What Do Most People Believe About God?

(By the way, there aren't enough toes on that Deinonychus. They had three toes -  two to stand on and one to rip down lemons from lemon trees!)

(By the way, there aren’t enough toes on that Deinonychus. They had three toes – two to stand on and one to rip down lemons from lemon trees!)

Previously on this blog, I put up a video promoting my forthcoming book There Is No God And He Is Always With You. In this video I said something like, “I don’t think most people who consider themselves spiritual believe in an anthropomorphic creator God who is basically a giant white man on a throne in the sky.” Or that’s what I would have said if I’d sat down and written out my answer rather than speaking it off-the-cuff to an interviewer. I’m not sure if it came across like that or not.

At any rate, my using the words “most people” opened me up to being challenged by folks who like to quote statistics. Both on this blog and on Facebook people chimed in saying that 46% of Americans believe in that sort of God. I did a little research and discovered that this statistic comes from an article published on Huffington Post in June 2012 titled 46% of Americans Believe in Creationism According to Latest Gallup Poll. The question these Americans were asked was this:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?
1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process,
2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process,
3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.

According to Huffington Post, “Respondents were categorized as believing in theistic evolution (option 1), evolution (option 2) and creationism (option 3) depending on their answer choice. Forty six percent Americans believed in creationism, 32 percent believed in theistic evolution and 15 percent believed in evolution without any divine intervention.” And the article goes on from there. You can read it for yourself if you like. There’s lots of graphs and charts and stuff to look at too.

And yet I still have my doubts. In spite of what the Gallup Polls tell us, I suspect that real belief in that kind of God is on the decrease. It appears to me that the desire to believe in such nonsense still exists. But I’m not sure if all those 46% of Americans honestly believe what they say they believe.

Here’s why I suspect this. People are afraid that if they believe in evolution there will be nothing for them to do after they die, that they’ll never be reunited with lost loved ones, that life has no meaning and that there’s no reason to behave morally because nothing really matters. If I felt like I had only those two choices, I’d side with the anti-evolutionists too. Seriously. I absolutely would. I think any sensible person would, especially in light of the idea that moral action only makes sense if there is a creator God sitting up in the sky keeping a list of all of our naughty and nice actions.

And yet all of us are faced every single day with the products of science. We have laptops and X-Boxes and Blu Ray players, all of which are based on the principles of science. We know science works. Our airplanes don’t fall out of the sky. Our satellite radios work so that we can hear right wing pundits denounce science on them. And many of us fear our own knowledge and want to try to turn things back. But we can’t. We may not want to believe in science. But we have to. It clearly works.

I find it interesting that the debate in America seems to hinge on just two options. Whenever I see a debate about Creationism vs. Evolution both sides seem to want to bring it down to just two options. Either you teach evolution in schools or you teach the Bible. As if the Christian Bible contains the only religious creation story. If I was on a school board I’d say, “Sure. Teach Biblical Creation if you want. But if you do that, you have to teach the Vedic creation story, and the many often contradictory Buddhist creation stories, and the Shinto creation story, and every African creation story, and the Mayan creation story…” You get the idea. There is essentially just one scientific creation story (though there are a lot of minor variants to it) and countless religious ones.

But this whole debate bores the shit out of me. Honestly. It is so ridiculous that the only reason I ever pay attention to it is for a quick laugh.

And yet I understand why it’s scary to a lot of folks. There are people in high places in the US and elsewhere who profess some really idiotic beliefs when it comes to God. But we all know what politicians are like. They’ll say whatever they think is going to get them the most votes. Even if it’s not what they really believe. They’ll do this on any subject. Why would they be different when it comes to the matter of God?

At any rate, the foregoing debate wasn’t at all the point I was trying to make in that video. I’m sorry if it comes across that way. I was really just trying to express my deep disappointment at the shallowness of the debate itself.

To give you an example, I was kind of excited when I saw Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. Because I thought it was going to be a scientific look at why human beings believe in God. I thought he’d go into the evolution of religious thought or the neurological research into how and why human beings started creating religions in the first place. I though it might talk about why religion was apparently selected by evolution as a useful trait in human beings. It seems to have been strongly favored by evolution. All societies have some kind of religion. Why? Evolution only selects what helps an organism survive and reproduce. How does religion do that? That is interesting to me.

I think there is a book about that stuff. But The God Delusion isn’t it. It’s just a long essay about why it’s dumb to believe in a Big Boss Man in the Sky kind of God. And I already knew that. So do most of the religious people I’ve encountered in my life, including those who consider themselves Born Again Christians. In Ohio! That shit is played out.

The other neo-atheist books I’ve picked up are similarly shallow and kind of boring. Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great is, unfortunately, not that great. Sam Harris’ The End of Faith was better, but still pretty shallow if you ask me. And these are the three most important books in the movement! I was totally let down!

All of these books seem to dwell on the simple either-or type of choice that the folks who wrote the Gallup Polls came up with. If I’d been given that poll I’d have to answer “none of the above” and thus my point of view wouldn’t be represented. Because there’s no room for a more nuanced idea.

Note the three toes.

Note the three toes.

When I first encountered Zen Buddhism I heard it was a “religion without God.” This is one of the longest standing, most often quoted shorthand descriptions of Zen. I’d had enough of religion by that point in my life. It was obvious to me by the time I was 8 years old that the Big Boss in the Sky version of God was stupid. And yet I could not deny that there were aspects of my real experience that could be called “spiritual.” Zen practice allowed me a way to connect with that. I came to the conclusion that there might be an intelligent way to talk about God.

And that’s what I’m trying to do in this forthcoming book.

Wish me luck!

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68 Responses

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  1. mikeslominsky
    mikeslominsky May 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm |

    “that life has no meaning and that there’s no reason to behave morally because nothing really matters”

    I’ll never understand this idea. How does it follow that if there are no gods and no devils and no life beyond this one, that nothing really matters? It seems to me that idea would impart more importance and preciousness and meaning to this very life.

  2. shade
    shade May 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

    Airplanes do fall out of the sky. I’m not implying they fall out of the sky because “God” knocks them down or because the angels holding them up got sleepy or anything like that. The point is the idea that “science works” is questionable. Also equating science with technology is problematic.

    Also want to add that it is possible to believe in evolution – like the entire theory of evolution, including the notion that men descended from apes – and still be a theist, even a Christian. Tennyson for example.

    Of those three books you mentioned I’ve only read Christopher Hitchens, which I thought sucked. He sighted a exploitation flick (Mondo Cane if I remember correctly) as evidence for his argument. So obviously atheists are just as capable of shoddy scholarship as fundamentalists. Frankly that guy always seemed like a prick to me.

  3. ktrif
    ktrif May 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

    You might find Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” an interesting read, if you are still pondering these questions.
    Good luck with your book! Looks very cool.

  4. Kman
    Kman May 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm |

    “If we want to have atheism, we need atheism with a moral component. I don’t think that exists yet.”

    What exactly is this supposed to mean? That atheists are amoral godless fornicating baby-eating anti-American monsters? Morality cannot be taught without the framework of fear of an omnipotent father figure, or a cosmic system of checks and balances? Just curious.

    I never finished The God Delusion. I found it boring as hell, preachy, and occasionally delusional. Dawkins and others like him did more harm than good – not least because we now have some bullshit called “New Atheism”. It’s the same as Old Atheism, but now with more assholesâ„¢. Hopefully, Brad’s new book is going to make for much better reading.

  5. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer May 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm |

    I also find not associating science with technology is kind of strange.

    I’d be curious to understand why the connection is problematic.

    My background is very much based in science and technology. And in the past I “worshiped” it pretty uncritically. Nowadays, though, I look at science and technology more carefully and see many unexamined assumptions.

    And sometimes just plain arrogance.

    Sure science can explain why planes stay in the air. Technology is used to make planes that fly.

    But why do they have to be up there in the first place?


  6. mjkawa
    mjkawa May 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

    “That shit is played out.”
    It is all too obvious that this is not the case.
    Was it played out to the maniacs who slaughtered that guy on the London streets?
    He and his cohorts obviously believed that what they were doing was justified by their big man in the sky, and that they would be rewarded for doing what the Big Man said is right.
    It is obviously not played out in so many parts of this world. Pick up a newspaper and count the stories. This is why Hitchens, and Dawkins and the rest are taking this on. Its like how Gates is taking on Malaria. Its the biggest problem, and its solvable.
    Its easy to seem like it is played out when talking with educated intellectuals in the developed world, but this is a small group when looking at the world as a whole.
    And as for morals being relative, this is the case, and I am very glad that it is. It used to be moral to own people, to buy and sell them, to beat your wife, and torture the local fag. I am very glad that our society has changed these moral positions.

  7. Fred
    Fred May 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm |


    “Dennett’s working definition of religions is: “social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought”

    What exactly is ” breaking the spell “, the spell of everyday life, the spell of religion, the spell of the unawakened , the spell of drug intoxication?

  8. mjkawa
    mjkawa May 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm |

    Clarification, morals are relative, not arbitrary. Society sets the morals in what we hope is an intelligent way. They have never been, nor will they ever be arbitrary.

  9. shade
    shade May 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm |

    Certainly technology is the product of scientific inquiry, but that doesn’t necessarily make science synonymous with technology. To my mind, science represents the rational exploration, study, description and categorization of the natural world. Such an endeavor has produced all sorts of marvelous and not so marvelous things over the centuries (i.e. penicillin vs. atom bombs) but also serves a purpose apart from the generation of various “inventions”.

    To put another way you can have science without technology – and I’m not sure you can’t have technology without science as well. A horse drawn buggy represents a technological innovation as much as a computer or a submarine, and I doubt the people who developed such vehicles were necessarily all that scientifically minded (I’m speaking a little off the cuff here, however, so anyone is free to challenge me).

    For my part the appeal to technological “advancement” or “progress” always raises my hackles a bit. Even inventions which may at first glance seem really fabulous often have negative ramifications. A car, for example, can get a person from point A to point B really quickly and that’s great, but cars have also made our lives miserable in a lot of ways – i.e. pollution, traffic, all the environmental, political and economic troubles associated with fossil fuel consumption, and of course death and dismemberment causes by accidents.

    Many people who worship at the alter of science and technology seem to think these entities (deities?) can bring heaven to earth, but so far life on earth has proven otherwise. As a whole people live longer than they did say, five hundred years ago, but I don’t think we live better – morally, spiritually, or even materially. Poverty, inequality, oppression, exploitation, delusion, sickness, injustice and cruelty still abound. And I don’t think it’s merely because luddites and religious fanatics are standing in the way.

  10. Shodo
    Shodo May 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm |

    Brad said:
    “It was obvious to me by the time I was 8 years old that the Big Boss in the Sky version of God was stupid. And yet I could not deny that there were aspects of my real experience that could be called “spiritual.” Zen practice allowed me a way to connect with that. I came to the conclusion that there might be an intelligent way to talk about God.”

    I’m starting to become afraid that your book is going to be simply a re-defining of what “god” is, while assuming that you can define a unproven concept into existence.

  11. mjkawa
    mjkawa May 28, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

    Second clarification:
    “If we want to have atheism, we need atheism with a moral component. I don’t think that exists yet”

    Human morals are innate within us. We would not be here if they were not. There is no atheism without morals, as there is nothing human without morals. Its up to us to codify these is the best way possible. That is what politics if for, and that is what Hitch, and Dawkins and the rest are spending much effort to do.
    To get our current society out of the bronze age. I think that this is very important.
    It might not be too interesting to Brad and his next book, but is a big issue worldwide.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon May 29, 2013 at 4:56 am |

      “Human morals are innate within us. We would not be here if they were not.”

      Exactly. Religion does not put morality into human beings; human beings put morality into religion.

      Probably the best evidence for human morality being the result of natural selection are the well documented observations of empathy and the ethic of reciprocity in other species.

  12. mjkawa
    mjkawa May 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

    So Brad:
    1. Evolution guided by god.

    2. Evolution not guided by god.

    3. Creation by god 10k years ago.

    What is “none of the above”?
    Obviously evolution (because it is true), so guided by god or not? how is there a none of the above?

  13. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm |

    Think I’m going to sit this one out..

  14. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm |


    Will your book be available on Kindle?


  15. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 28, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

    “Think I’m going to sit this one out..”

    Think I’m gonna sit this new book out, like I did the last one.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon May 29, 2013 at 5:28 am |

      Have you read the 12 pages that are available to read using the “Look Inside” function on Amazon?

  16. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer May 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm |


    Thanks for the clarification. I think that I pretty much understand what you are saying and agree with you.

    As far as technology without science I don’t think it is possible. Science can be very simple. Even when you are trying to find a the cause of a problem with a bicycle you can use the scientific method.

    For example, you have a squeaky noise when you ride the thing. Your first theory is that the chain needs oiling. You test that theory by applying oil to the chain but the noise is still there.

    You then have a theory that the tire is rubbing the brakes. You test that theory….and so on. Theory, test, results.

    Science is possible whenever you don’t know the answer. First you notice a fact, then you form a theory to explain that fact, test it and finally pay attention to the results.

    It doesn’t need to be fancy.


  17. Spike
    Spike May 29, 2013 at 4:27 am |

    A refreshing read that clings to nothing.

    Versions of these debates have played in my mind since I started to learn about them. Throughout my education, I was exposed to even more belief systems and myths that seemed to further dilute the chances of any one being right exclusively.

    Even seeing things for oneself can’t be trusted. Unless ‘seeing’ means ‘grok’ in the Valentine Michael Smith sense, at which point there is no explanation with words.

    I look forward to further exploration in your new book.

    Arigatou gozaimashita,

    P.S. Please consider a responsive blog design to improve user experience at your site.

  18. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon May 29, 2013 at 5:35 am |

    There is a six part lecture on Youtube by Matt Dillahunty called “The Superiority of Secular Morality” that I recommend for anyone who has questions about morality without a belief in god(s) or religion.

  19. Andy
    Andy May 29, 2013 at 6:37 am |

    Fredrich Kekule, on discovering the structure of benzene in 1865:

    “I was sitting, writing at my text books; but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, tendered more acute by repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures, of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightening I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night working on the consequences of the hypothesis.”

    (as quoted in ‘Religion Versus Science’, By Ron Frost 2011, O-books)

    1) Given that the natural phenomena (incl. of epiphenomena) identifiable as ‘Benzene’ and Fredrich Kekula are natural phenomena, what, if any, identifiable and non-identifiable components of reality (or, say, natural phenomena incl. of epiphenomena) can be extracted as necessary functionaries and the above process Kekula records still have proceeded?

    2) If non can be extracted, and it makes sense to incl. epiphenomena as a subset of natural phenomena, where wasn’t God, what wasn’t God, and what wasn’t God doing or not doing, if God is identified as the non-extractable, all-inclusive aspect functioning at the time of Kekula’s process of discovery (incl. of any nonsense)?

    3)If this non-extractable, all-inclusive aspect of reality were realizable, then which label would be the most inclusive (and thus closer to the truth of it and the most moral) other than God?

    1. Andy
      Andy May 29, 2013 at 6:46 am |

      addendum to 1) “…can be extracted as unnecessary functionaries and the above process Kekula records still have proceeded?”

  20. jj
    jj May 29, 2013 at 7:22 am |

    The question seemed to be asked where are the works about why religion and I thought I would throw my 2 cents at that.

    The Power of Myth and The Hero with A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
    You get the real idea that he was not a believer in the factuality of belief–as most of the atheist authors you describe seem to be or a fair amount of conservatives on the other side are–but rather as a believer in what purpose these collective stories have and how they shape us.

  21. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 29, 2013 at 7:55 am |

    ‘What exactly is ” breaking the spell “, the spell of everyday life, the spell of religion, the spell of the unawakened , the spell of drug intoxication?’

    It’s exactly because the spell is required for inspired living that adherents to a religion are willing to “do” for the sake of it.

    I’m saying that the trance states are built in and their practice is the source of human morality, because in the end they are based on the relinquishment of volitive action, on the induction of a state of grace. At the same time, everyone experiences concentration in daily life that makes them feel like they are someone, and they co-mingle their sense of self with their desires and fail to see the source of grace in self-surrender. I would say the critical thing for our time is to separate out the practice of the induction of states of grace, paradoxical as that might sound, from the belief structures that have such practices embedded in them and mistakenly assume that their particular set of beliefs are the necessary and only way to grace.

  22. SoF
    SoF May 29, 2013 at 8:59 am |

    Peer pressure.

    About 1/2 of the people will respond (e.g. lie) based on what their peers bully them into thinking (or believing) what is good or bad. Big government – bad, Tea Party – good.

    This was made abundantly clear in the question: “Do you go to church?”


  23. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 29, 2013 at 9:47 am |

    This is some major bellybutton gazing. It’s hard to believe people spend their life doing this shit, no less an hour or so time to time.

    My thoughts! My brains! My opinions! Oh my! Childish games of thought.

    The only way to win the game is not to play at all. Or do something productive with the generally useless use of time and write a rad book about it, like our friend Brad.

    Looking forward to reading it.

  24. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 29, 2013 at 10:01 am |

    Has anybody here had a certificate problem while logging in?

    The Christians have always thought that the Chinese had no god, since they only referred to “The Sky”. This is anyway how the Jesuits translated “god” in Chinese, thereby missing the Chinese idea of an undifferentiated “Sky” (Brad would say “Universe”) of which we are part and to which we ought to conform.

    The anthropomorphic thing is a pregnant figure, since it gives people the opportunity of discharging responsibility on the shoulders of the said figure, but, although words are only words, they still have power. And I fear that using “God” instead of the “Universe” is doing, in reverse, exactly the same error that the Jesuits did by using “Tian” instead of “God”.

    But that’s only me…

  25. Harlan
    Harlan May 29, 2013 at 10:11 am |

    “I came to the conclusion that there might be an intelligent way to talk about God”

    Well I’ll believe it when I read it. Because I don’t know which “Born Again Christians” you have talked to, but the ones I have talked to pretty much believe in “Big Boss Man in the Sky kind of God”. The whole fundamentalist religious thing is based on either/or as far as I can tell. It’s not very nuanced. You are either with them or you are against them philosophically. If your book becomes popular enough to pose a threat to this way of thinking, you too will be on some dick-head’s shit list.

  26. Harlan
    Harlan May 29, 2013 at 10:14 am |

    Hi Proulx. Yes, I was warned about the certificate and had no luck logging on until I changed my username and password.

  27. Jiryu03
    Jiryu03 May 29, 2013 at 11:12 am |

    Remember when you wrote about Buddhism not being spirituality? Isn’t the root word there ”spirit”. Sure spirituality in a certain sense, but the word has too many supernatural connontations. God originates in the supernatural. There isn’t a broad category with supernatural varieties on the one hand and secular varieties on the other. Zen comes from an entirely different place where this conversation could not have been had. So I dont know how you’ll pull of talking intelligently about God without stretching the definition to fot something that is categorically different.

  28. Fred
    Fred May 29, 2013 at 11:25 am |

    Hi Mark

    John Bradshaw says we are born into trance – the family system is the trance.

    Breaking the spell would be getting into therapy and seeing where our reoccurring behaviors and supporting thought patterns originate.

    Is this similar to what you say?

  29. Fred
    Fred May 29, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  30. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 29, 2013 at 11:33 am |

    Then, if one takes into account the vision that the various fundamentalists have of the god, one has to admit that he must need have a dick and balls…

  31. Fred
    Fred May 29, 2013 at 11:41 am |

    The Absolute is who you are prior to consciousness.

    God is who you are prior to consciousness.

    The unknowing, the unformed is who you are prior to consciousness.

  32. Fred
    Fred May 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  33. Thor29
    Thor29 May 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm |

    It seems to me that the moral component of religion is quite often immoral or unethical. The Bible does not seem to have much of a problem with slavery or genocide, for instance. The Golden Rule on the other hand fits perfectly with atheism since it is very rational to treat others how you would like to be treated. Reciprocity and mutual aid are completely logical and do not need a deity to enforce them from on high.

  34. senorchupacabra
    senorchupacabra May 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

    The only problem is that you posted your ideas as a blog post, instead of a 900-page Kantian screed delineating all of your definitions for certain terms and taking 10,000 word asides to justify why you’re going in the direction you’re going.

    Because of that, people feel emboldened to split the proverbial pubic hair and prove to everyone that they’re smarter than you, Brad Warner, Zen master, and by golly the world will see so soon enough….

    I really very excited for this book. It’s nice to find someone with “authority” who shares similar views to myself on this kind of topic. I’ve wasted too much work-time trying to post similar thoughts on internet message boards, only to be bombarded with the “semantics police” who are only too eager to pick and prod at all the perceived inaccuracies of your posts, without actually trying to understand the big picture.

    The illusion of only two choices (theism, atheism) is only a limitation in the language we use to discuss these kinds of things. Neo-atheism bores me much more than traditional religions, because at least traditional religions bother to do things like “tell a story” or “be creative” or “confront man’s existential dillema with a touch of empathy and compassion.” Things like that.

  35. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm |

    “How many people lie about going to religious services?

    Various studies in recent years have cast a grave doubt on the 40% value.

    Public opinion polls generally do not report real opinions and events. They report only the information that the individuals choose to tell the pollsters. Quite often, their answers will be distorted by a phenomenon called “social desirability bias.” Pollees answer questions according to what they think they should be doing, rather than what they are doing. For example, a poll by Barna Research showed that 17% of American adults say that they tithe — i.e. they give 10 to 13% of their income to their church. Only 3% actually do. 9

    The gap between what they do and what they say they do is closer in the case of religious attendance. It is “only” about 2 to 1.”

    From the article SoF linked to, above.

    Yes, I have to clear the browser to log out of this site. I did email “two stones”, down there in Santa Cruz. No problems logging in, yet.

    Fred, interesting clips. “No location” for Bohr?

    “During the next few years, a genuine quantum mechanics was created, the new synthesis that Bohr had been expecting. The new quantum mechanics required more than just a mathematical structure of calculating; it required a physical interpretation. That physical interpretation came out of the intense discussions between Bohr and the steady stream of visitors to his world capital of atomic physics, discussions on how the new mathematical description of nature was to be linked with the procedures and the results of experimental physics.

    Bohr expressed the characteristic feature of quantum physics in his principle of complementarity, which “implies the impossibility of any sharp separation between the behaviour of atomic objects and the interaction with the measuring instruments which serve to define the conditions under which the phenomena appear.” As a result, “evidence obtained under different experimental conditions cannot be comprehended within a single picture, but must be regarded as complementary in the sense that only the totality of the phenomena exhausts the possible information about the objects.” This interpretation of the meaning of quantum physics, which implied an altered view of the meaning of physical explanation, gradually came to be accepted by the majority of physicists.” (that’s from here)

  36. Yozilla
    Yozilla May 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm |

    It seems to me that at some point in the last 15 or 20 years atheism has shifted from being a philosophy, or at least belief to being an active movement. perhaps this is neo atheism, I don’t know. The goal of which seems to be, apart from creating memes that make fun of Christians and generally feeling outraged by everyone else’s stupidity, is making society a better place by disproving the existence of god. There seems to me to be a couple of false (or at least flawed) assumptions. That the (subjective) wrongs of modern western society are largely created by those with religious views and that proving god doesn’t exist will right them. Eg. If no one believed in god everyone would automatically approve of gay marriage and everyone would be happy. Philosophically I would consider myself closer to atheism than anything else but I struggle with the hypocritical crusading of modern atheism and when we try to have an open discussion about it most will just get scoffed at for siding with the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This is why the movement is disappointing and this is why I am very much looking forward to Brad’s new book.

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

    To your question, Fred, maybe getting into therapy and seeing recurring behaviours and supporting thought patterns would be very helpful, especially if I’m stuck in a behaviour that is self-destructive. Some of what I do is probably self-destructive, to one degree or another, and there is an effort in recognizing that behaviour and finding the thought patterns that set me up for acting out.

    However, I am putting forward that trance is a good thing, that we all engage in it to a lesser or greater degree, and that the state of concentration in which we exceed our comfort zone in stretch and awareness is where we feel most alive. That we can exceed our comfort zone in stretch and awareness without moving a muscle by choice and without realizing a perception or sensation by choice is the secret of the world’s religions, to me, and yet the mechanism of self-surrender and the physical practice of most religions is hidden.

    Of course, the 2500 year experiment of Gautama’s teaching shows that the secret of the induction of a state of concentration through self-surrender, of the induction of a single-pointedness of mind, is still difficult to communicate even the fist of the teacher is open.

  38. Fred
    Fred May 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

    “However, I am putting forward that trance is a good thing, that we all engage in it to a lesser or greater degree, and that the state of concentration in which we exceed our comfort zone in stretch and awareness is where we feel most alive.”

    Wolinsky wrote Trances People Live when he was a therapist in the 60s/70’s but
    dropped his practice to study dropping the body-mind.

    Bringing the mind to one point focused on no-thing, is that trance or no-trance?
    If there is no one there, who is experiencing the trance?

    If zazen experiences zazen, is there trance involved?

  39. Fred
    Fred May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

    The ” I ” is in and out of trance all day.
    The ” I ” as Witness can follow that and observe its comings and goings.

    What about the no-self as choiceless awareness. The trance states drop off as they have nothing to adhere to.

  40. Harlan
    Harlan May 29, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

    If you think there might be an angry God that constantly judges you, It makes sense to just go along with the group-think rather than to risk being wrong. If, on the other hand, you reject the faith of your ancestors but just go with the flow to avoid conflict, you are being cowardly and insincere.. It ain’t easy being you.

  41. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 29, 2013 at 10:47 pm |

    “What about the no-self as choiceless awareness. The trance states drop off as they have nothing to adhere to.”

    “Bringing the mind to one point focused on no-thing, is that trance or no-trance?”- didn’t say focused on. One-pointedness.

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm |

    like just before falling asleep.

  43. mika
    mika May 30, 2013 at 12:43 am |

    “But I’m not sure if all those 46% of Americans honestly believe what they say they believe.”, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you become a self righteous know-it-all.

    I’m with Shodo on this one, all the talk Brad has had about God or god or whatever seems to be him redefining the word to mean what he wants it to mean, just so he can say he found God with(in) Zen.

    Sorry, I’m not interested in God or god, my zazen doesn’t need those kind of illusions.

    1. senorchupacabra
      senorchupacabra May 30, 2013 at 8:53 am |

      The unintentional irony is strong in this one….

      Mika, it goes both ways. You’re defining “God” the way you want to define it. You obviously have “issues” with what, when all is said and done, simply a noise that comes out of some humans’ mouths. Even if Brad is re-defining the word, why is it so difficult for you to discuss “God” using Brad’s definition?

      How do you know the illusion is that there is no “God?” You don’t. And one of the things “your” zazen should’ve exemplified is that ultimately we don’t know shit, when all is said and done.

  44. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 30, 2013 at 1:53 am |

    Anyway, my take is, if you use the G word, you are almost FORCED to say “He”, “Him” and “His”, which automatically dotes him of a dick and a pair of balls (of which he’s supposed to have no use, after all…)

    If you say, instead, “Heavens”, the word obliges you to a bit more of a vaster view.

    The problem with theistic religions, is that they rely upon a personal good. As soon as he/she’s a person, they have the limitations of a person. The problem is obvied in polytheistic religions, because each personality has it’s own character, qualities and defects. But if there’s only one, it is necessary limited. At least, animic religions don’t even give those deities any personality, or so little.

    If one must say something, “Heavens” seems better.

  45. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 30, 2013 at 5:08 am |

    re; Fred way up there w/the Wolinsky vids: Thanks for these, it seems Stephen is refining/simplifying his way of expressing himself. Good to see it. Nice Nityananda photo in that first one. There is a lot to discard with Wolinsky, but he tries hard. The best film via Neti Neti is this IMO:

    http://www.amazon.com/Am-That-Experience-Teaching-Nisargadatta/dp/B0007WP5CY (see the very first comment…ahem!)

    I got to know Maurizio Benazzo a bit after his film Shortcut To Nirvana which if anything was a good documentary featuring all the flim flam that is the Hindu guru industry. Although probably at the time I wished that he was into Alchemy, had read my book and articles, and was interested in making films with me -Ha!! I was pleased that Maurizio happened onto Nisargadatta Maharaj, the Real Deal, and cultivated a relationship with Stephen, -however smarmy he comes across- because Stephen is one of the only people who met Nisargadatta that will even try to communicate what that experience was like (to him) in an interesting way.

    &FYI: If you haven’t read it, Jean Dunn’s compilation of N’s last talks, Prior To Consciousness distills the entire corpus of his teachings.


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