one. I'm not just taking pot shots at insignificant quirks of the old testament. Calvinists of a theocratic mindset usually revel in just these aspects of their god, and pride themselves on worshipping "the God of the Bible" rather than some new-agey, touchy- feely god who actually wants the world to be a better place for humans.

The only thing I can really add to what others have said so far is that people who accept an authoritarian model for their own life generally feel no compunction in inflicting authoritarianism on others, whether they are willing or not. And it should come as no surprise that the people who are most enthusiastic about Yahweh's authority are those who see themselves as his duputies or vice-regents here on earth.

Miranda said...

Jason writes: "The only thing I can really add to what others have said so far is that people who accept an authoritarian model for their own life generally feel no compunction in inflicting authoritarianism on others, whether they are willing or not. "

Are you just making that up, or do you have data (more than 1000 data points, please) to back it up?

jason said...

Are you just making that up, or do you have data (more than 1000 data points, please) to back it up?


I haven't conducted a survey, if that's what you are asking. But some examples of this principle in action are: 1) Violent supression of protestors in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The religious leaders gave statements warning that disobedience to the regime was disobedience to Allah. 2) The abusive treatment of Irish children in Catholic boarding schools. Of course, we shouldn't feel too bad for those kids since, as Bill Donohue kindly pointed out, many of them were miscreants. Presumably, they needed to be roughed up a little. 3) If you lived in Geneva in the 1540's, you'd have been well advised not to go around busting John Calvin's balls. You might end up as a reluctant participant in a rather large public weenie roast. But then, I did learn from reading some Christian apologist's short hagiography of Calvin (I can't remember the author, but it was enthusiastically endorsed by D. James Kennedy...must have been a fellow Presbyterian) that Calvin asked that Servetus be decapitated rather than burned alive. So for a guy who would put you to death for disagreeing with him in public, Calvin was something of a humanitarian.

Of course, these are only evidences that people who accept authoritarianism for themselves often impose it on others. I haven't shown that they feel no uneasiness about it. To that end, I offer two little anecdotal bits.

Dr. David Jeremiah, a very popular Baptist minister with a TV program called Turning Point, gave a series of lessons on the book of Judges. In one of them he talked about how YHWH ordered Joshua to exterminate one of those groups of "-ites". This was to be a total extermination, unlike the ones where God said, "you can keep the virgins for yourselves, boys." Dr. Jeremiah noted that in today's politically correct culture, that measure seems a little harsh. But he reassured his listeners that because God had ordered it, it was just. Dr. Jeremiah then went on to say something like, "Is there any doubt that we Christians are in the same situation today? Would that we had a Joshua!"

And then there's this little gem from Paul Weyrich:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GBAsFwPglw

snafu said...

Well, call me an emotionless unthinking atheist, but I find the first sentence baffling. I've never felt I've gained control *of myself* by submitting to a higher power. The closest I can imagine is gaining control over an illness by allowing a doctor to tell me which pills to pop. But that's not what it states.

As I read on, I'm close to giving up as I'm lost in ill-defined terms. What are higher, equal and lower things supposed to be? On the Christian view, God, humans and animals respectively?

Even then, it still seems highly likely that he has a presupposition of what the "hierarchy" is, and anything that skews that brings chaos into the world by definition. Somehow I doubt that I would agree with him even if there were detail on what this vague chaos-ness entails.

snafu said...

aw shucks, I read too quickly and didn't realise you only wanted Christian contributions. Pls delete my comment - sorry.

tempuser said...

Part I of II
What do I make of this statement? I think it is ambiguous. As a Christian (putting on my theology goggles here) it is a statement that lacks boldness and clarity. I would never expect to hear a Calvin or Martin Luther speak in such a vague, esoteric manner. This is the kind of statement I would expect to hear in a "Church of Generic Theology" presented by a lukewarm pew-warmer who lacks conviction, whose thinking is all metaphor and allegory shrouded in wispy gray notions.

I take the statement to mean "the more you submit yourself to higher authority the more control you will have over yourself which will enable you to find your place and purpose in the world which in turn prevents chaos --the main source of harm (wounding) to the earth.

"The more we submit to the higher, the more control we have over ourselves"

I agree with this part of the statement to a degree. The part I would question is, does 100% submission equal 100% control of oneself? I doubt it. With human behaviour nothing ever seems to be 100% and there are always exceptions to the rule.

Is this part true? Yeah, I can say it is. Generally. It seems generally true that people who submit to a higher authority "police" themselves. Coupled with law-enforcement and government, such people tend not to commit acts of chaos, being restrained by their internal discipline and the external threat of prosecution, peer disfavour, loss of respect, and other factors.

The reason I think this part is true is because it is observed that submitting to a higher authority than ourselves allows us to control ourselves (self policing) but aren't we in reality not controlling ourselves but allowing "the higher" to control us by surrendering some of our autonomy? In religion, we take what "the higher" has said (usually through a prophet or holy book) on how we should control ourselves (don't murder, for instance) and modify our behaviour accordingly. Often our control of ourselves is out of fear of punishment (hellfire) but it ought to be, as Jesus taught, out of love and respect for our neighbour.

As a Christian I would not use this as a proselytising tool, "you should submit to God because you'll be able to control yourself better and you'll make the world less chaotic", because such a statement is a general truth. It can be seen around the world that people who submit to "the higher" allow themselves to be controlled by that "higher" be it God, Allah, government, or an ideal like chivalry, and such submission allows for a form of order that restricts chaos in a society.

However, submitting to "the higher" does not guarantee you won't lose control and commit an act of chaos. Submission cannot negate stress on the human nervous system, mental illness, drugs and alcohol in the bloodstream, or a strong emotion like being madly in love. This is because submission to "the higher" is self-imposed usually bound only by our willpower, or by a support group (church) egging you on to keep on submitting (and in many cases keep on sending in the money!) In the case of Islam, submission isn't voluntary but such submission has resulted in a society, although depressing, that controls itself, mainly out fear seemingly.

tempuser said...

Part II of II
"...and the more we find our place with that which is equal to us and with that which is lower. Otherwise, we botch the hierarchy and bring (even more) chaos into this wounded world."

I would not proselytise with this part of the statement either because such submission to "the higher" is not restricted to just humans. In nature we see pecking orders such as in chickens who submit to "the higher" so they they control themselves and don't peck each other to death. We see it with worker ants submitting to a queen, and with alpha dogs nipping at lower rank dogs in the pack to keep order.

My first thought upon reading this part of the statement was that a 19th century British monarchist or Indian caste proponent would heartily agree: "stay in your own class or lower which is your place in society, don't even dare think to rise above your station --be a good doggie and stay in your place where God put you!"

Should you question a "higher up" about place in the hierarchy you get a mumbling treatise about how it would tear down society if you try to break upwards thus making this rotten, sinful, smutty world all the worse. Stay in your place!

It is also rather vague, similar to the gunk spewed from the likes of Bubba Free John/Adi Da Samraj where concepts are capitalised and sound "cool, man" but the meaning remains obscure.

These are my thoughts on it as a Christian.

Katie said...

I was raised Christian but now just believe in a general "higher power", no specific religion.
I like the first sentence because I think it is important to realize that some things we have no control over- and that it is important to accept that rather than dwelling on what we cannot change. The second part about hierarchy- well, I don't think that life has as neatly organized of a hierarchy as he seems to think.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Katie said...
I was raised Christian but now just believe in a general "higher power", no specific religion.

Well done!
Indeed, it is very important (and quite elementary in fact!) to realize that most people who are Christians (or, say, Muslims) are not because they chose it, but because they were told so, directly or indirectly, by their parents or their environment. Religion is, simply, a (convenient) man-made concept. Well-done for escaping from something that was imposed upon you.

I like the first sentence because I think it is important to realize that some things we have no control over- and that it is important to accept that rather than dwelling on what we cannot change.
Now this is a very dangerous attitude. Since you don't know what this higher entity is, it is quite possible that you may be fooled and act irrationally. Scientists dwell all the time on things they cannot change, the origin of the Universe, say. Why do they do that? Should they rather submit to the fact that they will never be able to change a black hole and therefore never study it?

James Sweet said...

Also not a Christian, but I just want to mention, I sort of have this idea that the aspect of religion mentioned here, that of submission, is the only part of the whole shebang where Marx might have been right in characterizing it as "the opiate of the masses." It does seem that submission to an invisible higher power really does make a lot of people feel better. At what cost, we must ask, of course, but at least here it seems analogous to an opiate.

The rest of religion, Marx was way off. Most of religion is more like a violent beating of the masses than an opiate..

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

James Sweet said...The rest of religion, Marx was way off. Most of religion is more like a violent beating of the masses than an opiate..

It depends whose point of view you adopt:

From the point of view of the "faithful ones", or "believers", religion is an opium. Submission to a deity makes them feel good. Most likely, this is a biological need (c.f. addiction).

From the point of view of those who control religion (popes, priests, imams, rabbis, mobads, gurus, shamans, etc.) religion is beating of the masses; in other words, a convenient way to control them.