Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, May 30, 2016

Atheist Architecture

I came across this article and found it quite interesting. It's neat to see de Botton's ideas illustrated. Personally I quite enjoy the style, and would love to see this idea made a reality!
Also relevant is de Botton's plans to build his own atheist temple.
I've pasted the article below:

Bartlett School of Architecture student Kacper Chmielewski has developed a new style of architecture specifically for atheists, including a shrine to the oak tree (+ slideshow).
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape
Building on the philosophies of Alain de Botton, who in 2012 advocated Atheist temples for London, Chmielewski proposes a series of structures intended to inspire awe without any references to religion. He calls the project Atheistic Architecture.
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape
The designer claims that by 2040, less than one per cent of Britain's population will be a member of the Anglican Church. But there are still 55 churches in the City of London, which he believes have become wasted spaces – so he wants to replace them.
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape
"The institution of church has become a monument to the past, both in terms of the community and its architecture," Chmielewski explained.
"These beautiful temples are decreasingly used for spiritual reasons and are more often being converted into commercial coffee shops – a saddening waste of their potential."
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Oak landscape
"In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton writes about the need for a new typology for atheistic temples," the designer told Dezeen. "He perfectly describes a sense of nostalgia that I feel for religious architecture."
"This project is a response accommodating both the discourse between nostalgia for ecclesiastical beauty and the rejection of fallen religious doctrine."
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow transformation
Chmielewski's proposal centres around St Mary-Le-Bow, the historic church on Cheapside designed by Christopher Wren to replace a predecessor destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.
He proposes converting the building into what he describes as "an ever-evolving open cathedral" celebrating the life cycle of the oak tree. The aim is to create a building that incites awe through an awareness of the scale of nature and the universe.
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow transformation
"In today's world, society deprives atheists of places where they can submerse themselves in a moment of solitude, feel a part of something greater, or perhaps connect with nature and the universe," explained Chmielewski.
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
Celebration Hall
The structure would feature a facade made up of 39,999 sheets of marble with gold trims – referencing the many generations of humanity – as well as a roof terrace for quiet contemplation, and a celebration hall for events.
It would also house the headquarters and library for the British Humanist Association, a non-profit organisation that works on behalf of non-religious people.
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow window detail
Chmielewski's designs, laid out in a series of intricate drawings, intentionally draw on elements of Cubist architecture. Imagined on a city scale, he describes the new typology as "waging war with the previous system of values".
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
St Mary-Le-Bow gate transformation
"Atheistic architecture opposes religious hierarchy between a deity and its creations. It replaces it with scientific detailing, mimicking nature's incredible spread in infinite detail," he added.
Atheistic Typology by Kacper Chmielewski from the Bartlett School of Architecture
British Humanist Association Library
Atheistic Architecture was completed as part of the master programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. Chmielewski was part of Unit 12, which is led by tutors Jonathan Hill, Elizabeth Dow, Matthew Butcher, and which this year focussed on monuments and ruins within the city.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Miami Establishes Chair for Study of Atheism

With an increasing number of Americans leaving religion behind, theUniversity of Miami received a donation in late April from a wealthy atheist to endow what it says is the nation’s first academic chair “for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.”

The chair has been established after years of discussion with a $2.2 million donation from Louis J. Appignani, a retired businessman and former president and chairman of the modeling school Barbizon International, who has given grants to many humanist and secular causes — though this is his largest so far. The university, which has not yet publicly announced the new chair, will appoint a committee of faculty members to conduct a search for a scholar to fill the position.

“I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists,” said Mr. Appignani, who is 83 and lives in Florida. “So this is a step in that direction, to make atheism legitimate.”

Religion departments and professors of religious studies are a standard feature at most colleges and universities, many originally founded by ministers and churches. The study of atheism and secularism is only now starting to emerge as an accepted academic field, scholars say, with its own journal, conferences, course offerings and, now, an endowed chair.

“I think it’s a very bold step of the University of Miami, and I hope there will be others,” said Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and atheist luminary who is the author of “The God Delusion.”

“It’s enormously important to shake off the shackles of religion from the study of morality,” Mr. Dawkins said in a telephone interview from his home in Britain.

The percentage of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has risen rapidly in a short time, to 23 percent of the population in 2014, up from 16 percent in 2007, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. Younger people are even less religious, with 35 percent of millennials saying they identify as atheist, agnostic or with no religion in particular.

Secular Americans are beginning to organize themselves politically. Next month, nonbelievers are headed to Washington to lobby Congress and hold a “Reason Rally” at the Lincoln Memorial to showcase their numbers and promote the separation of church and state.

With atheists still often stigmatized and disparaged in this country, it took some persuading for the University of Miami to agree to create a chair with the word “atheism” in the title, according to Harvey Siegel, a professor of philosophy who has helped to broker the arrangement. He said that more than 15 years ago, when he was chairman of the philosophy department, he and Mr. Appignani first began discussing the idea for a chair to study atheism and secularism.

“There was great reluctance on the part of the university to have an endowed chair with the word ‘atheism’ in the name, and that was a deal-breaker for Lou,” Mr. Siegel said. “He wasn’t going to do it unless it had the word atheism in it.”

The university had reason to be cautious, Thomas J. LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost, said in an interview.

“We didn’t want anyone to misunderstand and think that this was to be an advocacy position for someone who is an atheist,” he said. “Our religion department isn’t taking an advocacy position when it teaches about Catholicism or Islam. Similarly, we’re not taking an advocacy position when we teach about atheism or secular ethics.”

Asked whether he anticipated any backlash, Mr. LeBlanc said: “This is an area where people can get overly excited if they don’t actually look carefully at what’s happening. The idea that there are nondeity approaches to explaining our surroundings is not controversial in the academy.”

Mr. Appignani said he rejected a last-minute proposal from a dean to call it a chair in “philosophical naturalism.” Instead, he and the university leaders worked out the title, broadening the scope by including humanism and secular ethics.

Mr. Appignani was raised a Roman Catholic in the Bronx by Italian immigrant parents. His father was a clothing presser in the garment district. He attended Catholic schools and said he became a nonbeliever at the City College of New York when he discovered the work of Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and Nobel Prize winner.

With the money he made from the Barbizon school, he said, he created the foundation that has given grants to groups like the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America, and the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

Over the years, Mr. Appignani has sponsored two public lectures by Mr. Dawkins at the University of Miami. The discussions about a chair gained momentum last year with the arrival of a new university president, Julio Frenk, Mr. Siegel said.

Dr. Frenk announced that he intended to recruit new talent by creating 100 new chairs in time for the university’s centennial anniversary, in 2025, said Margot S. Winick, an assistant vice president at the university. The chair in atheism is the fifth he has added so far, she said.

Pitzer College, a liberal arts school in Southern California with about 1,000 students, became the first to begin a program and major in secular studies five years ago. Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist of religion who founded the program, said it now offered four courses on secularism of its own and many others by the six professors associated with the department. Only two students have chosen to major in secular studies, he said, but the courses are popular. For its “Secularism and Skepticism” class last year, he turned away 25 students, more than the 22 he was able to admit.

Scholars have formed a “Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network,” which is holding its fourth conference this summer in Zurich. A peer-reviewed journal, “Secularism and Nonreligion,” is now up and running.

“There is a real need for secular studies,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “As rates of irreligion continue to rise, not only here in the U.S.A. but all over the world, we need to understand secular people, secular culture, and secularism as a political and ideological force.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hitch's Faith

In case you were worried about this (I wasn't):
To the Editor:
Re “Famous Atheist’s Non-Faith Is Questioned in Friend’s Book,” by Mark Oppenheimer (Beliefs column, May 14):
I knew Christopher Hitchens. For more than 20 years he was my close friend. There is simply no truth to the rumor that he was “shaky in his atheism” toward the end of his tragically short life.
That on one occasion he enjoyed reading St. John’s Gospel aloud to entertain himself and a Christian travel companion on a long drive, as reported in the column, is scarcely a surprise. Christopher had a muscular mind and a beautiful, sonorous voice, and the final Gospel resonates wonderfully in English.
In no way was he “contemplating conversion.”
Christopher was an omnivore, interested in everything, including — why not? — the most poetic of the Gospels. After all, it is included in one of the great books of the Western world.
The evangelical author Larry Alex Taunton’s allegation is at best a well-meant misunderstanding, a result of wishful thinking, and at worst an effort to cast doubt on Hitch’s core convictions.
Mr. Hitchens faced death bravely, his atheism intact. Unlike Voltaire, he never buckled.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Perspectives from the Theist in the Atheist Class"

Posted for Austin Gober (but you're not the only one)...

I thought long and hard as to what I should discuss in my final report to our class. I considered a wide breadth of topics. However, where I ended up was deciding to share some of my thoughts on this unique experience both the things that I learned, the things that challenged me, and my closing thoughts. As I embarked on this journey at the beginning of the semester, I thought I had a reasonable expectation of the thoughts and challenges that I would face being the Christian in the atheism philosophy class. I thought I would hear the classic problem of evil argument and that I could easily handle that with the free will response. I imagined a simple first-cause argument to sway those entrenched in an atheist position. But what I actually encountered was something quite different. I heard many stories of the pain that had been inflicted by the church either personally to you or to your friends. I heard descriptions of strange "Christian" teachings that would cause any logical person to have doubts. I felt the confusion surrounding the big questions of why does our world look like this and why do Christians act like that. I suddenly found myself not just having to deal with the typical big questions in the religious debate but also I was having to answer for all of those hurts and all of those absurd positions. I felt as though I was being looked at not for what I was saying but as a epresentative of all the awful things associated with religion. I felt isolated and attacked for much of the semester. However, I don’t hold ill regard towards anyone for that. I don’t believe that it was anyone's intention to cause their distaste for the very things that cause them skepticism towards the faith. I found myself in this isolation and defense wondering "Is this the feeling that they have in their homes, schools, and communities?" After all, it is no secret that in this culture many of the ideas expressed in our books and discussions would be vehemently disregarded and those that espoused them would be treated roughly. It was an eye opening thought. I had caught a glimpse of what it was like to be surrounded by people that you entirely disagreed with on life's most important topics and feeling like the conversation was going nowhere but everything was deeply personal. I thought I had a decent idea of that as my older sister is agnostic and I had seen her encounter some of these things. However, suddenly finding myself in that role was entirely different. So I would like to say that I admire you all for standing up for your ideas and dealing with the pains of our culture.

I would like to apologize for anything that has been said or done to you in the name of faith that has been explicitly harmful especially if I have done any of that. I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to talk openly about life's deepest questions and even though at times things may have gotten heated on both sides I am glad to have experienced these discussions with you all. I would like to thank you for challenging me to refine and consider ideas as we all try to figure out this thing called life. At the end of the day, yes, I do definitely disagree with the atheist position on many subjects. I may not like the things that are said. But I do not hate the person saying them. We are all brothers and sisters of the same race. The human race. Regardless of whether or not you believe in the same deity or even a deity at all, we still have that unifying factor of humanity. I am grateful for the opportunity to have spent the semester learning different ideas but most importantly I am grateful for spending the semester seeing how these ideas impact and shape our bond and I hope that in the future these discussions can continue and these bonds can grow amongst each other.
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My last post remaining there are some things I'd like to address in my final words to you all. I would like to respond to some of the main arguments that I've heard this semester and then pose some thoughts or questions about the atheist positions we have heard.

Almost as many times as I have had a first-cause discussion, the reply I have heard is that ne popularized by Bertrand Russell: "Who made God?". To be completely honest, that reply has always frustrated me. Not because I have found it to poke holes in my position but quite the opposite. The reply seems to me like gotchya phrasing lacking depth that induces unwarranted reactions. For me, the argument from the first cause has always been just that – discussing an uncaused cause that precedes the system of cause and effect that we currently understand the world to operate under. When one uses the rebuttal of who created God, they have misrepresented the argument. To question what created God recasts His position as uncaused or first cause. Therefore one is completely shifting the argument outside of the argument from the first cause. The real debate within the argument from the first cause should be understood as comparison of the merits of God vs the universe to fulfill that role. Therefore, the rebuttal of what created God has never given me intellectual pause. A better rebuttal would be, "well, why can't the universe fulfill that role?". That is an entirely different argument for which I certainly have a response but I have other concerns to address in this limited space.

The Euthyphro dilemma
You all know this dilemma. You all know the classical Christian responses that invoke God's goodness as the solution. However, for me, I go one step further in my response. I would agree that the dilemma seems to put the theist in a difficult position to say the least. Arbitrary morality or a law that is higher than God. Not a great choice to make. The solution is there must be some eternal guiding force at play that directs morality. That guiding force to me is not just simply God's goodness but specifically the eternal love relationship that exists in the Trinitarian God.

This love is the guiding force of God; thus it is the simplest explanation for the basis of morality. Jesus himself summarizes the entire law into love the Lord Your God with all your heart and mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. When I ponder everything: why did God create us and so much more the guiding principle for me has to be understood as love. Thus the solution to the dilemma is that moral laws of God have developed out of this guiding principle of love that has been eternally existent within the Trinitarian God.

Abraham's sacrifice
I must admit. Out of everything in this class that has caused me to struggle it is this subject that has caused me the most struggle. I definitely wrestled with this question/argument for a while. I talked to many people and read a lot of things until I reached a satisfactory answer. The complaint is that God demands that Abraham sacrifice his beloved son Isaac and in doing so forces Abraham to lose all semblance of moral agency. He either obeys God who hands down the rules and does something we would reason to be wrong or he can disobey God to avoid the act of killing his son. I agree. At first it seems like an impossible situation not just for Abraham but also for the believer that realizes the implications of the situation. I think the answer lies in a fuller, more comprehensive understanding of the situation. In Genesis 17 & 21, God has promised to Abraham that he will have many descendants through Isaac. Abraham also knows the Lord to be a trustworthy, good God. So when the Lord tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac,

Abraham must know that the situation is not as simple as just killing Isaac. Abraham is walking in faith that the God he knows and trusts has promised good through Isaac. So when he sets out on his task it is not just a situation of two choices, it is trusting the Lord in it knowing that He has it taken care of. Hebrews 11 discusses Abraham's faith and in verse 19 states that Abraham even trusted God to raise Isaac from the dead. Simply Abraham was trusting God that it would work out according to the goodness of God's nature and he followed God through the whole path.

My Questions and Thoughts on Atheist Positions
In the case of morality, it seems to me that the atheist is put in a very difficult position. If they choose to believe in an objective morality, they must explain how their naturalist position can contain an objective morality. If they choose the subjective morality they must say that nothing is inherently wrong thus they lose the ability to criticize and compare other moralities with their own. Of course the atheist position does not necessitate the ability to compare moralities but realistically it does pose problems for life.

On the subject of choosing naturalism, a strict naturalist view abhorrently refusing belief in anything supernatural to me seems illogical. For instance, if all the world's knowledge wer a napkin and the atheist were to put the amount of knowledge they have on that napkin surely their knowledge would not encapsulate the entirety of the napkin. That metaphor shows the folly of supposing that the naturalist point of view holds all potential knowledge thus eliminating the possibility of any supernatural occurrence. I see no rational or logical reason to believe that nonbelief of supernatural occurrences is a superior position.

Most importantly I rest my stance on the person of Jesus. The atheist is given two options are the front of the discussion with each leading to more paths later. The first of the dilemmas is on the existence of the historical Jesus. In spite of Russell's statement that "it is very doubtful whether the historical Jesus existed at all," the historical records point powerfully to not only his life but also his death by crucifixion. The atheist is left having to come up with a response for many things: the evidence for the empty tomb, why did the disciples profess and die for the statement of the risen Jesus, Paul's conversion, James conversion, the change of the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, etc. Those issues for the atheist remain whether or not they agree that Jesus made claims of divinity.

All in all I have thoroughly enjoyed this class. I would love to have further discussions and I thank you all for putting up with me and furthering my thoughts on many subjects.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What Is Morality? #2

Part 2 of my Morality post:

Now that we’ve cleared the air on what morality is, and the two viewpoints on it that are prevelant in our modern day society, let’s discuss what my view on the subject is. To begin explaining my view, I want to start with the idea that while there are aspects of both schools of thought that may be correct in their own way, neither are completely correct. Let’s begin with the Friedrich Nietzsche quote from earlier: “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.” While this sounds great on paper, when it’s applied it may not be so great to the Moral Relativist. Let’s take for example two people standing at a bus stop. One of their ways of doing things is just to simply push the other in front of a moving bus. This may be “correct” to him, but is it correct to the other person? Well obviously not. While the counter argument of “Well it’s correct to him and thats the core of moral relativism” could be used here, we need to look at what MOST people would consider correct. I would wager my life savings that most people do not view pushing another person in front of a bus as morally correct, meaning that the person that thinks this is ok probably has a very unnatural way of thinking. So this shows that this form of moral relativism is not correct as there needs to be a general consensus for something to be deemed correct. Back again to the quote from Kreeft: “... first of all that absolute moral law exists not to minimize, but to maximize human happiness, and therefore it is maximally loving and compassionate, like labels, or roadmaps. You're not happy if you eat poison or drive off a cliff.” His argument can be countered with the idea that while it may not be enjoyable to most people to drive off a cliff, if someone does enjoy that action, and doesn’t affect anyone else, who are we to say that they are morally lacking? So this is where we land on my view.
I think that morality is a cross between both of these thought processes but in a complicated way. When we look at morality, we need to look at it in a geographical sense, and when we do this, we can see both relative and absolute morality at work. If you look at the middle east, for example, we see a repression of women in their society. While we may view this as morally wrong in our society, they sure don’t. But when we look within the region, we see that as an absolute morality. So morality can, and should be, looked at from a geographical standpoint. Certain regions of the world have more uniform social moral standards that make that region more uniform, and thus creating absolute morality for the area, but looking from a grand scheme of things, we may see it as relative morality. So I guess I could end my post by saying that morality can be viewed as both relative and absolute, it just all depends on the eye of the onlooker.

First Post: http://athphil.blogspot.com/2016/05/what-is-morality-part-1.html

Blog Report 2 - What I Gained From This Course

Click here to check out my first blog report, Skeptics over Evil.

Before enrolling in this course, I was obviously ignorant to the true meaning of atheism. I had allowed stereotypical views of our society to influence my opinion without truly understanding the concept on my own. For me, society had defined atheism as a religion of “evil” and as a worship of the fallen angel named Lucifer, or better known as the devil, which is somewhat embarrassing for me to admit to my ignorance on the subject. Like I have mentioned a few times over the course of the semester though, I have never been forced to practice or study any type of religion, so I have been utterly clueless for twenty-one years about religion as a whole.

I learned that atheism is nowhere near as bad as how it had been portrayed to me through the media and other individual’s opinions over the years, and that it honestly should not be considered a religion whatsoever. Religion is defined as the faith in God(s) or supernatural forces being at work in our universe, where atheism is the disbelief of it all. What should atheism truly be considered from this standpoint? I’ve considered the thought of atheism being labeled as a “group” of individuals instead of a “religion.” For example, feminism relates to atheism because of the fact that they are both their own types of groups of individuals who have the same ideas or ways of thinking in those specific groups.

This semester opened my mind up to many ideas in order to help shape my future beliefs, but I still have not been able to identify myself as any type of religion, and I don’t think I plan on doing so. Why? Well, because I have no idea what I should believe. There are questions out there that have been unanswered that would be the ideal answers that would help me come to the conclusion. I am the type of individual that has to have proof in order to believe, even though my mind does wonder about the “what if” possibilities, I still have to have facts. The kinds of questions that bother me are in relation to, “If God is our creator then who created Him?” One way, my mind will say that ponder whether or not if these types of questions are beyond the capability of human understanding. Other ways question if maybe God is in the same position as us and has never met his creator because it is out of his own understanding as well and wants to portray himself as being the only one because we would not be able to prove him wrong for the time being anyhow. Then my mind wonders to whether or not if He is just made up, and it tends to go on for days, asking myself questions that I just cannot seem to find any answers or relief to, which is why I choose to label myself as unknown until a day when we may or may not be able to uncover any truths of how this universe came into existence.

What is Morality? Part 1


Pt 1:

The topic I wanted to discuss with the class in my blog post is the idea of morality. In my part one, I just want to introduce the idea as a whole, and expound on my view using this introduction in my second post. I touched on the subject in my mid term presentation, but I feel like I did not go into detail enough. Let’s begin with what morality is, or what the general consensus on it is anyways. The online dictionary Dictionary.com defines morality as “conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.” But the main question is one that we’ve created ourselves; is morality a relative idea or an absolute idea? What this does is create two schools of thought; Relative Morality and Absolute Morality. Relative morality subscribes to the idea that morality is a flexible idea that can change depending on circumstance, which makes it out to be a rather flimsy idea. Then on the other side of the spectrum we’ve got the idea of Absolute Morality. Absolute Morality revolves around the idea that morality is non changing; there are no factors that affect what is moral and what isn’t, essentially it is set in stone. While these ideas are polar opposites, they both have rather equal support from the masses. Some famous philosophers have weighed in on these concepts, and I want to bring up one notable one from each branch of thought. We’ll begin with Moral Relativism, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who had a very set in stone way of thinking when it came to morality. In an excerpt summing up the relative moral philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.” So a rather famous philosopher thought that morality was actually quite relative to the circumstances of one’s own belief. Another philosopher that comes to mind with Moral Relativism is Montaigne, who wrote quite extensively on it, even going as far as to say “each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice; for indeed it seems we have no other test of truth and reason than the example and pattern of the opinions and customs of the country we live in” (Montaigne, p. 152). When it comes to Moral Absolutism, there are also quite a few prominent philosophers that have backed it over the years, one that I’ve found that expresses his views in a clear and concise manner is Peter Kreeft, who wrote “... first of all that absolute moral law exists not to minimize, but to maximize human happiness, and therefore it is maximally loving and compassionate, like labels, or roadmaps. You're not happy if you eat poison or drive off a cliff.” He backs his idea to the fullest via examples of stuff we would all generally have one viewpoint about, for example, driving a car off a cliff or eating poison, and it seems to make for a solid argument.

Jason mendez blog post 2

Blog Post 2: The Doomsday Clock
Society would change if there was a doomsday clock, there is no way to avoid that, the issue when discussing it is how society would react. The obvious answer would be to panic, and to descend into anarchy. Is this necessarily how it would work? The biggest factor for whether or not the clock would work depends on one key factor, the time frame. If the countdown to the end of the world was a week, the world would react very differently if the clock was a month, or a day. Imagine cooking something in a microwave. If the instructions are to cook something for thirty seconds, most people will stay in the kitchen, and wait for the food to cook. If it were a minute, one will probably get something to eat said food with in that time. The more time you add, the more stuff people will do. They will get something to drink, set a place to eat, or even just waste time playing on their phones, or even leave the kitchen entirely to go do something else as the food cooks. The same basic principle can be applied.
If the doomsday clock was set to a very short time, people couldn’t do very much. As the clock increases, the more “free time” humanity has. If the clock began counting down, and it says that there is a year until the end of the world, there would be panic, but the anarchy wouldn’t happen, at least not immediately. The same scenario can be seen in schools. At the beginning of ones’ senior yeah of high school, they have their graduation date in the back of their mind, and they continue schooling as if it doesn’t matter. As the year progresses, their focus on their graduation grows more and more. As the graduation is right around the bend, that is all that their focus. As the time grows closer, nothing else matters in the lives of the senior. The day of graduation, the final day, is all that matters to this person. Once that is within reach of the person, they don’t care about anything else.
This same principle is very similar to how a doomsday clock would work. The closer the date, the less productive a society will be. There will be outliers, such as those that don’t believe it, and those that kill themselves at the mention of the end of the world. This same mentality will be present if there is an end of the world. If there was a real doomsday clock, there would be panic at the beginning, but depending on the time set out by it, there would be panic, and there would be rioting. If the clock was put far enough into the future, there would also be calm afterward. The calm before the storm for lack of a better term. If a doomsday clock were to appear, the people would panic, and the people would be fear, but if it’s long enough away, society would continue as to be expected.

Bibliotherapy Instead of the Bible Continued

One may be quick to regard the idea of bibliotherapy as a recent invention, but it has, in fact, been around since ancient times. Many ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Egyptians would utilize signage outside their libraries reading “healing for the soul.” While the idea of using books to help heal has been around practically forever, the word itself is a more recent invention which was coined in 1916 by a minister named Samuel Crothers. Two of the driving factors behind the development of bibliotherapy as we know it today were veterans and institutionalized mental health care. Veterans coming home from both World Wars dealt with an incredible amount of emotional pain and stress so they were often given reading materials to help them cope with the realities and horrors of war. More importantly, however, was the use of bibliotherapy in institutionalized mental health care due to the fact that in the middle of the last century it was becoming more decentralized. As out-patient care became more and more prominent, bibliotherapy programs were taken from the hospital and into communities.
There are many different ways to incorporate bibliotherapy into treatment. Both psychologists and philosophers who specialize in counseling philosophy can benefit their practices enormously from helping their patients find books that can help them work through certain issues they may be having. Bibliotherapy has also been adopted by many practitioners in the anti-psychiatry movement. They argue, much in the same way that Alain de Botton does, that we are medicalizing people and trying to treat them with medication that m

ay end up doing more harm than good. In fact, in recent years, the majority of research has shown that talk and other forms of therapy are often just as, if not more so, effective then medication. If the mental healthcare field decides to move away from the more chemically and biologically oriented treatment model that was popularized in the latter half of the last century, then it stands to reason that methods of treatment like bibliotherapy will have a very important place at the table.  Maybe one day we will see a world where going to a therapist for a mental health checkup is just as common as paying a visit to one’s general practitioner or dentist. If this became the case, it would be highly likely that teams of literary experts, such as those employed by institutions like The School of Life, would be able to collaborate to create a database of as many books as possible. Such a database could then be used by practitioners to both carefully and efficiently find the right book for their patients. It would be similar to the way we currently cross check symptoms by using diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-V or ICD. After an interview with the patient, a practitioner could establish a list of emotions felt, problems encountered, and other relevant biographical data. After simply entering the information into the database, the practitioner could generate a short list of books for the patient to look over in order to see if any of the recommended titles pique their interest. If such a system could be realized through the combination of efforts among the fields of philosophy, psychology, and library science, society as a whole would greatly benefit as each and every one of us would be able to face our problems, both external and internal, with a little help from the simple, human, act of reading.

If you would like to read more about bibliotherapy check out this links:

If you would like to read more about anti-psychiatry check out these books:

Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill by Robert Whitaker

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche by Ethan Watters

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Final Report 2: What Should A World Without Religion Look Like?

The world is becoming less religious every year. According to a survey of people in 57 countries around the world, the percentage of people who considered themselves to be religious fell from 77% in 2005 to 68% in 2011. According to a survey done in America, in 2007 78% of Americans considered themselves to be Christian and 16% considered themselves to be religiously unaffiliated. By 2014, 70% of Americans considered themselves to be Christian and almost 23% considered themselves to be religiously unaffiliated. Religion may not ever become extinct, but it is certainly heading towards being endangered.
What are we going to do in a world without religion? Will the world become a kinder, more intelligent place, or will it be left in shambles? Should we erase religion entirely, or should we try to keep parts of it and integrate it into modern society? These are the questions we are left with. They will need to be addressed in every facet of society, but for the sake of brevity, I will only address education and criminal justice.
The battle between church and state is, in America, most obvious in the public education system. As of 2013, 33% of Americans do not believe in evolution, and many of these people do not want it to be taught in public school. There is a similar war being waged over sex education, with many parents wanting abstinence-only education being taught instead of safe sex education (even though states in which abstinence-only education is taught have the highest teen pregnancy rates). Alain de Botton believed that secular education is lacking: “While it was at first hoped by Arnold, Mill and others that universities could deliver secular sermons that would tell us how to avoid bigotry and find helpful things to say when visiting ill people, these centres of learning have never offered the kind of guidance that churches have focused on, from a belief that academia should refrain from making any associations between cultural works and individual sorrows.” I, however, believe that without religion in the way, schools would finally be able to teach what has been scientifically proven to be true instead of catering to incredibly old and disproven ideas to avoid backlash, and this would result in a more intelligent populace. Classes teaching about morals (from a nonreligious point of view in which the center of morality was to never hurt others) could be offered, and cultural examples could be used to back up the lessons.
The criminal justice system is another area of society that would greatly benefit from a decline in religion. In America, the criminal justice system is based on punishment. When someone breaks the law, they go to prison for a certain amount of time in the hopes that while there, they will have some epiphany that causes them to change their ways and never break the law again. This system is absolutely not working. Within three years of release, 67.8% of prisoners are rearrested, and within five years of release, 76.6% are rearrested. Who could blame them for not reforming? 1 in 20 prisoners are raped or sexually assaulted (with 40% of transgender inmates being raped or sexually assaulted), and in 2012 there were 5.8 million violent crimes that were self-reported by inmates as taking place within US prisons. If you don’t behave, you get sent to solitary confinement, possibly for years, which is so horrible that it has been defined by the United Nations as torture. This system is clearly based on a religious system of punishment and reward. If you screw up, you deserve to be punished. Regardless of whether this satisfies people’s need for justice, it’s not working. So what system should be use instead? Finland has a prison system in which the gates are open, inmates are treated humanely, and their rooms resemble college dorm rooms as opposed to prison cells. A Finn inmate’s prison sentence is based on reform, not punishment. The result of this is that in Finland, first time offenders have a recidivism rate of 35%. This system may leave religious people who crave justice and punishment unsatisfied, but it is working, and in a nonreligious world it would be the perfect system to adopt.

The world is becoming less religious by the year, and we are going to need to adopt new systems to go along with it. Basing every facet of society on a logical, scientific ground will help us to move forward in a positive direction.

What I Believe

During this course I participated in the Rawlsian veil. I suspended my beliefs, dropped my doubts at the door, and came to listen. I was curious. I wanted to hear the other side of the argument. After all, the theist perspective is flamboyantly accessible in the Bible Belt. My main concern with this class was, of course, hostility. I possess strong beliefs and great loyalties to my theism--Christian Universalism. However, I was there to learn, not to debate. I wasn’t interested in arguing my point but hearing yours. The Rawlsian veil allowed me to participate in the way I most desired. In addition, the materials and discussions didn’t pin me down or corner me. I was able to quietly and confidently explore ideas without feeling the need to defend my own.

I heard some interesting things, things that are still causing me to question. But I’m still having trouble believing that this is all there is. The most basic point I know of suffering is that it ends. Perhaps that’s my more hopeful side but it’s the side that’s gotten me through the toughest of times. Belief in only the natural--what we can see and understand--simply isn’t enough for me. Maybe that’s the inclination toward mysticism, the human childish desire for magic as Baggini would say, but so be it. As Iris Murdoch said, “This is a religious craving.” And if Bertrand Russell really wants us all to be happy, then he’ll let me have my religion, because it not only makes me happy but it makes others happy as well.

Because of my spiritual experiences, I have been led to repair mud huts in Africa and encourage young girls to love their bodies here. Could I have done that without God? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t have had the motivation to. As Plantinga says, it is “a special source of knowledge”--my rationality wouldn’t have gotten me there; trust me, I spent years trying to make it do so. However, because this knowledge is so personal and these experiences unique to me, I don’t push them on anyone else. If someone else doesn’t need God to do good in the world, I still think they’re missing out, but I don’t think they’re going to hell.

Ultimately, what I mean by being a Universalist is that I believe we’re all pretty much wrong. We are all clueless about the supernatural, God, and the afterlife. Unfortunately, Douglas Adams did not settle the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (though apologizing for the inconvenience was a nice touch). We don’t know. So some of us follow science, some Mohammad, and others Buddha. I follow Christ, because the picture of God as love and his Son, the unlikely hero, makes the most sense to me and my life story. I’ve tried the others. They don’t work for me. At times, I wish they did.

So thank you for letting me hear your opinions, arguments, and stories. I’ve learned a lot this semester. And I’m a better Christian for it.     

Final Post Part 2: Ideal Afterlife

Part 1 of my final report can be found under the comments on this post.

Final Report - What is my ideal afterlife? 

Part 2

If given the choice, what would I want to occur to me after I die?

In my first post, I described how the Christian Heaven I was raised to believe in was not the ideal afterlife I would wish for. This second post will be utilized to describe what I wish awaited me post-death. However, this does not reflect what I actually believe will happen.

To begin, I don’t wish for an eternal afterlife. I value limited time. Life has expiration date, and I believe the inevitability of death encourages me to waste less time in life. Therefore, I do not wish to spend an eternity in the same place after I die.

I do not care if I remember this life that I am living currently, but I do wish to be aware of my existence. I hope for thought. It would be preferable to die and reflect on all of the things I had done in this life. But if this were not case, I would not be bothered. I simply wish for perception of some sort.

I believe that reincarnation caters to my desires for what comes after this life best. I value my own life a great deal. I do not mean this in a selfish manner, in that I don’t value others’ lives. This is surely not the case. I simply value the privilege of existing. Thousands of potential gene combinations were possible when my parents procreated, and I am the one that resulted. I am glad to live. Therefore, I wish to continue to live. Though I may not remember my former life or my former self, I wish to experience. I believe life is all about experiencing.

I do not fear reincarnating into a life that is awful and abusive in comparison to the one that I live now. Ideally, I wish I could live many different lives. Though I may not remember the experiences, I would be experiencing them nonetheless.

Furthermore, reincarnation allows for choice, as heaven does not. One does not make mistakes in heaven. If one can’t make mistakes and then grow as a result, what is the point? If I die and go to heaven, I will never grow. Through reincarnation, I would be given opportunity after opportunity to experience and grow, over and over again.

If I’m lucky, I’ll die and be greeted by Saint Peter, sitting at his chair.
He’ll say to me, “Evan, you’ve got a few options. You can go to heaven, hell, or be reincarnated.”
“Reincarnated? Wow!” I’d reply to him.
“That’s right, Evan,” he’d say, “Today we’re doing a special on sea creatures! You just spin this big wheel and whatever you land on is what you get! Jellyfish, dolphin, turtle...” 
“This is great!” I’d exclaim.
Saint Peter would continue, “Yep, and tomorrow is celebrity kid day.”
“Celebrity kid day?”
“Yeah. Some lucky son of a bitch is going to reincarnate as Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s next kid.”
“Wow, Saint Peter! Reincarnation is great!”
“Sure is!”
At this point, we both high-five and I spend the next 40 years living as a dolphin.

That’s my ideal afterlife.

Progress Away from Religious Control

Religion was a primitive means of control. Did some, more intelligent ancient people decide to tell others that someone was always watching, and that they would be rewarded after death if they were good people in life? A study published in 2011, from the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, (found here http://www.academia.edu/503195/_Princess_Alice_is_watching_you_Childrens_belief_in_an_invisible_person_inhibits_cheating) may support that aspect of religious development in our history. That study found that children were just as likely (if the skeptical children were not counted) not to cheat if they were told that the invisible “Princess Alice,” was watching them, as if there were an adult in the room with them. It’s possible that the more religiously inclined societies survived longer, because those people operated under the fear of retribution from the gods. This is the same logic behind the common question from believers of, “If God isn’t real, then what’s stopping you from going out and killing people?” Of course, an answer to that question is that there isn’t any more in the way of the believer than the nonbeliever, because the fear of hell is often not enough to stop believers from committing crimes (and many believe that if they ask for forgiveness, they will be absolved from punishment anyway).   

It is also possible that, since religion and politics were usually one and the same in societies before the founding of the U.S.A., those with religious/political power kept the religious beliefs of a society homogenous, simply by using tribalism, war, physical threats, killings (both under the guise of being ritualistic and those that were not concealed a such), and the fear of being an outcast, which was, effectively a death sentence in those times. In an analysis by researchers from the University of Auckland, (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v532/n7598/full/nature17159.html) they found that human sacrifice, specifically, may have a connection to the stratification of societies and helped maintain power for the religious and political authorities.  

So, when it comes to human progress, it seems to me that refined religion is a “way station”, as Kitcher states. Refined religion is a movement away from the control of organized religion in people's lives. As Christian history has shown in the movement away from organized control/subjugation (Catholicism) to a personal responsibility (Protestantism), the pendulum swings in both directions and massive shifts in either direction are not the final answer to the question of our emotional and societal needs as humans. We need a balance of social belonging (which some refined religions seek to achieve) and personal, introspective thought. 

Secular humanism allows me to achieve that balance. It may not be a religion, but it serves all of the essential emotional and moral functions of having a belief system. It is not beholden to the interpretations of corrupt leaders or various sects. It uses no fairy tales to scare people into submission.  

It affirms the value of human life, regardless of our "tribe," and shows us that what we learn about the universe doesn't have to be rejected because it doesn't mesh with our ancient myths. The universe is an amazing, wondrous place and there's something to the idea that, in realizing how small we are, or how amazing life really is, we can emotionally connect with something larger than ourselves.