Sitting in Tomas’ black leather chair in the attic “penthouse.” Just got finished reading the newest post to dragonfly by a woman named Kristen. I am struggling to remember her, though, oddly, the picture of her and Thomas is taken in front of our house in Little Falls. Her reference to her grandfather from Philadelphia rings a bell, though vaguely.
Rambling off on a tangent–that house had a lot going for it. There was the stone chimney. (Though there is a fireplace, it was brick, not stone.) The window over her left shoulder is where we’d view the funeral home across the street while sitting that the breakfast table in the kitchen.
The tree that they are standing by, an ash, I believe, and three beautiful pines and the lilac hedge were all cut down by the people that bought the house from us.
Looks like spring. The tulips are just coming up, and the window flower boxes aren’t out yet. Not sure which year. We were there from 1994 to 1998.
I was just thinking about that–parallels–in this case with my parents. Their first house was for about four years in the early 1950s. Then they moved to North Broad Street, where I lived, infancy to age 14. They were there for almost twenty years. The pictured house of ours in Little Falls would then be equivalent to their first, and where we live now equivalent to Broad Street. We are in year eight.
Madeline asked me yesterday about getting a myspace.com account. She apparently has several friends that have such accounts. I looked at some of those sites over her shoulder as she was showing them to me. I was appalled. Pretty sleazy pictures. She didn’t see the problem. Later, I sat down and looked through myspace.com’s documentation, and they make clear that they don’t want anyone under 14 joining.
Madeline just came up a few minutes ago, saying that she had waited long enough, and that she was going to go ahead and create an account. Not so fast, I said. Boy was she mad. We’ll see how this goes. Not well, I am expecting.
Also just got done reading a bit about “peak oil” posted on deepblade. On the one hand, I feel like I have already lived through many such catastrophes. On the other, I am such that thing will get much worse. If fact, that is a fear–if I am having trouble dealing now, how about when things get much worse, as they surely will?
The following extended entry section is the interview with Daniel Bennett from last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. I feel like I have to be able to hold both his
Certainly the idea of a God that can answer prayers and whom you can talk to, and who intervenes in the world–that’s a hopeless idea. There is no such thing.
Q: How could you, as a longtime professor of philosophy at Tufts University, write a book that promotes the idea that religious devotion is a function of biology? Why would you hold a scientist’s microscope to something as intangible as belief?
I don’t know about you, but I find St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s pretty physical.
But your new book, “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” is not about cathedrals. It’s about religious belief, which cannot be dissected in a lab as if it were a disease.
That itself is a scientific claim, and I think it is false. Belief can be explained in much the way that cancer can. I think the time has come to shed our taboo that says, “Oh, let’s just tiptoe by this, we don’t have to study this.” People think they know a lot about religion. But they don’t know.
So what can you tell us about God?
Certainly the idea of a God that can answer prayers and whom you can talk to, and who intervenes in the world – that’s a hopeless idea. There is no such thing. Yet faith, by definition, means believing in something whose existence cannot be proved scientifically. If we knew for sure that God existed, it would not require a leap of faith to believe in him.
Isn’t it interesting that you want to take that leap? Why do you want to take that leap? Why does our craving for God persist? It may be that we need it for something. It may be that we don’t need it, and it is left over from something that we used to be. There are lots of biological possibilities.
Didn’t religion spring up in its earliest forms in connection with the weather, the desire to make sense of rain and lightning?
We have a built-in, very potent hair-trigger tendency to find agency in things that are not agents, like snow falling off the roof. There was so much infant mortality in the past, which must have played a large role in encouraging people to believe in an afterlife. When a person dies, we can’t just turn that off. We go on thinking about that person as if that person were still alive. Our inability to turn off our people-seer and our people-hearer naturally turns into our hallucinations of ghosts, our sense that they are still with us. But they are still with us, through the process of memory. These aren’t just memories. I take it you do not subscribe to the idea of an everlasting soul, which is part of almost every religion.
Ugh. I certainly don’t believe in the soul as an enduring entity. Our brains are made of neurons, and nothing else. Nerve cells are very complicated mechanical systems. You take enough of those, and you put them together, and you get a soul.
That strikes me as a very reductive and uninteresting approach to religious feeling.
Love can be studied scientifically, too.
But what’s the point of that? Wouldn’t it be more worthwhile to spend your time and research money looking for a cure for AIDS?
How about if we study hatred and fear? Don’t you think that would be worthwhile?
Traditionally, evolutionary biologists like Stephen Jay Gould insisted on keeping a separation between hard science and less knowable realms like religion.
He was the evolutionist laureate of the U.S., and everybody got their Darwin from Steve. The trouble was he gave a rather biased view of evolution. He called me a Darwinian fundamentalist.
Which I imagine was his idea of a put-down, since he thought evolutionists should not apply their theories to religion.
Churches make a great show about the creed, but they don’t really care. A lot of the evangelicals don’t really care what you believe as long as you say the right thing and do the right thing and put a lot of money in the collection box.
I take it you are not a churchgoer.
No, not really. Sometimes I go to church for the music.
Yes, the church gave us Bach, in addition to some fairly spectacular architecture and painting.
Churches have given us great treasures. Whether that pays for the harm they have done is another matter.