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April 16, 2009

The god who makes you happy

Michael Gerson, writing of a new book on neuroscience's exploration of religion:

"How God Changes Your Brain" has many revelations -- and a few limitations. In a practical, how-to tone, it predicts "an epiphany that can improve the inner quality of your life. For most Americans, that is what spirituality is about." But if this is what spirituality is all about, it isn't about very much. Mature faith sometimes involves self-sacrifice, not self-actualization; anguish, not comfort. If the primary goal of religion is escape or contentment, there are other, even more practical methods to consider. "I didn't go to religion to make me happy," said C.S. Lewis, "I always knew a bottle of port would do that."

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I actually find it amazingly comforting to know that I do not have to be happy in my faith.

Jason Taylor

...the enemy is anger, hostility, intolerance, separatism, extreme idealism, and prejudicial fear"

Oh really? So let's see. We should be hostile to hostility as that is the enemy and one is presumably hostile toward one's enemy.

The enemy is "separatism"-which includes Amish and Hasidim and other such grievious threats.

Intolerance is the enemy, except tolerance as generally interpreted is something not given to an enemy(which is why tolerance should be interpreted differently).

Prejudicial Fear is an enemy which means we should get rid of our Prejudicial Fear of walking by the waterfront at night carrying a bag of twenty-dollar bills.

Extreme Idealism is an enemy:

we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight Extreme Idealism in France, we shall fight Extreme Idealism on the seas and oceans, we shall fight Extreme Idealism with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island against Extreme Idealism, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight Extrem Idealism on the beaches, we shall fight Extreme Idealism on the landing grounds, we shall fight Extreme Idealism in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight Extreme Idealism in the hills; we shall never surrender to Extreme Idealism.

You really need to work on this one Mr Gerson.

Robert Westafer

Brain Identity

Suppose we have all been misled by language invented by our predecessors and the simple truth turns out to be that we are not “human beings” or “persons” but rather human brains that are intimately connected to all the organs and other parts of the particular human body in which we reside.
What if the word “person” and the “personal pronouns” we commonly use such as “I”, “me”, “we”, “you”, etc. are only linguistic inventions of human brains that for one reason or another were unable to identify themselves correctly as actually being human brains?
It can be shown that a human brain has the ability to create and use spoken and written language through the use of certain areas of cerebral cortex located usually its left hemisphere. Strokes or other damage in these areas cause impairment or loss of a human brain’s ability to produce and understand spoken and written language. Precisely which linguistic abilities are impaired or lost in any given instance and to what degree depends upon the exact location and extent of the brain damage.
We know that every human brain and body has been built from a new combination of parental DNA that resulted from the union of a particular egg and a particular sperm which formed a single new cell; and over about a nine month period the information stored in the DNA inside that first new cell allowed it to divide and grow into trillions of new cells of various types, all of which were organized into the complexity of nature that in our linguistic simplicity we refer to as a newborn baby.
We also know that having been built by DNA, each brain and body – beginning even during the building process and continuing ever after - has been continually modified by an enormous amount of environmental variables and experience which includes the present moment.
Suppose for the sake of argument that I actually am a human brain that is continuous with a spinal cord and connected through nerves to all the organs and other parts of the body in which I reside. Such an identity may take a bit of time getting used to. But if that is my true identity, does that fact automatically mean that it is impossible for anything else to exist that is not made of atoms and molecules like I am? Or is it possible that something might exist that may be many orders of magnitude more intelligent and powerful than I am? Is it possible that something might exist that is in some way related to the awesome complexity of nature that is evident in the cosmos and can be seen throughout the living world on our planet and of which I am a part? Is that something that human brains might choose to call a “Supernatural Power”, or perhaps “God”?
I am thrilled to be able to understand the basics of what I am and how I came into existence. But having such an understanding does not somehow automatically enlighten me as to the nature of everything else that may or may not exist.
If I am only linguistically a “human being” or a “person” - a fictional entity invented by my predecessors that does not exist except in language, and that can be theoretically thought of as perhaps “owning” a brain and a body - but in reality I am actually a particular human brain that has been built by my DNA and modified by a ton of experience and that is intimately connected to and living within a particular human body, my body, then the brain inside my head – the brain that thinks precisely what I think, feels exactly what I feel, remembers everything that I remember, knows what I know, and has experienced everything that I have experienced - that brain located behind my forehead and inside my skull cannot be called “my brain”, as if I am somehow a separate entity that “owns” that brain, because that brain is, in fact, “me”.

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