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Plato's Cave - The Orlando Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Faith and Philosophy

Faith and Philosophy

user 12537356
Orlando, FL
Post #: 21
Dr. Seuss, existenialism, Rothko, and Barbara Ehrenreich do it for me.

This is how I feel about faith and philosophy­

After I wrote that a friend sent this. I don’t tend to agree with priests but this one makes sense.­

Jairo M.
Winter Park, FL
Post #: 1,294
Thanks Dorinda. You and Barbara may be on to something.

I had to check out Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich, so I read reviews at Amazon. The discussion generated is quite amazing. Some reviews generate further discussion.

So where did this positive thinking cult or meme come from? Is it in our genes? When does it benefit and when does it get in the way of looking at things realistically?

Allow me to repost here what one of your commentators posted in your blog:

AJ- remember that "Power of Positive Thinking" is no different than The Secret or other ideas of manifestation. It isn't only about fake feelings (positive is not about good/pleasant) but visualizing a space, goal, embodiment and interacting with it. Unfortunately, the lazy work approach is "think good thoughts".
Positive thinking gives you a vision to work toward, not replace confronting reality. Even the Tibetan Buddhists, in their Chud practice, use this kind of imagery in a different way- to overcome their fears- by creating an image of that which is hurting them, and feeding it (visually) so that it may leave them, satisfied. Used for overcoming addiction, healing from illness, facing depression.
BUT, this is not the inverse of the condescending and hateful approach that people in healthcare use to blame their patients for having negative outcomes (not happy). Sadly, for all of our technology, we forget that human bodies also work in the existential realm and cannot be reduced only to mechanical engineering - including only the mechanics of emotional biochem. The root of many disease processes is wrapped up in feeling valueless and worthless, depressed, abused- but the root of that feeling does not lie within the individual.
We have a friend who is just barely surviving lymphoma, and she is a negative sort. (And a Christian). She was misdiagnosed for years, told it was all in her head, and turns out, has a rare form almost never seen. Still, doctors at Mayo say she needs to have a better attitude in order to survive. Her "negative" attitude was what got her to the doctor again and again until they found the damn cancer.
Oryoki Bowl
November 29, 2011 12:30 PM
Maybe we need a balance of thinking modes; we also need a dose of negative thinking to offset the excessive positive thinking? Thinking of the possibilities of death or that things may get worse and what we should do to prepare for the worst? Perhaps we live in a culture that is into a denial of death, and sickness, and other calamities.

Consider the book The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
One reviewer posted at

All lovers of existentialism will enjoy Becker's treatment of life and death. Becker won the Pulitzer Prize for this work when it was first published in 1974. Ironically and tragically, Becker himself died of cancer that very same year. He was 50 years old. I have been unsuccessful in my efforts to find out whether or not Becker knew of his sickness when he wrote the work. He certainly writes as one who understands the darkness of human life.

Becker's thesis is that human personality and behavior has its deepest roots in our denying our death (thus the title). By this he means not only our death itself, but all of the horrors associated with our mortality as human beings. Becker makes frequent reference to Otto Rank, and reiterates Rank's point that all human cultural creation is inevitably religious in nature.

There is also a wonderful treatment of Freud which will be especially refreshing to all those nauseauted by modern attempts to dress up Freud's theories and make them appear more optomistic than they are, as well as a discussion of Freud's breaks with Jung and others. ....

I am beginning to suspect that this denial of death and cult of positive thinking came about through Christianity. Why? Even though there are strands, such as in the movie (and related books) The Secret and the New Thought Movements, that may be linked to the Indian mystical teachings, I think that this Positive Thinking Movements are more one sided towards only allowing you to have positive thoughts and to allow you the thoughts that "you can get what you desire through visualization" and these ideas are often backed up with Christian principles such as your faith can move that mountain, and believing that Jesus will save you if you have Faith in him only.

Just recall the story about Jairus and Jesus. Jairus had a 12 year old daughter who was ill, so he called on Jesus to heal her, but she died shortly before Jesus got to her, but Jesus told Jairus and his family that the daughter was not dead but sleeping. So the story goes that Jesus wakes her up (from her death), perhaps he gave her mouth to mouth? Anyway, there is one story that is even more amazing. The one about Lazarus, who had been dead for four days! Good thing he had been wrapped up in clothing to slow down decay. And of course Jesus is said to have risen from his own death. I prefer to believe he faked it and took off to India.

Jairo M.
Winter Park, FL
Post #: 1,295
Anyway, this cult of positive thinking is easily supported in the Christian cult of believing in the resurrection and physically overcoming death. It leads me to suspect that Christianity is not spiritual at all because it promotes the belief that the final life after death will be all material and in getting a new body and living on earth for a very long time. Why would we want to live on earth forever?

Perhaps that is why Buddhist doctrines made more sense to me. The Buddha renounced his kingdom to pursue the meaning of life and to see if he could conquer death, sickness, old age, etc. as an ascetic. His enlightenment is more like an acceptance that death is part of life and that actually we have been doing it [dying and being reborn] billions of times, and the ultimate release of this cycle of death and rebirth is to extinguish our desire for it.

The Buddha too was asked to bring a child back to life. The mother had faith in Buddha. The Buddha told her to find a home with a family who had never had anybody die and bring him mustard from them. The mother looked all over town and finally gave up when she realized no one had escaped death in the family. She eventually gave up on the idea of bringing her child back to life.

So the first realization or truth that should be obvious upon rational observation, is that no one can escape death and no one doesn't have someone in their family who has died or is dying or has undergone near death illnesses.

I have a sister that also went through breast cancer, and not only that but through epilepsies-strokes due to arterial malformations in the brain, she went through several surgeries over several years and is doing amazingly well. She has her vision board up covered with clippings of places she wants to visit and stuff she wants to enjoy and a scene of a couple on the beach. She got me a vision board for me to fill up, but I'm too bored to fill up my board, so it stays blank. But at one long ago I did write out some wishes, and then years later, there were some opportunities and outcome that did come close. So maybe what I wrote down went into my subconscious mind and it did its work and I grabbed for opportunities that would match what I had written earlier. I also have another sister who had bits of cancer all over her brain and lung and she went through chemo and radiation and tried some nasty Chinese concoction that looks like barks and twigs from the forest cooked up into a dark tea. She also tried reading "positive" books. An experimental drug was tried and that has been working quite well.

Anyway, I am realizing (not only intellectually but heartily) that there is no one that can escape illnesses and deaths.

A former member
Post #: 236
Two things come to mind after reading the discussion thus far,

  • There was a book published which received rave reviews at the time of its release somewhere between the late 50s and early to mid 1960's titled, "Life vs. Death". A quick Google book search did not find the text [next time I am at the Valencia College East campus library I'll have to check it and post the author's name back to this thread]. Anyhow the part that I took away from the book was an idea that with modernity, at least expressed at the time in America -- probably true still today to an extent to some part of the population -- is an obsession to having a clean asshole.*
  • As if you are still reading, the theology is quite simple, you do not just say "God bless you," and then be on one's merry way; Nor does one say, "Hey pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get better already so that I don't have to think about the pain or the suffering..." No! These are the same as doing nothing, or being selfish. The Christian perspective is the same universal humane perspective, you reach down give genuine support and treat that person who is hurting, in pain, or sickness with the same honor, dignity, care, love and respect that you would give to yourself. Or, if you are more advanced, then you would forgo not just what or how you would want to be treated, but you go the extra mile, to discover how it is the hurt person would care to be loved upon.

What I feel is lacking, or for which the world on whole, can use a lot more of is love, starting with the self, in a genuine selfless way (sounds like a contradiction or some kind of paradox(will need to work this out some more)); and an extension of that same love to 'the other'.

*Understanding this may turn off and/or offend some readers, the author was speaking quite seriously referring to a peculiar human obsession to streamline existence with a sterilizing will to control having been triggered in the human psyche.
user 11174629
Casselberry, FL
Post #: 99
The Christian perspective is the same universal humane perspective, you reach down give genuine support and treat that person who is hurting, in pain, or sickness with the same honor, dignity, care, love and respect that you would give to yourself. Or, if you are more advanced, then you would forgo not just what or how you would want to be treated, but you go the extra mile, to discover how it is the hurt person would care to be loved upon.

Considering the amount of rampant homophobia, misogyny and authoritarianism not only present in but also advocated by the Christian doctrine, statements like this one are downright vulgar. Particularly when uttered with a straight face.
A former member
Post #: 237

Just like hate is NOT a family value, I have yet to read a dogma where homophobia and misogyny are the rule. If authoritarianism is a topic you would like to further discuss, then I am game, however I have never been too fond of 'isms and as such could not possibly be considered an expert.
Ben Forbes G.
Kissimmee, FL
Post #: 227
Um, have you read many dogmatic religious scriptures lately? Leviticus, for example? Homophobia and misogyny are absolutely the rule in most religions (especially the twin monotheistic giants: Christianity and Islam), as is authoritarianism... And even churches that are far from Biblical "literalists" (as if that is even truly possible, given the multifarious antiquated absurdities and contradictions with which the Bible is replete) absolutely DO consistently preach homophobia and sexism in many, if not most, congregations today (these are not ideas that are ignored or have been set aside by most theists).

Check out the following for some humor: Brick Testament
OR, for a more serious approach: Evil Bible
OR, for perhaps the most serious and thoroughgoing: Skeptic's Annotated Bible...

One of the fastest ways to become an atheist is to actually read sacred texts and think critically about them. As Richard Dawkins has so eloquently and accurately put it:
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Moreover, lest we think that the legendary Jesus and his ostensible teachings were some sort of exception to (or improvement upon) the fire and brimstone and general insanity of the Old Testament, check out the following: What would Jesus Do? I know it's tone isn't as "cordial" as it could be, but frankly neither are the Bible verses it irreverently paraphrases (and cites in case anyone cares to look them up).

Concurrently, lovey-dovey woo woo focusing on the "good" aspects of the "message" attributed to Jesus (the Golden Rule, forgiveness, etc.) and simply ignoring the rest of the Bible might be fine if it didn't delude people into wishful and fallacious thinking as an "opiate of the masses" that can easily make people (and their innocent children) subject to institutions which actively promote the reprehensible types of homophobia, sexism, etc. that we have been talking about, not to mention authoritarianism over those whose allegiance they command in God's name.
user 11174629
Casselberry, FL
Post #: 100
Just like hate is NOT a family value, I have yet to read a dogma where homophobia and misogyny are the rule. If authoritarianism is a topic you would like to further discuss, then I am game, however I have never been too fond of 'isms and as such could not possibly be considered an expert.

Biblical authority is a cornerstone of Christian doctrine. As for misogyny and homophobia as the rule, one need not even look to the OT's bloodthirsty laws, as the NT letters of the disciples provide many examples (Romans, for instance, is chock full).
A former member
Post #: 238
In the letter mentioned, Paul writing to the Romans spends some sixteen verses praising, commending and asks for greetings to be extended to men and women alike, starting with Phoebe, whom he considers a saint. To these he requests, "Greet one another with a holy kiss." Fact is the New Testament does not take up eros, or erotic love as a topic.
Ben Forbes G.
Kissimmee, FL
Post #: 232
Nice try Rami, but you are deluding yourself if you don't admit that even the New Testament is replete with reprehensible sexism, for example...

  • Matthew:
  • Jesus says that divorce is permissible when the wife is guilty of fornication. But what if the husband is unfaithful? Jesus doesn't seem to care about that. 5:32, 19:9
  • When Jesus' mother wants to see him, Jesus asks, "Who is my mother?" 12:47-49
  • Abandon your wife and children for Jesus and he'll give you a big reward. 19:29
  • "Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days." Why? Does God especially hate pregnant and nursing women? 24:19
  • The kingdom of heaven like ten virgins who went to meet their bridegroom. Five had oil for their lamps and five didn't. When the bridegroom was ready for them, only the five well-oiled virgins got to have sex with him on their wedding night. The bridegroom shunned the other five, saying "Get lost. I don't even know you." The moral to the story is this: watch out, you never know when (or with whom) Jesus will come.25:1-13
  • Mark:
  • Jesus shows disrespect for his mother and family by asking, "Who is my mother, or my brethren?" when he is told that his family wants to speak with him. 3:31-34
  • Jesus will reward men who abandon their wives and families. 10:29-30
  • In the last days God will make things especially rough on pregnant women. 13:17
  • Luke:
  • "They had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren." Oh God, another barren woman! It's always the woman's fault in the Bible. 1:7
  • Even Mary had to be "purified" after giving birth to Jesus. Was she defiled by giving birth to the Son of God? 2:22
  • Males are holy to God, not females. 2:23
  • Peter and his partners (James and John) abandon their wives and children to follow Jesus. 5:11
  • Jesus, when told that his mother and brothers want to see him, ignores and insults them by saying that his mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. 8:20-21
  • Jesus insults his mother (the Most Holy Blessed Virgin Mary). 11:27-28
  • Abandon your wife and family for Jesus and he'll give you a big reward. 18:29-30
  • John:
  • "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" And his most blessed mother reminds him she is his mother. 2:4
  • Jesus magically perceived that a Samaritan woman had been married and divorced five times previously. (He could spot a divorced woman a mile away.) Since women weren't allowed to get a divorce, it was always the woman's fault and divorced women were considered outcasts. This was a great opportunity for Jesus to explain why the Mosaic marriage laws were unjust and correct them -- if he thought they were wrong, that is, which apparently he didn't. 4:7-18
  • Jesus tells Mary Magdalene not to touch him because he hasn't yet ascended -- as if the touch of a woman would defile him and somehow prevent him from ascending into heaven. 20:17

And that's just the gospels...
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