"If a man's imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams." (Desert Solitaire, p. 221)
From alt.atheism.moderated

In fact, before I decided to call myself an atheist, I was some form of "omni-believer" with a Christian slant (having been raised as a Christian). It was a sort of "transitional phase" from theist to atheist.

And even now, when I look at what's good about religions, it seems to me that culling the wheat from the chaff in all the major religions can be fruitful; much thinking has been done about human life and morality, and there's no reason to dismiss a good idea just because it comes from a theist.

What disconcerts me, personally, about "omni-believers" who really "believe," is the following:
They still tend to view the material world, the universe, humans, and all that is around us as "fallen" or "inferior" in some way. That is, they still want there to be a "transcendant reality" in order to provide them with comfort and warm fuzzies. Joseph Campbell, for example, much of whose work I admire and like, says "pity the person with no invisible means of support." I believe he means, by this, "faith," or "belief in transcendent reality." But why do we need, or want his pity? As far as I'm concerned, he and his ilk can keep their pity to themselves.

This viewpoint seems to me to be, somewhat pardoxically, lacking in compassion and imagination. I've been reading Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. In the first chapter, Sagan describes a conversation with a cab driver who wants to believe in Atlantis and astrology. As Sagan debunks these myths, one by one, he can sense the cab driver's disappointment. Then he writes: "And yet there's so much in real science that's equally exciting, more mysterious, a greater intellectual challenge--as well as being a lot closer to the truth. Did he know about the molecular building blocks of life sitting out there in the cold, tenuous gas between the stars? Had he heard of the footprints of our ancestors found in 4-million-year-old volcanic ash? What about the Himalayas when India went crashing into Asia? Or how viruses, built like hypodermic syringes, slip their DNA past the host orgnism's defenses and subvert the reproductive machinery of cells; or the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence; or the newly discovered ancient civilization of Ebla that advertised the virtues of Ebla beer? No, he hadn't heard. Nor did he know, even vaguely, about quantum indeterminacy, and he recognized DNA only as three frequently linked capital letters."

To me, the "omni-believers" are like the cab driver: trading the real, and sometimes bizarre, often inexplicable, wonders of the natural world for anthropomorphic myths of human morality and "sin". They make human beings, their petty thoughts and desires, the measure of all things, and then castigate and belittle the material world for the limits they themselves have given it, claiming that there "has to be something more."

a response to the Joseph Campbell interpretation in the above


Book Reviews
More Reviews
Some More
Other
Connections
anthropology
astronomy
biography
ecology/nature
evolution
history
history of science
mind
mythology
parenting/kids
philosophy
physics
popular science
religion
science fiction
Home
other
discussion list
quotations
what's new
email
backlinks
link here
mirror
search